New Deal report questions resident power

Since Hackney IWCA (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) was set up we have argued that the New Deal should be publically accountable and actively involve the working class majority in the borough. All too often, decisions have been taken behind closed doors with consultants running the show. Now a report from Inside Housing magazine shows that this has happened all over the country.

Can residents ever really take the lead on neighbourhood renewal? Paul Hebden reports

The extent to which residents have an influence over initiatives aimed at regenerating their communities has been called into question in a report by the Urban Forum.

The report, based upon the views of residents who attended a conference held by the forum last week, questions the nature of ‘bottom-up’ consultation and raises concern about the limits of resident participation.

Delegates from the 39 NDC areas alleged a tendency for decisions to be made ‘behind closed doors’. Resident power and control was called into question as was the role of consultants who were slammed for their perceived high fees and lack of commitment to individual NDC bids.

But how far can resident involvement translate into actual control of the multi-million pound NDC fund? And do all resident activists really want to head bureaucratic NDC bodies? Anthony Stanuel-Tattie is hoping to set up a residents’ network for NDC and is highly critical of the way the scheme has worked so far.

‘It should be tenants that are actually making the decisions but in fact it’s not like that,’ he said.

‘There are major problems of resident involvement throughout the country. The basic idea is that regeneration initiatives should come from the bottom-up, isn’t it?’

But Aaron Cahill a policy officer at the National Housing Federation questioned whether resident involvement always necessarily meant resident control.

‘The point is that it’s not resident involvement for its own sake, it’s resident involvement for a purpose. Resident involvement must achieve something towards an objective. I am not necessarily convinced it’s about resident control.’


In addition, he said, the complicated interplay of national targets with local needs could prove difficult to reconcile, but shouldn’t detract from local solutions.


‘Look at the 2010 decent homes target – that’s a central government target. Residents may accept it but many may be saying that what they really need are measures to address anti-social behaviour.’


Residents are also unhappy with the role consultants play in new deal schemes. The report said that consultants often fail to pass on their skills to residents but use the skills and knowledge of local people to get their job done.


One consultant who preferred to remain anonymous agreed: ‘I think consultants are a very mixed bag,’ he said. ‘There are consultants that do seem to regurgitate the same model in a slightly different way for every new job. ‘They do get away with things and residents are quick to pick up on it and, because of the fee levels which are often high, it’s inevitable that residents ask “what are we paying for here?”‘


The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions already employs local residents as neighbourhood renewal advisors, though it is unclear whether these could translate into resident consultants. A spokesperson for the DTLR said its annual NDC conference was an opportunity for residents to meet together and swap ideas. He played down the claim that relationships were frayed on the new deal schemes. ‘The key premise must be that these initiatives are resident-led. That’s still the case,’ he added,


Urban Forum briefing: New Deal for Communities conference, 020 7248 3111, or email

Children's Campaign to Save Laburnum

The following news update was sent by the Campaign to Save Laburnum Primary


The children at Laburnum were incensed at the news of the proposed closure and decided to do something about it. The children have been actively involved in the action to save the school. Firstly, they made a petition and distributed it to their peers in all the classes.These they took home and returned filled the next day;asking for further petition sheets to take home. The response from children,parents and friends was overwhelming.Letters were written by the pupils and sent to the Hackney Gazette and one was published three weeks ago.


This has been followed by a rolling campaign of letter writing to selected MP’s, councilors and other key educationalists. The week before last letters, cards and petitions by the children were sent to Brian Sedgemore (MP). Last week Mike Tomlinson recieved more of the same. This week Diane Abbot will be recieving the same.


The children have made posters and two large banners, one of which is currently hanging at the front of the school. The children have also formed a save laburnum children’s committee that meets weekly to update and plan further action. The children have been writing their persausive letters and are now writing poetry and a newsletter for distribution.


The children are intending to go and interview various officials regarding the proposed closure of Laburnum. They are preparing large banners and posters for a demonstration on the town hall. They are also planning to produce photographs and a video to support their campaign. This information will be updated on a weekly basis.

Supporting Ordinary Council Workers

Hackney Independent members joined the picket of the Kingsland Neighbourhood Housing Office on 14th May. UNISON members were on a one-day strike for an improved level of London weighting. The police get £6,000, nurses get £4,492 but for living in the same city Council workers get £2,674. While Hackney Council pay Managing Director Max Caller nearly £4,000 a week and pay a team of five Assistant Directors of Housing nearly £80,000 a year each the majority of workers are low paid.
Hackney Independent spokesman Peter Sutton commented, “we have been very critical of Hackney Council for a long time – but critical of councillors and senior officers. It was good to have this chance of supporting the picket by ordinary council workers and we give our full support to their campaign.”

"Tearing the Heart Out of Our Community" – Threat to Close Laburnum Primary

The threat of closure hangs over Laburnum Primary School in Haggerston. As if shutting down Haggerston Pool, threatening Apples and Pears play area and the one o’clock club weren’t enough, Hackney Council’s New Labour administration is now threatening to shut down the local primary school.

While it is claimed there are surplus places in the Hoxton, Haggerston and Queensbridge area, chair of the governors at the school, Graham Myers has made it clear that the school is close to capacity:

“We have more information on the reasons the council proposes to close Laburnum. Basically, the council has worked out that Laburnum has a surplus of school places. However, according to the LEA we have a form and a half entry (one and a half classes per year group). Although we have only been single form entry (one class per year group) for some time, because when teachers left the school 1991-1992 those classes were closed down by the authority. The teachers were not replaced! So it is quite amazing that the same authority now tell us that we should actually have 330 pupils instead of our 220. Currently every class is at full capacity ie 25 or more. In fact, there is a waiting list for certain classes. Also, the fact that we have a brand new computer suite, a brand new science room, just completed, and the school office was moved down stairs into what was formally the year 2 class room. We doubt very much if we could accomodate 330 pupils.”

The real reasons may be more complicated than what the council are claiming and one schoolkid hit the nail on the head when he said “Hackney Council wants to close our school and make it into posh flats!”. Laburnum School is on prime development land overlooking Regents Canal and ripe for conversion into flats for Hackney’s yuppie influx. And after all, who needs a local state primary when you could go private?

Hackney Independent is meeting with supporters of the campaign to keep Laburnum School open and will do what we can to prevent another sell-off of a much needed community asset. So soon after New Labour strengthened their hold on the Council it’s nice to see they’ve started out as they mean to go on – closing community facilities in working class areas.


Hackney Independent will fight them every step of the way.

Laburnum School Meeting

Laburnum School Meeting – Hackney Independent Backs Campaign
A packed meeting of Laburnum School parents on 14th May was told by the Chair of Governors, Graham Myers that their school was under threat. He said that no decision had yet been made but that a consultant’s report made a number of errors.

Are there more places than kids in this part of Hackney? “We don’t think that they have done their sums right.”

Should the school be closed because it is in ‘special measures’? “This fails to take into account the progress made in the last year. We are confident that we will get off special measures soon.”

On nursery places: “They have forgotten about nursery places. There are already too few nursery places in the South of the Borough.”

So a D-minus for the consultant – but what happens next?

A “consultation” process will start in mid-June. Parents’ views will apparently be considered by the Learning Trust, which takes over Hackney Education on August 1st. If Hackney Council consultation is a joke, then what will it be like for the unaccountable Learning Trust?

Speaking at the meeting for Hackney Independent, Peter Sutton pledged our support for the fight to keep Laburnum School open and proposed that a parents’ committee should be set up to act as an independent voice for parents. This was agreed by the meeting and the Hackney Independent has been invited to attend to support the campaign.

Encouraging Result for Hackney IWCA Candidates

(Note: Hackney Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) are now known as Hackney Independent.)

Hackney IWCA candidates in Haggerston ward chalked up impressive results last night, narrowly missing out on a council seat. The full results were:

Total Turnout: 2269
Percentage Turnout: 32.15

Boff, Andrew The Conservative Party 435
Bright, Afolasade Oluyemidale Labour Party 802
Ellis, Alexander The Conservative Party 404
Rae, Benjamin Christie The Liberal Party 270
Sarikaya, Erdogan The Conservative Party 420
Sen, Nusret Independent 504
Sutton, Peter Independent Working Class Association 595
Taylor, Carl Independent Working Class Association 610
Thompson, Coral Christian Peoples Alliance 87
Tiyamiyu, Suraju-Deen Olatunde Labour Party 700
Young, David Labour Party 841

Candidate Peter Sutton stated “We are the official opposition to Labour in Haggerston and will use that position to put pressure on the Council to take action on crime and anti-social behaviour, to improve the repairs, cleaning and manageement of our estates and to resist any loss of community facilities in the Ward.

While Labour gained votes acros Hackney South – winning every seat in the constituency – the trend was bucked in Haggerston where they lost votes on their 1998 results. Labour are on course to lose Haggerston in 2006 or in any by-election before then.

We would like to thank everyone who voted for us, and there are a number of tenant and community leaders – you know who you are – who put themselves out to support our campaign.”

Elsewhere, IWCA candidates did remarkably well, winning a seat on Oxford’s Blackbird Leys estate and coming second to the Lib Dems in the Clerkenwell ward in Islington. Meanwhile in Havering, IWCA candidates averaged a massive 950 votes each but failed to win seats. It’s clear that the IWCA is starting to make a big impact on local politics and that’s something we’ll be continuing to do whether there are elections on or not.