Support Hackney Community Law Centre

We are walking on the 17th May on the 2010 London Legal walk to raise desperately needed funds for Hackney Community Law Centre.

Our Law Centre helps the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Hackney and our social welfare law service helps to reduce poverty, homelessness and debt – which, in a time of recession, is ever more crucial. In everything we do we strive to tackle exclusion, challenge discrimination and combat exploitation.

Our Law Centre is dangerously short of funds to maintain those services and we need your help. Please support our walkers as generously as you are able.

Visit the link to make a donation.

Estates Plus secret Agenda?

(Hackney Gazette 19th June 2008)

I’m confused.

Hackney Council spent an enormous amount of money on consultation fees and publicity to convince residents that the only way we were going to get “Decent Homes” was by agreeing to transfer to a housing association, or by way of a Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO). They got the second of their preferred options, the ALMO now called Hackney Homes, and now appear to have a secret agenda to obstruct Hackney Homes from obtaining the required two stars that will release funds from central government to complete the Decent Homes programme in the forthcoming audit by the Audit Commission.

Despite enormous opposition from residents the council, not Hackney Homes, persists in going ahead with its Estates Plus programme.

This programme calls for “under-used land on estates to be sold off to housing associations for development.

What is “under-used land”? It is our green spaces and play areas.

Excuse me councillors, our green spaces and play areas are not under-used. They are an essential part of our estates and environment.

Furthermore it is not your land to dispose of. It belongs to all the residents of Hackney, be they Hackney Homes residents, or not. It is held in trust for future generations. We the current residents of the estates are just the guardians of the land.

Question three on the ballot paper on Decent Homes posed: Were residents in favour of land on estates being used to build on. The answer to this question? Twenty-nine per cent in favour, 66 per cent opposed.

I venture to suggest that were the same question asked today the result would be an even more resounding “no”. Are you really encouraging mass protest by residents just before the audit?

If Hackney Homes fails yet again to obtain two stars following the audit, are you planning to hold a further ballot that will disenfranchise a large proportion of residents by limiting it to one vote per household? (By itself a total abuse of all democratic procedures and principals).

I ask again councillors: Do you have a secret agenda? Is this a ploy to so frustrate residents that they will vote for a transfer to a housing association in order to get Decent Homes and thus allow the council to avoid any responsibility for the 20-odd years of total neglect of our homes?

It certainly appears so.

Finally. No, I am not being a NIMBY. Aspland and Marcon estates are not part of the Estates Plus programme.

Tony Osborne, Secretary,

Aspland & Marcon Court

Estates Tenants’ & Residents’ Association.

Say Goodbye to Football on the Marshes

Published in Hackney Gazette, March 15, 2007

Didn’t you just know that relocation of the travellers to a site on Hackney Marshes was a done deal from the very first time the subject was raised?

Once again this pathetic bunch of councillors, who are supposed to represent us, have proved that democracy is non-existent, not only nationwide, but in this case, on our very own doorstep.

Who do they think they are kidding when they state that Hackney’s planners had carried out excessive consultation?

I protested against the plan on behalf of more than 1,500 footballers, who, whenever they learn of the council and the London Development Agency’s misguided input, are astute enough to conclude that much of what is going on is just a matter of hiding their land-grab intentions under the banner of the Olympic ideal.

We have learned the hard way that we can’t believe a word uttered by the LDA. We feel desperately let down and see no real future for grass-roots football in the long term.

If they can ride roughshod over our feelings by acting without taking our football community’s objections seriously, then what hope is there for the future of Hackney Marshes?

It isn’t the fact that the travellers have been given approval to move permanently to a site on the Marshes. That is not the point. It is the very principle that matters.

We are apalled that approval in any shape or form has been given to anyone to take up residence on the Marshes. It is the thin end of the wedge and just goes to prove that this undemocratic body can abuse its powers on a scale beyond belief, where, when and wherever they want.

What is happening to this once great country? We used to be listened to, now it seems we are in the hands of a bunch of chancers who are in the process of getting their grubby little hands on the people’s land in the name of the Olympics.

In the football community’s eyes, they have tarnished its name forever.

We are sick of the very mention of the word Olympics. All it does is conjure up visions of smug politicians giving themselves a mutual pat on the back for all the so-called wonderful things they suppose they are doing for the “plebs”.

Then there is the matter of the escalating costs. It is all very well for these politicians to tell us that in the end it will all be worth the mounting expense. It isn’t their money! They just go on glibly on their merry ways with no seeming accountability.

Users of the Marshes – incidentally, we pay to play football on the Marshes – are even more fearful now than we ever were.

The LDA will rat on their promise to restore the East Marsh to its former splendour of grass pitches after the Games.

With costs spiralling out of control, some aims will have to be nipped in the bud and we are betting that restoring the East Marsh to its former glory will be one of them.

We can envisage them looking at the nice plot of concreted land and thinking this could be an excellent opportunity to claw back a large wad of cash.

Do you think it won’t cross their scheming little minds? We in the football community are prepared for the worst.

I did not go to the meeting regarding the travellers at the town hall. Experience has taught me that they may go through with the formality of stating that they will listen, but they will completely ignore our wishes or our objections.

I feel extremely sorry for Anne Woollett and the Hackney Marshes’ user group. Did they genuinely feel that they had a hope in hell?

I know of the hard work this group carries out in order to preserve the Marshes and, if it was not for their input, “our” Marshes would have appeared before us as a gigantic tarmac terrain long ago, instead of the wonderful green space we have at present, and if a community-serving group like the MHUG can’t prevent the desecration of the Marshes, what hope is there for us all?

Finally, my criticism of this spineless council excuses Cllr Simon Tesler. It would appear that there is a molecule of good sense and decency within politics somewhere.

While I think about it, say goodbye from all footballers to the Arena Fields, soon to be lost forever, leaving fond memories of happier days, but sadly to be replaced by an unsightly multi-story car park and media centre. Someone, somewhere is a good little earner!

Johnnie Walker
Chairman, Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League

Put any of our 'spare' space to good use

from the Hackney Gazette, 1 February 2007

Commenting on the disquiet that has met proposals to flog off ‘spare’ space on council estates for development (“In the Dark Over Land Sell-Off Plan”, Gazette, January 11), Cllr Jamie Carswell made a number of remarks that need clarification.

He said: “We will be building much-needed housing (and) we will also be investing in facilities for the community, such as playgrounds, garages and parking spaces”.

Who is this “we” that Cllr Carswell claimed will be building new homes? Certainly not the council. Their report on the matter makes it clear that any land freed up as a result of the demolition of homes and garages will be sold to housing associations. Moreover 30 per cent of the new homes will be for private sale.

How can the council claim that “we” are set to build new homes under these circumstances? It seems that what New Labour in Hackney are really doing is continuing the flogging-off of public assets – something we were told was a thing of the past.

Where exactly will the space be found to provide “playgrounds, garages and parking spaces” when it is just these facilities which the council is proposing to knock down and sell off?

The space already exists for “investment” in these facilities. Why not just “invest” in what’s already there, if that’s what Cllr Carswell really meant?

Hackney’s council estates are already densely built and under-resourced. If there are unused spaces – and that is debateable – why can’t they be used to improve the environment for existing tenants?

Carl Taylor
Hackney Independent


The ferocious war of words between Hackney Labour Party and Hackney Independent continues.

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.
– Arthur Shuter

The saga began during the May elections when a number of inaccurate allegations were made against us in Labour Party election material: that Hackney Independent is against Anti-Social Behaviour Orders and only into “trendy issues such as Dalston theatre”!


The truth of the matter is that Hackney Independent had never commented on ASBOs, not least because in Haggerston ward only one had ever been issued, making it an issue irrelevant to local people at that time. But as ASBOs seem to be feature of the government’s agenda for some time to come we have opened a debate on the issue and given space in our Winter newsletter to a local teenager to air his views on the subject.

As for Dalston Theatre, which we did not mention in our election material, it’s hard to take seriously the idea that the eviction of hard-working shop-keepers and the demolition of an historical landmark for the sake of 19-story tower blocks of private flats is somehow a “trendy” issue.

Hackney Independent ran a completely positive election campaign that didn’t stoop to political smears and personal attacks on any of our opponents. Rightly or wrongly, we chose not to walk in the gutter. Perhaps we were naïve, but we genuinely believed – and still believe – that the reason most people get turned off by politics is just the kind of empty mud-slinging and spin that New Labour excels at.


Events have veered off at an even stranger angle in recent weeks with allegations from Haggerston Councillor Jonathan McShane in the Hackney Gazette. McShane states that Hackney Independent are opposed to CCTV on purely civil liberties grounds, that we are campaigning for the 2012 Olympics bid to be transferred to Paris and, most bizarrely, that we want a brothel to be opened in Gillett Square, Dalston!

In reference to CCTV, this was an article published in our free newsletter this summer entitled `Who benefits from `ASBOTV’?’ The piece was a detailed examination of the sinister Digital Bridge project on the Haberdasher and Charles square estates. This is a proposed scheme in which residents, for a fee, can gain access to local CCTV cameras through their own television set. (See Summer 2006 newsletter on this website.)

The conclusion of this article was clear: `Hackney Independent have never had an “official position” on CCTV. We would like to start a real debate on the 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.’


The Olympics is coming to London in 2012. There is nothing that Hackney Independent or anybody else can do or say to change this fact. But what we can do is to try and ensure that the Olympic project benefits everybody rather than just the property developers and the politicians’ egos in City Hall. That means

*construction work that is well-paid, unionised and primarily draws its labour from the local area

*other forms of employment to meet a minimum standard London wage (as TELCO have campaigned for)

*social housing rather than private developments

*a building programme that respects local green space rather than bulldozing over it

*consultation that’s a genuine dialogue with local residents rather than the snooty dismissal to opposition that is always generated by the urban elite.


Hackney Independent has no illusions that that the Olympics is about sport. It is about business and making money. As this process unfolds in the coming years we will work with others to ensure as much of the billions spent on this project benefits the working classes of East London as is possible. Having said that, we are sadly under no illusions that the usual fat-cats and prima-donna politicians will be those who most benefit…

Unfortunately, it may prove to be the case that the people of London – after 2012 and beyond – will wish that Paris had won this white-elephant after all. (Those interested in a critical analysis of 2012 are recommended the games monitor website at


The accusation that we are for building a brothel in Gillett Street has been adequately responded to in the letters pages of the Hackney Gazette, copies of which can be found in the `letters’ section of this website.

As Carl Taylor wrote: `Hackney Independent has no desire to see a brothel built in Gillett Square, or elsewhere.’ Arthur Shuter made the point: `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.’


Since the elections Hackney Independent has distributed two newsletters across the ward and organised two Kids Cinema shows, Labour has not put out a newsletter in the ward. The Hackney Labour website shows no updates since May. What a contrast to the months running up to the council elections when Labour was putting out regular newsletters and updating their website. We have said it before and we will say it again now: Labour lies to the working class during elections and ignores us in between.

Rather than address the real issues of social cleansing and the displacement of the poor in their vision of Hackney’s future, Labour can only resort to lies and spin. Pipe’s `I Love Hackney’ sloganeering is a piece of empty gush. Yes, Jules, we too `love’ Hackney – but we want a Hackney that values all its residents not just those who can afford to move in and live here.

Despite Mayor Pipe’s jubilant post-election address that Hackney Independent `are finished’, the group is still actively campaigning as a part of and with the working class of Hackney. We will continue to do so – on real issues rather than the fiction that Hackney Labour Party accuses us of dealing with. Councillor McShane says he looks forward to challenging Hackney Independent at the next local elections. We should remind Cllr McShane that the battle for ideas and campaigning takes place in the here and now – not just every four years at election time. This is the battle that Hackney Independent is engaged in at this moment.

Victory in Tower Hamlets

We are pleased to announce that the Planning Committee have unanimously thrown out a plan for a massive new development after opposition from an effective community campaign.

Not in Hackney, obviously, but in neighbouring Tower Hamlets. Their planning committee voted 8-0 to turn down plans by Genesis Housing Group and CRISIS to build a 23 storey tower block with 270 bedsits for single homeless people in the middle of a council estate off Columbia Road and a stone’s throw from the Haggerston Ward boundary.

If this had been in Hackney, the New Labour bloc vote would have pushed the plans through as they don’t like turning down developers. The difference in Tower Hamlets is that New Labour councillors face 3 other parties actively competing for votes and the very real prospect of losing power – so all parties have to at least pretend to listen to the people.

Opposition to redevelopment of Mildmay Hospital site

Hackney Independent is supporting the lobby of Tower Hamlets Council on Thursday evening (14th Sept) to oppose the plans for a 23 floor tower block next to Dunmore Point off Columbia Road.

The developers plan to build 270 single person bedsits for homeless people, demolish a recently built nursery, block out the light in the already densely built up area and provide no new housing for the existing overcrowded tenants in Tower Hamlets. The building will be managed (and possibly owned) by the homeless charity CRISIS.

Amazingly Hackney Council has opposed the planning permission. Seeing as Hackney New Labour give the green light to virtually any development proposal put to them, is this just because it is in another borough – or was the mistake to build for homeless people not yuppies?!

We give our full support to this community campaign – which has been referred to by the developers as made up of “white middle class nimbys.” Hackney Independent’s Peter Sutton and Carl Taylor met campaign leaders on Sunday 10th and can confirm that they are a very mixed group of individuals determined to oppose these developers imposing on their community.

The fact is that the developers would not dare to try to impose this kind of structure on Hampstead or the affluent parts of Hertfordshire where the CRISIS suporters live themselves.

Lobby on Thursday 14th September
Meet: by Dunmore Point at 5:45 OR by Tower Hamlets Town Hall, Mulberry Place E14 at 6:15.

Campaign leaflet [pdf]
Diagrams of proposed development [pdf]
Summary of objections [pdf]

More information:

The Shameful Story of Haggerston Swimming Pool

When Haggerston Baths was closed without notice in February 2000, the local Labour Party circulated a leaflet (a rare occurrence outside of an election) reassuring residents that the pool would be reopened in six months. Shortly afterwards Labour took full control of Hackney Council, but the pool remains closed.

The Council’s given reason for shutting the pool was based on health and safety concerns requiring some £300,000 to remedy. Today, estimates for the cost of reopening the pool exceed £20 million.

Other related sums of interest are:

£50 million!

The anticipated costs of reopening Clissold Leisure Centre by Summer 2007, now closed for two and a half years following shoddy building work and contract mismanagement.

£34 million!

The anticipated cost of the Bridge Academy on the now-derelict site of the once popular Laburnum School. This is £8 million in excess of original estimates.

In February 2000 the Council claimed not to have the £300,000 necessary to undertake Health & Safety repairs, yet there appears to always be plenty of money for doomed and unpopular projects.

Hackney takes a dive…

Hackney currently has only one public swimming pool (Kings Hall recently damaged by fire). Estimates based on Sport England criteria demonstrate that Hackney should have six or seven for its population.

In the run up to the Olympics in 2012 and all the associated hoo-hah it’s a disgrace that over the last two decades Hackney Council has actually been closing pools (six since 1988). The consequences for health and education are obvious. Despite the requirements established in the national curriculum, primary school children in Hackney are unable to learn to swim here.

The future? Don’t trust Labour…

At a People’s Consultation meeting organised by the Haggerston Pool Campaign in January 2006, Labour’s cabinet member for Community Services (Cllr Nargis Khan) promised unequivocally that they were committed to the reopening of Haggerston Pool. However, promises are cheap. And there’s usually a catch.

The council have recently been debating their preferred options for Haggerston Baths. By far the better of the three is for a swimming pool and GP surgery. The remaining options include housing on the site. In February 2006 the cabinet agreed to back Option 1 (with the GP surgery) but added that housing should not be excluded from these plans.

Hackney Independent says housing should definitely be excluded from these plans. The results of our survey work, conducted on local housing estates in the years since the closure of the pool show that the vast majority want the building reopened as a public swimming pool at affordable prices.

There are enough private flats being built in the area already. The redevelopment of the Haggerston West and Kingsland Estates sees increasingly more being planned. If the council can find the money to waste on Clissold and City Academies, it can find the money to reopen Haggerston Baths as a public swimming pool.

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.

Hackney Council to Re-open Haggerston Pool?

The council has publicly announced that it intends to “explore options to bring [Haggerston] pool back into use under public ownership”.

This is to be welcomed.

Since its closure in February 2000, Haggerston Pool Users’ Group has campaigned hard for the reopening of the pool as a community facility, organizing demonstrations, lobbies, tv and media coverage, Open House and the Laburnum Street Party – all without support from Hackney Council, which has been justifiably embarrassed by their efforts.

When the council has lowered itself to offer help – most recently by advertising the street party in Hackney Today – it has de-politicised the issue, failing to acknowledge the campaign’s existence. It was, after all, a political decision to close this pool, while wasting millions of pounds on the disastrous Clissold Leisure Centre development.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the council is exploring options for the reopening of the pool without involving the Users’ Group.

As Hackney Independent has pointed out on numerous occasions, New Labour’s idea of ‘consultation’ is to make a decision and then only to listen to opinions from local interest groups if they agree with what they have already decided. Otherwise those opinions are ignored.

New Labour talks the talk about ‘local involvement’, ‘consultation’ and ‘community empowerment’, but notoriously fails to walk the walk. Hackney Council is a prime offender.

Mike Coysh, Chair of Haggerston Pool Community Trust, puts it succinctly when he says, “We welcome any moves to look at the possibility of re-opening the pool, but are disappointed that yet again a study has been commissioned without the involvement of the local community and the Pool Trust”.