letters about Gillett SquarePosted: December 14, 2006 | |
From the Hackney Gazette
As they spend most of their time plotting in pubs around Broadway Market, I thought it would be useful to explain to the people of Haggerston ward where Hackney Independent thinking is moving these days.
Since they allowed Arthur Shuter to take on a leadership role in the organisation, their policy development has become much more imaginative. Here are just three Hackney Independent policy proposals from the last month:
In a letter to councillors, Arthur demands that a “high-class”, legalised brothel be built on Gillett Square to provide a new venue from which prostitutes can operate now that the council have cleaned up the area.
In their most recent leaflet, they wring their hands about the civil liberties implications of CCTV cameras and wonder whether they’re really needed. Ask any of the residents I represent what they think about CCTV and you’ll get a very straightforward answer.
Finally, on their website they say they wish the Olympics had gone to Paris. Even from people renowned for seeing the worst in everything that happens in Hackney, this is remarkable. Every child I meet when I go round Hackney schools can’t wait for the Olympics to come to our borough and they are embracing the opportunities it will bring. Thousands of job opportunities are already emerging.
I look forward to fighting Hackney Independent at the next election when they campaign on a platform of more brothels, fewer CCTV cameras and giving the Olympics to the French.
Cllr Jonathan McShane,
I was a bit bemused to read in the Gazette (November 23) that Hackney Independent were demanding a brothel be built in Gillett Square – until I learned that the mischievous source was Blairite Haggerston councillor, Jon McShane.
Cllr McShane flatters us when he acknowledges that Hackney Independent has become more imaginative, but sadly we are unable to reach the heights of fancy of New Labour spinners in the town hall. You really would have thought that they’d have been able to detect the satire in Arthur Shuter’s email. In any case, it’s hardly of significant public interest, is it?
Still, it gives us a chance to refer readers to our website at www.hackneyindependent.org for a glimpse at what’s going on in the real world, such as Labour plans to demolish more than 500 council homes and build private flats on valuable public space on our estates.
Hackney Independent has no desire to see a brothel built in Gillett Square, or elsewhere.
Anyway, who in their right mind would want to be involved in a large building project in New Labour’s Hackney – a brothel or otherwise – what with the inevitability of its going over-budget, costing council tax payers an arm and a leg, the likelihood of its falling down or closing down, then flogging off public assets to cover the costs. The words “throwing stones” and “glass houses” spring to mind. Perhaps Cllr McShane would care to comment on that? We won’t hold our breath.
Let me try to put to bed the Gillett Street issue once and for all. Some £750,000 was donated to improving the former car park and turning it into Gillett Square. When the local highways authority (Hackney Council) gets around to putting up new street signs, people might actually be able to find it.
Gone is the nearby Colin Roach Centre and the impressive Vortex Jazz Club has now moved into the square, taking pride of place in a much less impressive (and quite ugly) steel and glass building. Many of the other buildings along the edge of the square have yet to be finished and we wait to see what uses they will be put to and what it will all really cost.
Since the current administration took power in Hackney back in 2001 there have been many rhetorical policies issued. These include proposals to regenerate the borough “while ensuring that the poorer and most vulnerable groups within the local community are able to share in and benefit from the success so that they can achieve a much-improved lifestyle”.
What we are actually seeing is the poorer inhabitants being shifted out of the area completely to make way for those who are stupid enough to pay extortionate rates of council tax for expensive rabbit hutches to help fund lunatic policies and projects which are grossly overpriced and are causing a divide which, as even recent history in Bristol and the north-west tells us, can only lead to serious consequences.
The reality is that whole chunks of Hackney have been handed over to public and private property developers and are being converted to blocks of exclusive one and two-bedroom flats which are to be sold or let at prices that are increasingly beyond the means of even the middle classes for whom they are intended. The original residents of Hackney have two choices, live in squalor or move out. So much for them being able to share in the successes which recent policies have bestowed on Hackney as a place – though not on the people of Hackney themselves.
The recent inhabitants of Gillett Street were, I am told, local prostitutes who put their health, well-being and even their lives at risk on a daily basis turning tricks for a pittance because it was the only way they knew how to survive.
Perhaps they were among the 38 girls rounded up in an operation in Finsbury Park last week. Who knows?
Wherever the prostitutes went will probably remain as much a mystery as the identity of the street sleeper who died in his sleep the week before among a pile of cardboard boxes in Iceland’s Mare Street car park.
What is clear is that the girls were in the way of this magnificent project and just got moved on. How this answers the problem I really do not understand and this simply shows that this council’s rhetorical promises are not worth the paper they are written on.
For Cllr Jonathan McShane to suggest that my comments (and they were my comments alone, as are these) truly amounted to a call for a high-class brothel to be formally set up in Gillett Square shows that he has no answers to the real questions and chooses attack as his best form of defence.
But, like most of his colleagues, he tends to make things worse for Hackney’s Labour group and perhaps they ought to learn to keep their comments to themselves and get on with the job that they were elected for. Just occasionally they also seem to need to be reminded of what their role is – to listen to and represent the interests of the constituents whom they are supposed to serve, which means all of their constituents, not just a selected few.
Our Labour councillors already have their hands full trying to come up with believable answers to the stream of disasters which they have already created, such as the commercial property sales fiasco in Broadway Market and Dalston Lane, the shambles surrounding their grandiose plans for Dalston Junction and Dalston Lane South, the consequences for council tax payers of the LDA’s complete inability to control the ever spiralling cost of the 2012 Olympic Games and the fact that an increasing majority of the people of Hackney are starting to see through their total ineptitude.
These are major points which the council ought to be seeking to address, rather than trying unsuccessfully to score political points on an issue which they must by now realise they should have left well alone.
Certainly, the Labour group in Hackney are not being whipped into shape. Perhaps I should try to track down the former inhabitants of Gillett Street to see if they are more up to the job.
(from Hackney Gazette, DEC14, 2006)
Cllr McShane says (Gazette letters, December 7) that Hackney Independent’s summer newsletter featured a “hand-wringing” article about CCTV, in which we apparently put “human rights” over concerns of residents’ fear of crime. The article in question was about the floundering Shoreditch Digital Bridge project.
It rightly asked whether this was about addressing the issue of crime on our estates, or filling the coffers of major communications companies, and questioned if the money spent on failing CCTV projects could not better be spent on improved estate lighting, design, or youth services, about which Ofsted said of Hackney Council recently : “the range of youth work provision is insufficient to meet the needs of young people”.
To quote from the article: “We would like to start a real debate on the (CCTV) issue that doesn’t just accept New Labour’s solutions. After speaking to local people and doing surveys on estates, we know that many people in Haggerston are pro-CCTV.”
It’s surprising to learn that Cllr McShane bases his uncritical support for all that comes with the Olympics on the views of schoolchildren.
It’s ironic given that we’ve recently heard that national lottery funding of children’s community projects is set to be cut to meet the spiralling costs of the Olympics.
It is also bizarre when you consider how New Labour ignored the brilliant campaign run by pupils at Haggerston against their school becoming mixed sex, just like they ignored the views of the kids and parents of Laburnum school, which they closed in 2003.
Do schoolkids’ views only count when they can be used to back up the land grab of east London by developers that the Olympics is fronting?
The solutions to Hackney’s problems are much more complicated than “more CCTV” and “hooray for the Olympics”.
For once it would be interesting to hear Cllr McShane and his co-conspirators try to engage with these often complex issues rather than make half-baked attempts to smear their political opponents.