Sunday, 28 February 2010

Hackney is second biggest customer of Operation Trident

Below is a list of London Boroughs and a breakdown of the number of crimes committed that are being dealt with by Trident. The figures were provided following a Freedom of Information Act request by Blood and Property.

Hackney has had 110 cases investigated by Trident over the last four years. This is far from all the gun crime committed in Hackney over this period.

Gun crime stats for Hackney from Met Police show that, in 2009 there were 160 "gun enabled" crimes of which 32 were investigated by Trident. In 2008 there were 123 gun enabled crimes reported in Hackney, 20 of them were investigated by Trident.

The Metropolitan Police response to the FOI request said: "Trident investigates all non-fatal shootings within London irrespective of the ethnicity of the victim or suspect.

"Trident also investigates fatal shootings occurring solely within the black community.

Waltham Forest and Croydon have both launched campaigns to increase their police forces and both mention Hackney as a borough with more than its fair share police officers. In 2008-9 Trident had a £28m budget and it now employs 359 police officers. Over the last four years Hackney has seen 110 cases, 10% of Trident's case load, being investigated.

Also, last month (Feb) Diane Abbott answered Blood and Property questions including: "5. Although crime in Hackney has fallen, other boroughs complain that Hackney has more policemen. On top of that, Hackney seems to be able to rely on outside agencies like Operation Trident. Do you know how much support Hackney's police get in fighting crime and whether this might no longer be available either if the Conservatives win or if the government has to cut police budgets?"

She said: "Crime has fallen in Hackney and I am pleased to say it is at the lowest level for 10 years. This is down to the hard work of our police force and agencies like Operation Trident and if Hackney has needed more police or funding to do this, I can only say that it has truly been worth it and the results speak for themselves. However, we musn't forget that gun crime has increased in the borough. A spate of killings in the Turkish/Kurdish community has gone someway to pushing these figures up and this is something I will be tackling alongside the police and the council. We can already see that a Conservative government would cut expenditure on fighting crime and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is already proposing to cut 450 police officers by the end of his term."

(Apologies for the lack of a chart - if anyone has an easy way to put charts in blogger please let me know - even spaces were removed on publication! Very annoying.)

Borough 2006 2007 2008 2009 Total
Lambeth 32 39 31 49 151
Hackney 37 27 20 32 116
Southwark 37 22 24 27 110

Borough 2006 2007 2008 2009 Total
Brent 18 26 12 15 71
Waltham Forest 21 34 13 24 92
Haringey 15 13 10 18 56
Lewisham 10 14 8 29 61

Borough 2006 2007 2008 2009 Total
Newham 7 16 20 11 54
Wandsworth 13 6 8 23 50
Croydon 5 4 12 19 40
Ealing 5 13 13 16 47
Islington 11 9 6 15 41

Borough 2006 2007 2008 2009 Total
Enfield 6 13 7 11 37
Westminster 4 6 5 5 20
Hammersmith & Fulham 5 5 5 5 20
Greenwich 5 7 3 11 26
Tower Hamlets 4 3 3 1 11

Borough 2006 2007 2008 2009 Total
Camden 4 2 4 8 18
Kensington & Chelsea 6 2 2 3 13
Merton 1 4 4 6 15
Redbridge 0 3 3 6 12

Borough 2006 2007 2008 2009 Total
Barking & Dagenham 2 4 5 7 18
Barnet 5 2 3 5 15
Hillingdon 2 1 2 1 6
Bexley 3 4 3 1 11
Bromley 2 2 1 4 9
Harrow 2 1 1 3 7
Hounslow 1 0 0 0 1
Havering 2 4 2 0 8
Sutton 2 2 2 1 7
Kingston 1 0 1 0 2
Richmond 0 0 0 0 0

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Hackney has too many cops say Croydon and Waltham Forest

Some boroughs are citing Hackney as the most generously policed borough as they lobby Boris Johnson for more officers. A campaign is underway in Waltham Forest (this link is a bit odd), this piece from Yellow Advertiser ends: "For example Hackney has virtually the same amount of serious crime, but 195 police officers more than Waltham Forest."

A similar campaign has been running for longer in Croydon: "The Cops for Croydon campaign has cross party support from Croydon’s councillors and now residents, local businesses and commuters are being urged to add their weight to the scheme.

The piece in the Croydon Guardian specifically mentions Hackney as a place that has more than its fair share of police officers: "Councillor Gavin Barwell, cabinet member for safety and cohesion, said: “There is clear evidence that, relative to other boroughs, the number of full-time police officers in Croydon does not adequately reflect the number of offences. Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets have all been allocated more full-time police officers than Croydon, yet because they are much smaller than Croydon, they have to deal with fewer offences.”

Trident figures - insult to injury?

In January Blood and Property made a request under the freedom of information act to find out how much Hackney relies on Operation Trident to fight its crime. Answers to those questions arrived last week and will post them in full on Monday.

The met police provided borough by borough figures for 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Over this period Hackney was the London borough with the second highest number of cases being investigated by Operation Trident officers - 110 over the four year period.

This compared to 92 in Waltham Forest (the fifth most prolific area for Trident investigations) and 40 in Croydon (12th highest number of Trident investigations).

In 2008 alone Operation Trident had a £28m budget. It currently employs 359 police officers. As Hackney's 110 cases made up nearly 10% of all the Trident investigations over four years, it seems safe to assume that the borough has had access to a significant chunk of Trident 's resources.

What happens to Hackney if Trident funding is cut and should Hackney politicians and residents be preparing a campaign to maintain the current level of policing?

The met response to the FOI request (excluding 2006-9 figures) said: "Trident investigates all non-fatal shootings within London irrespective of the ethnicity of the victim or suspect.

"Trident also investigates fatal shootings occurring solely within the black community.

"Trident's Community Engagement Team works closely with communities within the Trident hotspot boroughs to tackle gun-enabled crime. The unit provides an opportunity for the police and the community to work together in preventing, detecting and combating gun related criminality."

Full FOI response on Trident questions

Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 2010010005130

I respond in connection with your request for information dated 27/01/2010 which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 27/01/2010. I note you seek access to the following information:

1. How many cases are investigated by operation trident each year in London? Would it be possible to get this for three or four years?
2 Could i get a break down of which areas (london boroughs)these cases come from - in other words how many cases per borough in each year?
3. If this is a problem, would it be possible to find out how many crimes operation trident is investigating in Hackney?
4. What is the budget for operation trident?
5. How many police officers does it employ?

Following receipt of your request searches were conducted within the MPS to locate information relevant to your request.


To locate the information relevant to your request searches were conducted within the Specialist Crime Directorate (SCD8) - Trident Operational Command Unit.

Trident investigates all non-fatal shootings within London irrespective of the ethnicity of the victim or suspect.

Trident also investigates fatal shootings occurring solely within the black community.

Trident's proactive operations continue to generate significant arrests and gun seizures.
As a result of these operations, Trident officers have recovered 89 illegal firearms and disrupted 101 criminal networks so far this financial year (2009/10).
Trident's Community Engagement Team works closely with communities within the Trident hotspot boroughs to tackle gun-enabled crime.
The unit provides an opportunity for the police and the community to work together in preventing, detecting and combating gun related criminality.


The searches located information relevant to your request.


It has been decided to:
disclose answers to questions numbered 1, 2, 4 & 5 in full;
fully exempt question number 3 pursuant to the provisions of section 30 of the Act.

At question 1 you asked:
How many cases are investigated by operation trident each year in London? Would it be possible to get this for three or four years?
The MPS response is:
In 2006 the MPS recorded 268 Trident incidents.
In 2007 the MPS recorded 288 Trident incidents.
In 2008 the MPS recorded 233 Trident incidents.
In 2009 the MPS recorded 348 Trident incidents.

At question 2 you asked:
Could i get a break down of which areas (london boroughs)these cases come from - in other words how many cases per borough in each year?
The MPS response is:
Please see attached document at the end of this email. (Blood and Property: I am attempting to put a chart in blogger but it's not as straight forward as I was hoping but these figures should be up on the site by Monday.)

At question 3 you asked:
how many crimes operation trident is investigating in Hackney?
The MPS response is:
Releasing the number of ongoing Trident investigations in Hackney would provide knowledge of the level of MPS activity in that area.
Please see below for full details and the Harm/Public Interest Test.

At question 4 you asked:
What is the budget for operation trident?
The MPS response is:
The budget for Trident (2008-2009) is £27,548,944.

At question 5 you asked:
How many police officers does it employ?
The MPS response is:
Trident currently have 359 officers in post.

how many crimes operation trident is investigating in Hackney?
The MPS response is:
Having located and considered the relevant information, I am afraid that I am not required by statute to release the information requested. This letter serves as a Refusal Notice under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).

Before I explain the reasons for the decisions I have made in relation to your request, I thought that it would be helpful if I outline the parameters set out by the Act within which a request for information can be answered.

The Act creates a statutory right of access to information held by public authorities. A public authority in receipt of a request must, if permitted, confirm if the requested information is held by that public authority and, if so, then communicate that information to the applicant.

The right of access to information is not without exception and is subject to a number of exemptions, which are designed to enable public authorities to withhold information that is not suitable for release. Importantly, the Act is designed to place information into the public domain, that is, once access to information is granted to one person under the Act, it is then considered public information and must be communicated to any individual should a request be received.

I have considered your request for information within the provisions set out by the Act. Where I have been unable to provide the requested information to you, I have explained my decision in accordance with Section 17 of the Act.


Section 17 of the Act provides:

(1) A public authority which, in relation to any request for information, is to any extent relying on a claim that any provision in part II relating to the duty to confirm or deny is relevant to the request or on a claim that information is exempt information must, within the time for complying with section 1(1), give the applicant a notice which-

(a) states the fact,
(b) specifies the exemption in question, and
(c) states (if that would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.

I must inform you that details of any ongoing investigations by Trident in Hackney (question 3), has been fully exempted pursuant to the provisions of Sections 30(1)(a)(b)(c)(2)(a) of the Act.

Section 30 (1)(a)(b)(c)(2)(a) of the Act provides: Investigations

Investigations and proceedings conducted by public authorities (1) Information held by a public authority is exempt information if it has at any time been held by the authority for the purposes of-

(a) any investigation which the public authority has a duty to conduct with a view to it being ascertained-
(i) whether a person should be charged with an offence, or
(ii) whether a person charged with an offence is guilty of it,

(b) any investigation which is conducted by the authority and in the circumstances may lead to a decision by the authority to institute criminal proceedings which the authority has power to conduct.
(c) any criminal proceedings which the authority has power to conduct.
(2) Information held by a public authority is exempt information if-
(a) it was obtained or recorded by the authority for the purposes of its functions relating to-
(i) investigations falling within subsection (1)(a) or (b),
(ii) criminal proceedings which the authority has power to conduct,
(iii) investigations (other than investigations falling within subsection (1)(a) or (b)) which are conducted by the authority for any of the purposes specified in section 31(2) and either by virtue of Her Majesty's prerogative or by virtue of powers conferred by or under any enactment, or
(iv) civil proceedings which are brought by or on behalf of the authority and arise out of such investigations.

Evidence of Harm

In considering whether or not this information should be disclosed, I have considered the potential harm that could be caused by disclosure.

Under the Act, we cannot, and do not request the motives of any applicant for information. We have no doubt the vast majority of applications under the Act are legitimate and do not have any ulterior motives, however, in disclosing information to one applicant we are expressing a willingness to provide it to anyone in the world. This means that a disclosure to a genuinely interested and concerned applicant automatically opens it up for a similar disclosure, including those who could use the information to gain an advantage over the MPS in current or future investigations, through the understanding of its investigative processes or taskings.

Investigations involving firearms are highly emotive and the manner in which they are conducted are usually kept in strict secrecy so that the tactics and lines of enquiry that are followed do not become public knowledge thereby rendering them useless.

The MPS does not generally disclose information regarding ongoing investigations except through our Directorate of Public Affairs to the media. This is so potential witnesses are not discouraged to come forward and provide statements in relation to current/unresolved investigations.
Information of this nature needs to be treated with extreme sensitivity, as it could have a detrimental effect on an open investigation and the operational effectiveness of the MPS and it's ability to fulfil its core function of law enforcement.
It also has the potential to endanger the health and safety of specific individuals.

Under Section 30 (1)(a)(b)(c)(2)(a) of the Act, Public Authorities are able to withhold information relating to investigations where its release would, or would be likely to, have an adverse effect upon investigations and the prosecution of offenders. This exemption can be applied following completion of a Public Interest Test (PIT).

The purpose of the PIT is to establish whether the 'Public Interest' lies in disclosing or withholding the requested information.

Public Interest Test

The public interest is not what interests the public, but what will be of greater good if released to the community as a whole. It is not in the public interest to disclose information that may compromise the service's ability to fulfil its core function of law enforcement or jeopardize any possible future criminal investigation.

Public interest considerations favouring disclosure


Disclosure of this information would enlighten members of the public as to the action taken by the MPS in these type of incidents. This may go some way to promoting awareness and accountability, where expenditure of public funds is concerned and would reinforce the MPS's commitment to openness and transparency.

Public Debate

Release of this information would assist in any public debate on the MPS's action in these investigations.
The release of this information would demonstrate the willingness of the MPS to be open and transparent with the public showing what procedures and investigations are carried out.

Accountability for Public Funds

Where public funds are being spent, there is a significant public interest in making information available that would demonstrate the way in which resources are allocated. In this case, release of the requested information would demonstrate the way in which the MPS allocates resources in investigating these incidents.

Public interest considerations favouring non-disclosure


Information relating to ongoing investigations will rarely be disclosed under the Act and only where there is a strong public interest consideration favouring disclosure.
It is the Association of Chief Police Officers approach that such information will rarely be disclosed.
Whilst such information may be released in order to service a 'core policing purpose' - to prevent or detect crime, or to protect life and property - it would only be disclosed following a Freedom of Information request if there are strong public interest considerations favouring disclosure.

Release of this information may adversely affect public safety if the criminal fraternity/less law abiding individuals are provided with a tactical advantage over the MPS. It would allow individuals to avoid specific locations during any ongoing MPS operations and target other locations for potential victims.

This information that relates to current investigations by the MPS which facilitates the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension or prosecution of offenders and the administration of justice and could endanger the safety of individuals if it were to be released.

Confidence in the Police Service

The disclosure of some of this information to the public by the MPS would undermine individuals' confidence in helping the MPS, and would furthermore impact on the trust of witnesses in making statements in the future.

Balancing Test

On balance if disclosed, the release of this material - under the Act - which relates to ongoing investigations, cannot be justified. The public's interest would not be served in releasing this specific type of information if it could compromise these or any future policing investigation.

After weighing up the competing interests I have determined that the disclosure of the above information would not be in the public interest.
I consider that the benefit that would result from the information being disclosed does not outweigh disclosing this information.

Please find attached a breakdown of recorded Trident incidents by London Borough 2006-2009. ((Blood and Property: I am attempting to put a chart in blogger but it's not as straight forward as I was hoping but these figures should be up on the site by Monday.)

Is it healthy to ignore a drive-by shooting?

It looks like this drive-by shooting on Chatsworth Road was never going to be reported.
The police statement claims Trident detectives were appealing for information and witnesses about the crime but the crime had taken place over a week before there was any publicity.

My life could have gone on quite happily without knowing that this event had ever occurred. I live a block away from that takeaway and walk past it most days. I didn't notice the bullet holes until a friend - who was told about it by the dentist opposite - told me about it.

So what's my point? Just that there are likely to be lots of people around Chatsworth road who did know that this crime had taken place or may even have been affected by it. And whoever these people were, they might have been reassured if they had known that arrests had been made.

And that may well be the reason police did not publicise this shooting - precisely because arrests had been made. This means that there will be reporting restrictions in place to protect the rights of the suspects until a trial is held.

But this would not have prevented a statement being made - as it eventually was - explaining what had happened and what was being done about it.

At least I hope that is the reason why the police didn't high light this crime and automatically provide information about it to local papers like the Hackney Gazette.

Hopefully is wasn't the result of pressure to 'handle' crime publicity more positively in order to close "the reassuance gap" - (Apparently politicians and senior policemen are not happy at how slow the public are to cotton on to cuts in crime figures - as discussed here: Can Pipe push the police?)

An even worse excuse would be that these drive-by shootings are so common that we should all be used to them by now.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Council tells Orthodox Jew to demolish home

The Jewish Chronicle reports: "A Charedi father must demolish his family home after losing a planning dispute with a council. Jacob Dreyfuss, president of Stamford Hill's Stolin-Karlin synagogue, rebuilt his two-storey home without planning permission, to add a cellar and a loft extension. Hackney Council issued an enforcement notice and he appealed against it without success.... and more"

Orthodox Jewish housing needs are likely to reignite as an issue in the elections this year. Six of Hackney's nine Conservative councillors are Orthodox Jews. Nine of the borough's 58 elected politicians are members of the Orthodox Jewish community.

Last year Mayor Jules Pipe suggested that one of these councillors had put OJ housing needs ahead of the wellbeing of the borough's other residents: "23,000 Hackney tenants used as a bargaining chip, Mayor Claims."

Drive-by shooting on Chatsworth Road

A police spokesperson told Blood and Property: "Trident detectives are appealing for information and witnesses following a shooting in Hackney.

"Police were called at approx 21.25hrs on Wednesday 17 February 2010 to Chatsworth Rd, E5 to reports of shots fired.

"Officers attended the scene - a Chinese takeaway - to discover shots had been fired at the location, causing damage to the outside and inside of the premises.

"It is understood a black car drove past the scene and one of the occupants fired shots toward a group of youths standing inside the shop.

There were no reports of any injuries. We retain an open mind re any motive at this time.

On the night of the incident three men - [A] 21 yrs; [B] 22 yrs; [C] 23 yrs - were arrested in connection with the investigation. They were taken to east London police stations and later bailed to return pending further inquiries. Next due on 11 March 2010.

Officers have yet to identify the youths inside the shop and as such are appealing for them to contact police.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Trident North East Shootings Team on 020 8217 7366. To remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Chatsworth Road shooting

Four bullet holes in the windows of a Chatsworth Road Chinese takeaway.

I only live around the corner and I don't know when this happened. A friend was told by one of the shopkeepers opposite that the shots were fired by someone outside the takeaway at people ordering food. I can't see how no one got hurt.

Couldn't find any details elsewhere. Hopefully more details tomorrow - may be something in the Hackney Gazette.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Diane and Gordon do education on a good day to bury...

Gordon Brown and Diane Abbott visited Woodberry Down primary school yesterday - as reported by The Hackney Citizen.

Diane's reluctant support of the Academy programme and her decision to send her son to private school are two good reasons for an education-related trip to Hackney North to be a PR hazard, despite its success stories.

So, was Diane gritting her teeth when - as the Hackney Citizen reported - "The Prime Minister also announced plans to give parents more power to initiate a change of leadership at struggling schools, as well as plans to make teachers renew their right to practise every five years."

Unless things have changed, Diane has her doubts about empowering parents.

In a 2006 NASUWT-sponsored paper (Academy schools: case unproven) Diane said: "... We know what parent power means in London. In practice, it means giving power to small groups of white middle-class parents, or if not to capture by one ethnic group as opposed to another, the best organised. Actually, if you want to empower the breadth of the parent body in inner-city areas you have to look to the local education authority."

Diane answers Blood and Property questions.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Hackney GP: Social workers demonised by politicians

And Hackney GP complains about the low levels of respect for social workers:

"It seems likely that the main appeal for New Labour is that a social pedagogue is not a social worker, that most disparaged and discredited professional of the past 10 years. A combination of managerialism, marketisation and scapegoating by politicians and the media has produced widespread demoralisation among social workers. The social pedagogue - new, glossy, Scandinavian, spouting platitudes about providing a "holistic package of support" and "integrated care and education" - emerges as the solution to a problem largely created by New Labour."

UK Border Agency saves Hackney

A number of sites ran a COI press release quoting Phil Woolas, minister for borders and immigration, talking about the UK Border Agency yesterday: "Smugglers, forgers, traffickers be warned – the UK is a hostile environment. You will be targeted, you will be caught and immigration powers can and will be used to prosecute you and remove you from the country.

"The UK Border Agency is responding to local community needs as a law enforcement agency... frontline immigration staff work collaboratively with police, local authorities and government agencies to target and disband immigration crime that preys on vulnerable individuals."

Although the UK Border Agency does seem to have an impressive record it didn't seem to be in London. Hackney was the only London borough mentioned in its round up of success stories and the details weren't exactly inspirational: "HACKNEY, LONDON April 2009: Following complaints about anti-social behaviour from local residents, UKBA and police officers visited a former pub building on Kingsland Road on 30 April 2009, questioning those inside and checking their identities.

"Four men, three from Bolivia and one from Columbia were arrested for immigration offences including overstaying on a visa and obtaining leave to enter the UK by deception. They were taken for further questioning by immigration staff, detained, and removed from the country."

So, as Phil said: "Smugglers, forgers, traffickers be warned – the UK is a hostile environment" but only if you cause enough of a nuisance of yourselves for your neighbours to complain about you.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Blog updating problem

Over the last couple of days there seems to have been a problem with this blog updating its blog list. Over there on the right. This is supposed to provide a kind of rolling news service of what other bloggers in Hackney are saying. Sometimes these are not updating. I'm not sure why. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be grateful to hear them.

I found this discussion on blogger, it looks like its a problem elsewhere (unless I've mis-interpreted it - quite likely as my understanding of how any of this works is minimal):
I've scanned through it but it looks like the problem is still a problem with no solution.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Hackney parking fines itself

The Times reports: "London councils routinely take themselves to court over disputed parking tickets their wardens issue to their own vehicles, it has emerged."

Hackney is just mentioned as one of the culprits.

Hackney £518 per sq foot, Chelsea £690 per sq foot

Primelocation blog says: "Here’s what £1 million can buy you in ten of Britain’s largest cities:

"In Kensington and Chelsea, £1 million will get you 1,443 sq ft – that’s a two/three bed flat in a Victorian terrace conversion – working out as £690 per sq/ft.

"In Hackney, you’ll get slightly more: a three-bed Georgian terraced house of 1,928 sq ft, costing you £518 per sq ft."

WALFORD AND DALSTON - 436% rise in property prices...

According to research reported by Digital Spy: "Property prices on Albert Square (based of Fasset Square Dalston) have increased by 436% during EastEnders' 25 years on the air...

"The Walford homes were reportedly worth an average of £122,813 when the BBC soap first hit screens in 1985, but a typical Square residence would now cost £574,764."

Hackney psychiatrist, shadow chancellor's brother, investigated

Lots of stories about Shadow Chancellor George Osborne's brother, Adam Osborne, a psychiatrist at The John Howard Centre on Kenworthy Road, Hackney.

The latest from the Evening Standard says: "Psychiatrist Adam Osborne, heir to the Osborne & Little wallpaper firm, faces being struck off over charges of supplying prescription drugs to a former girlfriend, a family member and the prostitute, known as Miss B."

Another Homerton medical story: Struck-off midwife wins appeal.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Hackney unemployment deteriorates fastest

Unemployment in Hackney - or the number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance - rose by 162 in January according to figures released this month. The number of claimants in Hackney is now up to 9,905, or 6.9% of the working population of 140,000.

Last month figures from the Office of National Statistics showed there were 9743 JSA claimants in Hackney (6.7% of working population).

Hackney has had the highest unemployment rate of all London boroughs since October and the gap has been steadily widening.

The next worst borough is Tower Hamlets which has 6.6% of its work force claiming JSA, up from 6.5% last month.

The gap between Hackney and Tower Hamlets widened in January and December.

In October Tower Hamlets and Hackney had equal highest percentage claiming JSA. But the situation either improved more slowly in Hackney or deteriorated more quickly and the gap between Hackney and other London boroughs has widened.

January: 9,905 (6.9%) - next highest is Tower Hamlets at 6.6%
December: 9743 (6.7%) - next highest was Tower Hamlets at 6.5%
November: 9,795 (6.8%) - next highest was Tower Hamlets at 6.7%
October: 9,827 (6.8%) - equal highest with Tower Hamlets.
September: 9,884 (7%)
August 9,826 (6.9%)
July: 9550 (6.7%)

Divided into constituencies: - Diane Abbott (North) and Meg Hillier (South) -
Meg Hillier Vs Diane Abbott on unemployment (I did ask where Diane got her figures but have had no reply)

Hackney North
May - 4,081
June - 4,118
July - 4206
August - 4,331
September - 4,338
October - 4365
November - 4386 (6.3%)
December - 4331 (6.2%)
January - 4,402 (6.3%)

Hackney South
May - 5,296
June - 5,190
July - 5,344
August - 5,495
September - 5,546 (7.8%)
October - 5,462
November - 5,409 (7.5%)
December - 5,412 (7.5%)
January - 5503 (7.6%)

However, as Yvette Cooper pointed out earlier this month, the situation in Hackney is not nearly as bad as it has been in the past: Minister: Hackney unemployment nothing to complain about.

5% in Hackney vs 26% UK average - young families who can afford a home

The Daily Mail reports that nearly 75% of young families cannot afford to buy their own homes in the UK. The report by the National Housing and Planning and Advice Unit said that this rose dramatically in inner-city boroughs like Hackney where 95% of young families cannot afford to get on the housing ladder. The figure could be even higher as the research used a 5% deposit as the normal minimum requirement for a mortgage. Mortgage lenders have raised this minimum requirement since the research was conducted.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Response from Lambeth Council

Following the publication of the story below (Did Lambeth Council put Hackney kids at risk?), Lambeth Council sent Blood and Property this statement:

“Brian Pead worked for Lambeth Council in the Open Centre for Vocational Studies from 1st August 2005 and was suspended on 8th December 2006. Following an investigation into complaints about his conduct he was dismissed on 31st July 2007

“None of the complaints made against Brian Pead during his time at the Council relate to inappropriate sexual activity. However, as with any employee, any formal allegations about an employee which have been found proven following a Council investigation would be stated in any future references."

Blood and Property was also asked to remove its reference to the Bexley Times article which Lambeth Council says is not true.

However, both The Bexley Times and Central News Agency said they had not heard anything from Lambeth Council about the claims made in their stories. My understanding is that if it was said in court, then people have a right to know that it was said.

It is clear from Lambeth Council's response that it does not accept the claim that it dismissed Brian Pead for masturbating in a theatre.

The Open (Learning) Centre for Vocational Studies is part of Lambeth's Children's and young people's service and Brian Pead was dismissed from his job there six months before he started work for Off Centre, a Hackney-based child counselling service.

Six months after that he was arrested in a police sting attempting to pay a 14-year-old girl for sex.

It would be useful to know what Lambeth Council did know about Brian Pead and whether this was passed on to his employers in Hackney - Off Centre - and whether they would have employed him if they had known these details. A director of Off Centre told Blood and Property that a different decision would have been likely if more information had been available.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Did Lambeth council put Hackney kids at risk?

A Hackney-based child counselling service employed a child therapist who attempted to pay a 14-year-old girl for sex less than six months after he started the job.

Brian Pead was caught in an internet-based police sting and sentenced in January. The Hackney agency where Pead worked said that none of its clients were involved.

A court report in the Bexley Times said that Pead had previously been sacked from a job at Lambeth Council after being caught masturbating in a theatre.

Yesterday (Tuesday) a spokesperson for Lambeth Council told Blood and Property that this claim was not correct but would not provide any further details. Neither would she say when Pead worked for Lambeth Council or what job he held there. She also said that answering Blood and Property's questions was not a priority.

Blood and Property has recieved a statement from Off Centre, the Hackney-based agency where Pead was working. One director of Off Centre said that all required checks were carried out but believed that the new Vetting and Barring Scheme may have alerted them to Pead's record.

Off Centre is in Hackney South and Shoreditch, the constituency of Meg Hillier, the minister in charge of the Vetting and Barring Scheme.

It remains unclear whether any of Pead's past behaviour would have alerted Off Centre, or whether this information would have been available to Off Centre via the current system, or under the Vetting and Barring scheme.

Off Centre provided this statement: "Brian Pead was employed by Off Centre from January 9th 2008 to June 13th 2008 after which he was summarily dismissed due to gross misconduct.

"Before Mr Pead took up said employment, Off Centre carried out all pertinent checks including references and enhanced CRB checks in line with child protection and safeguarding children and young people guidelines.

"On Wednesday 4th June 2008 Off Centre management was informed that Mr Pead had been arrested and was being held at a police station on charges of attempting to solicit sex over the internet with a 14-year-old girl.

"Due to the seriousness of the matter, Mr Pead was suspended immediately pending a disciplinary investigation which resulted in a dismissal from Off Centre. Mr Pead was still in his probationary period at the time.

"Off Centre co-operated fully with the the ensuing police investigation and management was assured by police and our own internal investigation that none of Off Centre's clients were involved.

"The police investigation concerned events outside of the organisation and, as such, Off Centre had no further direct involvement in the matter, other than to correct Mr Pead's untruthful claim that he had been conducting research into CSA (child sexual abuse) as this was certainly not part of his role at Off Centre.

"During the subsequent court case, Nicola Noone, director of Off Centre, gave evidence to refute Mr Pead's claim as research was not part of his role at Off Centre, nor was it ever discussed with, or sanctioned by, management.

"On 23rd December 2009, the director of Off Centre was informed that a guilty verdict had been returned. On 24 December 2009, the director emailed the ISA to initiate the process of making a referral and on 18th January 2010 a full referral, together with supporting information was submitted to the ISA. Mr Pead was sentenced on 27 January, 2007."

Monday, 15 February 2010

Socialists to challenge Diane and other news

Dave Osler ( Dave's Part) says the Socialist Party is considering putting up a challenger against Diane Abbott. He said: "Hackney should be promising territory. Historically there is a strong far left tradition, and to this day, there are probably several thousand communists, anarchists and Trots in the borough. If it puts in the effort, the SP can reasonably expect several hundred votes, and may even reach the sunlit uplands of four-figure support." With 32 comments.

Diane recently told Blood and Property that a large number of her supporters are church goers. So the plans of the Christian Party could also chip away at her majority. Meanwhile Dave Hill discounts reports that Diane might be planning to run for Mayor of London on his Clapton Pond blog (and Dave thanks for mentioning this blog in it).

However few are suggesting a serious upset, apart from the Lib Dems - a claim which has been dissected by Green Party candidate Matt Sellwood who says of Lib Dem Candidate Keith Angus: "I think, however, that he's in trouble if he thinks he is convincing anyone that he is about to deliver Hackney North for the Lib Dems."

Meanwhile a new Hackney blogger: Loving Dalston says Mischa Borris will be running for mayor, and suggests that Jules Pipe is likely to be considering one of the many safe Labour parliamentary seats now available.

Loving Dalston also reports that Diane's home will now be in her constituency due to a change of boundaries.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Hackney MP mums battle over motherhood

On Wednesday there was a debate in Parliament about the Yarl's Wood detention centre. Only two women spoke in the debate. They were both Hackney MPs and both mothers: (Yarl's Wood debate via

Diane Abbott said: "I know that the Minister (Meg Hillier) is a mother. She will have a brief from her officials and she will talk to us about immigration control, but I ask her to imagine that it was her children behind bars. Are these the conditions that she would want for them? They would not be able to run completely free as far as they like, or to go into town to see Father Christmas, or to go into town to meet their friends. Are those the conditions that anyone would want for their child? Not for three months, not for two months, not for a month-not even for a day."

Meg Hillier said: "I can go into some of my plans to look at other options as the Minister now responsible for the matter, but there are important issues about whether we keep children with their parents. I should not want children to be separated from their parents, and, importantly, we must recognise that as part of the issue when detaining children: the parents refuse to leave, and they should take some responsibility for the situation."

Later in the debate:

Diane Abbott: "My hon. Friend said that when immigration officials and other appropriate officials carry out their - I know that she deprecates the phrase - dawn raids, there is always somebody there who has the interests of the child at heart. Is she saying to the House that she is confident that these raids, with people being taken from their homes in this way, do not traumatise the children?"

Meg Hillier: "Clearly, any child going through this process will find it very challenging. As my hon. Friend rightly predicted I would say, the Government have certain responsibilities as regards immigration and immigration control. If she will wait to the end of my comments, I can talk to her about some of the work on alternatives that is under way. I also reiterate that parents have responsibility. As a parent myself, I have some responsibility for what my children do, what harm's way I put them into, and what situations they are in. Equally, parents who are facing detention or deportation have made a choice not to leave voluntarily; they therefore have some responsibility, and it is important to recognise that."

Diane Abbott: "She says, and I have heard a succession of Ministers in her position say, that the parents have made a choice and that that is why their children are in detention. Can she tell me of any other area of public policy in which we make children suffer because of the choices of their parents? The role of the state is normally to protect children from bad choices that their parents make."

Meg Hillier: "I will provide figures in a little while about the number of children detained for different periods, but there are many areas in which children suffer because of the choices of their parents, such as when a parent is in a domestic prison. I have spoken to head teachers in my constituency who have known children who have come home from school to find that Dad or Mum has been in prison, which affects them massively. There are other matters on which children are affected by the decisions of their parents, and we do need to detain people on certain grounds."

Friday, 12 February 2010

Jules Pipe: "pale, male, stale apparatchik of new Labour?"

A piece by George Galloway in Morning Star accuses Labour of only supporting directly elected mayoral processes in places where they can guarantee the outcome.

"All of them are multicultural and inner-city, just like Tower Hamlets - Hackney (elected mayor Jules Pipe), Newham (elected mayor Robin Wales) and Lewisham (elected mayor Steve Bullock).

According to Labour, the mayoral system has produced these three "outstanding" leaders of diverse communities, but a mayor would somehow be divisive in Tower Hamlets.

How can that be? Could it be that the result in Tower Hamlets, where there is a credible left electoral force, might not be someone who is a pale, male, stale apparatchik of new Labour?"

Another Hackney political export: Sophie Linden

A story in the Waltham Forest Guardian says that Sophie Linden, Hackney Labour councillor and Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Sustainability, has been shortlisted for Leyton and Wanstead to replace Harry Cohen.

The paper said: "Others on the list are Sophie Linden, a Hackney councillor and former special advisor to David Blunkett Others on the list are Sophie Linden, a Hackney councillor and former special advisor to David Blunkett....

"The three councillors from Waltham Forest who were rumoured to be in the running did not make the list...

The source who provided the information said: "The seat is now ripe for an independent to come in if the Leyton and Wanstead electorate are as disgusted as the party members."

Look at Hackney's Politcal ambassadors.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Diane answers Blood and Property questions:

How important do you think religion and an understanding of religion might be in Hackney? Do you think that it will become more or less of an important factor in Hackney politics in the future? (There seems to be a lot of political activity in fundamental churches) and the orthodox jewish community is said to be growing fast and has specific requirements.

Diane Abbott: A large proportion of my constituents go to church so understanding religion is important to me. Huge amounts of money are being poured into the Christian Party here in Hackney, as your blog has pointed out. This seems to suggest religion may be on the agenda of politicians in the future but it will only really make a difference if candidates can win the support of people outside of their churches as well as within them.

Do you think it matters that Hackney's legal department was 25% understaffed during major development period - Olympics, Bishopsgate Goodsyard and the development of Dalston?

No department should be understaffed but provision was made to cover for staff as best as they could. There are long term issues about the staffing of both the legal and the planning department, and I have tried to help both private and public sector developers with these issues. I agree with you that the understaffing is a problem but I know that the council is trying very hard on this issue which is related to the difficulties of recruiting skilled legal and planning professionals at local government rates of pay.

Do you think it is healthy that so many of the borough's schools are now academies - and whether it matters that these schools are not subject to the freedom of information act? - References here: Hackney academies: too good to be true?

DA: I am concerned about the lack of transparency both in relation to academies and in relation to The Learning Trust itself. But there is no question that academies are hugely popular with Hackney parents and they are all massively oversubscribed. Every year I have to counsel parents who are upset because they can not get their child into an academy. Before the academies were built, the majority of Hackney parents sent their children out of the borough for secondary education. Since the academies program started, academies like Mossbourne have produced stellar results. And the number of parents keeping their children in Hackney for secondary education has risen year by year. This must be a good thing.

What would happen to Hackney if the Conservatives win the next election? How much less money would the borough receive?

DA: More money has been spent in Hackney under a Labour government than has ever been spent before. We have seen millions poured into new schools and the rebuilding of existing schools. We have seen millions spent on doing up council estates and we have seen even more spent on building the East London Line which will connect Dalston for the first time to the wider tube network. All of this has been possible under a Labour government. I was the MP under a Conservative government which redirected money from the inner city to Tory rural areas. I remember desperate Headteachers having to have buckets out to catch water coming through leaking roofs because they could not afford the building repairs. I do not know how much less money a Conservative government would spend because they have not produced detailed figures. But I have no doubt that, if the Tories gain power, they would ‘turn off the taps’ on public expenditure for the inner city. Furthermore, cuts in public expenditure will hit Hackney in two ways. Firstly, planned investments in schools etc will not go forward, but also one man’s public expenditure cut is another woman’s job loss. The public sector is the largest single employer in Hackney and Tory public expenditure cuts would mean a loss of jobs in the borough.

Do you think that Hackney has suffered the worst effects of the financial crisis? Why is Hackney's employment situation improving more slowly than other boroughs?

Hackney had a large number of unemployed people before the recession, which is one of the reasons it has been hit so hard. Unemployment is a big issue for all of us. It is also worrying is that it is young people appear to taking the brunt
For instance, figures released earlier this year showed that 48% of black 18 to 24 year olds were unemployed. This is very damaging for a borough like Hackney which has a large numbers of young people in long term unemployment. I am campaigning for more jobs to be made available on the Olympic site - so far only 2% of the 9000 workers live in Hackney, despite it being the biggest construction site in Europe. I will be meeting with the ODA in the next few weeks to discuss this and see what can be done.

5. Although crime in Hackney has fallen, other boroughs complain that Hackney has more policemen. On top of that, Hackney seems to be able to rely on outside agencies like Operation Trident. Do you know how much support Hackney's police get in fighting crime and whether this might no longer be available either if the Conservatives win or if the government has to cut police budgets?

DA: Crime has fallen in Hackney and I am pleased to say it is at the lowest level for 10 years. This is down to the hard work of our police force and agencies like Operation Trident and if Hackney has needed more police or funding to do this, I can only say that it has truly been worth it and the results speak for themselves. However, we musn't forget that gun crime has increased in the borough. A spate of killings in the Turkish/Kurdish community has gone someway to pushing these figures up and this is something I will be tackling alongside the police and the council. We can already see that a Conservative government would cut expenditure on fighting crime and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is already proposing to cut 450 police officers by the end of his term.

The BNP wants to stand in the Hackney Mayoral elections this year. How do you think this will affect the elections in the borough?

DA: The recent reports of a BNP Mayoral candidate standing in Hackney are nothing but talk from the party at the moment, and we've yet to see whether they can back this up with action. I don't think a BNP candidate would have any chance of being elected in a multicultural borough like Hackney which has a proud history of fighting fascism.

How much do you think the borough has changed in the last 10 years - demographically (there's some research claiming that Hackney North has the highest density of people with degrees in the country)

DA: There have been big changes in Hackney's demographic over the last 10 years and over the last 23 years that I have been MP. A lot more young people now live in the borough and the 2001 census showed over 25% of the population were under-18. The largest group however is those aged between 30 to 44 years which comprised 27.46% of the borough’s total population. Younger people are now more likely to go into higher education than their parents did and that partly accounts for the rise. It is also the case that Hackney has become a popular place for young professionals to buy their first home and that too contributes to the higher number of people with degrees.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Hackney: home to London's most mysterious newspaper

Conspiracy, hoax? Then the The London Weekly launched. Still lots of questions. The answers are apparently brewing away at 203 Mare Studios, E8.

The company claims to have backing to the tune of £10.5m but a number of inconsistencies have been pointed out by James Ball also: Helpmeinvestigate
and: (5th Feb - The London Weekly Paper exists) and (2nd Feb - The London Weekly: Some unanswered questions) and Guardian (Jan 27).

1000 tons of sand to be dumped in Shoreditch

This, according to Events Magazine and the Hackney Gazette, is for beach soccer to coincide with the world cup.

Cllr Nargis Khan said: ""We are delighted to be working with England Beach Soccer to bring this exciting sport to the heart of our Borough."

Monday, 8 February 2010

Dave vs Diane - Will she vote for her MP Meg?

In case you haven't seen the comment section of this (old - Jan 27) post on Hackney Lib Dem candidate, Dave Raval - Telegraph City Diary and Hackney South's Lib Dem candidate...

For a while the only comments were Diane's denial that she doesn't live in Hackney (and a correction - yes she does live in Hackney). But, Hackney South Lib Dem Candidate, Dave Raval, didn't mean she didn't live in Hackney:

Dave said: "I’ll respond to your points separately. Firstly, I said that neither Labour MP for Hackney live in the area they represent. This is true - it’s is a simple fact. This is what I wrote on my website,, in reply to Diane Abbott’s comment there. Clearly I have hit on something that the Labour MPs feel touchy about!

"Diane - Thanks for looking at my website! Much appreciated.

"You do indeed live in Hackney, you live in Hackney South and your MP is Meg Hillier. (Meg doesn't live in Hackney).

"In fact, I was planning to canvass you since (whilst I am sure publicly you have to categorically say that you intend to vote Labour, and I don't expect you to respond in any other way on this site), I suspect that actually there is a high chance that you don't support the current Labour leadership and it is a secret ballot after all...

"The point I am making is that, unlike many MPs, including Meg Hillier, I am dedicated to the area I am standing in and have proven it by moving here. Do I think that's the most important thing in politics - no I don't, but it does show commitment and I think people should be able to make up their own minds about this, armed with the facts".

"The other question you asked was – what car I drive!! That one is simple to answer – it is an ultra low carbon Mini, with a British flag on the roof. It’s low carbon because I care about the environment (I don’t drive it much in the first place) and I put the flag there as I’m fed up with the racist parties in this country claiming it for themselves. As a mixed-race Brit, the British flag is mine too!

"If you’re still curious, there’s a photo on, click on “Green Living” in the “About Dave” section (just above my photo). Still amazed that the car made it into the Daily Telegraph though...

Brain cancer will not halt Christian bid for Diane's seat

According to the Scotsman, Rev George Hargreaves has pulled out of the General Election contest in the Western Isles because his wife has brain cancer.

But, despite having the disease (she recovered from brain surgery in 2007), Maxine Hargreaves is still hoping to be well enough to take on Diane Abbott in Hackney South and Shoreditch.

Hargreaves told the Scotsman: "Family comes before politics and I have decided to withdraw my candidacy... My wife's cancer has not rocked my faith in God. She is not scared to die – we know there is an eternal place for us."

Diane on wanting Boris' job and the BNP's chances in Hackney

Diane Abbott answers questions from the Independent's readers: Diane Abbott, You answer the questions

Highlights include her desire to be the Mayor of London (here's Andrew Gilligan's assessment of the liklihood of this happening) and comments on Boris, the BNP, her son's education and whether we can expect a resurgence in socialism:

"Fear drives racism, not the simple fact of non-white people next door. Hence there is no support for the British National Party (BNP) in Hackney where there is a highly diverse community.

"But the BNP does well in Essex, with a relatively small black community, where people are easily terrified at the thought of blacks moving in next to them."

New lawyers for Hackney

New lawyers for Hackney: Hackney shores up legal with double hire
That's just two. There should be a few more to come as the 50-strong legal team was around 25% understaffed back in December : Hackney Legal department's recruiting crisis confirmed

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Friday, 5 February 2010

BNP: Labour can't rely on christian or muslim voters

The BNP reaffirmed that it aims to field a candidate in the Hackney mayoral election. In an interview with the News Shopper the party's London organiser said: “It’s going to be difficult. The Labour Party think they’ve got the ethnic vote sewn up - that’s why they imported all these people and gave them passports.

“But a lot of people who follow Islam won’t be following Labour because of their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“They can’t rely on the Nigerian Christian vote because of their support for abortion and championing of gay rights above what’s right and normal.”

Minister: Hackney unemployment nothing to complain about

Department of Work and Pensions minister Yvette Cooper told the CESI (Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion): "In some of the big cities hit most heavily by the previous recession, the difference is even more pronounced. The proportion of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance in Manchester is currently 5.7 percent, compared to 13.9 percent in the 90s recession. In Liverpool, it’s 7.5 percent compared to 14 percent in the 90s. In Hackney 6.8 percent compared to 17.7 percent last time round.

"It is worth reflecting on why things have been different this time round."

So relatively speaking the unemployment problem is low - so may be it doesn't matter if Hackney is showing the slowest employment recovery in London.

Lots of complaining about Hackney Job Centre Plus in this Guardian article.

And Meg Hillier also noted the centenary of job centres on her website.

Should Hackney child counsellor ever have got the job?

In December a Hackney child counsellor was found guilty of offering £300 to a 14-year-old girl to have sex with him: Child therapist tried to bribe underage girl for sex.

According to court reports Brian Pead had been dismissed from a job at Lambeth Borough Council for masturbating in a theatre before he came to work in Hackney.

The court was told that he worked for a counselling agency in Hackney, sometimes with children who had suffered from sexual abuse.

When he was caught in a police sting Brian Pead claimed that he was carrying out research for his work as a children's counsellor.

Blood and Property asked Hackney Council for details about Pead's work in Hackney on Wednesday but was told that, because various people were either ill or away, there would be no answer until next week.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Nargis and Diane snub squatters

London Coalition against poverty reported on Jan 28: "Yesterday the Hackney Housing Group, a group of people who are homeless, temporarily housed, overcrowded or experiencing bad or unsuitable housing were left waiting when Nargis Khan, Council Cabinet member for Community services failed to show up to a meeting she had arranged nearly two months before. The group was told at the last minute that she was away “on business” and that Diane Abott MP would be cancelling the meeting and so chose not to meet with the Housing Group and Diane Abbott MP."

Monday, 1 February 2010

Politicians: any role in Hackney social services' dark past?

The group manager of Hackney's children's services, Risthardh Hare, reviewed Precious for the Guardian last week. He said: "I've had three cases that have been similar to Precious's. It's not unheard of. It's not a made up story to pull the heart strings. It happens now."

On January 17, the Guardian printed another story, a book by a detective sergeant who worked for Hackney police's child protection unit up until 2006. This contained details of a case which led to a revamp of Hackney's social services - and the employment of social workers like Hare.

It was the death of a child in 2003: "he (Tyrell) had been taken off the child protection register six days before he was killed. Social services had seen Tyrell four times in the month before he died..."

The unnamed detective said: "After the Tyrell trial, Hackney council issued a statement: "The area child protection committee is concluding its investigation. Recommendations will be implemented by the respective agencies. Appropriate action will be taken as required if individual failings are identified." But the results of their investigation were never made public."

In 1999 Hackney Council had been ordered to improve its child care services by the government. Jules Pipe became Leader of Hackney Council in June 2001 and has been Mayor since October 2002. The Tyrell tragedy happened in 2003.

The unpublished report might show if the current administration had any role in this event. Whether child care had been turned around since 1999. Whether politicians helped or hindered social services up until Tyrell's death in 2003.

(This advertorial piece for Hackney's social services said Risthardh Hare was one of the first to take a post in an upgraded department. It said: "Hare’s new position pays over £5,000 a year more than the mainstream rate for someone of his experience. It also offers him more financial responsibility; he is permitted to authorise payments of up to £500 without consulting his line manager.")

Hackney Wick - the play - in a van

In February: :"'X Street' looks at community dynamics in Hackney Wick; researching the way the area’s physical change influences people’s everyday lives. Réaltympanica have been working with maps, GPS, collective memory, domestic habits, interviews and archives to create performances and workshops. The performance will happen in a minibus that travels through the area, where the audience has access outside and inside the minds and homes of the local community."

Planning protest
"This Planning Application proposes four 7-10 storey high-rise high density residential tower blocks on the River Lee Navigation opposite North Millfields, in the Borough of Waltham Forest.Local Councillors representing Leabridge Ward in Hackney have asked for this Application (to WF) to be discussed at the Planning Sub-Committee Meeting at 6.30pm on Wednesday 3rd February. Hackney’s Planning Officers are recommending the Borough should put in an objection to Waltham Forest."

Biggins in Hackney - 50k to 800k.

Christopher Biggins didn't want "come dine with me" viewers to see his Hackney home - according to the Daily Mail. But his place didn't sound too bad when he told the Telegraph about it on January 21: "In 1984 I bought a lovely three-bedroom terrace for £50,000 in a development of 16 homes designed by the famous architect Piers Gough. They are all unique homes – ours has a double-height drawing room with a first-floor minstrel gallery and an 18ft-high window leading out onto a little garden.

"It's all very pretty and I would say it must be worth between £750,000 and £800,000 today. In fact I have just paid off my mortgage. I went into the Alliance & Leicester in Plymouth with my chequebook this month." (Jan 21)