Thursday, June 05, 2008

April and May 08 update

Greater London Authority and Mayoral elections

Labour actually had a good result in London on 1st May, which has largely gone unreported due to the Mayoral contest.

We gained Harrow and Brent from the Tories, and held all of our constituency seats.

We took a London wide seat from the Lib Dems.

Although any presence is worrying, the far-right places on the assembly are down from 2 to 1.

“Respect”, whether the Galloway version or the SWP list, failed to get a seat.

In the North East London constituency – Hackney, Islington & Waltham Forest – Ken Livingstone got over 49% of the vote compared to 29% for Boris Johnson. In the assembly election, Jeanette Arnold got 38% compared to 23% for the Tory.

Congratulations to Jeanette on subsequently being elected the new Chair of the assembly.

Turnout was up significantly throughout North East, and particularly in Hackney. The campaign was largely run by Hackney people.

In Brownswood, 839 people voted for the Labour list as opposed to 443 for the Greens, 291 for the Lib Dems and 280 Conservative. Both Ken and Jeanette did better individually.

It was also pleasing to see the local Lib Dem candidate Meral Ece so badly beaten. She was one of those who caused the split in the Labour Group back in 1996, which subsequently led to 6 years of no overall control and the council almost being closed down. She subsequently stood as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Islington. Expect her to turn up as a Tory next!

In policy terms, the most significant change will be the Tory pledge to reduce the amount of social housing required by the London Plan. We will also need to monitor how Transport for London shifts towards the motorist and if public transport is given less priority.

It’s clear the Tories still see Boris Johnson as a potential liability and are carefully surrounding him with a team of experienced people picked by Central Office. Indeed many of their assembly members are seriously annoyed at the way they been sidelined.

Finally, Brownswood had the highest proportion in Hackney of people using their second preference vote (90%) – proof that we were chosen by a discerning electorate!

Kings Crescent estate

Negotiations with the potential new development partners are proceeding well and it is hoped to conclude Heads of Terms within the month.

The refurbishment of the southern blocks will proceed, funded directly by the council and government grant. There was a second open day on Wednesday 14th May, to consult residents on the design. Planning permission is now being sought.

An extensive programme of environmental works and improvements is also underway.

The next meeting is of the Steering Group, which Brian chairs, is on 2nd July.

Labour Group AGM

Feryat was elected Group Treasurer as well as an assistant whip. Brian remains the deputy chief whip as well as Vice-Chair of Audit, and was elected Vice-Chair of Licensing. Darren was re-elected as a member of Group Executive, and remains Design Champion.

Building Control

One of the councils less celebrated functions – preventing dangerous structures - swung into action recently in the ward. Building works to a house at the corner of Princess Crescent and Gloucester Drive left it dangerous and liable to collapse. It has been temporarily secured whilst permanent remedial measures are instituted. All costs are recoverable from the owners.

Woodberry Down

The Cabinet meeting at the end of April approved a package of measures to support those shopkeepers on the estate wishing to transfer into new units on the “old school site”.

The planning application for this site was approved with conditions and reserved matters, at the March planning committee, and preliminary works have started.

The Estate Development Committee’s plans to transform into the Woodberry Down Community Organisation, were also supported by the Cabinet in April, and are due to be implemented at their forthcoming meeting.

The revised masterplan will be considered at a future planning committee, and we are not expecting the change of leadership at the GLA to have any immediate impact.

The competitive process to select a RSL and a developer for the remaining sites is continuing.

Blackstock Road

We have been hinting for some time at the major police operation planned against organised crime on Blackstock. Figures from the police and phone companies show that well over half of all mobile phones stolen in London were later resold there. Increasingly laptops, PDAs and SatNavs also featured. Indeed it was the biggest single hotspot for such crime in the whole country.

“Operation Mista” involved over a thousand officers in total, with raids in the morning at other locations and searches in Blackstock itself in the afternoon. Nineteen identified premises were searched, with more than 80 individuals arrested altogether. Significant amounts of stolen property, cash, drugs and forged passports were recovered.

As well as the actual crime, one of the main issues raised with us by residents was the intimidating feeling that just having so many people hanging about on the street caused. There were also many reports of actual harassment, particularly of women and girls.

The imposition of the dispersal zone by the two councils and police forces was intended to counter this. It appears to have been so successful that the police feel they may be able to let it lapse at the end of June.

At the same time as increasing enforcement activity, we have always emphasised the need to work with the residents and traders to promote the area positively. A new charter attempting to summarise the community’s aspirations for the area was launched on the 29th May. We continue to explore the possibility of a Blackstock Road Festival, which may include closing the road, in the summer.

Police Community Advisory Panel

All three councillors attended the last CAP meeting on the 21st May. The major discussion was about the Blackstock Road operations, which the group strongly endorsed.

Other issues included continuing ASB on the estates and street properties, burglary and robbery rates, and snatch theft prevention advice.

Portland Rise and Amwell Court

The TRA had applied for a grant to the “10 pence tenants levy” fund to run summer activities for the youth on both of the estates. This was successful and a 12 week water works activities program for 20 young people has started at the reservoir.

Annual Council 14th May

Councillor Ian Rathbone from Leabridge was elected Speaker (the ceremonial mayor) for the coming year, with Stoke Newington Central councillor Muttalip Unluer as his deputy.

We were pleased to have former local residents Ellen O’Donoghue and Robin Hewings as our guests.

Fairtrade status

Hackney has been officially recognised as a fairtrade borough. Feryat is vice-chair of the organising committee.

Parkwood School

We reported last time that the latest OFSTED report on the school was about to be published. It was rated outstanding. The full report is available on the OFSTED website or from the school.

The school is also due to be featured on BBC4 this Wednesday at 9pm (with repeats throughout the week), as part of a series called "My new best friend" on the transition between primary and secondary school.

Brian Bell, Feryat Demirci and Darren Parker
Labour Councillors for Brownswood