Monday, March 29, 2010

Hackney wins big at Local Government C Awards

Hackney was the big winner at the Local Government Chronicle's annual awards ceremony on 24th March, picking up three of the prestigious industry awards, more than any other Council.

The borough won top prize in the Children's Services, Employee Engagement and Place of the Year categories, as well as being second in the Council of the Year category. The borough was also a finalist in the adult social care category for Personalisation and Choice.

The Council's elected Mayor Jules Pipe and Chief Executive Tim Shields were joined at the awards ceremony by the Borough Commander Chief Superintendent Steve Bending, the Principal of Hackney Community College Ian Ashman and the Chief Executive of the Shoreditch Trust Michael Pyner.

In its write up of the night the LGC said; 'The biggest winner on the night was Hackney LBC who took home 3 awards.

Children's Services for a strategy that demonstrated a scale of ambition underpinned by a clear philosophy and a well structured delivery as well as showing a clear evidence of impact.

Employee Engagement for the strong emotional connection employees have with the borough and its people, both in their strong vision for the future, and in the involvement of staff across the organisation.

And finally Place of the Year for their ability to demonstrate again and again how their focus, partnerships, strategic and political leadership has made a real difference on the ground.'

Monday, March 01, 2010

My report for March

Budget 2010/11

At the council meeting on Wednesday 3rd March we expect to freeze the council tax for a record fifth year, the only council in the country to be able to achieve this.
This didn’t happen by accident. It was the result of 8 years hard work by this Labour administration to improve services and deliver them more efficiently. We are ranked as the top London borough for this and are third nationally.

The latest overall financial position is that the General Fund is coming in at £661k underspent, ie within 0.07% of budget. And this includes £3.5m of contingencies which are assumed spent. The next biggest element of our finances, the Housing Revenue Account is £607k underspent – again only a fraction off target.

The current capital programme includes £114m for housing schemes and £152m for other investment of which the biggest element is schools. Results include -
 Refurbishment of Kings Crescent
 Regeneration and interim repairs on Woodberry Down
 New Skinners secondary school and extended WD primary
 Clissold park and house works
 Stoke Newington Town Hall reopened
 New youth club on St Olaves/Apex site
 Decent Homes works on Amwell Court, and next year St Johns Court
 Highways, footways and lighting improvements, and tree planting
 Hackney Service centre opened

At the same time resident perception has changed significantly with a rise in satisfaction of 12% in the last two years alone, distinctly against the national trend.

£27 million extra for Woodberry Down regeneration

We reported last time that the government’s Homes and Communities Agency has approved an extra £27m to fund affordable housing on Woodberry Down. This will see 187 social rented and 60 shared ownership homes built on two sites - Woodberry Grove North and the cleared site just south of the row of shops on Green Lanes. Work is set to begin in March 2010, with completion in 2012.

The phasing plan for the estate has been varied to mean that Peak and Petherton houses will now be the next to be decanted and demolished. They may be followed by Nichol and Needwood. Spring Park Drive will remain as it is for the next 4 years. We have made clear to officers that they must minimise the number of double decants, make sure any interim accommodation is of the highest standard, and ensure that the needs of vulnerable residents are carefully taken into account at each stage.

Despite the cold weather, building work on the Old School Site continue to progress well with the Block F (33 homes for social rent) almost complete and Block G’s (84 for social rent) concrete structure being finished. Foundations for Block E (46 shared ownership) have been laid and the cores are going up. Construction of the new secondary school remains on schedule.

Kings Crescent Estate

The planning application for the refurbishment of the retained part of Lemsford was approved last Wednesday. It provides for the “erection of a single storey front/side extension at ground floor level to provide a secure entrance, cycle store and lifts; installation of a new metal pitched roof; installation of new UPVC windows and doors; and a new glazing to walkways on the north elevation”. Works, including the demolition of the other half, should be underway in late May.

Refurbishments are now largely complete in Kelshall, Therfield, Bramfield, Theobalds and soon to start in Datchworth and Weston. All tenants are getting new kitchens and bathrooms, together with rewiring and associated improvements, and some get new balconies, extended flats and door entry systems. A number of improvements to practice have been made as we learned from the process.

The planning application for Weston and Datchworth east went in at the start of February. It proposes “the provision of a new roof to Datchworth Court and Weston Court and replacement of existing windows in Weston Court with new UPVC windows”. Approval is expected by mid March. The amount which can be recharged to leaseholders for all of these works, is as before a major issue.

Neighbourhood housing management

The current contracts all come up for renewal in the next 18 months. This is due to be considered at the Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Portland Rise playground

I had previously bid for funding for new play equipment as part of a pathfinder project. Carefully designed climbing, balancing and water features are proposed. Planning permission was approved on the 3rd of February with work to begin by mid March.

Clapton Library

The successfully refurbished building reopened this month – some information here The new main library being provided as part of the Dalston Lane South development is also on schedule.

Alexandra National House

The government have also approved approx £10 million in total funding, to rebuild Alex Nat. This was under the Local Authority New Build programme and will provide 67 units of pure council housing. This will mean detailed planning for the social element and outline planning for the whole of the site, being sought by July 2010, with a start on site by end September 2010 and completion by 31 March 2012. In both Rounds 1 and 2, the council was the most successful in London and second nationally. Hackney secured £16.2 million funding, or 23% of the total in London.

Councillor Brian Bell