text of IWCA leaflet given out at the Hackney Empire Fightback rally on Saturday 28th October
We are 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 the estates and the communities most affected. While it’s obvious that demonstrations and lobbies are one way to show public anger at Hackney Council, it’s vital that we do not allow these protests to run out of steam in a succession of dwindling marches and rallies. We cannot allow those who are only interested in selling their papers and ‘building the party’ to hijack our genuine anger.
Posters saying “The Council must fight” are leading us in the wrong direction. The Council won’t fight. 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. The nursery occupations are a good example of taking practical action – calling for “no cuts” at all is not. We would have no problem cutting councillors’ expenses and Max Caller’s three grand a week salary for starters.
Labour MP’s should not be given a chance to speak during this campaign. The Labour government has proved no better at funding Hackney than the Tories. Go round our estates and anyone will tell you that the Hackney Labour Party is a middle class party that has no interest in representing the working class.
We need to go beyond protest. We need to replace the four middle class parties on Hackney Council with working class representatives. The IWCA will be standing in the next council elections in the Shoreditch Neighbourhood. In other wards we ask tenant associations and community groups to consider putting up their own candidates.
If you want to discuss any of these points, or would like to get involved in the IWCA’s consistent approach to community politics in Shoreditch – including surgeries, repairs canvasses and distribution of a local newsletter to 10,000 homes – then get in touch.
Hackney Council consult on rent increases (for extra services) but they do not consult the tenants on the extra rent they collect. For instance rents go up to put in central heating and tenants agree to a rent increase of £1. The Council then put on an extra rent of £2.60. So the rent (increase) would then be £3.60 not the agreed £1. This means hardship for tenants on low wages, pensioners and those who are disabled that are not on housing benefit as these people have to pay full rent and council tax. The Shoreditch New Deal Trust Board made a policy to help council tenants to become leaseholders, why don’t they make a policy to help council tenants with the Council and government MP’s heartless rent policies.
John Skeet, member of Shoreditch Tenants’ Association.
Shoreditch TA ask a good question. We think the answer is that the New Deal Board, with a few honourable exceptions, are more interested in selling-off council tenancies than helping council tenants. Only five of the 12 “community” representatives are staying as council tenants – despite three quarters of the homes in the New Deal being council tenants.
I have to criticise the newsletter/New Deal Trust. (They) seem to give too much space to those people who find fault with everything new. I find that too much time is spent moaning about the growth in restaurants and bars etc…. These bring in money some of which is spent in local shops and pubs. It’s not surprising that new people to the area prefer to go to the newer bars etc some in the new deal area are so unfriendly to anything new, verging on the hostile.
Chris Nelson, local resident and businessman.
We wonder why…
October’s New Deal magazine carries an article by the Board’s Vice Chair, Clayeon McKenzie. Clayeon is on record as a leading opponent of stock transfer, but his article is written on behalf of the New Deal, giving their response to a recent consultation survey. Below are extracts from the article:
“An overwhelming 93% of you want to remain council tenants, and not sold-off to any stock transfer landlords, including those that are ‘Community’ based. We all know how useless Hackney has been over the years, but practically everyone felt that they should be made responsible (at least in part) for putting things right, by bringing the long overdue improvements to our homes. Nevertheless, transfer is still under serious consideration by the Trust.
“While insisting that there should be no change of landlord, nearly two thirds of people wanted Shoreditch to have more control of its own resources and destiny. This can be achieved with the Council as our landlord.”
“More than four out of five Council tenants in Shoreditch just want their existing homes to be refurbished to a standard that they feel is acceptable. The huge majority (93%) don’t want to be pushed out of the area.”
“It will be the New Deal’s task to respect (not second guess) your undeniable views, which you have so clearly stated. We must ensure that the Shoreditch people’s expectations are truly reflected in any bid put to central Government for our homes. We will not forget you.”
We want to hear what people have to say about this article. Can the New Deal deliver what Clayeon says they can deliver? E-mail your views to email@example.com and look out for this debate on our website.
This is the full text of the article printed in the New Cross New Deal magazine. The published version has been edited and the magazine can be contacted on 0800 096 7046.
At the same time as the New Deal was planned for Shoreditch, a group of tenant and community activists set up the Hackney Independent Working Class Association. We aim to involve and represent the interests of the working class majority in Shoreditch and South Hackney, as we felt the political parties were no longer able to do this, and that the developers were being given a free hand to gentrify our area.
I thought I would send some news of what the New Deal for Communities has meant for us here in Hackney. We’re about two years ahead of you, and have been through the hype and hope that the first stages of the New Deal brings.
A big contrast with Shoreditch is your magazine. Ours is controlled by the New Deal, and only allows minor differences to be expressed – it is there to give “good news” about the New Deal. This is backed up by Hackney Today, the Council’s magazine, and the Shoreditch Star which is produced by Pinnacle, the private company brought in to run council homes in the area. All three glossy magazines, produced by professionals, put out the message that the New Deal is the best thing ever. Against them we have produced the Hackney Independent. We have produced two editions so far, and have had to raise the money and deliver them ourselves to 10,000 homes in the area. It gives a voice to our group, and carries interviews with and articles by community leaders who are opposed to what the New Deal is doing.
We are not against the New Deal – who is going to be against extra money coming into the area? – but we are against the way the New Deal is run. We have made the tenant and community reps on the Board make a choice. Are they on the side of the tenants and opening up the New Deal, or are they on the side of the professionals, the gentrifiers and those who make decisions behind closed doors? So far they are split down the middle.
We keep being told that the community is in control of the New Deal. Let’s have a look at this then. We have 21 Board members, and of them seven of them are tenants. How can this be right in an area where 80% of us are council tenants? We are not even allowed to know how much the New Deal’s Director is paid. An over-worked Board is hit by decision after decision and deadline after deadline – all set by the professionals. No-one in the area supports the sell-off of Council homes, but the Board were told that they had to put this forward as an option or they would not get any funding. And the only other “option” is to bring in a PFI and sell-off some land and homes. We do not get the option of having our homes improved and keeping our Council tenancies.
Tenant leaders in neighbouring Clerkenwell, having heard about what is happening here in Shoreditch, have decided that they want nothing to do with the New Deal in their area. And because of this they have been subject to two front-page attacks in the local paper by their local Lib Dem councillor. And they told us that the community was meant to be in charge!
The NX Project states that it is trying “to build a consensus about what should happen next.” My view is that there cannot be a consensus. The interests of New Cross’s working class majority are not the same as those who can buy houses like the Guardian’s property of the week (9 December 1999), a house in Pepys Road which “is yours for a mere £310,000. No need to worry about nasty council blocks and Costcutters; you’ll be in the heart of the beautiful Telegraph Hill conservation area.” These people will want less council housing in the area, will want to turn the pubs into café-bars and your shops into organic juice bars. They will want less council housing, they won’t use local schools and they will want to sit on the New Deal Board.
The reality is that you can make gains out of the New Deal, and should make up your own minds about getting involved. If our New Deal gave up on privatising Council housing and worked for things like getting an East-West bus route through Shoreditch then we would stop criticising them.
My advice is to bear in mind that there are some people who in Jess Steele’s words (1st edition) “are thinking big about New Cross.” They are thinking about how much big money can be made from the valuable land that your homes are sitting on. They will propose schemes to replace your estates with “mixed developments” involving housing associations and private homes where tenants used to live. But they will never propose mixed developments where houses in private streets are taken over for Council housing. What they will propose is nothing short of “social cleansing” as they seek to force and price the local population out, and bring in a new population who can afford the new rents and house prices.
And don’t trust anyone who says that this cannot happen without a ballot. You don’t get a ballot if they use the Private Finance Initiative. And you don’t get a ballot if they decide to rent out every flat that becomes empty at market rents to ensure that local people cannot afford it.
To counter this I would urge you to get the following sentence inserted into New Deal plans; “there will not be one less council home in the New Deal area at the end of the New Deal project, except where tenants have taken up their Right to Buy.” If they will not agree to this, then why not? And who is in charge?
I would also encourage you to:
- Insist on New Deal funding for NXNews, with no interference on what you can print.
- Make sure that your Board reflects the community. If the majority of residents are Council tenants then the majority of the Board should be. And only tenants should be able to vote on any proposals that only effect the estates.
Anyone who can get onto the internet can look up our website at www.hackneyiwca.fsnet.co.uk You can see the New Deal’s site at www.shoreditchnewdeal.co.uk
If you would like a copy of our latest newsletter, send a stamped, addressed envelope to Box 48, 136 Kingsland High Street, London, E8 2NS.
If you want someone to come to a meeting to discuss our view on the New Deal, write to the same address. Good luck New Cross!
So ITNet have finally been given the boot – good, this is something we’ve been campaigning for all year. Now it’s time to boot out all the councillors who allowed this scandal to wreck so many people’s lives.
And before the Lib Dems start crowing about their role in getting rid of ITNet, let’s just have a look across into Islington where the Lib Dems are in control of the council, and see who’s running the benefits system there? None other than our old, incompetent friends ITNet.
And while it’s good to see benefits coming under the control of the council – which is at least partly accountable to local people in that we can vote them out – we’ll never get true accountability until the council starts to represent the working class majority in Hackney. After all, if any of these councillors had actually been on benefits themselves (Vernon Williams excepted), they would have known what was going on a lot earlier.
To make sense of how this disastrous series of events started, we only need to look at the make up of our council. Whatever parties they come from, they represent the middle classes – none of them have a clue, or give a damn, what’s going on in the lives of the working class majority they are supposed to be representing.
Dan Carter – Hackney IWCA
Original version of Letter in Hackney Gazette 12th October
After 2 years of benefits chaos, Hackney Council has given bungling benefits company ITNet the boot.
The 10 year contract worth £70 million was terminated last week amid scenes of back-slapping from the Labour group. Clearly they feel that they’ve got something to celebrate.
While the IWCA is glad to see the back of ITNet and its money-grabbing attempt to clear up at the expense of working class residents, we’d also like to point out that it was Hackney Council who put them there, Hackney Council who ignored complaints about their service right from the beginning and Hackney Council who are now apparently celebrating a job well done.
Until we get councillors who actually represent working class people in the borough we’re bound to have a repeat of performances like this.
We’ve got rid of ITNet , now let’s get rid of these councillors.
The IWCA has been active in the last couple of weeks on the issue of mobile masts. These masts have been springing up all over our estates with little, if any, warning and even less care for the concerns of tenants in the blocks. While Hackney Council pockets thousands every year from the phone companies, local tenants get no say in their installation and not a sniff of the cash !
The IWCA has been leafletting estates where phone masts have been put up, calling for full consultation with residents, a say in where the masts can and can’t go, and a fair share of the money gained for use in the tenants’ associations if they do go up.
Mobile phone masts have not been properly researched and that research which has been done points to dangers, especially to young children.
You can bet that if these masts were going up anywhere near the homes of the middle classes , the council would be deluged with complaints, but no, bung ’em anywhere on the estates and hope that no one notices…
Once again, a case of working class people being ignored and dumped on from a great height , in this case a couple of hundred feet.
1. No new phone masts should be located within 100 yards of council estates or schools.
2. Ballots on every estate to see if tenants want the phone masts down. If they do, break the contract and take them down.
The Peabody Trust have put half page adverts in the Highbury & Islington Express for their new flats at Cremer Street, but are not advertising in the Hackney Gazette. This is because they are all about colonising Hackney – aiming to house City workers and the Hoxton Square bar crowd.
Peabody’s “award winning” flats at Murray Grove were said to be “affordable” – but the cheapest rent there is £146 a week. Peabody showed no interest in housing young people and overcrowded families from the Wenlock Barn estate next door. Their wider aim – shared with all four political parties on the Council – is to replace the working class majority with the middle class – a process known as “social cleansing.”
The Peabody Trust was formed “to house the poor of London.” They should rent the Cremer Street flats at Council rents to people on the waiting list.