Saturday, 25 September 2010

Not a shooting, not a stabbing... still a very serious incident

The policemen protecting this crime scene weren't going to say what happened. Whatever it was it happened in the early hours of Saturday morning. One of them said he couldn't say what it was just "it wasn't a shooting and it wasn't a stabbing but it was a very serious incident" just off Gillett Square.

Also today:

Homerton crack baby theory and A&E threat

In a discussion thread from Mumsnet in Feb 2010 one of the commentators said "the bad reputation Homerton" is out of date and "it's been really improved in recent years."

She said: "Also my own doctor had her baby there and was very positive. The other thing about Homerton is that it has one of the best neo-natal units around because of all the crack babies etc... (Sorry I couldn't find a nice Guardian-y way of putting that without wanting to throw up. blush ) Plus they have posh consultants like Dr Katrina Erskine who is famous and that, and also works in posh-people private hospitals."

Blood and Property hasn't tried to find out if this claim is correct but judging by this Wikipedia entry and this New York Times story about an epidemic that never happened - it probably isn't.

Although "Cocaine slows fetal growth, and exposed infants tend to be born smaller than unexposed ones, with smaller heads. But as these children grow, brain and body size catch up" so may be the actual births are more dangerous.

But it's a possibility that cash spent on specialising services (In 2002 Homerton staff were shipped off to Soweto for 'battle surgery' training) to the particular needs of a community might not be relevant for very long.

A&E to close?

That's according to this Hackney Communist site: "Cuts of up to 187 million over next three years in Hackney NHS; Homerton Hospital might shut down the Accident and Emergency, Stroke and Maternity Departments, replaced by smaller GP units, polyclinics."

I asked around but no one seemed to know much about this. Doesn't mean it's wrong.

This site outlines possible major cuts in a secret report leaked to the BBC earlier this year

If you've got time, this is an interesting article:

FT sceptical about Iran and Chatsworth Road juice bar

Hackney-based FT and BBC economist Tim Harford described the changes on Chatsworth Road here. He said that while it might look like all this gentrification was inevitable - as the demographics of the area have changed - it wouldn't have happened without the risk-taking entrepreneurialism of places like Venetia's.

"Given the restaurants, cafés and delis which line Stoke Newington Church Street a mile or so away, it might have seemed obvious that it was possible to run similar businesses on Chatsworth Road. But somebody had to demonstrate that it could be done."

He added: "there is also some kind of juice bar, which I view with scepticism but am told is excellent".

I've had a couple of 'juices' in Lumiere. I don't think either of them were strictly healthy - one was rhubarb and custard, the other was mostly sugar puffs and sugar - no need for sanctions, they were very good.

Chatsworth Road shopfront update

After noticing a Chatsworth Road shopfront theme a couple of weeks ago, there's more going on. The Chinese takeaway - the scene of an injury-free but alarming drive-by shooting - looks like it might be getting a facelift. The process has revealed 84 Arthur Tom. Down the road there's more... and some random street party.

The Chinese as it was:

As it is now:

This place was the long-standing home of a chewing gum landmark.

Last Christmas I gave you this card... did you like it?

Heather James' drawing of Ridley Road market was sent to 45,000 people in Hackney North last year. On her blog she wonders if anyone liked it and points out that she kept it as non-Christian as possible. Who was it from?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Sharpest rise in Hackney jobseekers since May 2009

Hackney has seen the sharpest rise in the number of new people claiming jobseekers allowance (JSA) since June 2009.

Between July and August 2010 the number of people claiming JSA rose by 325 (see figures below)

Last week Jennette Arnold, Hackney's representative on the London Assembly, wrote in the Hackney Gazette that 40% of Hackney North's work force was employed in the public sector. She suggested that many of these jobs were at risk from government plans to cut 500,000 to 600,000 public sector jobs.

Back in May Diane Abbott said that cuts in public sector work force will have the same effect as a mine closure in a pit village.

Before the election, in November 2009, Diane was down-playing employment problems claiming that "this year Hackney North and Stoke Newington has seen one of the lowest rises in unemployment in the entire country. That is thanks to a number of projects targeted at getting people back into work including job fairs, pre-employment training and recruitment drives for big companies like Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s."

As the figures show below, when Diane made the comments Hackney as a whole had just experienced several significant rises in unemployment, mainly in the Meg Hillier's constituency. Blood and Property has asked Diane where she got her figures but has yet to reply.

The recent rise in JSA claimants is the first since the claimant count peaked in Hackney in February 2010 when 7%, more than 10,000 of Hackney's working age population, were on the dole.

This month's figures appear to be in-line with national figures as the nationwide jobseeker claimant levels rose for the first time since January, up by 2,300 nationwide. But Hackney's situation could shift faster than other areas if the economic climate worsens.

Latest Hackney JSA claimant counts:

Hackney borough total (Local Authority): working population extrapolated from figures in red.

August: 9,791 (6.5%) - (9,791/0.065=150,630) (+325)
July: 9,466 (6.3%) - (9466/0.063= 150,253)
June : 9,406 (6.5%) (9,406/ 0.065 = 144,707)
May: 9,616 (6.7%) (9,616/.067=143,522)
April: 9,663 (6.7%) (9,663/.067=144,223)
March: 9,846 (6.8%) (9,846/0.68=144,794)
February: 10,044 (7%)
January: 9,905 (6.9%)

December: 9743 (6.7%)
November: 9,795 (6.8%)
October: 9,827 (6.8%)
September: 9,884 (7%)
August 9,826 (6.9%) (+276)
July: 9550 (6.7%) (+242)
June: 9,308 (6.6%) ()
May: 9,377 (6.6%) (+379)
April: 8,998 (6.3%) (+373)
March: 8,625 (6.1%) (+ 471)
February: 8,154 (5.7%) (+ 804)
January: 7,350 (5.2%)

December: 7,245 (5.1%)
November - 7,013 (4.9%)
October - 6,982 (4.9%)
September - 6,942 (4.9%)
August - 6,803 (4.8%)
July - 6,454 (4.6%)
June - 6,440 (4.6%)

Hackney North

August - 4,709 (6.1%) - (4,709/0.061= 77,197)
July - 4,572 (5.9%) - (4,572/0.059= 77,491)
June - 4,538 (6.0%) - (4,538/0.06= 75,633)
May - 4,637 (6.2%) - (4,637/0.062=74,790)
April - 4,727 (6.3%) - (4,727/0.063=75,031)
March - 4,336 (6.2%) - (4,336/0.062=69,935)
February - 4,450 (6.4%) - (4,450/0.064=69,531)
January - 4,402 (6.3%) - (4,402/0.063=69,873)

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

Hackney South
August - 5,056 (7.1%) - (5,056/0.071 = 71,211)
July - 4,871 (6.9%) - (4,871/0.069= 70,549)
June - 4,851 (7.0%) - (4,851/0.07= 69,300)
May - 4,959 (7.2%) - (4,959/0.072=68,875)
April - 4,908 (7.1%) - (4908/0.071=69,126)
March - 5,510 (7.6%) - (5,510/0.076=72,500)
February - 5,594 (7.7%) - (5,594/0.077=72,649)
January - 5503 (7.6%) - (5503/0.076)=72,407)

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

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Hackney Free School - will it add £20k to your house price?

An architect is waiting to hear if her plan to set up a Free School in Hackney will be approved by the Department for Education.

Pascale Scheurer argues her case for the school in this piece in

Her opening sentence suggests she's talking to property owners: "A popular school can add £15,000-20,000 to house prices within its catchment area. So whether you have children of school age or not, may I suggest you keep a close eye on the free schools debate over the coming year."

But the real reason for her project seems to be that: "There is an “outstanding” school round the corner with the creative ethos I want but, thanks to the idiocy of the admissions process, my girls are more likely to end up in a sink school further away."

Her plan is to set up the "Hackney Free School for Creative Entrepreneurship". On her twitter page she says she's still awaiting approval and adds: "Just had great mtg with Hackney Learning Trust. Very supportive of Free School, very helpful."

She provides more details about the Hackney bid here: "In the spirit of 'augmenting the state sector', and taking on board the various concerns over Free Schools, we have contacted the LEA and other local schools, and local MP and councillors (Labour and LibDem). Heated debates as you can imagine, but everyone agrees there is a severe shortage of places and the same issues around faith and single-sex schools abound. I believe it is possible for Free and 'wholly State' schools to work together for mutual benefit, if that is set out as part of the initial core objectives. We are also getting advice from the Head of a Camden community secondary school who we've worked with for two years. Some parents who have been in touch with us live in Camden. It may be of use to share details with you at some point."

I couldn't find any more details about the project and it may well be old news. Pascale will be hoping to hear from the Department for Education and get a letter like the one received by parents setting up a free school in Acton, described here by Toby Young in the Telegraph. But I don't know how large Pascale's school will be.

And I don't know which Hackney MP she is having to deal with. Diane Abbott didn't support academies until they were successful. She also seems particularly wary of middle-class white 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..."

And Pascale's support from the Learning Trust is no guarantee of support from Hackney's biggest beast Jules Pipe (Learning Trust still disgusting... )

And then how keen will a Conservative government be to help out Hackney? And has Michael Gove dropped in for that cup of tea at Woodberry Down yet? Like he said he would.)

The 16 proposals so far accepted (from the BBC) :

Bedford and Kempston Free School, Bedford
The Childcare Company, Slough
Discovery New School, West Sussex
The Free School Norwich, Norfolk
Haringey Jewish Primary School, Haringey
I-Foundation Primary School, Leicester (Hindu)
King's Science Academy, Bradford
Mill Hill Jewish Primary School, Barnet
Nishkam Education Trust, Birmingham (Sikh)
North Westminster Free School (ARK), Westminster (ARK is an existing academy sponsor)
Priors Marston and Priors Hardwick School, Warwickshire
Rivendale Free School, Hammersmith and Fulham
St. Luke's School, Camden (Anglican)
Stour Valley Community School, Suffolk
West London Free School, Ealing or Hammersmith and Fulham
Wormholt North Hammersmith Free School (ARK), Hammersmith and Fulham (to be known as Burlington Primary Academy)
You can follow the progress of Hackney Free School for Creative Entrepreneurship on LinkedIn (search for “Free Schools Resource Group”).

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Creperie confirms Chatsworth Road has a grey economy

It looks like Chatsworth Road is becoming the capital of Clapton's cafe culture with two coffee shops/delis, a juice bar, a 'kitchen' and now a creprie. For some reason four out of five of these new places have grey shop fronts.

Grey also seems to be the colour scheme for, the organisers of a Chatsworth Road market due to start sometime this month.

Is this a coincidence?

The oldest, Venetia's may have started the trend with a lighter grey but L'Epicerie is off the radar with brown:

How does this spurt of entrepreneurialism fit into Hackney Council's economic vision for the borough?

Blood and Property recently asked the council which documents Hackney politicians and council officers are supposed to use to get a good economic view of the borough.

The council reply: "As a council, we use a wide range of sources to gain an understanding of the borough and its economic landscape. This includes the Hackney Evidence Pack, which is available to view on the Team Hackney website, and the local labour market reports produced on a quarterly basis for the Economic Development Partnership."

There's not a great deal in the Hackney Evidence Pack about Hackney Businesses. But here are some bits:

This might explain some of the changes on Chatsworth Road:

In order to assess the existing level of entrepreneurial activity in the borough and the ‘appetite’ for self-employment amongst the population, the proportion of the working age population who are self-employed is a key measure:

11.9% (2008) of Hackney residents are self-employed. This compares with 10.6% for the London average; 5.8% for Newham; 12.1% for Islington. The percentage of Hackney residents who are self-employed has grown steadily from 9.7% in 2005. This proportion for Hackney is particularly high given the level of unemployment in the borough, and particularly the level of economic inactivity.

Business and Enterprise: Roughly 10,000 businesses operate in Hackney. Eighty-seven percent of London’s employing units have less than 10 employees. Hackney is no exception to this pattern, with 89% of its employing units and 100% of the borough’s transport and communications, manufacturing and construction employers operating from units of less than 10 employees.
Hackney has more than 50 large employing units with 200 or more employees. The sectors with the highest number of units employing more than 10 employees are banking, finance and insurance, and public administration, education and health.

Also, Mayor Pipe hopes Hackney's coffee shops will benefit from the Olympic legacy: Jules Pipe recently told The Economist that he is pinning his hopes on the media centre: "His 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."

But, at the moment, house prices in Homerton and Clapton are amongst the fastest growing in London and very little of this seems to be related to the Olympics. Does this suggest that straight forward entrepreneurialism is still Hackney's best economic bet and not the Olympics?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Reply to Andrew Boff

I posted an article last night which criticised the Hackney Conservative Party for pandering to the needs of the Ultra Orthodox Jewish Community.

Andrew Boff, the Conservative Party's mayoral candidate in Hackney and a member of the London Assembly, replied in the comments section - I'm writing this reply to him as a post because it's easier and people are more likely to read it.

Andrew's first question:

In the article I wrote: "The ideologies of both parties (Lib Dems and Conservatives) can appear submissive to an Ultra Orthodox Jewish agenda."

Andrew Boff asked: "
Is that the agenda in the Protocol of the Elders of Zion or another one?

Blood and Property reply: Apparently the "Protocols of the Elders Zion" were a set of ideas stolen from French literature then falsely presented as a transcript of a secret meeting of Jewish elders. And this story ended up being believed by the likes of Henry Ford and Winston Churchill. (I hope that’s correct I got it from David Aaronovitch's Voodoo Histories).

How does this compare to the “Ultra Orthodox Jewish agenda” that I’m talking about? The agenda I’m talking about is not a secret so I don't think there is much to compare. There is one main issue on it - lobbying to change the borough’s planning rules to allow loft extensions to accommodate large families.

You can read about it here and it is discussed by prominent members of the Jewish community here. It is also reported in the Jewish Chronicle here (Which said: "Ita Symons, chief executive of Agudas Israel Housing Association, which works with the strictly Orthodox population in north London, said Haringey's move was "a real victory for the community. It sets an excellent precedent." She hoped Hackney Council would move similarly to ease the housing problems of local Jewish families.") and there is an interesting piece here, also in the Jewish Chronicle, about the tendency of the Ultra Orthodox Jewish Community to put its own interests above those of neighbouring communities.

I don’t think there’s any controversy in noting that this loft extension policy issue was the main policy objective of the Hackney Conservative group. And is it surprising when the Hackney Conservative group was composed of nine councillors, six them from the Ultra Orthodox Community?

I think Andrew is suggesting that my comments and criticisms are aimed at the Charedi community and might, therefore, be racist. But my criticisms are aimed at the Conservative Party. I think most normal people put their families, communities, religions and ideologies (if they have them), above political parties. So why would an individual temper his or her use of a political party if it is helping with these more important goals?

Andrew's second point:

I wrote: "Now the ideological inconsistencies look a bit raw as the community worst affected by the Con-Lib coalition's policies is the Ultra Orthodox Jewish one."

Andrew Boff asked: "
How so?"

Blood and Property: In Hackney, the coalition government’s decision to cap housing benefit has specifically hit the Ultra Orthodox Jewish community hardest (13% of Hackney benefit cut victims will be Ultra Orthodox Jewish). According to a council document, 213 of Hackney's 1,642 housing benefit claimants - whose rents will no longer be fully covered by benefits if government proposals go through - will be ultra orthodox Jewish (Charedi). The next largest group to be affected by the cuts is white British with 92 claims affected.

Generally the victims of cuts made by the coalition government are discussed in terms of their wealth, location, or age. Not this one, its impact is described in terms of ethnic/cultural identity.

The “ideological inconsistency” being that the Charedi vote was closely associated with the support the Conservative Party seemed to be giving in relation to its housing needs. The friendly support came at a local level and doesn't appear to have had much to do with the aims of the national party.

Some of the ideological inconsistencies are permanent fixtures for any political party dealing with religious communities. Should a member of the Conservative Party – or any party - promote a theocracy above a democracy?

In this old story (Democracy problem in Stamford Hill) the issue of democracy and the Charedi Community was discussed. I'm sure, but I think Andrew would see this kind of story as dangerous and potentially racist because it suggests that democracy is not top of the agenda for Ultra Orthodox Jewish politicians. But I spoke to Ultra Orthodox Jewish councillors from both parties and none of them contradicted the view that Ultra Orthodox politicians avoid standing against each other - which makes democracy a bit of a problem for their constituents - they rarely get a choice. Again, no big secret, just something to try and understand.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Hackney Vs Tower Hamlets - which model works?

In a few hours the Labour Party in Tower Hamlets will choose its mayoral candidate. Whoever wins will probably become the borough's elected Mayor.

Hackney's mayor, Jules Pipe, has his critics but at least these usually focus on his policies. In Tower Hamlets it is only about the latest scandal (And for that you couldn't get much more graphic than this investigation by Andrew Gilligan - posted on his blog yesterday)

The difference seems to be that, in Hackney, the Labour Party still suffers the scars of its factional implosions and its damaging vote rigging scandals. The result has been a shunning of "communal" or race politics by the current Labour administration.

Last year Jules Pipe told Blood and Property: "It is unhealthy for democracy if people vote for candidates from their own community for that reason alone and not on merit. It is also unhealthy for community cohesion – whilst there are specific communities within Hackney, we are all part of one wider civic community."

Andrew Boff, Conservative Mayoral candidate for Hackney, seemed to think that everyone was over reacting, particularly to what was going on in Tower Hamlets. Blood and Property asked him several questions about what his party was doing in Hackney, he ended up talking about Tower Hamlets.

In an interview with Blood and Property Boff answered questions 3, 4 and 5 together saying they were "distasteful". The questions were:

3. How would you respond to the criticism that the Conservative Party in Hackney is a vehicle for an (ultra) orthodox Jewish political agenda rather than anything to do with the Conservative Party? (Must read for Hackney Politics)

4. Do you agree that (ultra) orthodox Jewish councillors rarely stand against each other in elections? Do you think it would matter if there was some kind of agreement within the Orthodox Jewish community for candidates not to stand against each other? Have you spoken to your Orthodox Jewish councillors about this issue? (Democracy Problem in Stamford Hill)

5. Last year Mayor Pipe accused Councillor Steinberger of putting the planning needs of the Orthodox Jewish community above the financial needs of the rest of the borough? (23,000 residents used as a bargaining chip, mayor claims) - are you concerned that this kind of prioritisation may be taking place with 2/3 of your councillors coming from the Charedi community?

ANDREW BOFF: Who is the criticism from? Nobody has said this to me. I'm not really one for conspiracy theories especially when it's directed against one section of the community. It's rather sinister. I've recently spoken out against the dangerous islamaphobic nonsense that Channel 4 and Jim Fitzpatrick MP have spread about the London Muslim Centre and these appear of the same ilk and I find them rather distasteful. Still, if I have to answer such questions - of the Conservative candidates in Hackney 11% are Orthodox Jewish 18% have a Caribbean/ African heritage, 4% are Turkish/Kurdish, 4% Polish and 2% Asian. The Conservative Party is a "vehicle" for all of us."

In Hackney the political opposition - the Conservatives and Lib Dems - are both linked to the borough's Ultra Orthodox Jewish community. The ideologies of both parties can appear submissive to an Ultra Orthodox Jewish agenda. Now the ideological inconsistencies look a bit raw as the community worst affected by the Con-Lib coalition's policies is the Ultra Orthodox Jewish one.

Meg Hillier, who was elected in 2005 after Hackney's darkest years, believes that ethnic groups in places like Hackney can be selfish - that that's how multiculturalism works. In the run up to this year's elections she spoke to Blood and Property:

Blood and Property: Do you expect communities to be self-interested for a multicultural system to work?

Meg Hillier: We have a party system in this country and people will look at what policies work for them. People don’t necessarily vote down ethnic lines. They wouldn’t necessarily vote for a Vietnamese councillor because they are Vietnamese or for a Turkish councillor because they were Turkish or African councillor because they were African. People tend to vote more for the party of their choice and I think that’s healthy.

Blood and Property: Does it matter if you have large, politically active communities, that do act with a certain level of self interest – or promote issues that affect this community?

Meg Hillier: That’s what politics is about.