Sunday, 27 September 2009

Cops conned - Hackney in the news

The News of the World reports that a Stoke Newington con man conned the cops to become a Community Support Officer for four months. But this more detailed piece in the The Romford Recorder says the man was actually a resident of Romford. More importantly though, he worked in Stoke Newington. How did he do it? The Romford Recorder reports: "Oluwagbemiga Oshin, 42, managed to circumvent security vetting for the Metropolitan Police, simply by changing his first name, a court heard." He changed it to Christopher.

According to this piece in UTV News the most likely candidate to become the next Prime Minister of Canada was one-time Hackney resident, Michael Ignatieff... The piece says: "But he had found new love with a Hungarian-born publicist Zsuzsanna Zsohar. Life was good. After his second wedding, which took place at Hackney Town Hall in 1999, there was a party at the couple's minimalist Hoxton loft. It was attended by, among others, Jonathan Miller, Michael Palin and Simon Rattle." Was he paying attention to volatile Hackney politics at the time?

BBC reports postal strike could hit small businesses using Hackney-based company Carvery Cuts - "London’s leading vinyl dubplate and online mastering service" - as an example.

Hackney's controversial army recruitment centre gets a mention in a Guardian piece about a surge in recruitment.

Also in the Guardian - sorry, probably Observer as it's Sunday - about bees in Hackney. says: "While beekeeping sounds like a lovely idea for those with a garden, what about the rest of us? "You really don't need much space to keep bees," says John, who points to the example of 14-year-old Philip Schilds, who has made his name producing Hackney Honey from hives on the roof of his inner-city home.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Coincidence? History repeating itself? Or the best speech?

Conservative MP David Davies is a consistent fan of Diane Abbott.

"11 Jun 2008 : Column 383
David T.C. Davies: I have the near impossible task of following one of the finest speeches I have heard since being elected to the House of Commons. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) need not fret: we will not be on the same side on many issues, although we are on this one. (Link to debate)

But a year later, on 9 July 2009: David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): It has been a pleasure to listen to the debate. I am sorry that the House is so empty at the moment, because the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) made, without doubt, the best speech of the afternoon; indeed, it was one of the best speeches that I have heard in this place. I am not just saying that. I disagree with some of what she said, and she will disagree with some of what I am going to say—but she knows what she is talking about, this lady. (Link to debate)

Diane Abbott interviews Nick Robinson

In a series of Guardian interviews in which politicians get to interview well known journalists, Diane Abbot appears to escalate the animosity between press and reporters. She took the opportunity to deliver some harsh, loaded, personal questions, criticising Robinson's looks; suggesting his politics were a betrayal of her ethnic roots, and that he was sneering.

DA You have a very knowing manner on screen. A sort of knowing…

NR [Laughs.] You're thinking of something slightly ruder than that. Do you mean sort of sneering?

DA A little bit like that…

NR I don't want to come over as sneery. I shouldn't.

DA Are you grateful that you're pursuing your career in a broadcasting environment very different from that in the US, where you have to be quite good-looking?

NR [Laughs.] Oh dear, oh dear, she says I'm sneering?

DA I'm just asking!

According to Wikipedia she was a researcher and reporter at Thames Television from 1980 to 1983 and then a researcher and reporter at TV-am from 1983 to 1985 before becoming a press officer at the Greater London Council under Ken Livingstone from 1985 to 1986 and Head of Press and Public Relations at Lambeth Council from 1986 to 1987.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

See new head of Hackney Communications

Hackney has appointed Carl Welham as interim assistant chief executive, communications and consultation ( PR Week, 17 September) previously of Buckinghamshire County Council where he was head of comms and customer service.

See him here on YouTube saying that councils face major cuts and work has to be done to "make sure communications is not a casualty of that by proving we are an essential part of the business and not a nice to have add on." Hopefully that doesn't mean bogus self-justifying communications strategies.

If this question that he dealt with in a Buckinghamshire meeting applies to Hackney, then may be communications could prove itself by cutting back on spending:
"A member commented that there was a lack of consistency in communications from different service areas. Carl Welham explained that individual service areas spent four times as much money on communications as CS&Comms. Some members questioned why the central CS&Comms team were not co-ordinating all communications to ensure a consistent standard.

Another brief outline of what he thinks about the job and where it might have gone wrong.

Empire to close - aircraft noise pollution

The guardian reports that the Hackney Empire will be out of action for 9 months due to financial difficulties.

Aeroplane noise... I've only noticed how bad it is since being made redundant... as if pilots change down a gear and make a screeching turn in the skies over Chatsworth Road. This research shows it is a problem with East London topping aircraft noise list. Hackney is the eighth worst affected borough.

MP Meg Hillier is on maternity leave but she makes the odd appearance every now again. A Google News search also threw up this mysterious item: "Mục tiêu của hội An Việt là giúp người Việt Nam sống tại Anh Quốc có thể hội nhập vào xã hội mới, tạo cơ hội thăng tiến cho các thế hệ sau này. Phỏng vấn ông Vũ Khánh Thành, nguyên nghị viên hội đồng thành phố Hackney, người sáng lập hội An Việt"

Does any one know what, where or when this event was?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Hackney unemployment accelerates

The number of Hackney 'job seekers' - people claiming Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA) - has risen to 9,826 according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics. The figure is for August and is up from 9550 JSA claimants in July.

In terms of Hackney's overall working population (about 140,000) the increase month on month was 0.2 percentage points, up from 6.7% of the working population on JSA in July to 6.9% in August.

This appears to be in-line with the average monthly increase. Over the last 10 months, the percentage of the borough's working population now claiming JSA has increased by 2% from 4.9% in both October and November 2008 to 6.9% in August.

On average, about 1% of Hackney's working population has been added to the JSA claimant count each five months. Hackney's increase in JSA claimants is amongst the fastest of all inner London boroughs.

As figures below show, since May, Hackney North's claimant count seems to be increasing faster than Hackney South. The north has seen 250 new job seekers on the register since May compared to Hackney South where 199 jobs have been lost over the same period.

Hackney South still has the higher percentage of JSA claimants - 7.7% of its working population, compared to Hackney North where 6.3% of the working population are JSA claimants. Over the last 10 months, Hackney South's JSA claimant count has still increased at a faster rate than the North (from 5.4% to 7.7% in the South, compared to 4.5% to 6.3% in the North) The latest figures show the North narrowing the gap.

However the unemployment issue did not appear to be a concern for the borough's politicians. There were no councillors' questions on employment or the extent of possible public sector job cuts on the council meeting agenda last night (Wednesday)

Figures from August in Regional Monthly Data - September 2009

Last month's figures - which covered July - showed that 9550 people in Hackney were claiming. This was an increase of 242 claimants from the figure in June. In June the number of claimants in Hackney actually fell to 9308 - from 9350 in May, a fall of 42 claimants.

Hackney North
May - 4,081
June - 4,118
July - 4206
August - 4,331
A total of 125 jobs lost over the period (up to July)
Now a total of 250 jobs lost since May.

Hackney South
May - 5,296
June - 5,190
July - 5,344
August - 5,495
A total of 48 jobs lost over the period (up to July).
Now a 199 jobs lost over the period from May.

Links to Blood and Property stories on unemployment:
Job Centre reorganised: can it cope?
Hackney crime figures - the only way is up
Hackney women losing jobs faster than men
Hackney: a worklessness miracle
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth
Unemployed in Hackney: The lull before the storm
Will Hackney return to 17% on the dole?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Tabloids target Hackney

News of the World says Hackney social services returned kids to a squalid home hours after their mother was arrested by the The Met's Child Abuse Investigation Command who stumbled on the Hackney flat by accident:

This week the youngsters were taken into police protection and the mother arrested. On Tuesday she was cautioned for neglect and the case handed to social services. Within hours they RETURNED the children to the flat, which they said had been cleaned up.

Figures given in the story from East London's Child Abuse Investigation Command show that its case load is up by 2/3 on last year.

Last week the east London cop squad, covering Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets, were dealing with 300 live cases. This time last year it was around 180.

But how likely is it that the quality of East London parenting has become 70% worse in the space of a year? Is this Baby P panic? Next week Hackney's Cabinet Agenda reports pack includes a financial update showing that childrens' services are still feeling the pressure.

Page 137: In summary, the service is experiencing caseload pressures in both Access and
Assessment (A&A) and Children in Need (CIN) resulting in increased levels of agency staff.
The former relates to increased anxiety in the partnership following the recent high-profile case in a neighbouring borough.

The Mail on Sunday savages funding won by Arcola Theatre's dance troupe - claiming that £240k has been spent on the project which should have gone to the third world.

Other news:

This may be old news but Hackney Council is looking for construction managers to take on Haggerston Baths with a 21 Sept deadline for bids.

Friday, 11 September 2009

An old book on Hackney (sordid and dull)

This is the Hackney and Stoke Newington section of The Fascination of London which was contributed by the University of California.

It includes items such as this: THE way from London to Hackney was, during the last century, a way of terror. The newspaper- cuttings of the period show innumerable highway
robberies committed, particularly about Cambridge Heath. Dick Turpin, whose favourite resort was the White Horse in Hackney Marshes, must have found this a happy hunting-ground, as numerous coaches passed from London northward and back

The part of the ward to the west of Mare
Street is sordid and dull. The Cat and Mutton
Bridge over the canal forms the extreme boundary of the parish, and what is now the Broadway used to be called Mutton Lane. On the east side of this stood a bun house, which once rivalled that of Chelsea.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Al-Qaeda history on Chatsworth Road

Today this piece on the Telegraph website says: "The al-Qaeda recruiting offices were two Islamic shops on Chatsworth Road in Hackney, east London. The first, the al-Koran Islamic bookshop, was run by Mohammed Hamid, who used the nickname Osama bin London and recruited and trained the failed suicide bombers for the attacks of July 21 2005.

"Hamid, who was later jailed for life for soliciting to murder and providing training for terrorism, met Yassin Omar, one of the leaders of the July 21 plot, at his bookshop in 2003. Opposite the bookshop was an unregistered charity called the Islamic Medical Association (Kosovar) run by Mohammed Patel which was used by the airline bombers as cover for their travel to Afghanistan from January 2003."

Back in June The Sun reported: Ali said he helped the Islamic Medical Association for up to two years after he was given a leaflet at his mosque.
He said he was joined at its office in Chatsworth Road, Hackney, east London, by co-defendants Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan and Tanvir Hussain.
He added: "They needed volunteers to go to Pakistan and deliver some of this aid and administer it and I volunteered to do that."
The jury was told that Ali travelled to Chaman, close to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, for several months in January 2003.
Ali said two more co-defendants, Assad Sarwar and Umar Islam, also travelled to Pakistan at this time to help the charity.
He said the camps were "mucky and smelly", with desperate people living in "appalling conditions."

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Chatsworth terror hub?

This is the Islamic Medical Association Kosova on Chatsworth Road. Is it the same Hackney-based Islamic Medical Association mentioned in news reports about the recently convicted airline bomb plotters? It was reported that one of the would-be bombers put most of his energies "into a charity called the Islamic Medical Association, based in Hackney, which he used as cover to travel to Afghanistan, where he drove an ambulance in refugee camps."

Back in June Bucks Free Press reported: "Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, from Walthamstow was introduced to Assad Sarwar, from Walton Drive, High Wycombe, and Umar Islam, formerly of High Wycombe, through the Islamic Medical Association."

Ali told the court he had previously met Sarwar at one of IMA's charity shops in Hackney, London, where "he used to help out bagging up clothes before he went to Pakistan."

Neighbours of a charity shop with a similar name at 19 Chatsworth Road said that it opened at odd times. No one was there to say whether it was or had ever been a meeting place for would-be terrorists.

The Charity Commission said there is only one Islamic Medical Association on the register which has some outstanding accounts. However it is listed is in Great Yarmouth - link here for more details.

For a debate Harry's Place

Friday, 4 September 2009

4000 newts move to Hackney?

This piece in the Builder and Engineer said the Olympic project included an: "An ecologic action plan to protect habitats and wildlife including translocating 4,000 smooth newts, 100 toads, 300 common lizards and create over 1 hectare of new wildlife habitat on Hackney Marshes."

So, apparently, all of these newts are being moved to Hackney to the new wildlife habitat - or have they been sent somewhere else? And why so many of them compared to toads and lizards?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Jobcentre reorganised - can it cope?

When I last signed on at Hackney's Jobcentre Plus it had just been through a major upheaval (the change happened on August 17) and it now segregates job seekers who have been on the dole for more than three months from those who have come in more recently. The longer-term unemployed are now sent upstairs to face deeper scrutiny.

Meanwhile the new arrivals are given specific five minute time slots which they cannot miss. At my last signing-on, my adviser didn't have time to take down the evidence on my attempts to get back into work. Is this just streamlining or have numbers of claimants gone up significantly?

On Thursday the Hackney Gazette reported that an employment charity had lost its funding and would have to close down - the story was posted on the Gazette's website yesterday. The charity's head said that job centres in Hackney "can't cope".