How many councillors does it take to change a lightbulb?
The IWCA survey in Haggerston last year proved what everybody knows: that crime and anti-social behaviour is the biggest single issue in the ward. If you have not been directly affected by crime then it has probably affected one of your friends or family. This isn¹t whipping up the fear of crime this is how we are living.
Tony Blair famously said that a New Labour government would be “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.” Recently a series of measures to punish the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour was unveiled. But much of this is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
How can Labour seriously claim to be tough on the causes of crime in inner-city areas like Hackney when its local councils are cutting the resources that we depend on to ensure that young people don¹t get involved in crime in the first place?
This is not to excuse anti-social behaviour. Muggings, assaults and lesser offences make our lives a misery and should not be tolerated. But any serious solution must recognise that without access to real opportunities some young people will start to offend.
In the current issue of Hackney Today our New Labour mayor tells us that the solution to tackling crime is “by fixing or upgrading street lights and putting in CCTV in high crime areas”. This really is an insult to our intelligence. It is not just that CCTV does hardly anything to reduce crime (as government reports acknowledge). It is that New Labour also presides over the slashing of resources that would go some way to preventing young people involving themselves in crime. You just have to turn the page to see how this is happening in Haggerston.
Hackney Council cuts are causing crime.
Improved street and estate lighting would not solve all our problems but we do know that muggers prefer to operate in the dark and reports show that lighting can be an effective way of reducing criminal activity. The mayor says he wants to improve street lighting. However we don¹t believe that Labour will prioritise working class areas.
That¹s why the IWCA is launching a campaign to improve the lighting in this area. It will be the main subject at the ward meeting in December. (see box below). Come along and support the campaign. We will be contacting every tenant and community group, as well as the schools, asking for their support.
And we need to hear from you. We want you to call and tell us the blocks where the lights haven¹t been working, where the darkest spots are, and if you want to help with the campaign. You can leave a message on 7684 1743.
Together we can force this council to fulfil its responsibilities by lighting up Shoreditch.
Haggerston News Updates
ONE O’CLOCK CLUBS
We reported in the last issue of this newsletter, that the Haggerston One O¹Clock Club, which is based in Haggerston Park, was due to close next year due to having it¹s funding withdrawn.
The good news Hackney Council has given it another year¹s funding. The bad news What will happen to this valuable local service, if it can¹t get funding after that ?
We have consistently stated that Hackney Council should fulfil its obligations and fund groups like this, for the long term. Otherwise how can they plan for the future, and look to expand on and improve the services they currently offer if they are continually victim to this short-term funding mentality ?
Ok, they may be able to get money from the central government Sure Start initiative (which is aimed at families with children 0-4 years of age), but this will not run for ever, and again it lets the council off the hook.
These alternative funding regimes are all well and good, but more often than not they are used to fill gaps in the existing services, rather than improve and provide new ones, which is what they are supposedly intended for where¹s the logic in that ?
APPLES & PEARS
Mixed news from the Apples and Pears adventure playground. Earlier this year the IWCA backed the parents¹ campaign to stop the Council selling off their site for a housing development. The Council dropped these plans, but then has tried a new way of forcing Apples and Pears off the site by bringing in a high rent and cutting their grant.
The Council tried to get a £1000 a year rent, with a review after two years. Bear in mid that until now there was no rent to pay and why should there?
The Apples and Pears went to court and got a new seven year lease with no rent review. Bu they still need to raise the £1000 rent each year.
The Council was trying to get the Apples and Pears to run on a grant of £10,000 for 6 months. Through campaigning the parents got this increased to £20,000. This might seem like a victory but again bear in mind that they used to get £40,000 for 6 months so it is actually a cut of 50% – and the council want them to keep opening for the same hours for this money.
The IWCA supports the parents and believes the Council should bring back the full £80,000 a year grant, stop charging them rent and look to give further one-off grants to improve the facilities.
During the Mayoral elections the Haggerston Pool Campaign called a meeting for all Mayor candidates to ask their views. Only one candidate did not promise to re-open the Pool.
You¹ve guessed it Labour¹s Jules Pipe. He then got elected as Mayor with 10% of the vote.
The New Deal (or “Shoreditch Our Way”) continue to push the proposal to put private flats into Haggerston Pool. This issue was discussed at the New Deal¹s Area 4 Forum covering all the estates around the Pool like St Mary¹s, Kingsland and Fellows Court. The Forum voted against the plan for private flats. What was the response of £65,000 a year New Deal Director Michael Pyner? “I¹m ruling nothing out.”
And they keep telling us that the New Deal is community-led. Community mis-led more like. The IWCA will continue to fight along with the wider community to re-open Haggerston Pool with no private flats on the site.
WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH!
IWCA members toured every estate in Haggerston one week after the bin strike and found that many were still suffering the effects. Yet our inspection of surrounding street properties found no major problems. Lets be clear – we have no problem with Bin workers striking for more pay. The issue here is that yet again the council has put the maintenance of estates second.
“It was no surprise to us that the Council had left the estates till last as usual, while putting the needs of those in big houses around London Fields first. After all that¹s where the Labour vote is these days” stated the IWCA¹s Carl Taylor in the Hackney Gazette (November 21st).
“IWCA policy is that the estates should be cleared first. This is not just because we always put the needs of the working class first. It also makes sense to us that if 40 flats share one communal bin area you clear that before someone who has their own front and back garden and has a chance of managing their own rubbish.”
Kingsland Estate Tenant & Resident Association Chair Anna Maria Mari echoed the IWCA position. Standing with IWCA members and Kingsland Estate residents by a pile of rubbish that had piled up over the previous two weeks, she stated “We¹ve had enough. We¹re fed up with being at the end of the line. The Council isn¹t managing our estate properly. We¹re considering managing it ourselves.”
Margaret McTernan, pictured with her children Shannon and Sean McCarton said she thought that it was “disgusting” that the rubbish had been left for so long.
The IWCA¹s Peter Sutton said it was ” a disgrace and a health risk” that the Council had left the huge pile of rubbish at Hebden Court, Kingsland Estate. While this was the worst case, estates across the Ward were left with piles of rubbish. Peter criticised the local Labour councillors, “The IWCA may have narrowly lost the election in Haggerston to Labour, but where are our Labour councillors now? We¹re the ones going around the Ward, taking up local issues and campaigning alongside the community. What did Haggerston¹s Labour councillors do about the Council¹s failure to clear the rubbish from our estates?”
After pressure from residents, the tenant association, the IWCA and an article in the Gazette, the Council finally cleared the rubbish 13 days after the strike ended.
Hawksley 2 Orange 0
The ever-vigilant residents of Hawksley Court Estate, in Albion Road, Stoke Newington, have been out on the streets again.
This time, they have managed to prevent contractors on 2 occasions from gaining access to the estate to erect a mobile telephone mast for Orange. On the last successful blockade a few weeks ago, residents waved placards with the clear message “Hawksley 2 Orange 0”.
Unfortunately, the new Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, has decided to get in on the act, and showed his face on one of the blockades. Full of bluff and bluster, he issued a statement saying, “Once again I call on Orange to take the moral course of action and not enforce this contract. Otherwise I will be joining local residents in physically seeking to prevent them from getting onto the estate”.
He also goes on to add that the council “MISTAKENLY” signed the contract, which allowed companies like Orange and BT to install these masts on a number of housing estates across the borough. We would argue that Hackney Council “DELIBERATELY” signed these contracts, because it was desperate to get it¹s hands on the few thousands of pounds being offered by these companies, to install these masts on council property. Also, if it means a few working-class people getting ill due to the radiation that comes from them who cares certainly not the likes of Jules Pipe.
Finally, if Orange and the other mobile phone companies are to be permanently prevented from carrying out these installations, it will be down to the hard work and organisation of residents on this and other Hackney estates not a few fine words from the new Mayor of Hackney.
PRICED OUT OF COMMUNITY HALLS
No sooner was New Labour leader Jules Pipe elected as Hackney¹s Mayor than we hear of plans to start charging “market rents” for using the borough’s community halls. The impact this will have on groups who use the borough’s rooms and halls whether for keep fit for pensioners or martial arts for youngsters, prayer meetings or line-dancing is predictable. A lot of very ordinary but worthwhile activities will stop altogether if participants cannot afford to shell out.
A special case has been made for political or lobbying groups; they will not be able to use the halls AT ALL whether they can afford to or not. The IWCA uses halls and rooms in Haggerston and Hoxton to run benefit and housing surgeries for tenants and residents and local residents have made use of community halls to organise campaigns protesting against the council¹s inaction over abandoned cars or the closure of Laburnum school.
If Labour’s proposals go through they will have put another significant barrier in the way of people who want to organise to resist cuts and campaign for improved local services.
If you use a community hall for any activity and want to know how this will affect you then contact the council and ask them. Let us know what response you got by leaving a message on 020 7684 1743 letting us know what group you are from and which hall/room you use.
We almost forgot to tell you…
Stuart Craft became the IWCA’s first councillor, when he was elected to represent the Blackbird Leys Estate, on the outskirts of Oxford.
There were also very good results for our other candidates who stood in Islington and Havering. On average we gained over 25% of the vote in every area the IWCA stood.
Hackney IWCA election candidate, Peter Sutton, said, “This was a great result in Oxford, and the IWCA in Hackney and the other areas will be looking to build on this success in the 2006 elections”.
He went on to add, “We are now concentrating our efforts on getting more local residents involved in the organisation, because the bigger we are, the more effective we can and need to be, in this area. So, if you like what you read in this newsletter, and you think things need to change for working-class people in Haggerston, please get in touch with us.”
NEW LABOUR: SAME OLD STORY
The victory of the Labour candidate, Jules Pipe, in Hackney’s mayoral election now gives them a 33 seat council majority, two MPs and a national Government. Hackney or what is left after large parts of it have been handed over to a series of unelected bodies – is now completely under Labour control. Years of incompetence and corruption have led to the borough being massively in debt. One of the solutions to this problem has been to brutally cut and privatise services. Almost no area has been left untouched, apart of course from the salaries of senior council staff such as Chief Executive Max Caller and his councillor chums. (The latest kick in the teeth is the revelation that councillor salaries are set to soar.)
One other solution, part of the council’s long term plan for the borough, is to replace the working class majority with a higher earning and higher spending middle class. Fewer undesirable working class people means the council has to provide less of the services these undesirables use: nurseries, health care, school places, council housing. This social cleansing of Hackney’s most deprived areas is the reality behind all the talk about regeneration and New Deals.
Every public service in Hackney like many at a national level has been looked at closely with an eye to privatisation, excepting those that have already been closed down or those that cannot yet be legally farmed out to the private sector. For example, in a Council press release entitled “Exciting Improvements to Hackney Leisure Centres”, Labour outline the handing over of parts of Kings Hall and Britannia leisure centres to company Leisure Connection to turn them into private fitness clubs. We are assured that this will provide an “affordable fitness solution”. But as the IWCA asked in a recent letter to the Hackney Gazette: “Are prices going to be affordable to all sections of our community”?
In Shoreditch we have seen Haggerston Pool close with no commitment from Labour to reopen it. Local facilities are constantly under threat of grant cuts or closure. The extension of the privatisation of housing management and the stock transfer of whole estates hangs over the area. Public land is being auctioned off sometimes at give-away prices for developers to build yuppie flats.
Prior to the elections in May, Labour had very little to say about their plans for cuts and sell-offs.
Perhaps if they had been honest about what the council was going to do with Apples & Pears and Laburnum School our three Labour councillors would not have been elected. But of course, the Lib-Dems and the Tories are no better. The Tories¹ national record and the Lib-Dems¹ privatisation of neighbouring Islington¹s council services provides more than enough evidence of what their agenda¹s really are.
The IWCA is the real opposition to Labour in Haggerston. We came close to taking at least one of their seats in the May elections having said very clearly that we supported the campaign to reopen Haggerston Pool and opposed cuts in local services.
The IWCA’s priorities for Shoreditch could not be more different to New Labour’s. Our concern is for the ordinary people of this area where we live and how we are living not to try to solve our problems by either pretending they don’t exist or farming off much-needed facilities to the private sector.
ShOWing Themselves Up
“£50 million sounds like a lot, but by the time they pay their consultants and put up new lamp posts and railings there will be very little left. Hackney¹s councillors, officer and housing associations plan to use the New Deal to make a permanent change to Shoreditch. They want to change the profile of the population from it being a working class area to it being a middle class playground with canal-side flats within easy reach of the City and all the yuppie bars and restaurants.”
So were we right?
Sara Adams, writing in the Wenlock Barn TMO newsletter this July, stated that as part of the New Deal “residents have felt disempowered and that their voices have not been heard or simply did not matter. The problem was that ShOW (the New Deal¹s new name) was not just representing the interests of local people, but also that of Government, Local Authority and Business. Residents views were not adhered to because often they were in conflict with these other aims.”
Of course the New Deal has done some good things, under pressure from the community, and of course Hackney Council is a bigger problem. But from the very start the New Deal have been committed to bringing in more private housing and less council housing. It is in the delivery plan their founding statement. We know that most of the community reps disagree with it – but it is what the New Deal¹s paid staff are working towards.
That is why they have pushed demolition of our homes so hard before, and why they have not given up on it yet.
And the good things the New Deal have done have all been things that the Council should be doing. We were promised new money for the area but the truth is that the council have pulled huge amounts of funding out of Shoreditch and New Deal money has been used to plug the gaps.
It¹s not all bad news, though. The elections for the Board are coming up again and we expect nominations to be in by the end of the year.
Candidates are coming together who will try to make the New Deal more accountable to the community, who won¹t let decisions be taken behind closed doors, who will oppose demolition of our homes and who will try to rein in the consultants and privatisers around the New Deal. Sara Adams argues that having two Wenlock Barn TRA members on the Board “has ensured that the consultation with the estate has evolved around the wishes of local tenants.” Lets get 12 community reps elected onto the Board who can block the privatisation agenda and argue for a Shoreditch that puts working class interests first.
REAL NEWS FROM HOXTON & HAGGERSTON
HAGGERSTON POOL – YUPPIE FLATS?
Since Councillor David Young promised to save Haggerston Pool two years ago, there hasn¹t been much good news about it.
During the recent election the IWCA campaigned on a programme of supporting “the re-opening of Haggerston Pool as a publicly owned facility at affordable prices.” We take the 610 votes that we got as a mandate to keep campaigning on the Pool issue and to oppose the private-sector solutions that are now emerging.
Hackney Council and the New Deal for Shoreditch’s new plan involves:
*No money from the Council for repairing or running the Pool
* The New Deal to use its funds to carry out some of the repairs
* 30 Private flats to be built on the site
We oppose this, because before we know it, once the flats get built, the developers will apply pressure to get the whole building converted into yet another private housing development.
45 people attended the IWCA Haggerston Ward meeting in July and voted unanimously against any flats in the Pool. We need the building re-opened as a pool and we need the Council to pay for it. After all, they found millions to open Clissold Pool for Stoke Newington so why not the same in Haggerston ?
The Pool User Group meets on the second Thursday of every month at 7pm at the Fellows Court Community Centre. All welcome.
Why is the Library closed on Saturdays?
If you’ve tried to visit your local library on a Saturday recently, you will have noticed it was shut. Why is this?
In October 2001, Hackney Council breached a nationally reached agreement, which ensures all library staff that work on a Saturday get what is in effect “overtime” pay.
Because of this library workers across Hackney have been on strike for nearly a year now, to try and get this money back from their employer. They are not doing this because they are greedy or they want to stop people using the libraries; but because like a lot of people in this borough, they are poorly paid and rely on this additional day¹s pay to make ends meet.
The Council has also recently been advertising for “Saturday Library Assistants”, who will be non-unionised and are being cynically used to break the strike. The irony being it will cost more to employ these agency staff, than it would be to pay the librarians what they are asking for, and settle the dispute once and for all. Make sense of that if you can!
The union is also accusing Hackney Council of “political manipulation”, because Max Caller, the Council¹s Chief Executive, has asked in a leaked memo that this change be delayed until after the mayoral election “to prevent unnecessary industrial action during the election campaign”. After all, we can¹t have Council Leader, Jules Pipe’s mayoral campaign interrupted – can we now?
WENLOCK BARN YOUTH CLUB BLOCKED
Three years ago, we had high hopes of getting a youth club when Islington & Shoreditch Housing Association bought up three sites just to the south of the estate.
Two sites were to be used for housing and the other for our youth club. The final result – two sites developed for housing and no sign of the youth club. Hackney Council got involved first and sold off the last site for £5 million. And we haven¹t even seen the benefits of any of that money.
To make matters worse estate agents Nelson Bakewell have sold off the nearby community nature site. Some people with long memories remember the site being given to Wenlock Barn TA on behalf of the community by the GLC. In those days we had some councillors who cared about the community and understood the need for open spaces.
But hats off to the Tenants & Residents Association (TRA) for getting an injunction to stop the Council selling off any sites on the Wenlock Barn estate itself.
Wenlock Barn TRA office is open between 12- 3pm on the last Sunday of the month, or ring them on 020 7684 2551.
APPLES & PEARS – THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES
This year, the Apples & Pears Adventure Playground in Pearson Street, celebrates 25 years of providing a free and safe play environment for local kids. It also occupies a prime piece of land. No surprise then that Hackney Council has wanted to sell it off. Pressure from the community made this a big issue in the run up to the local elections in May. Labour councillors knew this could cost them the election and so they had to stop the sale.
But the council now have a new plan- they are trying to increase the rent on the site until Apples & Pears can no longer afford it. Then the council would be free to sell off the land. To make matters worse, the council has cut the Apples & Pears¹ grant but insists on them providing the same activities as when they got a full grant.
Earlier this year Apples & Pears took the council to court but have now entered into negotiations around the lease. They have said if they do not get what they want, they will continue with their legal action. For now, the parents’ campaign continues…
KEEP LABURNUM SCHOOL OPEN!
Hackney Council say they are consulting on whether to close Laburnum School. If they are listening, there’s a clear answer the kids, parents and the wider community are saying KEEP LABURNUM SCHOOL OPEN.
The Council say that the kids can go to other schools. We say we want to keep the school at the heart of this community. It is an improving school with a new head, new computer room, new science room, new funds to improve the playground and to put in security cameras. And after all this hard work now Hackney Council wants to close it down.
The Council say that if they close the school they will try to put a secondary school there, and if that doesn¹t work they will sell the site. We are no fools. We know that it is too small for a secondary school. And that leaves the plan like it always was to sell the school site to developers.
Our Labour councillors knew about this during the elections in May. They hid the issue during the election, and have hidden from the issue since then.
While parents, kids and staff, with support from the IWCA, have campaigned to keep the school open, Labour councillors have kept their heads down. Already many Laburnum parents are saying that they will never support Labour again.
SHOREDITCH CENTRE: NO TO DEVELOPERS
Residents living near to the Shoreditch Centre behind the Hackney Road bingo hall are opposed to Hackney Council’s recent sell-off of this former centre for people with disabilities.
“The developers plan to flatten the Victorian school and cram in 22 high density flats which will be sold off privately. Why should we lose our community resources and put up with an overcrowded neighbourhood, just because greedy developers have realised the area is now trendy?” says Lucy Guo of Dawson Street.
Residents of all 30 flats in Dunloe Court have signed a petition to stop the development. The Hells Angels, whose London HQ is opposite the site are also opposed. Campaigners believe that the site has been flogged off cheap at about £1/2 million and have discovered that the site will be worth around £1.5 million. This means that the speculators will make around £1 million within a few months.
” This is outrageous considering that it was sold in order to help pay off Hackney’s colossal debt. The building belonged to the community and Hackney had no right to sell it. We will fight to stop the development of the site. This is another story about the most vulnerable members of our society being disenfranchised by the naked greed of speculators and developers,” says neighbour Andrew Lord.
The Save the Shoreditch Centre Campaign can be contacted on 020 7729 8677.
Time up for One O’clock Clubs?
The Haggerston One O’Clock Club is a playgroup aimed at parents with babies and toddlers. Situated in Haggerston Park, it is a haven for young families where parents can chat and the kids can play in well supervised surroundings.
There are two other clubs in the Borough: Springfield Park is due to close this year after Hackney Council withdrew its funding. Parents have been given a 3 month extension to raise their own money to keep it open.
Haggerston One O¹Clock Club will also have its funding withdrawn and is expected to close next year unless other money can be found.
The IWCA supports parents in their search for alternative funding, but we strongly believe that Hackney Council should continue to provide long-term support out of the Council Tax. Our community has seen enough butchering of the facilities used by working class residents. As Celia, a playworker at Haggerston says, ” There¹s less for our kids to do now than there was 30 years ago.”
CANALSIDE – BROKEN PROMISES
During the ballot on Haggerton East and Whitmore estates being sold off, there were no bigger cheer-leaders for privatisation than Labour councillors Fran Pearson and David Young. Now some of the chickens are coming home to roost – the Canalside private landlord is trying to give 47 flats to so-called “key workers” on rents of around £50 a week extra instead of housing local people. Fran Pearson voted for this on the Canalside Board, while David Young ducked out of the meeting and has kept quiet on the issue.
What should local councillors be doing? It’s quite simple. Work with the tenants’ association, who oppose the high rent scheme. Use your votes on the Canalside Board to oppose it. Get the Council to oppose the scheme and put pressure on Canalside to drop it.
There is a reason why Labour councillors aren’t doing any of these things. Labour prefers having middle class hospital managers and high-grade civil servants moving into the area. The IWCA will always put the interests of the working class first.
Two Canalside Board members did come out publicly against the scheme. Nick Strauss and Sheila Seabury wrote “This is bad for people waiting for housing in Hackney, bad for Canalside tenants waiting for transfers and bad for key workers.” Nick and Sheila have now been suspended from the Canalside Board for speaking their minds.
Council elections: this time there is a real choice
Hackney Council has been running this area down over the last few years. The Council says it has no money, but keeps putting the rent, service charges and council tax up while cutting back on the essential services that our community needs. Since the last election Labour, Lib Dems and Tories have all taken turns running the Council and they have all played their part in bringing the Council to its knees. The Council is millions of pounds in debt and the only answer from the government and from our Labour, Lib Dem and Tory councillors is more of the same – more sell-off’s, more privatisation and more policies aimed at replacing Hackney’s working class majority with middle class city workers.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Over the last few years, Hackney Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) has worked alongside community representatives and other residents of the area in trying to implement another vision of Hackney. This vision is of a Hackney where ordinary residents get to decide what the priorities should be in their area. Only the IWCA has asked the residents of Haggerston for their views on what should be done in this area. All the other parties want to do is impose their vision of a privatised Hackney on the rest of us.
That’s why this election is different – this time there is a real choice.
The election manifesto has policies in the four areas set out below. But we know that none of these policies stand up on their own. You can’t deal with anti-social behaviour without realising that closing down youth clubs mean more of our young people will get drawn into crime. Campaigning for security doors on blocks is a housing issue and an anti-crime issue. And it is because councillors have been unaccountable that they have got away with things in this area for so long. We need councillors who will get involved with the community in finding solutions to these problems.
The IWCA spent six months talking to over 1000 people on 17 estates across Haggerston. You told us your priorities were crime and anti-social behaviour, housing repairs and cleaning and the lack of community facilities. You also told us that you don’t think your councillors represent you. The following manifesto is based on what you told us.
Hackney Council wants to sell off Council housing throughout the borough. Every estate they sell ends up with less homes for rents we can afford and more homes for high rent or sale. This is part of the Council’s plan to increase the middle class percentage of the borough, claiming they are creating “mixed communities.” We will oppose all Council plans for sell-off’s of estates in this Ward and across Hackney. Where tenants decide that they have been so let down by the Council that they will accept privatisation we will work to make sure they get the full facts and the best possible deal.
The current standard of housing isn’t acceptable. We will continue to campaign with tenants and residents and their associations for more money for essential repairs on our estates and for a better standard of cleaning and repairs. We support free parking for residents.
Labour encourages the building of £200 a week flats for City workers. We will campaign for new council housing aimed at overcrowded Hackney tenants and young people living at home.
We will campaign for every empty flat in this Ward to be done up and let on a council tenancy – not high rent housing association tenancies.
We oppose any rent or service charge increases at least until the Council meets its obligations to manage, repair and clean our estates.
We will work with private and housing association tenants to fmake sure these landlords fulfil their responsibilities. We are opposed to housing associations building for high rent or sale in this Ward.
Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour
This is your number one priority and it would be the main issue for IWCA councillors. We do not claim to have all the answers on this issue. IWCA councillors would convene a genuine community-based conference on this issue to look at possible solutions to the problem.
Dealing in hard drugs in this ward must be stopped. The Council and the police have a duty to take action to stop it.
While trying to force the Council and the police to be accountable about the way they operate and the priorities they choose, we will also look for community-based solutions to the problems of muggings, car theft, burglaries and vandalism.
We will campaign with tenants and residents and their associations for block security measures and improved lighting throughout the Ward.
Public space in Hackney is under attack from developers and their friends in the Council who are encouraging the selling off of land and buildings that belong to all of us. Everyone suffers when public amenities are turned into a source of profit for private builders. IWCA councillors would oppose each and every move that leads to the loss of facilities such as playgrounds and parks for our community. We are supporting the campaigns to prevent the Apples and Pears adventure playground being redeveloped and to keep the Haggerston One O’clock Club open and also back the re-opening of Haggerston Pool as a publicly owned facility at affordable prices.
We oppose all Council attempts to close down or sell off public assets in this Ward and across the Borough and will participate in any campaigns to protect our community facilities.
Electing IWCA councillors will not change the World, but it would be a clear signal to the Council and the government that the community has a vision of its own for the area that doesn’t involve making it a playground for the wealthy.
IWCA councillors wouldn’t be doing the job to promote their own political careers. They would work as part of a team within the IWCA and with the community to expose the Council’s plans and come up with viable alternatives
These are just a few ways in which IWCA councillors would be different from the other parties:
We would call a Ward Meeting as soon as we were elected and then every six months and invite everyone who lives in the Ward to come along and participate. Councillors would report back on what they have done in the last six months and outline what would be likely to happen in the next six months. In this way councillors would be held directly accountable to the community.
We would open an office in or near the ward – probably in a shop. This would be an easy way for you to contact your councillor. The IWCA would use the office to run advice sessions, surgeries and as a base to run campaigns from.
All decisions that our councillors have to vote on would be displayed in the office and on our website – so that you could have your say on them first. We would look at every possible way of getting people involved in decision-making, including use of the internet.
We will never form any alliance with the establishment parties that have let Hackney down – Labour, the Lib Dems or the Tories. We will work with tenant and community groups and anyone else who is on the side of the working class majority.
We know that we would be in a small minority at the Town Hall and we will not waste our time point-scoring with the other parties. We would arrange for delegations of local people to have their say, and would confront councillors with the effects their policies are having on this Ward. The main role of IWCA councillors will be as part of the IWCA outside of Council meetings – in the community. IWCA members will be at meetings on your estate or in your community. We will be part of campaigns in this area and will be accountable to you.
After the election – who will stand up for the working class majority?
The IWCA is completely different from the other parties. While we campaign 52 weeks a year, you only ever see the other parties at election time – if at all. And while the other parties only want your votes, we want you to vote for us and get involved.
If Labour councillors get in they will be able to vote for things like increased charges for home helps, scrapping the Freedom Pass for disabled people and selling the Apples and Pears adventure playground site – and claim they have your support.
If the IWCA get in, our councillors will be able to put pressure on the Council, but it needs far more than 3 councillors on their own. The IWCA is creating an organisation that doesn’t just hold protests, but can force the Council to manage and repair our homes and that can take action to make our streets and blocks safe again.
We want you to join the IWCA.
The first thing to do is to ring Carl Taylor on 020 7684 1743 and see how you can help in the election campaign. This could be anything from just putting a poster in your window to giving some leaflets to your neighbours or even coming out and knocking on doors.
But after the election when all the politicians have forgotten Haggerston again, the IWCA will still be here creating an organisation that involves and stands up for the working class majority in this area.
IN THE COUNCIL ELECTIONS IN APRIL VOTE
Nusret Sen – Independent
Peter Sutton – Independent Working Class Association
Carl Taylor – Independent Working Class Association
Members and supporters of Hackney Independent Working Class Association (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) today started the distribution of the latest issue of the Hackney Independent to 10,000 homes in Hoxton, Haggerston and De Beauvoir.
The main issues covered are:
4) Working class rule in working class areas – interview with Hackney Independent co-ordinator Peter Sutton looking at the New Deal, gentrification and the work of Hackney Independent.
This is the third Hackney Independent newsletter and each time the size of the newsletter has grown and it has covered a bigger area. The Hackney Independent is the only newsletter in the area that counters what is in the professionally-produced newsletters put out by the Council, Pinnacle and the New Deal. No other political organisation puts out a newsletter in Shoreditch outside of elections.
Hackney Independent – Stanway area edition
IWCA local newsletter for Geffrye Estate, Harman Street, Rosalind & Cordelia
Hackney Council are about to make up to cuts of at least £22 million – on their own figures – which may end up being nearer £40 million pounds worth of cuts. They say that this was because they were overspending, but have you noticed any “overspending” round here? They can still afford to pay Council boss Max Caller £3,000 a week and pay all the councillors’ expenses, but our essential services are on the line.
When they came round asking for your vote last time, how many councillors said that they would be bringing in these sort of cuts? None of them did, and they have no mandate or support to do so. More than that, these services don’t belong to the councillors – they are ours. We have paid for them with our rents and council tax several times over and no councillor has the right to sell them off.
Our community is under attack from two sides. Not only is the Council cutting back our essential services, but they are encouraging developers and housing associations to gentrify our Borough and ‘socially cleanse’ the Borough of us – the working class majority.
Resistance to both these attacks must be from us – it’s our estates and community that is most affected. We can’t expect any favours from the Council. Instead we need to decide what which essential services we cannot lose, draw a line in the sand and plan what steps we will take to defend them. Parents from two nurseries have already occupied them and are keeping them open themselves rather than let the Council close them.
We should never let Labour get back in. The Labour government has proved no better at funding Hackney than the Tories. Labour now runs Hackney Council in an alliance with the Tories and it is these parties that are bringing in the cuts. The Hackney Labour Party is now a middle class party that has no interest in representing the working class.
And the Lib Dems are no better. They are very good at telling you what you want to hear when they are in opposition, but they helped get the Council into the mess when they ran the Borough with Labour. In neighbouring Islington the Lib Dems run the Council and are bringing in their own £2 million cuts plan.
There is no point in looking to any of the political parties on Hackney Council. The IWCA is seriously considering standing in this Ward in the next Council elections We need to replace the middle class parties on Hackney Council with working class representatives. The time for protesting to the Council has gone, we need our own representation.
IWCA needs your help
The IWCA was set up to involve and represent the interests of the working class majority in Shoreditch. We felt that the political parties were no longer able to do this, and that the developers were being given a free hand to gentrify our area.
You only ever see the other parties at election time, but the IWCA has tried to get round to every door asking about repairs, ITNet, anti-social behaviour or phone masts.
The IWCA needs your help. How much help you can give is up to you – but if you can help deliver newsletters, take a petition round your block or even make the tea at meetings there is a part you can play. And by attending our meetings you can help make decisions on what issues we take up and how we campaign on them.
If you want to know more about the IWCA you can attend the meeting below or phone us on 07000 752 752. If you can get onto the internet, look up our website on www.hackneyiwca.fsnet.co.uk
Phone masts – unsafe and unwanted
Have you seen the phone mast on top of the building on the corner of Kingsland Road and Pearson Street?
This mast is emitting pulses of radiation up to 217 times a second, and anyone living within 100 yards is affected. That means York Row, most of Harman Street and the nearest blocks on Geffrye Court.
Hackney Council are taking a small amount of money from the phone companies and not telling us about the health risks.
Federal Law in America, and similar laws in Australia, New Zealand and Sweden have made it illegal to place the masts close to homes, schools and hospitals. But the Council let them be put up next to our estates, and have even let one be put up opposite Laburnum School. Were you consulted before this phone mast went up? And has anyone told you about the health risks? This is another example of how the Council treat us like second class citizens. After all, have you ever seen a phone mast on top of a private block?
The IWCA believes that there should be no mobile phone within 100 yards of council estates or schools. We also believe that there should be ballots on every estate to see if tenants want the phone masts down. If they do, the Council should break the contract and take them down.
If you would like a free information pack on mobile phone masts, call the IWCA on 07000 752 752 and leave your details on the answerphone.
Everyone knows how hard it is to get your housing benefit or council tax benefit paid. The Council has a legal duty to get you your benefit within 2 weeks of you giving them your details – but instead the Council blame ITNet, the private contractor they brought in to do the job for them. While we have no time for ITNet – a firm that made £10 million profit a year but is causing suffering to thousands of hackney people who are not getting their benefits – the buck stops with the Council. Typical of them, they privatise a service and then pretend that it’s not their problem.
The Council got a lot of good publicity by saying they had sacked ITNet – well they haven’t. They are still in place and we are still not getting our benefits paid.
Those of us who are on benefits, or whose family and friends are on benefits know what a big issue this is. Our middle class councillors have no idea what it is like not being able to pay the rent, and that’s why they didn’t sack ITNet a long time ago.
The IWCA held a surgery in the Geffrye Estate Community Centre for people who were having trouble with ITNet. We arranged for benefits experts to attend to give people advice, and have since followed up everyone who attended. We aim to hold another surgery soon, but if you are in need of immediate advice, call the IWCA phone number – 07000 752 752 – and Carl Taylor will get in touch with you to help with your benefits application or to give you any other support.
OUT OF ORDER
Tenants across Shoreditch and South Hackney are fed up of having our lives disrupted by anti-social elements. Loud music, in-your-face drug use, syringes left on the stairs, vandalism and muggings can all make life hell. For most of us, life is hard enough without having to live through this.
Anti-social behaviour on our estates has been the biggest single issue raised with us since the last newsletter. Many people have complained repeatedly to the police, the Council and Pinnacle and have been sickened by their lack of response. Can you imagine the police taking no notice if these problems were going on in Hampstead or Chelsea?
The Council have run this area down. They leave the streets filthy. They don’t offer our kids play facilities or enough youth clubs. The Council, and Pinnacle in Shoreditch, don’t carry out the basic repairs our homes need, and seem either unwilling or unable to tackle the problems – as long as it stays in working class areas. We have problems with two sorts of vandals – the young ones who we can see terrorising our estates – and the ones in suits who work for Pinnacle and the Council.
Maybe the police, the Council and Pinnacle really don’t give a damn about us and the areas we live in. After all very few councillors and senior officers live around here. As they let this area run down – both through doing nothing about the anti-social elements and through not spending our rent money on improving our homes – you have to ask whether this is all part of a deliberate plan. We all know that they want to drive us out and fill this area with yuppies from the City. And you can bet that they won’t turn a blind eye to anti-social behaviour if the rich take over the area!
Lets get this straight. The police, the Council and Pinnacle have a duty to solve these problems. But they have shown themselves to be unwilling and unable to solve them. And so we need to begin to find our own solutions. The IWCA has begun discussions with tenants on a number of estates to look at ways of solving this problem. We cannot sit back and let anti-social elements take over our estates. This has always been a strong working class area, and we need working class solutions to the problem of anti-social behaviour.
Let us know what you think the major problems on your estate are. If you have any comments or views on this issue, please get in touch with the IWCA through the address and phone number given at the bottom of the page.
New Deal or Raw Deal? We know what you are doing.
Hackney Council have been letting our homes run down for the last 30 years. The difference now is that running our estates down is part of a plan. The Council want to make things so bad that we are prepared to accept anything else as an improvement.
This year the New Deal will be pushing two “choices” at us. Plan A is to sell-off our homes to housing associations, and Plan B is to bring in a Private Finance Initiative.
One New Deal Board member sent us the following letter, which we are happy to re-print.
“In the next 2-6 months there will be intensive consultation with the community commissioned by Shoreditch New Deal to find out what housing Shoreditch people supposedly want. I strongly suspect the questions will be loaded to engineer private sector solutions. Could you possibly print in your next Newsletter to tenants a warning not be conned, with the simple message, NO STOCK TRANSFER, NO NEW LANDLORDS.”
This is the New Deal’s Plan A. But their Plan B has just as many problems. Their idea is to raise money by:
1. selling-off some land and homes. All five “options” for housing include sales of land and three of them involve selling-off homes;
2. putting up the rents. Hard-line New Deal supporter, Winnie Ames stated in the Gazette on 13 January 2000, “As for the rents having to go up, if anyone thinks we can have our homes refurbished, new windows and lifts as well as in some cases new roofs, without a rent increase, they are living in cloud cuckoo land.” So Mrs Ames argues that we should pay more rent than now, if the Council finally fulfils its obligations and repairs our homes.
3. letting Pinnacle borrow money. Kingsland News, the Council’s sales pitch to get estates like Colville and St Mary’s that are in the New Deal area, but not yet run by Pinnacle to go over to them had the following quote. “If all the Council housing is managed by JSS Pinnacle, then all will be able to benefit from any new forms of investment that JSS Pinnacle and the New Deal manage to attract. This is possible because JSS Pinnacle are a private company, and they are able to raise private funds.” Some New Deal Board members may not be happy with this, but the Council and Pinnacle – who are the ones calling the shots – have given the game away.
The problem for them is that the figures don’t add up. As with PFI in hospitals you end up giving so much away in interest to the banks and profits to the contractors that it is just not worth it. It would not be a problem to the Council or Pinnacle if hundreds of our homes have to be sold off to balance the books – but how would the New Deal supporters explain this in the community?
To avoid taking the blame for this later, New Deal Board members should demand that whatever plans the New Deal comes up with GUARANTEES that there will be “not one less Council home in Shoreditch at the end of the New Deal.” When, and only when, this is guaranteed will the IWCA be able to give any support to the New Deal. Until this is guaranteed we will continue to build up opposition, and prepare to fight to defend our homes.
Some other questions for PFI supporters on the New Deal Board:
- Did you know that Pinnacle are promising the Council that they can keep the £5,000,000 a year profit that Hackney Council makes from Shoreditch rents?
- Did you know that Pinnacle are trying to stitch up the contract for themselves, so no other company will compete with them to bring in the PFI?
We just cannot trust this company. They are only in Shoreditch to make a profit, and not satisfied with running the housing contract they want the to make even more money out of us through the PFI. We need to draw up our own solutions for the problems in Shoreditch – and Pinnacle are no part in them.
Eugene Francis is one of the elected tenant minority on the New Deal Board. In his election campaign he promised to oppose the privatisation of housing management, to keep people aware of all the decisions being made about the area and to make the workings of the New Deal Board more “transparent” to local residents. The IWCA put the same questions to him as we put to the other candidates in the letters page of the Hackney Gazette.
How will you oppose plans to sell off council homes in Shoreditch?
Any way I can. Before standing as a candidate in the elections for the New Deal Board, I was already fighting plans to privatise the management of our homes, which, as far as I’m concerned, is only one step away from sell off. I’ve pledged to continue this opposition even if I have to produce the leaflets and other information myself.
In what ways will you be accountable to Shoreditch tenants now you are elected?
I have already produced leaflets and information for residents in Shoreditch and I will continue doing so, making sure residents know what is going on. I also have a website and I am keen to hear from anyone who has a comment to make, whether they agree with my views or not. (My e-mail address is email@example.com) Bear in mind also, that the IWCA and Tenants Associations have a valuable – and perhaps the most critical – part to play when it comes to ensuring that people are better informed about what’s happening. I have no qualms about people knowing my views and have already insisted that the way each Board member votes should be recorded so that the public can see what their representative has said their area would or would not be happy with.
Obviously, if I or any other elected representative is not reflecting the views of their community then the community must make it know, either by contacting their representative or any member of the Board directly; and ultimately by not voting for that person if they stand for re-election.
The New Deal Board does have a website the address is: www.shoreditchnewdeal.co.uk you can also write, visit or phone the New Deal Shop at: 182 Hoxton Street N1. Tel: 0207 729 8987
Do you believe that people other people on the Board, like the business representatives, have the same interests as the elected Tenants Representatives?
Without going into personalities, it’s painfully obvious that the views of the business representatives will differ from those of the Tenants Reps. For a start, business representatives are probably not representing people with a cockroach infestation problem or people who have to live and sleep in rooms that are so damp they’re covered in fungus and the wallpaper is falling off the walls.
That said, one cannot survive without the other i.e. we must encourage businesses to locate here, stay and expand, so that the local community will benefit, not just with shelf-filling jobs. I would like to see it made a condition that companies locating here train local people to fill management and other jobs too. Personally, I believe the person filling the shelves usually makes a greater contribution to the companies’ success than the management; however, the reality is that managers are paid more.
Will you resign and speak out publicly when the Board makes decisions against the interests of Shoreditch’s working class majority?
Although one should never say never, I cannot envisage an issue arising that would make me feel compelled to resign; remember, if we do not have people fighting to represent the views of the masses, the cycle of exclusion and deprivation as a result of that exclusion will continue, and there’s no guarantee that if I resigned, my replacement would promote the views of the working class majority. What is really needed is the greater involvement of local people, particularly those belonging to sections of the community that are not represented on the Board; e.g. the Asian, Turkish speaking or the Vietnamese sections of our community.
Not waving but drowning
Time to stand and fight for Haggerston Baths
In a stunning display of political cowardice and deceit, Hackney council has closed Haggerston Baths. A Health and Safety report (compiled in a 20 minute visit, and published – coincidentally of course – 3 days after private bidders for the pool had met with the council) claimed that the pool was a “risk to the users and workers at the centre”. Local people have smelt a rat and suspicions over the timing of the closure have been reinforced by a secret document obtained by the Haggerston Pool Community Action group which reveals that the pool has been closed in order to free up funds for the Clissold Pool. As one speaker at a packed emergency meeting put it, “A poorer part of the borough is being used to subsidise the building of a lovely new leisure centre in a better off part of the borough”.
The document reveals that the bidders for running the councils leisure facilities (all of which are up for tender) have demanded a larger injection of cash from the council in order to make a profit and satisfy their shareholders. This is the logic of this PFI-style initiative – which the council is now trying to apply to housing too – if there’s no profit for private business then they’re just not interested. All of this flies in the face of the work done by the local community in putting forward its own scheme for running the pool and goes to show what the IWCA has been saying all along: if you’re working class the council couldn’t care less.
Now is the time to stand and fight for Haggerston Baths. And let’s not let the Haggerston Labour Councillors Young and Nicholson off the hook. Labour voted to close the baths. We will remember this in the next elections in 2002.
Focus on Charles Square & Pitfield Estate
As part of an ongoing series focussing on estates, the IWCA looks at the issues raised by tenants of Charles Square & Pitfield Estate. Like other estates in Shoreditch, both Charles Square and Pitfield show signs of their age. One in three flats on Charles Square have no central heating, whereas Pitfield Estate has none at all. Newer blocks on the estate have had central heating from day one and tenants have been campaigning for at least 20 years to get the rest up to scratch.
Most ground floor flats on Pitfield Estate are suffering from damp, where the lack of central heating, combined with the estate being built on marshland has caused the problem. Gentrification has made the situation even worse as the already fragile sewers and drains are being overloading by the Council allowing residential developments to go up all over the south of the area. The balance between industry and housing in the south that used to exist has now been so upset that the yuppie lofts and housing association properties (with rents set beyond the reach of council tenants) are now, literally, swamping the estates with their sewage.
Coupled with this comes the added burden the “night time economy” brings to the estate. Being right next to the trendy bars and clubs the Council are encouraging to spring up in the area, Charles Square & Pitfield Estate have faced the brunt of the increase in drugs, prostitution, break-ins and muggings. “We are asking for caretakers and entry phones for our security but we can’t get the money,” said one leading tenant. The individuals running the clubs are getting rich but local residents are not seeing any benefits themselves. How many of us use these new bars? And how many of us have got jobs in these places?
With all the New Deal money flooding into the area, as the Council would have us believe, why then is south Shoreditch not in the so-called “New Deal Inner core”? To cut a long story short, the Council don’t care what happens to tenants, in fact they don’t even want them to be council tenants much longer. “They’re deliberately running down our estate so they can step later and privatise us,” said one tenant.
With Pinnacle and the Council continuing to let down the tenants on Pitfield & Charles Square, the only solution is for the tenants themselves to take action to improve their estate.
Community information for Charles Square and Pitfield Hoxton Lions Club: Boxing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – 6.15-8.45pm Computers on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays – 7.00-8.30pm Youth Club 8-22 years. Monday to Thursday 6.30-9.30pm Bell Club. Irish Dancing on Tuesdays, Over 60’s Bingo on Thursdays
Living With Canalside
Hackney Council and the housing associations tell us how much better off we’ll be when our homes are sold off, but George Birch, Chair of HAWK Tenants & Resident Association, reveals that the reality is very different. With the help of tenant’s reps like George, the IWCA will continue to show in its newsletter what life on privatised estates is actually like.
“This report is for Canalside tenants – but should be interesting for any Council tenants.
It is now a year since Canalside (made up of Metropolitan Housing Trust and Community Housing Association) took over ownership and management 700 homes on Whitmore Estate and the Eastern half of Haggerston Estate, plus one block of Kingsland Estate.
Although I am going to be critical of Canalside, it is only fair if I state the things they have done which have been good. These are:
– Canalside has paid for us to have our own Community Worker for 14 hours a week and given us some grants.
– Canalside staff have made real efforts to reach out to those off us who opposed the sale of our estates
– There has been some helpful consultation in sub-groups
– Elections to the Community Board have taken place and the right of Board members to speak out against decisions they oppose has been maintained.
But some concerns of residents about what has happened in the last year are:
1. The works programme was changed with little or no consultation. Publicity about the new works phasing is still not out. However for most tenants works will be completed quicker.
2. Before the vote we were getting things through the door all the time – now communication from Canalside is been patchy at best. For example only two rent statements have been issued since March 1999 – the latest covering 5 months.
3. We need to be consulted much earlier about proposed actions or changes of plans. For example policies have been changed without consultation – such as on moving tenants to allow works to occur. The amount of us who will have to move twice has also been increased.
4. Some extra charges have been made – for example, insurance paid weekly is now much higher than under the Council.
5. There is also a call out fee for when tenants miss appointments.
6. The number of empty homes is almost 20% – much higher than planned.
7. We still do not have a date for the introduction of caretakers – which we were promised in the vote.
8. Wages for cleaners look like being cut from the Hackney Council rates by about £3000 a year. We do care about the wages and conditions of workers on our homes.
9. Because of the chaos caused by the privatised Housing Benefit Service ITNET, many tenants have rent arrears and two evictions have already been authorised. More intensive work will be necessary to make sure that every tenant in rent arrears gets the support she or he needs.
Ascent 21, the regeneration group used by Canalside, does not consult tenants and residents groups. Why not?
As for Hackney Council, once the Ballot was won, the Estate Regeneration Strategy team which was supposed to continue supporting tenants and residents disappeared, regularly missing meetings and after March 1999 was nowhere to be seen, apart from one leaflet.
The Council has also backtracked on the vote promised to our neighbours on Haggerston West and Kingsland Estates. We were promised just before our vote that they would also have a ballot. We care about our neighbours’ futures.
A good Tenants and Residents Organisation makes the difference in keeping our new landlords to their pre vote promises. We know that it’s absolutely vital that as many tenants and actively participate. On our estates, and on all other estates, we would urge our neighbours to get involved.
For tenants on Estates still with the Council we would remind you that our estates received the 2nd highest level of government grant in the country (over £15,000 per flat) to subsidise our transfer. Privatisation won’t solve all the problems. Proper funding and sound management of housing along with strong tenant organisation makes the difference between good housing estates and the other kind!
Contact HAWK TRA at the Haggerston Community Centre on 0171 254 2312 HAWK TRA covers the Haggerston and Whitmore estates and 37-78 Bryant Court.
As a Hackney Independent spokesman said in the Hackney Gazette (8 April 1999), “we have a vote, but no influence, as all parties represent middle class interests. Candidates lie during elections and ignore us until the next one.”
Because of the middle class consensus on the council, councillors seem to change parties at will – completely ignoring the people they are supposed to represent. You might vote for a councillor of one party and then they join a completely different party a few months later. Believe it or not but twenty councillors have swapped parties in the last three years! One, David Phillips, was elected as Labour, then joined the breakaway New Labour faction. He then joined the Tories, before sitting as an independent. He is now allied to the only Green councillor.
The fact is, whichever party someone like David Phillips joins they are no use to us whatsoever. We need working class councillors whose only loyalty is to Hackney’s working class majority.If the Council have persuaded you that you should let them sell off your estate, then why not take the argument further? If they say they should not be running our homes, why should we let them run anything else? Why shouldn’t we take decisions about the libraries, youth clubs and social services as well? The easiest way to do that is to take over control of the council. Why should we vote for parties that have never done anything for us? If tenant and community groups stood their own candidates in elections then we could solve two problems at the same time. We could have direct representation of working class interests, and we would be rid of all those politicians who, by their insistence on sell-offs, are admitting they cannot run our estates anyway.
Hackney IWCA (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) will support pro-working class tenant and community groups who are prepared to put up their own candidates in any by-elections. In this way, we will be able to achieve direct representation of working class interests on Hackney Council.