Winter 2002 NewsletterPosted: November 23, 2002 | |
How many councillors does it take to change a lightbulb?
The IWCA survey in Haggerston last year proved what everybody knows: that crime and anti-social behaviour is the biggest single issue in the ward. If you have not been directly affected by crime then it has probably affected one of your friends or family. This isn¹t whipping up the fear of crime this is how we are living.
Tony Blair famously said that a New Labour government would be “tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.” Recently a series of measures to punish the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour was unveiled. But much of this is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
How can Labour seriously claim to be tough on the causes of crime in inner-city areas like Hackney when its local councils are cutting the resources that we depend on to ensure that young people don¹t get involved in crime in the first place?
This is not to excuse anti-social behaviour. Muggings, assaults and lesser offences make our lives a misery and should not be tolerated. But any serious solution must recognise that without access to real opportunities some young people will start to offend.
In the current issue of Hackney Today our New Labour mayor tells us that the solution to tackling crime is “by fixing or upgrading street lights and putting in CCTV in high crime areas”. This really is an insult to our intelligence. It is not just that CCTV does hardly anything to reduce crime (as government reports acknowledge). It is that New Labour also presides over the slashing of resources that would go some way to preventing young people involving themselves in crime. You just have to turn the page to see how this is happening in Haggerston.
Hackney Council cuts are causing crime.
Improved street and estate lighting would not solve all our problems but we do know that muggers prefer to operate in the dark and reports show that lighting can be an effective way of reducing criminal activity. The mayor says he wants to improve street lighting. However we don¹t believe that Labour will prioritise working class areas.
That¹s why the IWCA is launching a campaign to improve the lighting in this area. It will be the main subject at the ward meeting in December. (see box below). Come along and support the campaign. We will be contacting every tenant and community group, as well as the schools, asking for their support.
And we need to hear from you. We want you to call and tell us the blocks where the lights haven¹t been working, where the darkest spots are, and if you want to help with the campaign. You can leave a message on 7684 1743.
Together we can force this council to fulfil its responsibilities by lighting up Shoreditch.
Haggerston News Updates
ONE O’CLOCK CLUBS
We reported in the last issue of this newsletter, that the Haggerston One O¹Clock Club, which is based in Haggerston Park, was due to close next year due to having it¹s funding withdrawn.
The good news Hackney Council has given it another year¹s funding. The bad news What will happen to this valuable local service, if it can¹t get funding after that ?
We have consistently stated that Hackney Council should fulfil its obligations and fund groups like this, for the long term. Otherwise how can they plan for the future, and look to expand on and improve the services they currently offer if they are continually victim to this short-term funding mentality ?
Ok, they may be able to get money from the central government Sure Start initiative (which is aimed at families with children 0-4 years of age), but this will not run for ever, and again it lets the council off the hook.
These alternative funding regimes are all well and good, but more often than not they are used to fill gaps in the existing services, rather than improve and provide new ones, which is what they are supposedly intended for where¹s the logic in that ?
APPLES & PEARS
Mixed news from the Apples and Pears adventure playground. Earlier this year the IWCA backed the parents¹ campaign to stop the Council selling off their site for a housing development. The Council dropped these plans, but then has tried a new way of forcing Apples and Pears off the site by bringing in a high rent and cutting their grant.
The Council tried to get a £1000 a year rent, with a review after two years. Bear in mid that until now there was no rent to pay and why should there?
The Apples and Pears went to court and got a new seven year lease with no rent review. Bu they still need to raise the £1000 rent each year.
The Council was trying to get the Apples and Pears to run on a grant of £10,000 for 6 months. Through campaigning the parents got this increased to £20,000. This might seem like a victory but again bear in mind that they used to get £40,000 for 6 months so it is actually a cut of 50% – and the council want them to keep opening for the same hours for this money.
The IWCA supports the parents and believes the Council should bring back the full £80,000 a year grant, stop charging them rent and look to give further one-off grants to improve the facilities.
During the Mayoral elections the Haggerston Pool Campaign called a meeting for all Mayor candidates to ask their views. Only one candidate did not promise to re-open the Pool.
You¹ve guessed it Labour¹s Jules Pipe. He then got elected as Mayor with 10% of the vote.
The New Deal (or “Shoreditch Our Way”) continue to push the proposal to put private flats into Haggerston Pool. This issue was discussed at the New Deal¹s Area 4 Forum covering all the estates around the Pool like St Mary¹s, Kingsland and Fellows Court. The Forum voted against the plan for private flats. What was the response of £65,000 a year New Deal Director Michael Pyner? “I¹m ruling nothing out.”
And they keep telling us that the New Deal is community-led. Community mis-led more like. The IWCA will continue to fight along with the wider community to re-open Haggerston Pool with no private flats on the site.
WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH!
IWCA members toured every estate in Haggerston one week after the bin strike and found that many were still suffering the effects. Yet our inspection of surrounding street properties found no major problems. Lets be clear – we have no problem with Bin workers striking for more pay. The issue here is that yet again the council has put the maintenance of estates second.
“It was no surprise to us that the Council had left the estates till last as usual, while putting the needs of those in big houses around London Fields first. After all that¹s where the Labour vote is these days” stated the IWCA¹s Carl Taylor in the Hackney Gazette (November 21st).
“IWCA policy is that the estates should be cleared first. This is not just because we always put the needs of the working class first. It also makes sense to us that if 40 flats share one communal bin area you clear that before someone who has their own front and back garden and has a chance of managing their own rubbish.”
Kingsland Estate Tenant & Resident Association Chair Anna Maria Mari echoed the IWCA position. Standing with IWCA members and Kingsland Estate residents by a pile of rubbish that had piled up over the previous two weeks, she stated “We¹ve had enough. We¹re fed up with being at the end of the line. The Council isn¹t managing our estate properly. We¹re considering managing it ourselves.”
Margaret McTernan, pictured with her children Shannon and Sean McCarton said she thought that it was “disgusting” that the rubbish had been left for so long.
The IWCA¹s Peter Sutton said it was ” a disgrace and a health risk” that the Council had left the huge pile of rubbish at Hebden Court, Kingsland Estate. While this was the worst case, estates across the Ward were left with piles of rubbish. Peter criticised the local Labour councillors, “The IWCA may have narrowly lost the election in Haggerston to Labour, but where are our Labour councillors now? We¹re the ones going around the Ward, taking up local issues and campaigning alongside the community. What did Haggerston¹s Labour councillors do about the Council¹s failure to clear the rubbish from our estates?”
After pressure from residents, the tenant association, the IWCA and an article in the Gazette, the Council finally cleared the rubbish 13 days after the strike ended.
Hawksley 2 Orange 0
The ever-vigilant residents of Hawksley Court Estate, in Albion Road, Stoke Newington, have been out on the streets again.
This time, they have managed to prevent contractors on 2 occasions from gaining access to the estate to erect a mobile telephone mast for Orange. On the last successful blockade a few weeks ago, residents waved placards with the clear message “Hawksley 2 Orange 0”.
Unfortunately, the new Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, has decided to get in on the act, and showed his face on one of the blockades. Full of bluff and bluster, he issued a statement saying, “Once again I call on Orange to take the moral course of action and not enforce this contract. Otherwise I will be joining local residents in physically seeking to prevent them from getting onto the estate”.
He also goes on to add that the council “MISTAKENLY” signed the contract, which allowed companies like Orange and BT to install these masts on a number of housing estates across the borough. We would argue that Hackney Council “DELIBERATELY” signed these contracts, because it was desperate to get it¹s hands on the few thousands of pounds being offered by these companies, to install these masts on council property. Also, if it means a few working-class people getting ill due to the radiation that comes from them who cares certainly not the likes of Jules Pipe.
Finally, if Orange and the other mobile phone companies are to be permanently prevented from carrying out these installations, it will be down to the hard work and organisation of residents on this and other Hackney estates not a few fine words from the new Mayor of Hackney.
PRICED OUT OF COMMUNITY HALLS
No sooner was New Labour leader Jules Pipe elected as Hackney¹s Mayor than we hear of plans to start charging “market rents” for using the borough’s community halls. The impact this will have on groups who use the borough’s rooms and halls whether for keep fit for pensioners or martial arts for youngsters, prayer meetings or line-dancing is predictable. A lot of very ordinary but worthwhile activities will stop altogether if participants cannot afford to shell out.
A special case has been made for political or lobbying groups; they will not be able to use the halls AT ALL whether they can afford to or not. The IWCA uses halls and rooms in Haggerston and Hoxton to run benefit and housing surgeries for tenants and residents and local residents have made use of community halls to organise campaigns protesting against the council¹s inaction over abandoned cars or the closure of Laburnum school.
If Labour’s proposals go through they will have put another significant barrier in the way of people who want to organise to resist cuts and campaign for improved local services.
If you use a community hall for any activity and want to know how this will affect you then contact the council and ask them. Let us know what response you got by leaving a message on 020 7684 1743 letting us know what group you are from and which hall/room you use.
We almost forgot to tell you…
Stuart Craft became the IWCA’s first councillor, when he was elected to represent the Blackbird Leys Estate, on the outskirts of Oxford.
There were also very good results for our other candidates who stood in Islington and Havering. On average we gained over 25% of the vote in every area the IWCA stood.
Hackney IWCA election candidate, Peter Sutton, said, “This was a great result in Oxford, and the IWCA in Hackney and the other areas will be looking to build on this success in the 2006 elections”.
He went on to add, “We are now concentrating our efforts on getting more local residents involved in the organisation, because the bigger we are, the more effective we can and need to be, in this area. So, if you like what you read in this newsletter, and you think things need to change for working-class people in Haggerston, please get in touch with us.”
NEW LABOUR: SAME OLD STORY
The victory of the Labour candidate, Jules Pipe, in Hackney’s mayoral election now gives them a 33 seat council majority, two MPs and a national Government. Hackney or what is left after large parts of it have been handed over to a series of unelected bodies – is now completely under Labour control. Years of incompetence and corruption have led to the borough being massively in debt. One of the solutions to this problem has been to brutally cut and privatise services. Almost no area has been left untouched, apart of course from the salaries of senior council staff such as Chief Executive Max Caller and his councillor chums. (The latest kick in the teeth is the revelation that councillor salaries are set to soar.)
One other solution, part of the council’s long term plan for the borough, is to replace the working class majority with a higher earning and higher spending middle class. Fewer undesirable working class people means the council has to provide less of the services these undesirables use: nurseries, health care, school places, council housing. This social cleansing of Hackney’s most deprived areas is the reality behind all the talk about regeneration and New Deals.
Every public service in Hackney like many at a national level has been looked at closely with an eye to privatisation, excepting those that have already been closed down or those that cannot yet be legally farmed out to the private sector. For example, in a Council press release entitled “Exciting Improvements to Hackney Leisure Centres”, Labour outline the handing over of parts of Kings Hall and Britannia leisure centres to company Leisure Connection to turn them into private fitness clubs. We are assured that this will provide an “affordable fitness solution”. But as the IWCA asked in a recent letter to the Hackney Gazette: “Are prices going to be affordable to all sections of our community”?
In Shoreditch we have seen Haggerston Pool close with no commitment from Labour to reopen it. Local facilities are constantly under threat of grant cuts or closure. The extension of the privatisation of housing management and the stock transfer of whole estates hangs over the area. Public land is being auctioned off sometimes at give-away prices for developers to build yuppie flats.
Prior to the elections in May, Labour had very little to say about their plans for cuts and sell-offs.
Perhaps if they had been honest about what the council was going to do with Apples & Pears and Laburnum School our three Labour councillors would not have been elected. But of course, the Lib-Dems and the Tories are no better. The Tories¹ national record and the Lib-Dems¹ privatisation of neighbouring Islington¹s council services provides more than enough evidence of what their agenda¹s really are.
The IWCA is the real opposition to Labour in Haggerston. We came close to taking at least one of their seats in the May elections having said very clearly that we supported the campaign to reopen Haggerston Pool and opposed cuts in local services.
The IWCA’s priorities for Shoreditch could not be more different to New Labour’s. Our concern is for the ordinary people of this area where we live and how we are living not to try to solve our problems by either pretending they don’t exist or farming off much-needed facilities to the private sector.