Sunday, 31 October 2010

Did gangs close Hackney youth centre?

A Hackney youth centre closed down last week, apparently due to gang activity. It had been open for a year.

Cllr Rita Krishna and Cllr Gulay Icoz told Hackney Council on Wednesday that the Blue Hut youth club had closed down.

I think it was Hoxton councilllor, Philip Glanville who added more detail. He started talking about gangs and the previously optimistic comments of Skyways, the voluntary sector organisation which ran Blue Hut. He appeared to be suggesting that Skyways ducked-out out of Blue Hut too easily. He said that voluntary providers also hadn't 'come up to scratch' in the borough (Hoxton Hall - also).

But in relation to Blue Hut, the implication was that Skyways didn't have problem with gangs six months ago but this changed... "One of the reasons they walked away is that they said that there were 'issues'"

I don't 100% know that's what was meant. I'll have to find out in the week unless someone can tell me.

Description of Skyway project in Wednesday's report including a recommendation to base other projects around its strategy. P. 184 of Council agenda:

Blue Hut - Peer Support Programme

The Peer Support Programme is a pilot project currently being run by SkyWay organisation at the Blue Hut and there has been huge interest from young people wanting to be involved in it. It is teaching the young people involved that they can give something back to their community and become positive role models for their peers. Through the programme, they can show there is an alternative to the gangs many young people will see on a daily basis and provide positive role models to the youngsters in their areas.

The programme has been running since October 2009 in its current form although a pilot project on a much smaller scale was run from March 2009 with 3 peer coaches.

In total there have been fifteen young people involved in the programme so far and their ages range from fifteen to twenty four

Page 184years, although most of the young people involved have been between seventeen and twenty one years.

The young people receive support through the development of an individual learning plan, and as part of this they received an in-depth initial meeting and then monthly one to ones which focus on their progress and development in relation to their individual learning plan. The peers specialise in one area, such as drama or sport, and they report to a specific member of staff who is trained in their area of interest and who can offer them continued support and advice. The peers also complete training which is both accredited and non- accredited.

The peers all complete a ‘train the trainer’ course, and this included units on safeguarding, working with young people, running activity sessions, equality and diversity, and confidentiality and data protection. They also completed an enterprise training programme over 4 days. The peers also complete training on working with young people in relation to drugs and alcohol.

Peers are recruited to support activities across all aspects of SkyWay’s programmes and therefore they have sports peers, media peers (music and film), youth work peers and bike maintenance peers. All of the young people involved receive training and paid work experience in the area they are interested, for example sports coaching, media sessions or youth work. The work that they do is constantly monitored and only once the workers are confident in the young people’s abilities and skills and they have completed the relevant training and have had an enhanced CRB check will they be allowed to lead sessions with other young people.

In addition to this, each peer will complete qualifications that are relevant to their interests and will be identified through their individual learning plan; this could include for example Level 1 or 2 in FA football coaching or Level 2 in Youth Work.

The Peer Support Programme has been increasingly popular with young people and it is currently oversubscribed. Staff at the Blue Hut said that the results so far have been very positive and they have seen a number of the peers grow in maturity & confidence, and the young people involved have developed communication, self reliance, team working and leadership skills.

The Commission members talked to one of the young people involved in the Peer Support Programme who told them he felt it was important to develop young people through the programme as it helps to bridge the gap between the young people and youth workers.

Page 185

Recommendation Three

The Commission was impressed during the site visits and through talking to young people by the range of training and qualifications young people are able to gain through youth centres and activities and strongly support and encourage these opportunities.

The Commission was particularly interested in the Peer Support Programme run by SkyWay organisation at the Blue Hut and its aim to develop young people to lead activity sessions with their peers and younger age groups.

The Commission recommends the Youth Service look at the Peer Support Programme currently being run by SkyWay organisation at the Blue Hut and consider adopting a similar model in council maintained youth centres in Hackney.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Fighting evil powers at work in Hackney

Apart from Glamorous Gardener's terrifying cake party there wasn't much Halloween stuff going on in Hackney blogs.

But Mayor Pipe's description of the coalition government prompted the resurrection of a survey of Hackney politicians carried out last year.

The Mayor, one of the contributors to "Do Hackney politicians believe in ghosts?", said: "I am happy to confirm that I have never felt the need to attribute any event to ‘supernatural’ causes. Whilst I accept that people are entitled to hold whatever beliefs they like – as long as this causes no harm to others..."

On Wednesday night Mayor Pipe said the government's cuts were "extremely divisive, some may even say evil". Evil appears to mean anything that harms others or something "producing or threatening sorrow, distress, injury..."

Anyway, it looked like Pipe had found people who held beliefs that were evil - a concept often employed to dehumanise somebody before a merciless attack.

But while the language was strong, Pipe quickly re-humanised all close-to-hand Conservatives claiming that Boris Johnson had something like a conscience (Pipe's 'social cleansing' phrase mysteriously pre-dated Johnson's more public use of a similar phrase - the two seem to get on well at the moment) he then re-humanised the Conservative councillors present at the meeting: "I can't see the people opposite as the representatives of this government. I could stand here and attempt to savage the people opposite for whatever reason they had for standing under the party colours they chose to..." (but I won't).

However it wasn't long before he and a number of other Labour politicians were gritting their teeth as Conservative councillors returned passionately to their loft extensions - an issue which apparently only affects the rich home-owning members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community - but has consumed hours and hours of council time. Cuts or no cuts, some things don't change!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Hackney Gazette has new website that allows comments

Yes, the Hackney Gazette now allows people to leave comments. Blood and Property left one under the Hackney cuts story. Not sure why, but the comment, left on Saturday, had yet to appear on Sunday night.

Other story this week:

Turkish crime - Turkish politics

(UPDATE  February 2012):

This month a team of Hackney police officers returned home from a trip to Turkey. The trip was to "learn more about the culture, to strengthen existing relationships with Hackney's Turkish and Kurdish communities."

They have some interesting stuff to look at:

Last week the BBC published this story: "Could Turkish and Kurdish gangs become the new 'mafia'?"

What are the MLKP and the PKK? They exist in Hackney and appear to be in conflict with the Bombacilar gang cited as a cause of Turkish gang violence in Hackney.

(PKK marching through Dalston in 2008. But marching not illegal in the UK or Hackney? And marching again in 2010 may day march. Story in the Observer, 2002 about MLKP and the world's longest hungerstrike, 49 dead. (Feb 2010 Socialist Worker))


In 2007 BBC Radio Four's File on Four transcript March 2007: "Drugs" which investigated the how Baybasin (leader of Bombacilar) had a deal with HM Customs which ran him as an informer.

The BBC investigation mentions another character, Nurretin Guven. He, and another convicted drug dealer, Hamit Gokenc, were both allegedly linked to a right-wing nationalist group and to attempts to capture or assassinate PKK and MLPK leaders. (Most of these links were taken from this article: Turkish Conflicts: PKK, Grey Wolves. I don't know if the claims made in it are correct.)

The BBC's 2006 story about a clampdown on the notorious Bombacilar said: "Matters came to a head on 9 November 2002 when the Bombacilar clashed with their PKK/Kadek rivals" which led to a street battle along Green Lanes and the death of one man. The PKK being the far-left Kurdish nationalist party and listed as terrorist organisation in the USA and Europe.

The violence errupted again in 2009 with several tit-for-tat shootings but this time the Bombacillar were believed to be in conflict with the Tottenham Boys. According to the Evening Standard both gangs are Turkish Kurds.

Blood and Property spoke to a Turkey expert from a well-known London-based institution who did not want to be named. He said that Turkish communities, like those in Hackney and Haringey, were more polarised than Turkish/Kurdish communities in Turkey itself. He also said that events, like a recent PKK terrorist attack in Istanbul, could result in increased tensions in communities like those in North London.

Some back ground:

A piece of research done in 2008 by academics at Sussex University:

"Since the enactment of the 2001 Terrorism Act in the UK, the PKK has been listed as a terrorist organisation by the UK government. Kurds from Turkey who claim asylum in the UK stating persecution due to membership of, or association with, the PKK could risk imprisonment under the Terrorism Act. At the same time (2000) the Kurdish television station MED-TV, which was broadcast from the UK, was closed down by the British government due to breaches of impartiality and claims that it incited people to commit criminal acts. These events highlight how diaspora politics and the struggle for Kurdish national recognition have the potential to escalate into a sensitive political issue between the UK and Turkey."

But then the same research suggests it's more to do with integrating into life in a Western city:
According to academic research:

In policy terms, the absence of youth centres, and hence of activities for young immigrant
origin people to engage in, is seen as one reason behind the growth of Turkish and Kurdish gangs. These gangs are usually ethnically differentiated, although some mixing occurs too, according to our key informants. Identity is seen as a central issue:

If they don’t belong to an identity, they tend to do a lot of criminal, anti-social behaviour. They form mafia street-gangs. Fighting and anti-social behaviour is becoming a problem (community centre representative). Whether the problem of youth crime lies in issues of identity, or lack thereof, is a moot point. What is less contentious is the strong correlation between poverty and alienation."

A quote from the "'Turks' in London: Shades of Invisibility and the Shifting"

This is why their community organisations insist that using the term ‘Turkish-speaking community’ is not neutral: it implies that ‘Turkish Kurds’ somehow ‘belong’ to Turkey, and that their separate Kurdish identity does not merit recognition. Their claims as a people and nation are at times found to be at odds with anti-terrorist legislation in the UK and with the UK’s position in favour of Turkey joining the EU.10

9 In practice, the centres which call themselves ‘Turkish and Kurdish community centres’ are either Turkish- or Kurdish-dominated, with a very small minority of Turkish Cypriots involved.

10 Since the enactment of the 2001 Terrorism Act in the UK, the PKK has been listed as a terrorist organisation by the UK government. Kurds from Turkey who claim asylum in the UK stating persecution due to membership of, or association with, the PKK could risk imprisonment under the Terrorism Act. At the same time (2000) the Kurdish television station MED-TV, which was broadcast from the UK, was closed down by the British government due to breaches of impartiality and claims that it incited people to commit criminal acts. These events highlight how diaspora politics and the struggle for Kurdish national recognition have the potential to escalate into a sensitive political issue between the UK and Turkey.

In policy terms, the absence of youth centres, and hence of activities for young immigrant origin people to engage in, is seen as one reason behind the growth of Turkish and Kurdish gangs. These gangs are usually ethnically differentiated, although some mixing occurs too, according to our key informants. Identity is seen as a central issue:

If they don’t belong to an identity, they tend to do a lot of criminal, anti-social behaviour. They form mafia street-gangs. Fighting and anti-social behaviour is becoming a problem (community centre representative). Whether the problem of youth crime lies in issues of identity, or lack thereof, is a moot point. What is less contentious is the strong correlation between poverty and alienation.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2005: Young Turks and Kurds: a set of invisible disadvantaged groups.

"There is clearly an ethnic enclave present, consisting not just of sandwich and kebab shops but many other family businesses that provide extensive services and, in many ways, a parallel micro-economy. This is clearly a resource not often available to all disadvantaged groups, for example to indigenous white working-class neighbourhoods. But it has to be stressed that this resource comes at a price. Its presence may be a contributing factor in the young people's relative disengagement with the broader structure of labour market opportunities and can lead to them being trapped in the ethnic enclave.

"The young people are ambivalent about what it means to be British and reluctant to adopt that identity. Yet at the same time, most do not simply use a Turkish identity either. They usually choose multiple ethnic identities, but in the majority of cases, the term 'British' is not (yet) part of that plurality. This is complicated by the fact that the majority of Kurds refused to self-identify as Turks."

Blood and Property wrote a brief follow-up piece about the conviction of the leader of the Bombacilar gang 18 months ago - Turkish Gang Problem - it remains one of the most viewed Blood and Property stories each month due to Google searches for "Bombacilar Hackney".

What do terrorist attacks in Turkey ( Five Killed...) do to Turkish communities in London: US to support Turks in suppression of Kurdish separatists.

Boris follows Jude to Petchey Academy

Jude Law and Boris Johnson have both dropped in on the Petchey Academy in the last four weeks. Hopefully all is well at the school. But how would you know? Still no answer on whether a third of the teachers left the school at the end of last year.

Boris was at the school to launch a scheme to provide cheap Olympics tickets for Hackney pupils.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Pipe sets spin to positive for cuts

In this week's Hackney Gazette Meg Hillier says: "These cuts are so deep and quick that even with the strong local leadership by Hackney's mayor, we will see services devastated."

Diane Abbott has spoken about Hackney like a pit village facing mine closure.

Jules Pipe's councillors are no less negative. In July Councillor Louisa Thomson, also of We Love Stoke Newington, wrote an article for Progress Magazine called: "What are community organisers for": "In Hackney, we are bracing ourselves for the 25 per cent cuts rumoured for the autumn spending review. We have a reputation now for sound financial management and efficiency savings, but overall we're a group of Labour councillors that isn't used to having to have these discussions and it's going to hurt."

On September 30th the Hackney Gazette had Jules Pipe implying that there would be no cuts in young peoples services: "We have nearly halved the number of 16 to 18 year-olds not in education, employment or training. We are determined to maintain the provision of services that will continue to drive this figure down still further..." He then spoke about his hopes for the effects of the olympics on the borough... like he did in his previous talking point on 19 August. This spinning is unlikely to be without its purpose, even if it isn't clear at the moment.

Meg Hillier: fears for her seat

In her previous Hackney Gazette 'Talking Point' Meg Hillier said that the government's plans to equalize constituency sizes could lead, among other things, to the end of Hackney MPs (09.02.2010):

"If our population (Hackney's) shrinks a little we then a bi of the City, Tower Hamlets or Islington will be tacked on to Hackeny... or if boundaries start being drawn from outer London into the centre, we could see Hackney carved between the neighbouring constituencies.

Nick Clegg has already singled out Meg's constituency as a target - although the figures he used appear to have been out of date.

Diane on black pupils and concentration

Diane sounded angry in her October 7 talking point in the Hackney Gazette: "Recently much rubbish has been banded around about how black children do not concentrate at school which is why they do not succeed. I could not disagree more... We start a dangerous narrative if we continue to peddle such nonsense..." (like this?) I couldn't find the recent 'rubbish' that she was objecting to... anyone know what it was?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

What do Operation Trident cuts mean for Hackney?

Hackney is one of the biggest 'clients' of operation trident. The chances are that Trident officers know more about Hackney's worst criminals than Hackney's own detectives.

According to data provided to Blood and Property by Operation Trident under a Freedom of Information Act request, Hackney is its second biggest customer. In 2008-9 Trident had a £28m budget and employed 359 police officers. Over the last four years Hackney has seen 110 cases, 10% of Trident's case load, being investigated.

This debate on youth crime took place in Parliament in September 2010. No Hackney MPs were there (both probably busy with the Labour leadership)

But David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab) asked: "Can the hon. Gentleman confirm whether a decision has been made by Boris—the Mayor of London—to cut the marketing budget of Operation Trident? It is important that we should be able to communicate with the young people of London in order to deflect them from crime, so can the Minister comment on whether that is, in fact, true?"

James Brokenshire: "I am afraid that I cannot give him a direct answer to the specific point that he raises about any decision that the Mayor may or may not have made on Operation Trident. However, I should be happy to make inquiries and, as required, write to him if that would be of assistance to him."

It looks like similar cuts to Operation Trident's PR machine were done before, in 2008: "The cuts in adspend will mean less high profile campaigns such as the Metropolitan Police's Operation Trident campaign, created by Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, to fight gun crime."

The issue of advertising and challenging the perceptions of the black community and the police were addressed by the Met's armed police CO19 back in May 2010 (on the day of the London Fields Shooting). This highlighted a number of persistent beliefs within the black community about subjects like police corruption.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Unemployment rises by 136 claimants ahead of cuts

Hackney has seen 136 new people claiming jobseekers allowance (JSA) since last month when the claimant count rose by 325.

Hackney may be moving toward the February peak of 7% claiming dole - more than 10,000 of Hackney's working age population.

Latest Hackney JSA claimant counts:

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

September: 9,927 (6.6%) - (9,927/0.065=150,409) (+136)
August: 9,791 (6.5%) - (9,791/0.065=150,630) (+325)
July: 9,466 (6.3%) - (9466/0.063= 150,253) (+60)
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

Sept - 4,772 (6.2%) - (4,709/0.062=76,967)
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
Sept - 5,140 (7.3%)- (5,140/0.073=70,410)
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

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Cuts could cause Jewish influx into Hackney state schools?

Hackney's largest and fastest growing ethnic minority - its ultra orthodox Jewish community - is mainly self-catering when it comes to education. Most ultra orthodox Jewish children are educated in private schools.

But could this be about to change if, as expected, various government cuts hit this community hardest? (Effects of housing benefit cuts discussed here while East London Lines describes possible effects of child benefit cuts) When compared to neighbouring boroughs like Tower Hamlets, where the largest minority relies on state education, has Hackney got-off lightly?

These broader issues appeared during discussions about an admissions dispute at Hackney's only state-funded Jewish secondary school: the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School. The school had 231 pupils aged 11-16 when its most recent (July 201) Ofsted Report (an interim check) in which it retained its 'outstanding' rating.

In contrast to Hackney's silent Academies - Mossbourne and Petchey - Yesodey Hatorah spokesman, Abraham Pinter, provided some background during a telephone conversation. The bulk of his replies were consistent with answers officially provided by the Learning Trust (I've noted any differences in the answers).

The exchange below also includes some comments from Jewish historian and columnist on Jewish matters for the Jewish Chronicle and the Guardian, Geoffrey Alderman, who is involved in the dispute and pointed it out to Blood and Property.

The bulk of the answers come from the Learning Trust.

Blood and Property: I've been told that some parents who applied for their daughters to go to the school were originally denied but were then accepted after an appeal process. Were you aware of this?

Learning Trust: Yes

Blood and Property: If so, is it possible to get any details about these cases what the issues were?

Learning Trust: We are not able to discuss individual cases involving students. Yesodah Hatorah is an oversubscribed school. In line with other schools they follow the Learning Trust co-ordinated admissions process. (Abraham Pinter said that not all the schools places were full)

Blood and Property: Do you know of any complaints about the admissions process at Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls school? Are they more common than in other Hackney schools.

Learning Trust: The school has told us that there had been one complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman which was later withdrawn following an unsuccessful appeal.

Blood and Property: When parents appeal against the decisions of the board of governors at Hackney secondary schools is there a higher body/regulator that can judge whether a governing body is behaving properly? If so has it recently been at work at Yesodey Hatorah school?

Learning Trust: There is a statutory process for appeal. The Headteacher, followed by the Chair of Governors and finally the Secretary of State

Blood and Property: Have you had any complaints from parents about nepotism or factionalism within a school's governing body. If parents have these concerns, to whom should they present evidence, the Learning Trust? The Charity Commission? The council?

Learning Trust: There have been no complaints from named parents. The process for complaints are outlined above.

Geoffrey Alderman: I have a copy of a letter sent to the chief executive of the Learning Trust on 27 June 2010, to which there was a reply by email dated 27 July 2010.

Blood and Property: I've been told there have been difficulties in identifying who the governors of the school actually are. Should there be a formal route by which parents or any member of the community can can contact the school's governors? Or at least check that they exist?

Learning Trust: All requests for information are directed to the school This reply is unacceptable.

Geoffrey Alderman: Surely the Learning Trust knows the names of the members of the governing body. If not, how can it satisfy itself as to the appropriate governance of the school?

Blood and Property: Is the learning trust confident that there is a complete and effective governing body at the school?

Learning Trust: At the last Ofsted the school was judged outstanding. This has been achieved under the leadership of the head and the Governing body, the hard work of its teaching staff and students as well as the support of parents

Geoffrey Alderman: As a matter of fact the Ofsted inspection itself drew attention to shortcomings in the governance of the school. So this reply is being very economical with the truth. (The 2006 Ofted report gave the school's governing body a score of 3 the lowest of all its other scores got higher rated scores of 1 or 2)

Blood and Property: Is the Learning Trust aware of any investigations into admissions at the school?

Learning Trust: No

Sunday, 3 October 2010

A third of teachers leave Hackney academy, claim

In this week's Hackney Gazette Jules Pipe said (page 18): "High quality education is about teachers who can inspire and unlock potential. Without the knowledge and dedication of the staff in each of schools, these results would not have been possible."

This week Blood and Property was told by someone with links to the Petchey Academy that a third of the school's teachers left at the end of last year. Also that most of the maths department moved to the Skinners Academy, another Hackney Academy.

It would be helpful to know if the claim was true. But in June Blood and Property asked the school it was expecting around 30 teachers to leave at the end of the academic year.

The school did not respond: Silent academy speaks... to someone else: Press officers from the Learning Trust and the Jack Petchey foundation both replied saying that the school would deal with the inquiry. However the school did not acknowledge the questions or respond to emails or telephone messages.

It raised questions about the fact that academies are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act: Hackney Academy silent over teacher exodus claims

When Blood and Property asked Jules Pipe, elected Mayor of Hackney, if the Freedom of Information Act should apply to academies: (Jules Pipe answers Blood and Property questions) he said: "The Freedom of Information of Act should indeed apply to Academies. They are not currently subject to the FoI Act, however..."

So does Jules know what goes on in most of Hackney's secondary schools?

Friday, 1 October 2010

Doubt over Homerton A&E future

Homerton A&E not busy enough to justify its existence?

This blogger - 20goto10 - left a comment on Blood and Property on Thursday which suggests that Homerton Hospital's accident and emergency department is a likely target for NHS cuts. You can find the original post here which was based on this Hackney Communist site's claim that with: "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."

In reply 20goto10 wrote:

Re: closure of the Homerton Emergency Department - it may be on the horizon in the next 5 years or so. The North-East quadrant of London has lots of Emergency Departments covering it (Newham, Royal London, Whittington and Whipps Cross are all close by just to mention a few).

NHS London is definitely looking to swing the axe, especially given the pressure from the Condems, and also because their plan to close the Whittington collapsed on the altar of an election promise by then-Health Secretary Andy Burnham. For many years now King George's in Ilford has had the sword hanging over it and it looks like it will fall for sure.

However, NHS London are still looking round for another victim. Emergency Departments (EDs, no longer called A&E) are expensive to run because of the staffing levels required and the other (non-Emergency Medicine) specialties who are required on-call in the hospital to see many of the patients. Unfortunately the powers-that-be that run hospitals at 100% bed capacity also think that an ED isn't pulling its weight unless it's bursting at the seams and looks like the Alamo every Friday night. The Homerton ED is not like that, partly because it is a very well-run department with out-of-hours GPs resident and partly because the workload simply isn't as bad as one might expect for Hackney (stabbings and shootings go straight to the Royal London).

This is a good thing for patients as it means doctors can spend a bit more time and thought on them, but shamefully also means that it isn't 'busy enough' to justify its existence. I have spoken to a few people in other hospitals (ED consultants) who expect the Homerton to be closed one day. However the Homerton staff of course strenuously deny this. Their case is strengthened by the fact that their department is going to be setting up the polyclinic on the 2012 Olympic site.

Personally I think it would be a disaster for Hackney if the Homerton ED were to close. The Save The Whittington campaign demonstrated (i) how a good publicity-generating campaign could be run and (ii) how people can force politician's hand by making them scared of losing votes. Hopefully if any plans to close the Homerton were to surface, this could be replicated locally.

Watch this space.

Today the Hackney Citizen reported: Hackney GPs and health watchdog warn new proposals will undermine NHS