Laburnum School: letters

The following are letters from the Hackney Gazette concerning the Laburnum School campaign:

If you have a child at a Primary School anywhere in Hoxton, Haggerston, De Beauvoir or London Fields you will have got a letter from the Council in the last week or so headed “Review of Planning Areas 1 & 2.” You wouldn’t know it, but this is the official Council consultation on closing Laburnum School. This is despite the fact that the word “Laburnum” or even “school” does not appear anywhere in the letter.

It is important that you do not throw it away, but that you turn to page 4, which is a survey. The questions are hard to work out – such as “Do you agree that the LEA should bring forward proposals to reduce surplus capacity?” We recommend that you vote “no” to all the questions. The vital question is 3, which asks if you agree with closing Laburnum. To help save the school please tear out the form and send it back to Marian Lavelle, Hackney TLC, 1 Reading lane, E8 1GQ. If you did not get the letter, we can get you a copy if you ring Carl Taylor on 7684 1743.

Peter Sutton
Save Laburnum School Campaign
75 Hebden Court, Laburnum Street E2.

How will you remember the Golden Jubilee year?

My grandson will remember it as the year his school, Laburnum primary was told it was going to close – to be replaced by luxury flats. it has recently been awarded £40,000 to go towards improvements. The school now possesses an ICT suite, a science room and its own swimming pool.

What will happen to the 220 pupils who do not want to leave their school? A final decision is to be made on July 17. Let’s hope for the children, teachers and our community, it’s the right one. Anyway, why award the school £40,000 when it’s proposed to close it?

Pat Phillips, Haggerston Estate

To the Learning Trust – Please Don’t Close Laburnum

I am writing as a parent of a pre-school child in the area who is impressed by the hard work of staff & students at Laburnum school as shown by their displays and class-rooms – particularly over the last 8 months facing closure.

I have been a tenant representative in the area since 1996 & have been on the board of Canalside Housing Partnership since its formation in 1998 – although I am currently suspended, and write in a personal capacity.

Numbers of students at Laburnum school, as well as schools in the North of Hoxton, have been depressed significantly since 1997 due to a range of regeneration initiatives on Kingsland and Haggerston estates (the core catchment areas for Laburnum school) and Whitmore estate in the North of Hoxton.

The number of school age students on these three estates (1200 homes in total) will significantly increase in the next two years and then gradually increase until after building works are completed around 2010.

On Haggerston East and Whitmore estates some 170 units are currently empty (since the 1997 lettings freeze). Hackney Council will allocate over 100 households here in 2004/5. These will be overwhelmingly families with school age children. About 20 will be allocated to Haggerston estate, while the rest will be housed on Whitmore. Those on Haggerston would find Laburnum their closest school, while Whitmore children will use much of the excess capacity in North Hoxton.

The freeze on permanent lettings since 1997 on Haggerston West and Kingsland estates has led to some 40% of the 500 homes being empty, squatted or (more recently) allocated as short-term temporary accommodation. This lettings freeze had a very significant effect on school numbers at Laburnum (the closest school for both estates) and while the refilling of some of these homes has provided new students, these students have come out of emergency accommodation (B&B) and often have a range of additional inclusion needs.

For all children and families of the Estate Regeneration Strategy estates a secure place at a local school is an important part of a stable environment during rebuilding works, renovations, decanting and relocation. Laburnum school has an important role to play in ensuring a stable and supportive community during regeneration.

While the exact plans for Haggerston West and Kingsland are still unclear, well over the current number of units are planned – and increase of 50 – 150, with a maintenance of the current number of long-term tenancies.

The above leads me to be confident

A] That “excess places” in the area will be mopped up in the next two years

B] That the school has an important role to play as a primary school in the successful regeneration of the area

C] That there is a long-term need for the places offered at Laburnum.

Please do not close this school!

IWCA National Website Launched

The IWCA has today launched its national website. It’s still in its early stages of development but contains important news about next year’s GLA and Mayoral elections.

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 !”

Year 2000 News Archive

A Sorry Picture

A story in this week’s Hackney Gazette seems to back up what the IWCA has been saying for some time about the gentrification of Shoreditch. Under the headline “Cool Britannia” brigade driven out by rent hike the Gazette tells us that artists who were encouraged into the area by government cash supposed to secure cheap studio space, are now being forced out of the area by rocketing property rents and service charges. One artist claims that rents are now as much as £320 a week and service charges £700 a quarter.

While we won’t be particularly sad to wave goodbye to some of these over-rated, under-talented media tarts, there is a more serious side to this exodus of goatee beards and berets. As Glasshouse property developers managing director David Nicholson states, “we are not a charity, we are a commercial business and we’ve never lead anyone to believe we were anything else”. Ring any bells ? Just look at the plans Hackney Council have for housing, leisure and learning. Initial cash injections followed by leaving it all to market forces. And why do these companies get involved ? Because they think they can make a profit. Helpfully, David Nicholson tells us “It comes down to market forces which we don’t control”. Perhaps in a couple of years – once more council houses have been dumped into the private sector, rents have started to spiral out of control and all the leisure and learning services have been sold off – we might be told the same thing: “Market forces…blah blah blah…nothing we can do.”

Now more than ever, we need to fight to keep control of affordable housing and basic services, because if the “Cool Britannia” mob can’t afford the rents, Hackney’s working class majority sure as hell won’t either.


Surprise Surprise

As if we didn’t expect it, the ballot at Fellows Court over transfer to Pinnacle has resulted in a yes vote, meaning that 300 flats will now move into the Shoreditch Neighbourhood. As we said at the time, the ballot was a joke from start to finish. Photocopied ballot papers, with no way of being authenticated, were sent out to tenants who were then told to return them to Andrew Wilkes, a man who has a clear interest in getting a yes vote and hiving off estate management into the private sector. Fishy ?


Hackney Council to re-ballot tenants of Fellows Court

Despite having balloted residents of Fellows Court in November of last year, Hackney Council officer Andrew Wilkes has circulated a letter asking residents to vote again on the same issue that the council were defeated on last time, namely whether the estate should be transferred from Kingsland Neighbourhood in to Shoreditch. The council claims that the last vote was not valid as the “results from individual estates could not be distinguished” – a cock up in other words. There has been under two weeks’ notice given to tenants to return their ballot papers and interestingly, they are being sent back to none other than Mr Wilkes himself. Far be it from us to suggest any electoral impropriety, but wouldn’t you be suspicious if the man collecting the votes was the same man pushing for a yes vote ?

Once again, the IWCA would urge a NO vote on this transfer. as we’ve seen with the pathetic failure of IT Net and the difficulties with private contractors trying to cream off a nice profit from the sold off leisure services, once you get transferred and into the grubby hands of a private company, it’s in their interests to make money from you. How ? Well how about upping your rent, refusing to carry out repairs unless you pay and gradually forcing you out to make way for the kind of tenants they really want – yuppies.