Monday, 31 August 2009

20-year backlash for recession unemployed... and other happy news

Don't stick with your next new job!

Hackney resident and Undercover Economist Tim Harford (a recent biog) says a study of "those hurled into unemployment by mass layoffs in the 1982 US recession... discovered horrendously long-lasting effects."

He said that a recession-proof career path is only for the lucky ones: The (1982) recession itself – one often compared with today’s downturn – was savage, but it was over in less than two years. Yet von Wachter and his colleagues discovered that those who lost their jobs had incomes about 20 per cent lower than would otherwise be expected, even two decades later.

Hackney has 761 police officers.

This is nearly 200 more than neighbouring Waltham Forest (562) and seems to make the difference between rising and falling crime (although crime looks more likely to rise in Hackney).

According to the Guardian: Because Waltham Forest is classed as outer London, the borough currently has just 562 police officers, compared to 768 in neighbouring Newham, 761 in Hackney and 778 in Tower Hamlets – this is despite similar populations and crime profiles.

Reported crime rose in Waltham Forest by 3.9 per cent last year, an extra 1,012 crimes, compared to a drop in reported crime in Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

Mental Health in Schools

A piece in Nursing Times describes mental health project in Hackney that encourages pupils at special schools and pupil referral units to use mental health services. Over half of those dealt with have been referred but never used these services.

A case study describes how one pupil's disruptive behaviour in class was related to not being able to see his coat.

One key observation is that over half the SMHT (school mental health team) caseload is made up of young people and families who had previously been referred to the child and family consultation service but not engaged with it.

Who lives in Queensbridge Quarter?

A piece in interviews an 87-year-old resident Betty Spinks... “Not like any other council house I’ve been to. The place looks so tidy"
Not like the old days: “It was the worst estate in England. You’d see rats in the gutters, cockroaches everywhere, and you couldn’t step out your front door at night. Here I feel safe.”

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Hackney - a worklessness miracle?

Earlier this month the Office of National Statistics published Hackney's worklessness figures.

They weren't too bad - the unexplained miracle continues. The workless of Hackney still seem to be finding their way back to work at a surprising speed.

All this during a period when the rest of the country was on the brink of financial collapse with jobs being lost. In contrast, figures show that, in Hackney the population of economically inactive residents shrank. It fell by about 2,900 people (from 28.7% of the working population to 26.6%).

The recession, it seems, has had the opposite effect in Hackney as it has in most other parts of the UK. This seemed to be further confirmed by the publication, yesterday, of the workless households figures ( Work and worklessness among households Statistical Bulletin - August 2009 and 26/08/09 News Release - Half a million more working-age people in workless households).

These show that the North East has over-taken Inner London as the place with the highest rate of worklessness - it now has 23% of homes with all employment age residents out of work. Meanwhile Inner London's level of workless households is 22.9%, the second most concentrated are of household worklessness in the UK. This is down on the same time last year (Work and worklessness among households - August 2007 ) when 23.9% of Inner London homes were workless.

Nationally, the ONS figures for workless homes are the worst they have been - possibly since records began - showing that one in six UK households is unemployed - at least that's according to this interpretation provided by the BBC yesterday.

But not in Inner London, and it can only be supposed that Hackney has bucked the trend here too. Back in 2007 Hackney had the second worst level of workless households of all inner London Boroughs (26%). Worse than Newham (27%) and equal to Tower Hamlets (26%) and, unexpectedly, the next worst was Kensington and Chelsea (23%) - (That's according to (Table 2(iii) Working-age people by region and combined economic activity status of household)

So is Hackney like China? Powering ahead and "decoupling" from the rest of the developed world? Not according to Cllr Guy Nicholson, cabinet member for regeneration and the Olympic Games:

"In terms of Hackney’s economic development strategy, the borough has not ‘decoupled’ from the
UK’s, and specifically London’s economic direction of travel. Hackney Council will continue to ensure the growth and dynamism of a range of economic sectors within the borough. Key sector are:
Servicing for the City, High Value Manufacturing, Retail, Hospitality and Entertainment,Creative Sectors."

He said: "The recession has impacted upon Hackney in terms of an increase in JSA claimants. However, the borough has not been affected any more than the
UK as a whole. Since September 2008, the proportion of the population of Hackney claiming JSA increased by 1.7%, compared to an increase of 1.6% in Britain as a whole. However, Hackney started from a considerably higher baseline in terms of the proportion of the population already claiming JSA.

As discussed above, Hackney’s employment rate has increased significantly over the past few years. The gap between London’s and Hackney’s employment rate has decreased from 15.1% in Q4 05/06 to 3.4% in Q3 08/09. This is a significant achievement in the context of the high levels of multiple deprivation which continue to exist in Hackney. Due to the time-lag in the employment rate data, it is as yet unclear how the increase in JSA claimants will impact upon the employment rate in the borough."

Friday, 21 August 2009

Yellow spider alert in Hackney

Normal-looking brown spiders are all over my garden. If this year is anything like last year, they will soon look like rotten strawberries hanging in mid-air. I generally don't notice them until it's too late.

They are bad enough.

Then this small yellow poisonous-looking creature turned up yesterday.

It was the colour of a banana so I thought it must be some exotic killer of some kind. But it probably isn't exotic or dangerous. I didn't squash it. Hopefully it'll deal with those green shiny beetles that, I suspect, ate my rosemary plant.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

£600k council cash disappears... so what?

Hackney Council payed £610,000 to Hackney charity boss Dr Adu Aezick Seray-Wurie in 2000.

According to a report by the Charity Commission: "The statements for Dr Seray-Wurie’s account and those for the Charities, as well as the Charity’s annual accounts, all showed that none of the funds were passed to either Charity."

However the same report says the Charity Commission will not pursue the case. In 2006 the police said they would not be investigating the case either.

Dr Adu Aezick Seray-Wurie, chair of Hackney-based African Development Agencies and Hackney African Organisation , won a legal claim for £610,000 in unpaid grants from Hackney Council in 2000. The money was paid into Seray-Wurie's personal account.

Last year Seray-Wurie tried to prevent the publication of a Charity Commission report into the East End Citizens Advice Bureau on the grounds that it was defamatory last year.

The 2008 report of the Charity Commission's chief executive said:

The use of our regulatory powers has come under external scrutiny recently with two separate court hearings.

These were two separate legal cases brought against the Commission by Dr. Adu Seray-Wurie (the applicant) in which the Commission was successful. In the first, on 23 April the High Court struck out claims brought by the applicant for defamation, and on other grounds, relating to our published inquiry report into East End Citizens Advice Bureau.

The claim for defamation was struck out on the basis that the report was covered by qualified privilege, and that there was no evidence of malice.....

In the second case, on 25 April the High Court dismissed an appeal brought by the applicant against our decision to remove him as a trustee of African Development Agencies Ltd. The Court decided that we were right to make the removal order on the basis that there had been misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the charity, and it was necessary or desirable to remove the applicant for the purpose of protecting property of the charity or its proper application, the removal being a proportionate step to take in all the circumstances.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Are there enough detectives in Hackney?

The Evening Standard wrote a story to highlight the anniversary of the unsolved death of a Hackney boy who died after falling 60 feet. The police believe he was being chased by a gang.

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Rickells told the Standard: "I am trying to establish whether he was pushed or whether he fell. We know some people entered the block."

Hopefully DCI Rickells is not affected by the shortage of detectives reported by the BBC - apparently there are 5,000 fewer than there should be. Meanwhile is most of the serious crime in Hackney being dealt with by cops from outside the borough like Operation Trident?

According to its website, Operation Trident has 350 police officers and 86 support staff. It was set up in 1998 because 75% of London's gun crime involved the victim and suspect both coming from the capital's black communities. All good, but what happens if Operation Trident gets over-stretched?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Libel and Leabank

Leabank Square blog hit the headlines yesterday with a story that has now been followed-up elsewhere.

Evening Standard: Olympic chiefs threaten to sue 'noise and dirt' blog

The offending material has been removed but blogger Sona Abantu-Choudhury insists
: "...down here in the East End of London – it’s called a lie. The person telling the lie – is called a liar. Simple as!"

Good luck!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Hackney crime figures: The only way is up

In this week’s Hackney Gazette there is an interview with the new borough commander, Steve Bending. He said that the crime levels in Hackney were low and it would be difficult to push them down further.

“There are some boroughs in London which have almost the same number of burglaries in a day which boroughs like Hackney have in a week" and he added that “There comes a point where – unless you have a borough with a field and two sheep in it – there’s a point where crime will stop decreasing.”

Recession and the rise of crime

The Gazette asked if crime reduction will become harder as the recession kicks in, Bending's answer was: “Logic says at some point if you have lots of people who have not got jobs, then there’s a risk that those people will go into crime to fund their life style… but whether we are at that point now is a moot point.”

What is the “informal economy” - how much of it is criminal in Hackney?

Most analysis of the informal economy – all the stuff that goes on behind the tax man’s back – is done with a view to clawing tax back. Most of the initiatives related to the informal economy are related to how much money the Treasury will save or retrieve.

This 2007 Hackney Council economic paper suggested that there was nothing much to worry about from the informal economy – at least not in terms of crime:

Informal / illegal economy: Anecdotal evidence suggests that a small number of Hackney residents are involved within the informal sector and in some cases with illegal activities. For many people, the financial returns of informal activities exceed those that they could potentially achieve in the formal employment market. As such, it is thought that a number of people are choosing this route as an alternative to employment. The informal economy is thought to include a wide range of activities, from childcare provision to criminal drugs and burglary activity sometimes associated with gangs in Hackney.

Much more recently (April 2009), the council admitted that it didn’t know a great deal about the informal economy because it was not an easy area to investigate. In its Report of the Community Safety and Social Inclusion Scrutiny Commission Tackling Worklessness Review 08/09 (367KB), the council said:

One aspect proved particularly elusive and that was the issue of how individuals and businesses in the informal economy can be supported to move into the formal economy. Any analysis of the broad subject of worklessness in Hackney will need to address the prevalence of the informal economy and indeed the likelihood of its expansion during the economic downturn. Engaging with those in the informal economy is no mean feat and we would recommend that perhaps innovative approaches to evidence gathering might be employed… it would certainly aid policy development if local data and research on the topic could be captured.”

The report cited Lord Garbinder’s report from 2000 which excluded the overtly criminal element of the informal economy. It was more interested in the ‘minor’ crimes such as benefit fraud – a problem often described as a victimless crime. The report’s chief aim was to work out how to easily claw back tax from the informal economy.

“Sometimes there are other illegal aspects to the business, such as work by illegal immigrants. And most large-scale crime, such as drugs trafficking and money laundering, is also part of the hidden economy. Apart from illegal immigration, which is touched on in Chapter 4, these issues are not covered in this report.”

The fact that the council, in 2009, is talking about “how individuals and businesses in the informal economy can be supported to move into the formal economy” is a clear sign that it is not looking at issues like prostitution and drug dealing – which are potentially devastating to local communities - but not interesting to the tax man.

It seems that these are not explored because the treasury would probably not be able to claw-back tax from these businesses – even if the criminals were caught. Benefit fraudsters are more profitable to pursue.

The question is whether there is a coherent picture, anywhere, of how many people in Hackney make their livings from crime, how many supplement their incomes with crime, and whether this number is increasing.

Unfortunately looking at the existing data will not tell you this. Even if reported crime is down, to what extent does this mean that drug dealing or prostitution are decreasing?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Hackney has highest rate of youth unemployment

It may be old news to some but 2008 figures show Hackney had the highest level of youth unemployment in the country -

Also, Hackney is the only London borough to win a government grant to help it do something useful with empty shops. According to this article in, communities minister John Denham said councils in receipt of the grants would be able to use the money as they saw fit on ideas to boost town centres and transform boarded up shops into something useful, such as a meeting place, a learning centre or a showroom for local artists.

He said: "There is no need to see unused shops on our high streets going to waste, especially when we know that it doesn't take a lot to turn a vacant shop into something beneficial for the community."

Recent unemployment stories on Blood and Property here:

In the Guardian:

Council's are not prepared for the next wave of the recession - according to the Audit Commission.

Unemployed in Hackney: The lull before the storm

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Hackney women losing jobs faster than men

Last month saw the number of people in Hackney claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) fall for the first time since September 2008. Today's figures - which cover July - show significant rises. The group that has added the most to Hackney's JSA claimant count in June and July is women.

Today's figures - which cover July - show that 9550 people in Hackney are now claiming, an increase of 242 claimants from last month.

In June the number of claimants in Hackney actually fell to 9308 - from 9350 in May, a fall of 42 claimants.

The July figures show that 144 new people in South Hackney lost their jobs. (Increasing from 5190 to 5334). As such the majority of the new unemployed this month are in South Hackney (144) compared to North Hackney (98)

While the level of JSA claimants in Hackney North and Stoke Newington is lower than in Hackney South the rises are more consistent.

Hackney North
May - 4,081
June - 4,118
July - 4206
A total of 125 jobs lost over the period

Hackney South
May - 5,296
June - 5,190
July - 5,344
A total of 48 jobs lost over the period.

However the largest divide is not geographical, it is gender-based. Far more women appear to be losing their jobs than men.

Hackney South and Shoreditch
May figures - 3,612 men and 1,684 women
June figures - 3,531 men and 1,659 women
August figures - 3,564 men and 1,780 women.

The number of men on JSA in South Hackney has fallen by 48. The number of women has increased by 96. That's near a 6% increase in the number of women JSA claimants compared to a 1% decrease in the number of male claimants.

This compares to Hackney North:
May: 2,780 men and 1,301 women
June: 2,796 men and 1,322 women
July: 2,840 men and 1,366 women

In Hackney North the number female JSA claimants has risen faster - 60 new male claimants (an increase of 2%) compared to 65 new female claimants (and increase of nearly 5%).

Hackney women earn more per hour than Hackney men

This is according to figures from 2007 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. According to Hackney Council's 2008 Economic Profile of Hackney:

Average hourly, weekly and annual earnings are lower in Hackney than across London, but are higher than the British average. However, this hides an interesting disparity between male and female workers. Male workers in Hackney earn on average £2.46 per hour less than the London male average, and only 39 pence more per hour than the male average for Britain. In terms of annual earnings, this means male workers in Hackney earn £5145.00 less per year than the London average.

Unusually, Hackney’s female residents earn 70 pence per hour more than male residents, and for full-time workers, this earnings gap increases to £1.65 per hour. Hackney’s female full-time workers also earn higher weekly wages, averaging £29.20 more per week than full-time working men.

This goes against the pattern found in London and Britain as a whole, where men earn more than women, with the result that Hackney women earn more than either the regional or national median. However, this does not translate into women earning more than men on an annual basis.

Hackney’s female workers earn on average £1,449 per annum less than their male counterparts. Women are more likely to work part-time than men, and hourly rates of pay are lower for part-time workers than for full-time, both regionally and nationally.

The 9550 people in the borough as a whole is 6.7% of the working population.

Recent unemployment stories on Blood and Property here:

In the Guardian:

Council's are not prepared for the next wave of the recession - according to the Audit Commission.

Unemployed in Hackney: The lull before the storm

Can local authorities learn from history?

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Can Pipe push the police?

The TV series The Wire provided a glimpse of how police and politicians might deal with each other behind closed doors. It didn't look like a happy relationship in Baltimore where the show was set.

In this week's Hackney Gazette Mayor Pipe writes: "I met Chief Supt Steve Bending, Hackney's new borough commander, this week to discuss how we can drive down crime in Hackney still further and, in particular, how we can do more to tackle the problem of gang and knife crime that still affects parts of our community."

Pipe also said he was "particularly pleased with the new borough commander's commitment to the policing pledge - a way of ensuring that Hackney residents get the high standard of policing they deserve."

According to the few policemen who dare to complain publicly - but still anonymously - targets set by bureaucrats are the main source of their misery. This example appears to deal with the policing pledge. It is from a book written by an anonymous police inspector and blogger Inspector Gadget (I haven't read it but found this excerpt on the blog Monday Books which is worth a look).

In his book, Perverting the Course of Justice, Inspector Gadget says:

We now have the ‘public reassurance agenda’ thoroughly embedded in our ‘tactical delivery plans’ and ‘control strategies’.

There’s a major ongoing scheme called the ‘Citizens’ Focus Agenda’, which involves a lot of cold-calling, often by agency staff or civilian call centres, with people being asked a number of questions for a variety of different surveys.

Don’t be fooled by the title – the ‘agenda’ is not one of actually ‘focusing’ on what ‘citizens’ want, it’s about honing media responses and assessing the reassurance gap and producing justifications for things like PCSOs and Neighbourhood Policing – and making sure we stay one step ahead of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Some of the people we contact have recently been victims of crime. We will select a certain crime type and call everyone who has suffered from it 24 days after the report was logged.

I was given the job of overseeing this. A few things about it puzzled me.

‘How do we decide which crimes we’re going to call people about?’ I said.

The answer was, we find out which crimes the HMIC are focusing on and follow their lead.

‘Right… why 24 days?’ I said.

Because HMIC phones victims at 30 days, and the first HMIC question is, ‘Have you had any contact with the police in the last 30 days?'

Mayor Pipe would probably like to see the 'reassurance gap' closed in Hackney. In the Gazette he wrote: "Crime in Hackney is falling at a record level, with 10,000 fewer victims than there were five years ago."

This is not a view that is shared by Hackney residents. The Place Survey England - Headline Table Results 2008 (which came out last month) shows that only 26% of Hackney residents agree that the police and local authorities have done a good job in the borough. (It also found that 56.4% of respondents "think that drug use or drug dealing is a problem in their local areas" - exceeded only by Newham and Tower Hamlets 60.7% and 60.5% respectively.)

With a 'reassurance gap' like this will the Mayor be tempted to push Hackney police into PR rather than crime solving and prevention?

The possibility that this is happening already appears to be illustrated by another statistic in Place Survey of England. When it asked Hackney residents if they agreed "that the police and other local public services seek people's views about anti-social behaviour?", the answer was that 28% of Hackney residents knew that their views on crimes were being sought.

This sits uncomfortably next to the 26% figure for Hackney residents who think that the police and the council are doing a good job. The fact that more people aware of the effort to communicate than of a good job being done must be frustrating - if it is correct. But it seems unlikely that people will change their views unless the 'seeking of views' transforms into the 'forming of views'.

With 56.4% of Hackney residents thinking "that drug use or drug dealing is a problem in their local areas" only a change on the ground sounds like it will make a difference and that won't be helped by PR.

If Gadget's allegations about surreal bureaucratic tail chasing are even half true then may be it would be a good thing to know exactly what demands - if any - Mayor Pipe can lumber on Hackney cops.

Under the influence

I've used this quote before but only because it's so disturbing. It is from Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey's judgement following Birmingham's notorious 2004 electoral fraud epidemic:

"This (the failure of the police to investigate electoral fraud) is not helped by the invidious position in which a police force is put when investigating electoral fraud in a local authority context.

"The alleged fraudsters may, after all, be members of the political authority to which the force is answerable. The noble cop who fights corruption at City Hall at risk of his career may well be a staple of Hollywood movies but he is much rarer in real life."

I am not suggesting that Hackney Council is corrupt or under investigation - the point is that a respected judge believes that the police are subject to influence by local politicians. That however professional or knowledgeable a police force may be, their task can be made more difficult by the demands of politicians. Mawrey's quote is just demonstrates that the power exists.

The question is how is this power used and what kinds of influence does someone like Jules Pipe have over the way the borough is policed? If the political agenda is as far removed from the requirements of good policing as it was in The Wire, may be we should be worried. But it would be good to know.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

BLYDA funding details

If you've never heard of this organisation don't bother reading this. Just because I asked Tower Hamlets Council for the last five years of funding for BLYDA - the Brick Lane Youth Development Agency - here is the council response in full:

Question: “Can I have an annual breakdown of how much money the council has given BLYDA over the last five years to run its services and whether the council's funding is match funded from other sources?”

Council reply: "Funding provided by the council was not necessarily from one specific department. It has been funded by number of departments to deliver different initiatives as required by the local authority time to time. For example:

· Shaathi Mentoring Programme

· Asha Gang mediation and conflict resolution programme

· Youth work delivery and

· Holiday based programmes

For that reason, I can not confirm what match funding they had in-relation to delivering above initiatives as the Youth Service did not provide funding directly to BLYDA for all above initiatives. but from a check the history of BLYDA’s funding it shows the breakdown as follows through JD One World:

· 2005 – 2006 £111,773

· 2006-2007 £96,155

· 2007-2008 £196,754.32

· 2008-2009 £232,500

· 2009-2010 £232,500

Abu Hasanath - the Business Development Manager and formerly head of Elite Youth before it merged with BLYDA (both organisations have occupied the Osmani Centre on Vallance Road since 2000) - said that the joint organisation, called the Osmani Trust, employed the equivalent of 25-30 people full time (some of them working part time) and had 20 volunteers.

Asked whether the organisation could be considered to have some kind of political influence on leader of Tower Hamlets Council, Lutfur Rahman, Hasanath said that Elite Youth had been in existence in one form or another since 1973 and that BLYDA had been around since the 80s. He said that it was in the interests of the organisation to work with whoever is the Council Leader and had had good relations with Helal Abbas and workable relations with Denise Jones the two predecessors of Lutfur Rahman.

Asked whether BLYDA/Osmani Trust was closely linked to the East London Mosque he said that the organisation sometimes used the facilities and had set up stalls in the Mosque and had a good relationship with it.

Asked whether there was graffiti on the football pitch saying "Kill the Jews" he said there wasn't.

The allegations...

I don't know enough about this organisation to say whether its political connections need closer scrutiny.

The Brick Lane Youth Development Association has been mentioned off-the-record by disgruntled senior Labour figures and in this comment piece on Harry's Place which said: "The Preventing Violent Extremism budget is being diverted to Islami groups and more money has just been voted at a cabinet meeting last month. Half a million quid is being given to a group called BLYDA, Brick Lane Youth Developement Association, which has now received somewhere in the region of six million over the last three years. All it does is run a football team on the wall of whose pitch were painted "kill the jews”.

The comment followed this piece in the Sunday Express (1) Government plans new counter-terrorism strategies (14 June)

One oddity is that a recent (April 2009) Freedom of Information request to Tower Hamlets council for details of all its funding for community organisations said that BLYDA had received a mere £45,000.

How this figure was arrived at when, three months later the figure was given as £232,500, I do not know.

The question of whether politicians make behind the scenes deals with community centres - offering funding in return for blocks of votes - caused me problems when I used to work in Tower Hamlets. If you're bored and have nothing else to do, have a look at this: Believe this conspiracy or be a racist.

For an idea of some of the controversy surrounding the East London Mosque here's a link to Peter Tatchell's piece about a controversial event at the East London Mosque on Tuesday: Anti-Semitic Saudi Chief Imam feted in London

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth?

It is odd that a huge drop in the level of long-term unemployment in Hackney remains largely unexplained. In 2005, 2006 and 2007 the total working population of Hackney was constant at around 140,000. Over the same period the level of long-term unemployment fell from 47,100 in 2005 to 26,900 in 2007 - that is a fall of 43%.

The extraordinary thing about this drop is that the people who appear to have gone back to work were the people who had, for years, not even been looking for a job. This section of the unemployed population has even been rebranded and is now described as suffering from "worklessness".

So, getting 20,000 of these sufferers of "worklessness" back to work in a three year period must have been a huge achievement. But for some reason this feat remains unexplained. This is strange because the blight of "worklessness" was highlighted as the council's top priority earlier this year. As such, a staggering, unprecedented even miraculous fall in the borough's long-term unemployment rate might be worth explaining.

Luckily you don't have to take my word for the significance of the fall in 'worklessness' - it comes from two documents which rely on Office of National Statistic figures (ONS). One is the October 2008 "Economic Profile" of the borough - which I have failed to find online - the other is the earlier May 2008 “Labour Market Statistics Update Briefing" - which I can't find online either.

The May 2008 “Labour Market Statistics Update Briefing" raised questions about the cause of this fall in 'worklessness'. It said: “Hackney now has the highest level of employment and lowest rate of economic inactivity of any year for which data are available, and the improvement is far steeper than anything experienced by any of Hackney’s statistical neighbours.”

And it asked: “So what might have happened in Hackney to explain (or support) the trend shown in the APS figures?"

It emphasised the size and potential significance of the data: “The difficulty is not explaining the direction of the trend, but the scale of it."

And it suggested that the answer may not be straightforward offering demographic changes or "sampling variability" (the figures from the Office of National Statistics were from a narrow survey but ONS said that it stood by the results) as possible explanations for the change.

The May report suggested that it would be sensible to find out what had happened: "Options for carrying out further analysis, including with partners such as Jobcentre Plus to analyse benefits data and trends, could be explored in order to cross-check the trends shown in this paper and to shed more light on what is happening in Hackney’s labour market – particularly if we are to help ensure that the trend continues.”

The later October report made no mention of these questions but pointed out that the trend had not continued. It mentioned that the employment rate had risen to the "highest rate on record (64.3%), significantly closing the gap between Hackney and London" but pointed out that it fell back to 63.1% in December 2007.

At the moment it seems as if this dramatic fall in worklessness and rise in employment - not seen in any other borough - remains a mystery.

The fact that it remains a mystery is odd because, in January 2009, the council said that 'worklessness' was a top priority.

The Community Safety and Social Inclusion Scrutiny Commission’s “Growing a Local Economy” report, approved in January, said:

“The review revealed the key challenge the borough continues to face in tackling the problem of worklessness. We heard evidence on the scale of this problem and on the range of interventions being led by partners such as Job Centre Plus.

“The contribution of enterprise growth to tackling worklessness was explored and we as a Commission have agreed that “Tackling Worklessness” merits greater attention and therefore, it will form the subject of our next review, which will commence in October 2008.”

It is not yet clear whether the mystery of the 43% drop in 'worklessness' has already been answered or if it has been ignored by the council's economics department. Will Hackney Council answer these questions?