Thursday, 22 July 2010

Hole in Council's economic analysis - Mayor in the Economist

Local authorities were supposed to have new Local Economic Assessments in place by April 2010. But the last time it was asked, Hackney Council said it hadn't got one, and wouldn't have one until August 2010.

(Meanwhile, Mayor Jules Pipe happily chats to the Economist about the borough's economic situation in the magazine's latest edition. Hackney residents should be getting jobs in coffee shops if they want to benefit from the Olympics. The Economist reports: "His (Jules Pipe's) main longer-term hope lies with the broadcasting and media centres in the Olympic Park. Hackney is home to lots of small firms in “creative” industries, from post-production work for Hollywood studios to printing and advertising, for which the media centre could become a new base. That in turn would spawn work in nearby coffee shops and so forth.")

The council received a Freedom of Information request for its draft Local Economic Assessment in February from Labour activist Jed Keenan.

The council's response was: "The Local Economic Assessment is a statutory duty placed on all local governments arising from the Local Government and Construction Act (2009). This requires each local authority to undertake a detailed study of the dynamics of the local economy and its connections with the sub-region and beyond.

"Due to difficulties in recruiting to the post of Policy Adviser - Social and Economic Affairs and subsequently the timings of data analysis being done at the sub-regional level there has been a delay in delivery. We are now looking at an interim report by the end of August 2010."

Jed Keenan told Blood and Property: "A decent economic idea would be a good idea for a £1,000,000,000/annum organisation but so what, exposure of the absence of a good idea makes no difference if the effectiveness of the governance doesn't make a good idea into a good set of actions." (Jed likes long complicated sentences!)

So what is the Local Economic Assessment? According to the Local Government Improvement and Development website the LEA should: "Provide local authorities and stakeholders with an understanding of how economic conditions and forces shape places. That understanding needs to inform: policy, priorities, resource allocation and actions."

It should: "Reflect the economic character of an area..."

It should: "Describe the economic forces and factors affecting your area to inform policy and action..."

All of which sound like they might be useful as the council faces 25% cuts and the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile Keenan has been one of the few members of Hackney's Labour party to provide any scrutiny of the borough's leadership. This is usually done with a view to encouraging others to take part in the process: a recent exchange in the Hackney Citizen

In the Citizen and more recently in response to Cllr Louisa Thomson's piece in Progress about Community Organisers, Keenan has criticised the council's economic policy, particularly in relation to the borough's actions in relation to street markets.

In Progress he says that the 500 empty pitches in Hackney's street markets are "a black hole on the Council’s accounts but the corporate plan is to increase the charges of the existing traders by 50%."

He points out that: "There’s a proper big budget to spend but you can guess how that is to be spent, yep on municipal furniture, signage, branding, and more studies and consultations."

And he then threatens to take up David Cameron's offer to entrepreneurial locals: "So when the Tory Prime Minister says: ‘I want other forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, community-minded people and neighbourhoods in our country to come forward and ask for the same freedoms, the same support too. If you’ve got an idea to make life better, if you want to improve your local area, don’t just think about it – tell us what you want to do and we will try and give you the tools to make this happen.’ Do you think that he would order the Council to hand over governance of the Street Markets Section, currently insanely within the Parking Department, to me and the Traders Associations and social enterprises training and supporting tenants and residents of social housing to become market traders?"

Also, read Beecholme and Environs to find out how the Clapton Tramshed dispute is progressing. Has it already led to Labour figures such as Guy Nicholson and Ian Rathbone falling out? The piece also provides some interesting FOI material on the number of Hackney pupils forced to go to school in Waltham Forest due to a shortage of places in the borough. Will building even more homes help... may be there's some solid economic plan to underpin this? Something like a Local Economic Assessment....


  1. Happy New Year B&P.

    The Hackney LBC Local Economic Assessment is now partially available for public inspection as an agenda item titled Briefing on Local Economic Assessment, at the 10 January meeting of the Council's CSSI Scrutiny Commission and even this abridged version makes amazing reading.

    It is especially candid about the effectiveness of the Council's interventions to reduce worklessness and the ongoing increase in levels of inequality in Hackney.
    On a positive note it also identifies the localisation of the economy as the only game in town and mentions transferring all future economic development funding away from such activities as 'attracting inward investment' to 'schemes encouraging local private sector growth’.

    No sign on the corporate website or the Central Library or Town Hall of the full Assessment but I have emailed Representatives and Officers about making this available at the earliest opportunity for public scrutiny. Anyway here are my particular 'headlines' and [comments]:

  2. Economy and Opportunity
    LBH Local Economic Assessment

    Briefing note by Shawnee Keck (Policy and Performance Team) for CSSI Scrutiny Commission on Monday 10 January 2011

    1. Demographic Change and Hackney’s Labour Market
    ‘Outcomes in the social housing sector remain the same as a decade ago’.

    ‘Polarity still exists and is more acute’
    ‘Our employment rate, qualifications and occupations levels have soared, but only within the new population. With the growth of this new population, polarity is also increasing rapidly.’

    ‘Approximately 20% of the borough lives on incomes of £15,000 or less. The average annual income for the poorest 10% of the population is £7,266 ... for the richest 10% it is £79,775. Benefit levels have barely changed and the rise in qualifications is indigenous in only Level 2s or A Levels. We have an estimated 14,000 residents affected by housing and welfare reforms in the next 3-5 years.’

    ‘33,000 residents, 23% of the population, are on unemployment benefits, with the majority on Incapacity Benefit. The unemployment rate, JSA and IB numbers have not changed over the past decade’
    ‘Social housing based worklessness interventions are not reaching the same population that is claiming unemployment benefits.’
    ‘Programme evaluations show that Hackney’s worklessness programmes have not reduced unemployment’

    2. Business and Enterprise
    ‘The residential economy is a key growth area made of food and beverage, retail, personal services and private housing firms.’

    3. Growth, Development and Opportunity
    ‘Hackney has the 2nd largest economy in East London and the lowest share of employment and businesses in the Central Activity Zone/City Fringe.’
    ‘We are a unique economy with very marketable attributes that need careful consideration’
    ‘The City Fringe [within Hackney] only purchases 1.4% of its products from Hackney. More potential opportunity can be found in business-to-business sales within the Borough than external sales to City firms.’

    ‘The residential economy in Hackney is growing rapidly ... Our town centres are poised to meet this demand, not for visitors, but for people who live here. Almost 2/3 of visitors to Dalston are Hackney residents and 50% of residents responded that they purchase groceries and necessities within the borough. The 20,000+ new households need somewhere to shop and these businesses create local jobs. Ignoring the potential of the residential economy will reduce the desirability of the new town centres and economic activity zones’
    [The local economy is so incompetently governed, for example no Chamber of Commerce and no commercial and charitable goods and services directory, that 50% of residents responded that they purchase groceries and necessities outside the Borough!]

    4. Economic Policy Changes and Horizon Scanning
    ‘Future economic development funding will be transferred to incentive based schemes encouraging local private sector growth’

    5. Recommendations
    ‘Support the residential economy. Business development based on the needs of residents will fill a long hidden need of basic products to live on. Helping businesses to thrive and serve our new and existing residents is guaranteed growth and will compliment the progress we have made turning Hackney into a vibrant place where people choose to shop and do business.’

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  5. Hi Jed, I didn't mean to keep up the long pause tradition here. The original article was written in July 2010, you commented again in January 2011 and I'm getting back to you in July 2011 - sorry I simply didn't see it. Anyway, I'm about to have a look for the LEA - I'm imagining it must be complete now?
    If not, the bits you've highlighted are still interesting considering Jules Pipe's comments to the Economist last week:

    Look forward to hearing from you when its snowing...