Wednesday, 29 April 2009

23,000 Hackney tenants used as a bargaining chip, Mayor claims

Someone was definitely playing politics at last night's full council meeting - but who?

I've got a feeling that the following report may be focusing on what Mayor Pipe wanted everyone to focus on - his allegations - rather than the passing of a controversial policy on housing extensions. According to some at tonight's meeting, this piece of local legislation has jammed up swathes of council officers for at least three years. (I don't know, most of this stuff was new to me)

It was also claimed that the council's position on this issue could prompt legal challenges from representatives of Stamford Hill's orthodox Jewish community who have been calling for looser planning rules in their communities to allow large families to modify their homes.

The council's position has been described as racist in the past - although such claims were not made last night, but feelings were high.

However the strongest comments came from Mayor Pipe, who accused Cllr Simche Steinberger - one of the champions of the orthodox cause - of abusing his position as chair of the borough's overview and scrutiny board.

In his statement to the council Pipe said that he had had to invoke emergency mayoral powers to ensure that 23,000 hackney house holds had their rents cut in line with government guidelines. The cuts will see these households save an average of £140 in rent per year.

Pipe claimed that efforts to push the decreases quickly through the council could have been hampered by Steinberger who, Pipe said, had refused to include the item in the formal council process unless certain conditions were met.

Pipe told the council that Steinberger refused to help unless his concerns about the handling of the controversial Residential Alterations and Extensions policy were addressed.

Pipe said that Steinbeger had been prepared to "withhold money from 23,000 households" in what he described as an "incredible abuse of his position." He said: "23,000 people could have had their rent decreases delayed and you used that as a bargaining chip." He asked what would have happened if he had not had special powers allowing him to by-pass the process.

Steinberger said: "What Mayor Pipe said is not what happened. I got a call in the morning saying what about this item. I hadn't seen any paper work and I asked officers what it was about." He said that Pipe had not returned his calls.

Cllr Coggins defended his fellow Conservative saying that Steinberger had a legitimate complaint about the way the council had dealt with the Residential Alterations and Extensions Policy. He said that he did not know that the item in question was related to rent decreases.

The council passed its recommendations on the extensions policy but not before a recorded vote was called. 34 passed the recommendations, 11 voted against and there was one abstention.

Guardian: Do Stamford Hill Jews need intergration?

And there's an interesting, but old debate at in a piece called Yellow Brick Road.

Other stuff:

The deputy business editor of the Times thinks Hackney has made good progress and believes it is a beacon for enterprise: The success story that Labour is writing off.

And then there's the government commendation for the borough's homelessness team.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Will Hackney schools suffer if contractor folds?

Hackney contractor, William Verry, is likely to go into administration in what Construction News reports "would almost certainly be the most high-profile construction casualty of the recession so far." The Hackney contract appears to have been the last won by the company - in December 2008. Hackney's "Building Schools for the Future" programme proposes rebuilds or refurbishments for six secondary schools and four special educational needs schools.

The councillor who might be able to help is Cllr Rita Krishna, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services.

At the moment this blog is what some might call 'churnalism' - copying everyone else's news. So nothing more to add to this at the moment. Is there another way? Maybe

So back to the churnalism:

The story of what appears to be another gang killing unfolds in court. Prosecutor says a gang called the London Fields Boys had "violence on their minds" when they allegedly killed 14-year-old Shaquille Smith in London Fields in August 2008.

Hackney Council has successfully prosecuted two home owners for making alterations without planning permission. A report in Planning Resource said: "Both owners have spoken to London Borough of Hackney planning officers and agreed to carry out remedial works to resolve the breach. If this does not happen, the council will prosecute again."

Diane Abbott gets a mention in a Times comment piece: "It's a hard life for women about the House" describing the lot of women MPs, but it doesn't look like anything new.

Old but just for sake of having somewhere on this blog - children's charity, Chance UK wins funding reprieve from Hackney Council.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Diane Abbott's muddled crusade for the unemployed

According to Third Sector magazine Diane Abbott joined a line of bigwigs barking up the wrong tree by claiming that jobless people are losing their benefits if they do volunteering work for charities. Last week Abbott tabled a parliamentary motion on the issue.

So how bad is unemployment in Hackney and is it the same as "worklessness" which was "revealed as a key challenge the borough continues to face" by a council review of the borough's economic and business prospects in January? Witnesses who gave evidence for the same report (mentioned in 19 April blog: Hackney's entrepreneurs are disappearing) said that regeneration could pose a threat to low-end earners because it forced up costs for manufacturing industries.

But the people of Hackney will be glad to know that their MP is worried that they might be prevented form working too long in charity shops. Whether or not she made a gaff in the premise of this issue - that jobless people can work longer for charities - the fact that she championed this issue at all doesn't bode well either for her view of what's going on in the borough, or what she thinks the prospects for her unemployed constituents might be.

East London Advertiser reports a man stabbed to death on Amhurst Road at 9.30am on Monday 27th April 2009.

Hackney man jailed as a member of a gang robbing stores across South East England.

Designs for the Olympic media centre have been called extremely weak: Paul Finch, chair of the London 2012 design review panel, said: "Unless there is a fundamental rethink, then people could be forgiven for wondering why sheds have been removed from the Lower Lea Valley in the name of high quality urban regeneration, only to be reinstated at a much larger scale.

Jobs for three site managers for Hackney social housing refurbishment on a mixture of low rise traditional construction, to 17 stories on contracts on a three £29m contract, here marked "urgent".

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Turkish gang problem?

Turkish gang problem in Hackney: According to the Islington Gazette a Turkish Gang called "Bombacilar" may have had something to do with an Islington shooting last month and a shooting in Clapton.

Back in 2006 it looked as if the police had stamped out the gang when its leader,
Abdullah Baybasin, was jailed for 22 years. The BBC said he started "a gang of young thugs known as the Bombacilar (Bombers) who spread fear throughout the Turkish and Kurdish community.

On one occasion, a gang of up to 20, armed with samurai swords, metal bars, pool cues and a gun, forced their way into a Turkish cafe in Stoke Newington. One man had his index finger chopped off by the gang and several shots were fired. Shopkeepers, cafe owners and other small businessmen received death threats and some paid up to £10,000 a year to the extortionists."

A judge was not convinced that the problem would end with the leader imprisoned and imposed a "financial reporting order" saying that: "offences where many of the gang members have either never been caught, and others will be released much sooner than the defendant, can be continued from a prison cell...."

Apparently the gangs listed below are in Hackney - although many of the names suggest Tower Hamlets - but following links (from which supplied an updated list of London gangs in September 2008) most of them don't sound similar to this Turkish gang which is included in the list.
7. Hackney
E9 Bang Bang (They have lots of Google)
Haggerston Fields Combined
Holly Street Boys
Hoxton Boys
London Fields
Pembury Estate
Love of Money Crew
Hackney Posse
Springfield Crew
Manor House Crew
August Town Crew
Legends of Stokie (LOS)
Sea & Mother Square Boys
Tap Dem Crew
Well Street Boys
Yardie Bunch Crew
DNA Boys
Grim Beats Crew
Brick Lane Massive
Cannon Street Rd Posse
Shadwell Massive
Stepney Posse
Bengal Tigers
Bethnal Green Somalians
Devon Road Kruisers
E3 Massive
Elton Man Dem
Bartlett Park
Limehouse Massive
Wilehouse Man Dem
Remand Crew

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hackney and the Telegraph?

Diane Abbott on all-women short lists in the Telegraph: "Miss Abbott, who is black, observed that they are not working quite as she had hoped, for as far as she can see they have become "all-white-women shortlists" owing to "a slight class bias" in the women who present themselves for election." (Meg Hillier, meanwhile, has just had a baby.)

Another Telegraph columnist thinks: "Jobs advertised in yesterday's Guardian for, among others, a "democratic services officer" in Hackney, or a "customer experience manager" for the Department of Work and Pensions give an indication of the care, and the ease, with which public money is spent."

Hackney borough commander moves to Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, a replacement has not yet been found - according to the Hackney Gazette: "During his time in charge, gun crime has fallen by 37 per cent and knife crime by 17 per cent, above the Met average." Does that mean we should expect things to get worse now he's gone?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

What am I really doing?

At work we have an investment club. When we started it we invested in something called an ETF - an exchange traded fund - and the ETF we chose was one that doubles whatever happens to the price of oil. If the price of oil goes up by 2%, our investment goes up by 4%.

That was in July last year (2008) when the price of oil was $147 per barrel. It is now less than $50 per barrel. Even so it wasn't that painful - between all the club's members we hadn't invested much more than £50 each in oil.

But something else happened. I was lying in my bath on a Saturday morning listening to a radio report about how the Georgia conflict had come off the boil. I was upset. This was bad news. There would be no war. The price of oil would not rise.

I was still in the bath when realised that this was not a healthy thought process. But I was on my own and I had not revealed my hollow soul to anyone. I felt relief. It would only have been wrong if someone else had known what I was thinking.

So I'm still a member of that investment club. We recently increased our holding in that same leveraged oil ETF. I've also told people about my Georgia crisis/bath moment. More as a joke. It is as if I know I have a serious lack of perspective, but am not interested in fixing it. I'm not even sure I want to here. I know this blog is about my search for fame and fortune, not peace.

Does it matter if, someone, somewhere, is hoping there will be a war in Hackney so they can make £20-£30? At the moment I think it wouldn't matter, but that's probably because I don't think there's going to be a war in Hackney... at the moment.

I'm hoping I can invest in Hackney, where I live, and that this might turn me into someone who wants good things to happen. But I don't know if investing like that works.

Otherwise, I've managed to spend the evening not reading "Google Blogger for Dummies" so I still don't know how any of this stuff works and I can't find my own blog without typing in the URL. In the meantime I've also been looking for blogs about Hackney. Below are a couple stolen from Baroque in Hackney.

Open Dalston and its old story about Barratt's potential to fail and leave Hackney with a large debt and nothing else to show for its development efforts.

This Stamford Hill jewish blog, called The Shaigetz was the kind of thing I'd love to be able to write, just because the more I read it, the more I wanted to read it. But it doesn't seem as active as it used to be.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Faith schools fail: Hackney is 9th most faith-based LEA in UK

It sounds like common sense although you'd think there would be studies somewhere saying the opposite. But this news story from Ekklesia says Church of England and Catholic authorities have turned a blind eye to all criticisms of faith schools. This time the research, presented at the Royal Economic Society today (Monday 20 2009), showed that faith schools increase social segregation and fail to improve local results over all.

It said: "The paper by academics at the London School of Economics and the Institute of Education, both part of the University of London, also argues that it is the privileged intake of such schools which accounts for their better than average test results."

The study was called 'Can school competition improve standards? The case of faith schools in England', and tracked 550,000 students in state secondary schools.

The Local Education Authorities (LEAs) which have the highest proportion of students in faith schools are: 35 percent - Wigan; 37 percent - Sefton; 37 percent - Hackney; 37 percent - Blackburn with Darwen; 38 percent - Southwark; 39 percent - Bolton; 44 percent - Lambeth; 46 percent - Hammersmith; 47 percent - Liverpool; 59 percent - Kensington and Chelsea; 65percent - Westminster.The Local Education Authorities (LEAs) which have the highest proportion of students in faith schools are: 35 percent - Wigan; 37 percent - Sefton; 37 percent - Hackney; 37 percent - Blackburn with Darwen; 38 percent - Southwark; 39 percent - Bolton; 44 percent - Lambeth; 46 percent - Hammersmith; 47 percent - Liverpool; 59 percent - Kensington and Chelsea; 65percent - Westminster.

The Guardian reports Hackney deputy director of children's services, Steve Goodman, saying that "standards in many social work university departments had declined so radically in the past 20 years that training courses were often "not fit for purpose". As a result, the borough had been forced to recruit consultant social workers trained abroad in countries like America, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand."

Some new large sounding property development. that everyone probably knows about already.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Hackney's entrepreneurs are disappearing...

In its full council meeting agenda back in January, the council published a report saying that there was "a lack of enterprise culture". It was hard to tell if this was putting it mildly. The report suggested fewer people are registering businesses while more people are shutting them, or moving them, out of the borough: "Levels of VAT registration have fallen in recent years, there has been an increase in VAT de-registrations and generally there is a lack of an enterprise culture."

Is it a catch 22? In the same report East London Business Alliance told the council: "A key issue in Hackney was the decline of the manufacturing and light industries and the dispersal of many such businesses out of the borough because of the escalation of rents as a result of the regeneration of the area."

But how bad is it? Is it getting worse? What effect it is having?
The report seems to acknowledge that Hackney will struggle to benefit from the Olympic games if there is no enterprise.

Possibly interesting: A new university planned for the 2012 site according to the Times

And plans to help small businesses in Hackney - if there are any - do business in the City.
“Small businesses tend to rely on one or two main clients,” said City of London Corporation chairman of policy and resources, Stuart Fraser. “We’re working to help small firms in the City fringes review their business pipelines and allow them to better access business on their doorsteps." This will be "seminars and one-on-one advice sessions throughout 2009, culminating in a ‘Meet the Buyers’ event in March 2010, where 125 tender-ready small firms will have the chance to pitch to City-based companies."

Barter for beer in Hackney Road pub?

In Thursday's Hackney Gazette: "Council publications such as East End Life and Hackney Toady are created to spin the party line in an attempt to convince you council taxpayers out there that everything they do, they do it for you."

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Hackney cuts will be worst... and some fraud?

Hackney in the news.

"A Daily Telegraph investigation has established that local authorities in England and Wales are slashing budgets by up to 10 per cent, with social services, education and transport bearing the brunt of the cuts." Hackney is amongst the four authorities across the UK expected to make the most severe cuts.

A story from last week which doesn't mention Hackney, but is this sort of thing happening in Hackney? "BDO fraud investigator Simon Bevan said partners at his firm were dealing with cases of crooked lawyers and surveyors attempting to short-change housing associations. In other instances, senior managers had spotted opportunities to siphon money from new social housing developments." From the Observer: "Losses soar as housing trusts fall victim of fraud"

And just because it mentions Stoke Newington, Financial Times reports that more people are mending their clothes interviewing a Bow shopkeeper.

And nothing to do with Hackney, but How bad will it be?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Hackney Gazette - Masterplan for borough centres extended

Other links:

Business links:

Businesses for sale: in Hackney with more specific areas like Clapton and Stoke Newington covered.

Hackney Business Information Library - just contact details

Hackney Business Today - which looks a bit out of date

HBV - used to be Hackney Business Venture, helping and advising businesses for 24 years.

Innovatory - not sure how local this is, no news on its blog since May 2008.

Olympic Delivery Agency

List of publications based in and around Hackney from iCity&Hackney business services

Hackney Small Business Advice - more business centre details

Hackney home

For Hackney news and comment try:

Clapton Pond Blog: by Guardian Writer Dave Hill who lives in Clapton.
Ben Locker's blog: about "London in general and Hackney in particular, all jumbled up with thoughts on music, politics and passers-by."
East Eight - a magazine for E8, website did not appear to be very up-to-date, but claims printed version distributed free to 15,000 homes in E8.
Hackney Citizen - "an independent community newspaper"
Hackney Conservatives
Hackney Gazette - owned by Archant Newspapers, a privately-owned company with around 1500 shareholders.
Hackney Independent - party website "trying to stem the tide of New Labour’s pro-middle class policies
Hackney Green Party -
Hackney Homes - manager of Hackney Council's housing stock
Hackney Labour Party -
Hackney Lib Dems -
Hackney NUT - teachers union site
Hackney Police - Met Police home page for the borough
Hackney Post - is run by post graduate journalism students at City University, London.
Hackney Socialists -
Hackney Today - is owned and run by Hackney Council.
Hackney TUC -
Invest in Hackney - a not for profit company focusing on inward investment within the borough.
Luke Akehurst's blog
and a different
Luke Akehurst's blog
Team Hackney - appears to be the organ of Hackney Mayor and his cabinet
The Hackney Society - newsletter and info on architecture and planning
The Learning Trust - "delivers educational services to adult learners and over 27,000 pupils in more than 70 schools, nurseries, and playcentres in the London Borough of Hackney"

Latest Hackney related news stories according to Google News search at 6pm on bank holiday Monday:

Not much out there. The FT said on April 10 that Hackney properties are better value in the buy-to-let market than boroughs like Nottinghill as rents for cheaper properties hold up.
More recently a motorcyclist from Hackney died after being involved in an accident in Essex and a teacher from Hackney spoke at a union conference about bureaucracy problems.

Not much else unless you're interested in Leona Lewis (grew up in Hackney) and her family ties to a drug related incident in Islington or a hospitality centre opened: meant to be like Fifteen (31 March).

For reference:
Conservative candidates for Meg Hillier and Dianne Abbott seats