A workers’ voice on Hackney council

Submitted by Anon on 11 March, 2006 - 1:31

Janine Booth is standing as a Socialist Unity candidate in Hackney Central in the forthcoming local government elections. In the next few issues of Solidarity Janine will outline the politics of her campaign.

Why am I standing? Well, first and foremost, because there are so many issues that socialists need to address in working class communities like the one where I live in Hackney.

Take housing. On 3 April the Hackney ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation) will come into force. All the estates that have not already been transferred out of council control (most of them) will be handed over. But the experience of non-local authority control has not been good in Hackney.

For instance, the Pembury estate was transferred to the Peabody Trust in 2000. The Peabody people promised marvellous improvements. They made show flats to demonstrate the improvements. But the promises have simply not been kept.

Five plus years later the estate is still a building site. The works are clearly disorganised. They’ve brought cheap labour in to do the work. And some of the work is just crap.

The trouble in Hackney, unlike other places, is that tenants voted for transfer. That happened because Hackney council was such a bad landlord.

In the long run things will not be good. ALMOs are a way of privatising. Elsewhere in the country ALMOs are turning themselves into private companies.

Schools are another issue in this ward. There is one primary school here. It was “Fresh Started” a little while ago and it is getting better. But it gets no support from the local councillors — all Labour — none of whom are governors.

Many parents send their kids out of the borough to school. Hackney needs new schools, but all the new schools in Hackney are going to be Academies! There is one secondary school in the ward — Mossbourne Academy. One problem with Mossbourne is that there is a limit on the number of local children who can get into the school. Children have to sit an exam to get in, and from the results they are banded by ability. A percentage from each “band” gets to go to the school. So if you fail to get into Mossbourne it is because you are too bright, too not-bright, live too near or live too far etc etc! Is it too radical to expect there to be more places for local kids at the local school?

Hackney Central is a working-class area. Hackney — despite some gentrification — is in general a deprived borough. Yet the council seems hell bent on selling off properties… to do up Hackney Town Hall is one reason why… And they waste money. They can pay the Chief Executive £150,000 a year and advertise for a £85,000 p.a. “Olympics Chief” while paying many ordinary council workers peanuts. Needless to say, while selling off and privatising, the council have also felt it necessary to victimise union reps.

Labour, the Lib-Dems and the Tories have all had power in recent years.

They have all privatised services, cut and closed community facilities, neglected our streets and estates, put up our rents, charges and Council Tax, and attacked the council workers who provide our services.

They don’t deserve a vote.

A vote for my campaign will be for a principled socialist, someone who will not line her pockets from being a councillor, but will claim only genuine expenses and give the rest to workers’ and community campaigning.

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