First benefits, then rubbish, now Hackney Council fails our kids

In another blow to Hackney Council, a report published by OFSTED (the government inspectors of schools) criticises the education service in the borough, stating “Our conclusion to this report is simple and straightforward, but deeply depressing: We do not believe that Hackney local authority has the capacity to provide a secure, stable context for continuous educational improvement.”

What this means for Hackney’s children is not yet clear, but there is already talk of all education services being privatised. Of course, the whole issue of education is one that means a lot to any parent, but the situation for working class parents is bleak in the wake of this report. While middle class parents can afford private nurseries (and even have the option of moving out of the Borough before little Toby has to mix with the rough kids), working class families have to use what facilities the borough provides.

Hackney Council has not supported its schools because our middle class councillors and senior officers do not use them. What’s proposed is privatisation of the Local Education Authority, and if education goes the same way as the benefits service under ITNet, there will be bad times ahead. In the case of ITNet, the service provided by the council was already poor; the council privatised it and ITNet made it worse. Privatisation won’t give more support to our schools.

For more information click on the link here: BBC news report

Shoreditch – too trendy for its own good?

A report in this week’s Hackney Gazette says that Brick Lane Music Hall looks likely to be shut down. The reason ? Spiralling rents. As reported on this site months ago, rents are rising so quickly that local businesses are finding it impossible to stay open.

Vincent Hayes, the owner of the music hall, states “When I came here, Shoreditch wasn’t very fashionable and it was very working class. Now it has become trendy and all the traders have been pushed out. The music hall faces the same fate – and the irony is that it has done a lot to change the area and make it an appealing place for people to come. This is the only theatre like this in Britain and where will the working classes go for a night out if we have to close down ?”

As the IWCA has stressed in the past, the gentrification of Shoreditch is heading on apace and local people are being priced out of their own community. The influx of trendy types into Hoxton and south Hackney does no good for working class communities. They won’t be spending their money in locally owned businesses and how many of the new businesses moving into the area actually employ people from the nearby estates ? It’s all part of a process of “social cleansing” that involves housing too.

Under the New Deal, several blocks are being targetted for the introduction of market rents. Charles Gardner and Aske House, both conveniently placed on the edge of the city, are already set for “pepper pot” renting of a significant percentage of their flats. Take a look at the market rents in letting agencies around Old Street and you’ll see that not many working class people are likely to be able to afford the £250+ weekly rents that are advertised.

letter in Hackney Gazette 16th November 2000

New Labour errand boy, Luke Akehurst, claims that the Gazette got it wrong in reporting the views of Hackney Labour Party. The issue is whether or not central government is going to be asked for more money during the current crisis. Anyone who can get on the internet can read what Labour is telling its own members on this subject. The IWCA was recently leaked an internal newsletter and you can read it in full here.

Newspapers Cover Hackney Meltdown

Click on the links below for national and local coverage of the Hackney Council crisis:

Evening Standard – Thursday 9th November

The Observer – Sunday 12th November

The Guardian – Saturday 11th November

Evening Standard – Wednesday 8th November

Government Report Damns Hackney Council

An Audit Commission Report published this week has slammed Hackney Council for its dismal record on providing services to the community. The inspection was carried out by the Audit Commission with assistance from District Audit, OFSTED and the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI), and concludes that Hackney has very serious financial and service delivery problems which the Council does not have the capacity to solve without additional help.

The full text of the report can be found at

While it’s easy to say “we told you so” the report does offer an insight into just how mired in scandal and incompetence the council has been, and still is if the next round of cuts is anything to go by.

We must elect councillors who truly represent the working class people of the borough, not this group of self-serving careerists.

Hackney Demonstrates Against Cuts

Hundreds of people demonstrated against Hackney Council on Monday November 6th in two separate events. At lunchtime, binmen staged a go-slow convoy, while in the evening protesters gathered outside the Town Hall to voice their anger at cuts in vital services. The sight of lines of riot police protecting councillors from their own community would be an eye opener if in fact the councillors truly represented that community, but as we point out later, that’s half the problem.

Despite the demonstration, the Labour-Tory coalition approved the package of cuts which looks likely to involve job losses, wage cuts for council workers and the privatisation of the rubbish collection service. Clearly the council has not learned a thing from the ITNet disaster and is now handing over the streets themselves to a private company! While the Lib Dems and Greens voted against the cuts, let’s not forget that across the border in Islington, the Lib Dems are happy to impose their own cuts package and still have ITNet running their benefits services.

IWCA members were present at the demonstration on Monday. While many in the crowd were local people affected directly by the cuts, many were also there in an attempt to sell left wing papers and recruit new members. We have to be certain that any resistance to the cuts comes from those who are most affected – those at the sharp end when the nurseries and schools start to feel the bite, when the residential homes start to get squeezed – Hackney’s working class majority. We shouldn’t get dragged into tactics that have failed before – endless marches, rallies and demonstrations.

The IWCA believes that the way forward is working class rule in working class areas. This means, for a start, representing our own community on the council, not letting middle class career politicians ruin our lives. Demonstrations are one way of showing anger, but if we are in this for the long haul, we have to organise on a community level and this is what the IWCA has been doing since it was set up in Hackney. It’s all too simple to hold demonstration after demonstration and rally after rally – the numbers will gradually wither away and the council will still be in charge. Until we replace those in power with people who represent the working class majority, we will always have this problem.

Money for middle class

Letter to the Hackney Gazette, 9th November 2000

Has anyone noticed that the building work has started on the Town Hall Square development? The council says it can’t afford our essential services, but can bring in money for this kind of thing. Our middle class councillors want to be able to grab a late night coffee after a hard night voting through the latest round of cuts. At the same time the latest block of yuppie flats is just being finished off in Shoreditch, while the council says it has no money for essential repairs on our estates, and is cutting the estate cleaning budget by £860,000.

Peter Sutton

Leaked Labour Newsletter

A leaked Labour newsletter has come into our possession, showing what the party really thinks about the current crisis in Hackney Council. We reprint it below:


Scare stories, downright lies …. and other news

‘Shut down Hackney’, say a group calling themselves Hackney Fightback. Jules Pipe, leader of the Labour Group on the Council, made his feelings fairly clear when he walked into GC crumpling one of their posters.

It is, of course, all because of the Section 114 notice, served by the Borough Treasurer when it became clear that the Council was set to overspend. It gives Councillors 21 days to come up with a balanced budget. Meanwhile it freezes all but essential spending.

Hence the front page story of sit-ins by parents and children furious at the sudden closure of Fernbank and Atherden Road nursery schools. Hence also an emergency resolution tabled at GC which began with concern about some of the effects of the notice, urged the seeking of government cash and ended by calling on the Labour Group to urgently reconsider its alliance with the Conservative Group and not to support any further privatisations, job losses or cuts in services.

Before that debate even began, Diane Abbott had spoken with some vigour about the way the nursery closures had been handled. You simply cannot, she said, hand a working mother a letter at five o’clock on Friday, telling her that on Monday she’ll have to take her child to another nursery half an hour’s bus ride away. Diane had been to the sit-ins. The parents were not left-wing agitators, they deserved better treatment. They had even offered to pay for the sacked staff. Why did not Councillors go and talk to them ?

In fact, Cllr Jessica Crowe had been to talk to them. Also, as the staff in question did not have continuing contracts the S 114 automatically made it illegal to employ them, wherever the money came from.

By this time there was heat in the debate. Jules Pipe stepped back from the highly-charged detail and gave the broad picture. There was nothing new about this year’s overspend. Transforming Hackney, voted in against Labour opposition, had created a financial obscurity in which officers, without intending to do so, annually overspent by some £15 million. The difference this year was that a team of seconded officers under the new managing director had identified the problem, which by law forced them to serve the 3.114

But speaker after speaker argued that the scale of cuts envisaged was simply untenable in a borough like Hackney. The emergency motion urged the Group to explain this fact to government ministers and seek an extra injection of funding.

Jules Pipe, and others, thought it naive to suppose the government would bail the borough out without the Council taking steps to put its house in order first. As to the impact of the 3.114, Jules Pipe said the media had carried scare stories or downright lies. There was NO truth in stories that schools could not buy toilet paper or use fax machines, that social workers could not use interpreters, that the mobile library had been forbidden to buy petrol, that parents of disabled children had been asked to pay for school transport, or that pensioners had been left without heating.

Diane Abbott came in for criticism from Cllr John Hudson, who felt that in media appearances she might have been supportive of the Labour position. Many people still believed Labour controlled the Council, and Diane, John Hudson argued, should have pointed the finger of blame where it lay – at the Transforming Hackney programme and those who backed it.

An unrepentant Diane retorted that if she had to choose between support for an embattled Council and working mothers who were getting a raw deal, she would back the mothers every time – that was what she went into politics for. By this time GC had before it an amendment to the original resolution, which managed in a few brush strokes to turn it through something like 170 degrees, and it was this form of the resolution that it eventually adopted, taking a position which was broadly supportive of the Group’s efforts, rather than pressurizing it…

…This(Hackney Wick) is the fifth successive by-election that Labour has won in Hackney, and Jules Pipe sees it as a tribute to the election campaigning of the Labour Group and dedicated party members, as well as a vindication of the responsible actions of Labour in the Council.

The victory gives Labour 30 seats out of 60, and brings that much closer the prospect of restoring political leadership to a Council that has been hung since 1996.

So, while residents of Hackney suffer from the freeze on new spending and wait to hear which vital services will be cut, the Labour Party – and especially Jules Pipe – see the whole situation as a chance to win political advantage. Diane Abbott is the only person to come out of this leaked newsletter with any credit , but then it’s her Labour government that has failed to properly fund local government in the first place. Maybe her time would be better spent putting pressure on the government to increase funding to what is one of the country’s poorest boroughs.

Cllr Jules Pipe seems prepared to put his own political career before the interests of the working class in Hackney. He won’t even ask for more government money until Hackney has put itself in order – which presumably means closing down all the most vital services. But that’s alright, because we all know who’s to blame…don’t we ?