Friday, February 18, 2011

Our February report

Councillors Report – February 2011

Woodberry Down regeneration

Hackney Council has successfully lobbied the HCA for a further £15m to continue building homes on Woodberry Down Estate over the next five years. The funding was secured after the Council agreed to invest over £16m, with our development partner Berkley Homes putting in more than £30m in to the programme.

Planning permission for most of Phase 2 of the Woodberry Down redevelopment , which includes most of the Brownswood part, was granted in January, with a further application due in March. Going forward this means we have secured almost half of the 4,600 homes planned for the 20-year regeneration. This is a major step forward in the current climate when developments across the country have come to a halt.
We are proud that we have got this far in what has been a long fight for local residents. We will continue to work hard to make sure the funding delivers outstanding new homes for people in our community.

The first two social rented blocks on the Old School Site are to be handed over in May 2011. Most of the residents of Peak and Petherton have been decanted or accepted offers, and it has begun in Nichol and Needwood. Work on the 268 Green Lanes site began in October with 27 flats for social rent to be built there. Discussions about the community, health and youth centres continue.

Council Budget

When the Local Government Finance Settlement was finally announced, the Coalition government were reducing Hackney’s formula grant by 11.3% and 7.6% in the years 2011/12 and 2012/13 respectively. Lobbying on behalf of local government forced them to introduce transitional measures which would allow them to claim it was only a maximum of 8.9% this year.

The Labour Group identified an initial £14m of savings in July and a further £6.6m in October. Among the remaining measures which should balance our budget are –
 £3m from reducing pension fund revaluation contributions
 £2.54m from increasing council tax base and collection rate assumptions
 £2m from reduced ”on-costs” and concentrating staff in fewer buildings
 £1.88m from Council Tax Freeze Grant
 £1m from senior management restructure

Of a further £17m grant which went to our Local Strategic Partnership, we will have to decide how much to fund directly. Indications are that we might be able to pick up approx £3m concentrating on youth work, gangs and domestic violence.

Other policies being implemented by the Coalition which will damage Hackney include
- possibly ending security of tenure in social housing
- reductions in police funding
- slashing affordable housing budgets
- knock-on effect on the voluntary sector
- changes to housing and other benefits, including scrapping EMA

Kings Crescent Estate

New CCTV has been installed at the junction of Brownswood Road and Kings Crescent, to help deter the prostitution there.

We are investigating resiting the Woodberry Works construction training programme to Kings Crescent on the basis that it would be opened up to young people from throughout the area.

The next package of works on the estate include
• new lobbies and door entry systems
• lift replacement
• lighting and lateral mains works
• new roofs to Weston and Lemsford

The lift replacement programme is beginning in Therfield Court which is served by up to 3 lifts. However in other blocks where walkways have been closed off, there is only one and this will need careful management to minimise inconvenience to residents.

Policing and community safety

The January CAP meeting started with a consultation survey led by the Inspector who oversees all the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in Hackney North. The meeting expressed strong support for our local team and their continued engagement with the community. Our fear was that this consultation was being used to prepare the ground for cuts to neighbourhood policing. Specifically, suggestions around joining with New River and different shift patterns were unpopular and we will have to keep a close eye on this developing issue over the next few months.

The rest of the meeting discussed local issues as normal (and it was great that members of Hackney's Youth Parliament were there too). We were please to hear that the dispersal zone around Manor House tube has been extended for a further 3 months and that there had been no displacement of gangs or anti-social behaviour to other areas of the ward. Residents, particularly those from the estate expressed their continued support for the zone.

The police team reported on their push on tackling prostitution and the fact that the robbery squad was now looking to support our area to deal with a number of incidents. The priorities for the next two months were agreed as – prostitution; burglaries; youth diversion/better communication.

Councillors Brian Bell, Oli de Botton and Feryal Demirci