Winter 2002 Newsletter


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


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 ?


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.


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.


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.”


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.

Autumn 2002 Newsletter


ShOWing Themselves Up
In 1999 the IWCA was the first group to come out publicly and say that there was a problem with the New Deal for Shoreditch. There was a big row about it at the time, and the New Deal printed a page in their newsletter attacking us, but it is worth quoting from what we wrote 3 years ago:

“£50 million sounds like a lot, but by the time they pay their consultants and put up new lamp posts and railings there will be very little left. Hackney¹s councillors, officer and housing associations plan to use the New Deal to make a permanent change to Shoreditch. They want to change the profile of the population from it being a working class area to it being a middle class playground ­ with canal-side flats within easy reach of the City and all the yuppie bars and restaurants.”

So were we right?

Sara Adams, writing in the Wenlock Barn TMO newsletter this July, stated that as part of the New Deal “residents have felt disempowered and that their voices have not been heard or simply did not matter. The problem was that ShOW (the New Deal¹s new name) was not just representing the interests of local people, but also that of Government, Local Authority and Business. Residents views were not adhered to because often they were in conflict with these other aims.”

Of course the New Deal has done some good things, under pressure from the community, and of course Hackney Council is a bigger problem. But from the very start the New Deal have been committed to bringing in more private housing and less council housing. It is in the delivery plan ­ their founding statement. We know that most of the community reps disagree with it – but it is what the New Deal¹s paid staff are working towards.

That is why they have pushed demolition of our homes so hard before, and why they have not given up on it yet.

And the good things the New Deal have done have all been things that the Council should be doing. We were promised new money for the area ­ but the truth is that the council have pulled huge amounts of funding out of Shoreditch and New Deal money has been used to plug the gaps.

It¹s not all bad news, though. The elections for the Board are coming up again and we expect nominations to be in by the end of the year.

Candidates are coming together who will try to make the New Deal more accountable to the community, who won¹t let decisions be taken behind closed doors, who will oppose demolition of our homes and who will try to rein in the consultants and privatisers around the New Deal. Sara Adams argues that having two Wenlock Barn TRA members on the Board “has ensured that the consultation with the estate has evolved around the wishes of local tenants.” Lets get 12 community reps elected onto the Board who can block the privatisation agenda and argue for a Shoreditch that puts working class interests first.


Since Councillor David Young promised to save Haggerston Pool two years ago, there hasn¹t been much good news about it.

During the recent election the IWCA campaigned on a programme of supporting “the re-opening of Haggerston Pool as a publicly owned facility at affordable prices.” We take the 610 votes that we got as a mandate to keep campaigning on the Pool issue and to oppose the private-sector solutions that are now emerging.

Hackney Council and the New Deal for Shoreditch’s new plan involves:

*No money from the Council for repairing or running the Pool
* The New Deal to use its funds to carry out some of the repairs
* 30 Private flats to be built on the site
We oppose this, because before we know it, once the flats get built, the developers will apply pressure to get the whole building converted into yet another private housing development.

45 people attended the IWCA Haggerston Ward meeting in July and voted unanimously against any flats in the Pool. We need the building re-opened as a pool and we need the Council to pay for it. After all, they found millions to open Clissold Pool for Stoke Newington ­ so why not the same in Haggerston ?

The Pool User Group meets on the second Thursday of every month at 7pm at the Fellows Court Community Centre. All welcome.

Why is the Library closed on Saturdays?

If you’ve tried to visit your local library on a Saturday recently, you will have noticed it was shut. Why is this?
In October 2001, Hackney Council breached a nationally reached agreement, which ensures all library staff that work on a Saturday get what is in effect “overtime” pay.

Because of this library workers across Hackney have been on strike for nearly a year now, to try and get this money back from their employer. They are not doing this because they are greedy or they want to stop people using the libraries; but because like a lot of people in this borough, they are poorly paid and rely on this additional day¹s pay to make ends meet.

The Council has also recently been advertising for “Saturday Library Assistants”, who will be non-unionised and are being cynically used to break the strike. The irony being it will cost more to employ these agency staff, than it would be to pay the librarians what they are asking for, and settle the dispute once and for all. Make sense of that if you can!

The union is also accusing Hackney Council of “political manipulation”, because Max Caller, the Council¹s Chief Executive, has asked in a leaked memo that this change be delayed until after the mayoral election “to prevent unnecessary industrial action during the election campaign”. After all, we can¹t have Council Leader, Jules Pipe’s mayoral campaign interrupted – can we now?

Three years ago, we had high hopes of getting a youth club when Islington & Shoreditch Housing Association bought up three sites just to the south of the estate.

Two sites were to be used for housing and the other for our youth club. The final result – two sites developed for housing and no sign of the youth club. Hackney Council got involved first and sold off the last site for £5 million. And we haven¹t even seen the benefits of any of that money.

To make matters worse estate agents Nelson Bakewell have sold off the nearby community nature site. Some people with long memories remember the site being given to Wenlock Barn TA on behalf of the community by the GLC. In those days we had some councillors who cared about the community and understood the need for open spaces.

But hats off to the Tenants & Residents Association (TRA) for getting an injunction to stop the Council selling off any sites on the Wenlock Barn estate itself.

Wenlock Barn TRA office is open between 12- 3pm on the last Sunday of the month, or ring them on 020 7684 2551.

This year, the Apples & Pears Adventure Playground in Pearson Street, celebrates 25 years of providing a free and safe play environment for local kids. It also occupies a prime piece of land. No surprise then that Hackney Council has wanted to sell it off. Pressure from the community made this a big issue in the run up to the local elections in May. Labour councillors knew this could cost them the election and so they had to stop the sale.

But the council now have a new plan- they are trying to increase the rent on the site until Apples & Pears can no longer afford it. Then the council would be free to sell off the land. To make matters worse, the council has cut the Apples & Pears¹ grant but insists on them providing the same activities as when they got a full grant.

Earlier this year Apples & Pears took the council to court but have now entered into negotiations around the lease. They have said if they do not get what they want, they will continue with their legal action. For now, the parents’ campaign continues…

Hackney Council say they are consulting on whether to close Laburnum School. If they are listening, there’s a clear answer ­ the kids, parents and the wider community are saying KEEP LABURNUM SCHOOL OPEN.
The Council say that the kids can go to other schools. We say we want to keep the school at the heart of this community. It is an improving school with a new head, new computer room, new science room, new funds to improve the playground and to put in security cameras. And after all this hard work ­ now Hackney Council wants to close it down.

The Council say that if they close the school they will try to put a secondary school there, and if that doesn¹t work they will sell the site. We are no fools. We know that it is too small for a secondary school. And that leaves the plan like it always was ­ to sell the school site to developers.

Our Labour councillors knew about this during the elections in May. They hid the issue during the election, and have hidden from the issue since then.

While parents, kids and staff, with support from the IWCA, have campaigned to keep the school open, Labour councillors have kept their heads down. Already many Laburnum parents are saying that they will never support Labour again.

Residents living near to the Shoreditch Centre behind the Hackney Road bingo hall are opposed to Hackney Council’s recent sell-off of this former centre for people with disabilities.

“The developers plan to flatten the Victorian school and cram in 22 high density flats which will be sold off privately. Why should we lose our community resources and put up with an overcrowded neighbourhood, just because greedy developers have realised the area is now trendy?” says Lucy Guo of Dawson Street.

Residents of all 30 flats in Dunloe Court have signed a petition to stop the development. The Hells Angels, whose London HQ is opposite the site are also opposed. Campaigners believe that the site has been flogged off cheap at about £1/2 million and have discovered that the site will be worth around £1.5 million. This means that the speculators will make around £1 million within a few months.

” This is outrageous considering that it was sold in order to help pay off Hackney’s colossal debt. The building belonged to the community and Hackney had no right to sell it. We will fight to stop the development of the site. This is another story about the most vulnerable members of our society being disenfranchised by the naked greed of speculators and developers,” says neighbour Andrew Lord.

The Save the Shoreditch Centre Campaign can be contacted on 020 7729 8677.

Time up for One O’clock Clubs?
The Haggerston One O’Clock Club is a playgroup aimed at parents with babies and toddlers. Situated in Haggerston Park, it is a haven for young families where parents can chat and the kids can play in well supervised surroundings.

There are two other clubs in the Borough: Springfield Park is due to close this year after Hackney Council withdrew its funding. Parents have been given a 3 month extension to raise their own money to keep it open.

Haggerston One O¹Clock Club will also have its funding withdrawn and is expected to close next year unless other money can be found.

The IWCA supports parents in their search for alternative funding, but we strongly believe that Hackney Council should continue to provide long-term support out of the Council Tax. Our community has seen enough butchering of the facilities used by working class residents. As Celia, a playworker at Haggerston says, ” There¹s less for our kids to do now than there was 30 years ago.”

During the ballot on Haggerton East and Whitmore estates being sold off, there were no bigger cheer-leaders for privatisation than Labour councillors Fran Pearson and David Young. Now some of the chickens are coming home to roost – the Canalside private landlord is trying to give 47 flats to so-called “key workers” on rents of around £50 a week extra instead of housing local people. Fran Pearson voted for this on the Canalside Board, while David Young ducked out of the meeting and has kept quiet on the issue.

What should local councillors be doing? It’s quite simple. Work with the tenants’ association, who oppose the high rent scheme. Use your votes on the Canalside Board to oppose it. Get the Council to oppose the scheme and put pressure on Canalside to drop it.

There is a reason why Labour councillors aren’t doing any of these things. Labour prefers having middle class hospital managers and high-grade civil servants moving into the area. The IWCA will always put the interests of the working class first.

Two Canalside Board members did come out publicly against the scheme. Nick Strauss and Sheila Seabury wrote “This is bad for people waiting for housing in Hackney, bad for Canalside tenants waiting for transfers and bad for key workers.” Nick and Sheila have now been suspended from the Canalside Board for speaking their minds.

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

Spring Newsletter published

Hackney Independent, Spring 2002 issue (pdf format)

Flagship Scheme Under Threat

Guardian article on New Deal in Shoreditch
A flagship regeneration project is being put at risk by debt-ridden Hackney council’s decision to sell off land following government pressure to balance its books.
The council plans to sell off assets worth £50m this financial year with more sales expected, including nurseries and playgrounds. Several sites up for sale or under threat of sale are in the Shoreditch area, which has some of the highest land values in the borough. The sales are jeopardising plans of Shoreditch Our Way, a £57.4m regeneration project launched by chancellor Gordon Brown and deputy prime minister John Prescott as part of the government’s £2bn new deal for communities programme.

The scheme’s treasurer, Clayeon McKenzie, said: “We need communal land to develop the area. Our regeneration scheme is going to be dead in the water if they flog off any more land. All that we’ll be left with is the homes that we live in.”

The community-led project is particularly alarmed at the council’s decision to put a popular adventure playground on its disposal list. It has also been under pressure in the past to demolish council homes to make way for private development, which would force tenants out of the area.

The borough, which has debts of £50m, has already been warned against selling off council assets by the district auditor. The matter is now also being raised by local Labour MP Brian Sedgemore, who said he was “very concerned” about proposed land sales.

Speaking at a visit to Shoreditch yesterday, the regeneration minister, Lord Falconer, ducked the issue of sales. He said: “That is something that needs to be worked through by the new deal partnership and the council. One cannot avoid the financial pressures. One needs to find a solution that delivers a long term community programme for Shoreditch.”

In private discussions with Shoreditch Our Way, Lord Falconer is understood to have offered to forward some of the £22m earmarked for the project to improve housing in the area, so that it could buy off land from the council. The suggestion alarmed Mr McKenzie. He said: “That would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. That money is for improving the housing not bailing out Hackney council, it’s absurd.”

Last summer Lord Falconer withheld the housing cash because he rejected the community’s plans for improving the homes, claiming they were “unsustainable” and did not have the backing of Hackney council. At the time, both Hackney and the government were concerned that the resident-led project refused to consider demolishing some of the 7,000 council homes in the area.

Yesterday Lord Falconer said: “At that time we could not agree on what [the plans] should consist of. Since then there has been a productive relationship between Hackney council and the new deal partnership. “I don’t want to comment on the detail of whether there is too much council housing. I think the issue is what is a sustainable future for the housing problem?”

Lord Falconer reaffirmed that the government was “serious” about new deal projects being community led, but he added that the community needed to be “realistic”. Representatives from Shoreditch Our Way were keen yesterday to stress that they were now working with the council on new plans to improve the homes in the area. No one from the council attended Lord Falconer’s visit to underline that message. A Hackney spokeswoman said that staff were “very thin on the ground”.

The "New Eastenders" – What About the "Old Eastenders"?

A series on “The New Eastenders” starts a run this week on BBC2. The programme promises to look at the artistic community that has “radically changed parts of The East End of London”. The Observer in its preview of the series makes some interesting points, perhaps unwittingly.

Their influence has been a property developers’ dream. As the pull of a “happening scene” continues to send prices rocketing, artisans, yuppies, entrepreneurs and now even large establishment organisations…have all been magnetically drawn towards the soi-disant creative heart of the capital.
So what ? As we’ve pointed out over the last two years, the “colonisation” (as The Observer puts it) of “beautiful people” (as they no doubt put it themselves) has been part of a wider programme of gentrification in the area. The working class of Shoreditch have been the main victims of this up till now, with families forced out because of spiralling rents and the New Deal and Council looking to capitalise on the value of the land by selling off estates and bringing in market rents in target blocks. But now even the artists are struggling to make ends meet, so obviously it’s worthy of widespread media concern after all.

Gentrification is not inevitable though. Hackney Independent believes that working class tenants can put our own interests first and kick the whole process into touch. Shoreditch New Deal Trust’s glossy magazine is finally starting to reflect what’s been happening on the ground: that the majority of local people want to stay with the council for their housing provision (they don’t reveal that survey results put the majority at 93% !) and that they don’t want their flats demolished.

Hackney Indpenendent has backed tenants in campaigning against sell-offs and been actively involved in presenting an alternative to the gentrification blueprint. It’s interesting to see that it’s not only tenants who’ve noticed our campaigning work in the local community, but the New Deal Board themselves who have noticed and had to change their language and approach because of the way Hackney Independent and Hackney’s working class majority have forced the agenda. Now it seems that even the national media is acknowledging some of the arguments we’ve been putting forward: that gentrification is not the answer to Shoreditch’s problems.

Pointing the finger 2

We hear that Paul Davis-Poynter (see last news story) is now demanding an inquiry to find out how so much news from the New Deal for Shoreditch is “leaking out.” Remember this is supposed to be a community-led initiative – so there should be no secrets, or meetings behind closed doors. From now on everyone on the New Deal Board should assume that everything they say is going to get back to the people who they are meant to be representing. The best community leaders will have no problem with that – but what have the others got to hide?

We also hear that Paul Davis-Poynter wants a retraction of our last news story. We won’t do that, but we’ll go one better. If Paul wants to write a reply of no more than 300 words, then we will put it on-line unedited as a news story.

Pointing the finger

To be elected Chair of a tenants’ association is an honour, but it brings responsibility. The highest standards should be expected of our community leaders, and if they are not up to it then they need to step down and let others take over.

The Chair of one of our tenants’ associations walked into the New Deal Office yesterday (February 1st) with a leaflet he claimed had been distributed by Hackney IWCA (Hackney Independent as of summer 2004) on his estate. He implied that it had been written by leading Shoreditch tenant activist, Clayeon McKenzie. This was quickly checked out and the true position emerged.

The “Hackney Independent leaflet” was text taken from this website (the 20th January news item – Demolition of Shoreditch averted – for now) and rearranged by someone into the form of a leaflet. This had not been distributed by Hackney IWCA, or any other local tenant or community activists who we work with. So this begs the question “what was the aim of claiming this was a Hackney Independent leaflet?”

The TA Chair was Paul Davis-Poynter. Paul has featured in our newsletter before (see below) and as soon as an election was called Paul was voted off the New Deal Board. It could be that with Clayeon McKenzie having recently lost the rigged election for New Deal Board Chair (see 20th January story New Deal Board stitch-up?) Paul sees this as his opportunity to kick Clayeon when he is down, and re-establish himself with the pro-stock transfer group now in the driving seat on the Board.One section of the article itself has come in for a little bit of friendly criticism. This was the section that read
An interesting spin off from the meeting was the resignation of Winnie Ames as chair of Wenlock Barn Tenants’ Association. Winnie – long time friend of the gentrifiers and rabid opponent of Hackney Independent – was put on the spot by some of her own tenants, who asked her why she wasn’t representing their interests. Faced down by those she claimed to represent, Winnie did the decent thing and resigned her position, although she remains on the New Deal Board ,but for how long?
It is claimed that this paragraph was too personal, and that we should only talk about the issues. A considered response is that, like with Paul Davis-Poynter, high standards are expected of our community leaders. When people stand for elections – to the Council, New Deal Board or as Chair of their TA, then they must be held to account. In Winnie Ames’ case to win elections she has stood as anti-stock transfer, but she has used her positions:
  • to support sell-off’s on the New Deal Board
  • to defend Pinnacle against any criticism whatsoever on the Shoreditch Panel
  • to argue for rent rises in the Hackney Gazette (13th January 2000) and on the New Deal Board
  • to attack Hackney Independent, while never having a word of criticism for the middle class parties that run Hackney Council.

There are some outstanding community leaders in Haggerston and Hoxton, but Paul Davis-Poynter’s leaflet that never was and Winnie Ames’ actions, show that we do not just have problems with our councillors – our own local community leaders need to be held to account as well.

New Deal Diary from Hackney Independent Issue 2:

I note that Paul Davis-Poynter was voted off the New Deal Board Area 1 by tenants. Paul was the chair of the Board and made a habit of criticising Hackney Independent behind closed doors. Always trying to look reasonable, he would claim to have tried to contact us countless times on our phone number and through our mailing address. In reality he did not make a single phone call or write a single letter. Now he is off the Board, Paul will have more time to make contact with us. One local tenant leader remarked that Paul’s problem is “that he spent too long in the Socialist Workers Party and too long trying to prove that he is not a member !”

New Deal Board stitchup?

In the elections for the Shoreditch New Deal Board a leading opponent of estate sell offs was beaten by 9 votes to 7 in the election for chair. Not the most shocking decision in the world, you might think, especially since several on the board are known to be very keen on handing over control of our estates to private companies, but there were other factors too.

An ex-member of the board who has resigned and moved to the West country (and is known to be pro-gentrification) was allowed to vote and the person who was elected to replace her (on a platform of opposing privatisation) was not allowed to. Sarah-Jane Prattent (or Lady Penelope as she has become known to some tenants’ representatives) cast her vote predicatably. As the vote was between Clayeon McKenzie, an implacable opponent of the sell-offs of our estates, and Carole Young who is sympathetic to housing associations, it is obvious who got her support. The final vote was 9-7 against Clayeon and this made all the difference.

There is obviously a huge difference between the interests of a board member who has recently sold her Georgian townhouse for nearly half a million to decamp to the West Country, and the working class people she has left behind. The question has to be asked, how many other members of the New Deal Board are truly representing the working class majority of Shoreditch ?

Shoreditch – too trendy for its own good?

A report in this week’s Hackney Gazette says that Brick Lane Music Hall looks likely to be shut down. The reason ? Spiralling rents. As reported on this site months ago, rents are rising so quickly that local businesses are finding it impossible to stay open.

Vincent Hayes, the owner of the music hall, states “When I came here, Shoreditch wasn’t very fashionable and it was very working class. Now it has become trendy and all the traders have been pushed out. The music hall faces the same fate – and the irony is that it has done a lot to change the area and make it an appealing place for people to come. This is the only theatre like this in Britain and where will the working classes go for a night out if we have to close down ?”

As the IWCA has stressed in the past, the gentrification of Shoreditch is heading on apace and local people are being priced out of their own community. The influx of trendy types into Hoxton and south Hackney does no good for working class communities. They won’t be spending their money in locally owned businesses and how many of the new businesses moving into the area actually employ people from the nearby estates ? It’s all part of a process of “social cleansing” that involves housing too.

Under the New Deal, several blocks are being targetted for the introduction of market rents. Charles Gardner and Aske House, both conveniently placed on the edge of the city, are already set for “pepper pot” renting of a significant percentage of their flats. Take a look at the market rents in letting agencies around Old Street and you’ll see that not many working class people are likely to be able to afford the £250+ weekly rents that are advertised.