Autumn 2000 Newsletter


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

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.

letter to Hackney Gazette about ITnet

At last!
A solution to the problems of not getting your benefits paid by ITNet. Just move out of the borough to your country retreat!
Unfortunately this is only an option for the likes of Lib Dem Councillor Neil Hughes and not something the majority of us can afford.
Isn’t it about time we had councillors who were prepared to stand their ground and fight for the interests of Hackney’s working class majority ?

Helen Caterwell – letter in Hackney Gazette 21st September

Pembury Estate

The Peabody Trust took over the Pembury estate in April. The Gazette headline at the time “clean slate for estate” introduced the new caretaking and management team for the estate.

It has taken only four months for Pembury tenants to find out what Peabody is really about. “The Peabody Trust was oh so interested in us when it wanted our votes for privatisation…” write Gareth Dale and William Brownings in a letter to the Hackney Gazette, “… but now it only shows any concern at all when we make a fuss.”

The week before (August 24th) the Gazette’s front page was headed “Our drug hell” and sub-titled “is this Britain’s worst estate.” The report goes on to list the muggings, drug deals, vandalism and break-ins that are now common on the Pembury as well as a recent shooting.

One tenant is quoted as saying, “we know who the dealers are and where they live. We have told the cops and our landlords, but they won’t do anything until they have half-a-dozen murders on their hands.”

What is happening on Pembury will be very familiar to most people living on estates in South Hackney and Shoreditch. We 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.

Apart from housing benefit problems caused by ITNet, anti-social behaviour on our estates has been the biggest single issue raised with us in the last six months.

Many people have complained repeatedly to the police and the Council (and Pinnacle in Shoreditch) 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 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 the Council and the housing associations like Peabody.

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 Peabody 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.

The Pembury tenants are looking for solutions, not just sitting back and hoping that their problems will be solved for them. Gareth Dale and William Brownings’ report on a meeting on the Pembury showed tenants calling for Peabody to “take on more caretakers and give them a security role.” Others argued for “restoring youth clubs, bringing back football training and car maintenance and building up a community development programme.” Their report closed by asking whether Peabody would take these suggestions seriously, “and if it doesn’t, how can tenants put pressure on it to do so?”

This shows one of the problems of voting for a private landlord. You can’t go back. At least with the council there is some sort of accountability. But Peabody can be forced to take action. By doing what they are doing – calling their own meetings (and not letting Peabody run them) putting their demands and shaming Peabody through the Gazette can all help. Peabody wants to take over more council estates and won’t want he bad publicity. But all of these steps can only help win one thing at a time. We would argue that the Pembury tenants should have a look at standing their own candidates for the new Hackney Central Ward in the council elections in 2002. That would put more pressure on the Peabody Trust and the Town Hall and you would be able to link up with the IWCA candidates who will be standing against the middle class parties who currently represent Shoreditch at the Town Hall.

We would be willing to meet with any tenant or community group that wants to take on the problem of anti-social behaviour on our estates, and will publish any response to this article on our website that comes from a working class perspective. Respond to: