Haggerston Pool – ‘consultation’ – what consultation?

Following Hackney Council’s announcement that they are undertaking a feasibility study into the reopening of Haggerston Baths, a Haggerston Baths Building Steering Group has been established. To begin with the Council refused to invite Pool Campaign reps to their meetings. Fortunately, they have since been persuaded to back down and reps are now included on the steering group. Naturally, they have also employed a consultant to look into the future of the building.

It is understood that 3 options will be put to the Council’s cabinet in January. While the Council has publicly committed itself to reopening the building, there is yet no guarantee that it will be reopened as a swimming pool, something that local residents have consistently demanded.

Consultation thus far has not involved those that Hackney Independent feels are a priority in any decision-making. The question therefore remains, when will Hackney Council (if ever) undertake a proper public consultation exercise, one that includes the people that really matter: local tenants and residents?

New Labour talks a good game when it comes to the usual buzzwords: ‘accountability’, ‘transparency’, ‘choice’, resident ‘participation’, local democracy, but the reality is decisions are made beforehand behind closed (cabinet) doors. Local tenants and residents are routinely ignored by these processes, and when they are consulted, the questions are often designed to make it very difficult for people to express their real views and guarantee a positive outcome – in other words asking the wrong questions to get the right answers. However it doesn’t have to be like this.

Hackney Independent calls for the results of the consultation so far to be made public; and for the Council to ask local tenants and residents their opinion of the future of Haggerston Pool before their cabinet makes its decision. Is their failure to conduct any public consultation due to the fact that they know what we want? Are they afraid of the fact that local tenants and residents demand the reopening of the building as a swimming pool, a community facility at affordable prices, without privatisation or luxury flats? Long term we’d like to see public ballots on issues like this, but a proper consultation would be a positive first step towards genuine local democracy.