Summer 1999 Newsletter

HACKNEY Council and the New Labour government have announced a ‘New Deal for Shoreditch,’ with £50 million of (our) government money.


This 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. Hackney’s councillors, officers and the 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 a middle class playground – with canal-side flats within easy reach of the City and all the yuppie bars and restaurants.


In a letter to the Gazette, local resident Tommy Selleck summed up the problem. “The gentrification of Hoxton is well under way and the combat trousers and trainer brigade are firmly ensconced in the “beautiful people bars” in and around the square… But what about the rest of Hoxton Street? Its upper reaches wouldn’t look out of place in some war-torn Russian republic and, while I love the place, it seems unfair that all this money is being pumped into areas that only benefit people with a lot of money. Does the Council have any plans for the top half of the market, bar some new coloured bins and festival bunting?” (Gazette 4 March 1999). There is nothing wrong with new homes, shops and bars – but we should have new homes for our community, and shops and bars that charge prices we can afford and that employ local people.


People in Shoreditch need to face facts. Hackney Council have run down the estates for years. An army of consultants and glossy brochures promoting the idea of privatising your home will soon hit you. The run down estates make a new private landlord seem like a good idea. However, the new homes are not for you – even if they allow you back, you won’t be able to afford the new rents. This can and must be resisted. There must be resistance to all stock transfers. This means getting involved in a tenant group on your estate now. It is vital that privatisation meetings that are open to all tenants do not just become a propaganda sales pitch by the council and potential private landlords. Hackney Independent is committed to giving tenants the opportunity to put forward a “no to sell-off’s” case at these meetings. Contact us with any pro-privatisation leaflets you have been given, and together we can put forward the alternative case.
Reporting on a new skyscraper in Shoreditch “It’s more likely to take off than Canary Wharf, because it’s so close to the City,” says developer Peter Moreno. “Firms won’t even know they’re in Hackney.” Hackney Gazette.


Next time you’re looking for a loft, you may be recommended to head for Midtown. Remind me, Midtown, where is that? [estate agents] Winkworth says it’s between Shoreditch, Hoxton, Clerkenwell and the City of London.Guardian Space, property supplement.


If estates can enter the private sector then they could make a great deal of money, either in sales or in rents, which are usually about three times higher than those in the public sector. We wrote a report last year where we said that council housing stock was the biggest development opportunity in London. Geoff Marsh of London Property Research, The Telegraph.


There is ethnic cleansing going on. They don’t want ordinary people in the area, they only want the middle-classes. We have been here all this time. The place was torn to pieces in the war. We stayed here and kept it going. Now, we’re being told to get out.Not just in Hackney. Southwark resident, Lil Patrick, tells it like it is. Evening Standard


City investors and new landlords are queuing up to get their hands on Shoreditch and South Hackney. Because we are so close to the City, we are a cheap, attractive, target for property investors only too willing to bid for the housing stock Hackney Council can’t wait to get rid of.
After years of neglecting its tenants in favour of petty political squabbling at the Town Hall, the Mare Street Mafia have decided they don’t want us any more.They are the ones who have run down our blocks. They are the ones who mismanaged our estates. Now they want to pull out and let someone else have a go. The Council wants to sell-off our homes. That’s why they have recruited Estate Transfer Managers on £40,000 a year. After a huge propaganda campaign, they managed to persuade tenants in Whitmore and Haggerston East to transfer to a private landlord.But they will not stop there. They describe the problem of Shoreditch, not as being the way they have run down the area or the way all new developments are solely for the benefit of the middle class. To them the problem is “wall to wall social housing” (Hackney Today, June 1999). In other words the problem is us, the people who live in council housing. Their solution? Sell off the estates and allow developers to attract the kind of people who can afford the £99,000 for a one-bedroom ‘apartment’ that a Housing Association is advertising in the June edition of Hackney Today. The Council have plans for Shoreditch and South Hackney – and you are not part of them.The Council do not even want to manage our homes until they can sell them off. They have recently discovered the idea of ‘partnering’ in relation to its housing stock. Their plan is that private companies will take over the running of our estates. But most of these companies haven’t got any track record of running estates – and all of them are just in it to make a profit.


After bringing Pinnacle in to run Shoreditch, they found there was too much opposition when they tried it in another area. “Hackney Council had planned to privatise the Housing Management for Kingsland Neighbourhood,” reports The Coot (an Independent Tenant Voice for Haggerston, Kingsland and Whitmore Tenants). The Council, faced with “a delegation of TA’s from De Beauvoir, Colville, Haggerston, Stonebridge, and Whiston and Goldsmiths, with support from Lockner TA and Kingsland residents,” agreed that it should be postponed for at least a year. There has been consistent opposition to Pinnacle in Shoreditch, and Hackney independent would be interested in hearing from any tenants in Shoreditch, who have information on Pinnacle.


Estate transfers are now a cornerstone of Hackney Council’s housing policy. The Council has even won awards for its ability to sell off its housing stock. As Hackney Independent spokesman Mark Cassidy stated in the Hackney Gazette (29 April 1999), “How ironic that the council should win an award for a propaganda video aimed at off-loading its responsibilities onto the private sector. This from a council that lies fourth from bottom in the national table of cases of maladministration upheld by the ombudsman. Instead of producing fancy videos of how someone else can do a job of providing decent housing for its tenants, Hackney should direct its resources into giving residents what they want – decent housing and decent services instead of being abandoned to short-term, profit-seeking private landlords.” Another community activist described the video as “a disgusting waste of money… if the council have this sort of cash to spare they should invest it in re-opening Woodberry Down library.” The problem is that we want different things. They want to fill Shoreditch and South Hackney with trendy bars and restaurants, knock down our homes and replace them with up-market apartments and turn the area over to the property developers.We need to start with defending what is ours – by stopping the council selling our homes, privatising housing management and closing libraries, youth clubs and swimming pools. Now they are on the attack, and we need to defend what is ours.




Who represents you? Look long and hard at Hackney’s 60 councillors. How many of them speak out for your interests? When your estate is being run down, your children’s school is facing cuts and closure and the youth clubs are being shut, where are your councillors and what are they saying? They are not just silent on these issues. They are the ones who are carrying it out.


Although they have minor disagreements, all four parties on Hackney Council are middle class parties competing for the middle class vote. Read the Gazette any week, and you will find the councillors disagreeing about council structures, car parking and restaurants in Stoke Newington. But when they are selling off council estates, they are all united in favour.

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.