Friday, March 25, 2011

March Councillors Report

Councillors Report – March 2011

Woodberry Down regeneration

The planning application for the next stage of the redevelopment goes to the March planning committee. It consists of a mix of “724 affordable and private residential units, a 2,250 sqm health facility, 980 sqm commercial floorspace, associated amenity space including a new park, underground car parking and cycle parking. The scheme comprises the erection of six blocks ranging in height from 3 storeys to 9 storeys.”

This will see the majority of the Brownswood part of the estate undergoing regeneration, despite the sometimes hostile financial and political climate. As reported last month, 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.

All 33 units for rent in the block F have now been completed and inspected by Genesis. After snagging, they should be available on schedule in May for residents from Needwood and Nichol to move into. It’s to be named Reservoir Apartments.

The next block to complete is the 84 for rent in “Watersreach” and this is on schedule for early May 2011, with all units now decorated and kitchens and bathrooms installed. The landscaping to the communal courtyard between Watersreach and Reservoir is well advanced as is the fit out of the new Community Centre which will open at the same time as the block is occupied. The remainder of the New River path is on target to open the 1st week in May 2011.

The rear block at 268 Green Lanes is now up to 1st floor level with a tower crane shortly to be installed.

The decant process of Peak & Petherton Houses continues and may be complete as early as the end of March.

Council Budget

We are due to adopt a budget on Wednesday 2nd March, and have explained the basis of this in earlier reports. Mostly by continuing the process of achieving efficiencies in how the council does things, we have been able to protect frontline services this year. This will be despite a mob baying for us to make a gesture and abdicate our responsibilities to officers.

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. We are being careful not to absorb this Transition Grant into the base budget as it is not guaranteed for future years.

A further £17m grant which went to our Local Strategic Partnership, called Team Hackney, was also cut. The Labour Group agreed that the Council should step in financially and continue more than £3M of services that had been commissioned by Team Hackney.
• £2.2M for youth provision
• £860K for community safety, youth crime reduction and gang intervention work
• £200K for domestic violence reduction

Kings Crescent Estate

We are due to have first sight of the new masterplan on Thursday 3rd March.

Policing and community safety

Last September, the police, working with the local community imposed a dispersal zone around the Manor House tube area to prevent ongoing concerns around anti-social behaviour and gang related crime. Since then there has been an 81% reduction in recorded crime offences when comparing to he period immediately prior to the dispersal order. Calls to the police have also reduced by 20% during this period.

We have been attempting to help local residents object to elements of the more disruptive events held in Finsbury Park. However Haringey’s licensing department is being unusually obstructive.

Manor TRA

The group discussed issues related to the three estates (Lakeside Court, Portland Rise and Amwell Court), including:
* Agreement of how to spend this year's Environmental Improvement Budget which is managed by the group. The focus is to be on communual areas of Amwell Court
* The dispersal zone around Manor House, which residents felt had not negatively impacted on the area
* Agreement to use Amwell community centre as a drop centre for census staff to support local residents

Questions for the council included the future of Decent Homes funding and youth intervention strategies. Our census contact came to the meeting. The 2011 census is being held on the 27th March. It is important that we get accurate returns from Hackney as grant funding is linked to our head count. In the past because of poor returns we have been under funded. Our contact for Brownswood is Tony Harms - e-mail or Phone 020 8800 5735 or 07557134708.

Decent Homes funding

In the October 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, the government announced reduced funding for Decent Homes. It stated that it would provide £1.6bn over the four-year period, which it thought sufficient to address 50% of the remaining non-decent homes over the next four years.

On 17 February, Hackney received it’s indicative allocation of £61.5m of from the Homes and Community Agency (HCA) for the years 2011/12 to 2014/15:

2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 Total
£15,833,333 £18,250,000 £16,000,000 £11,500,000 £61,583,333

The estimated funding requirement to complete the Decent Homes programme is £89m, leaving a shortfall of approximately £28.5m. There is no indication that central government will provide further resources in future years. In addition, the allocations for 2013/14 & 2014/15 are only provisional and not guaranteed

Council officers are now updating the draft plans for Decent Homes works to reflect the funding allocations, with the aim of presenting a range of options in late March. The plans will include a mix of both internal and external works that look to meet existing commitments which have previously given to residents.

In our ward, we will be urging that both Portland Rise and St Johns Court are prioritised.

Campaigning against the government

Several branch members joined us at Hackney Labour’s rally against the cuts on Tuesday evening at Stoke Newington Town Hall. Hackney’s Mayor and MPs spoke together with Labour’s London Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone.

The next task is to persuade people to support the national TUC demo from 11am on Saturday 26th March. Hackney members are meeting up at Hackney Junction station at 10pm.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Census 2011

Most people would have started receiving their Census forms or will receive them by 27th March the latest.

This Census has enormous implications for Hackney and its people; it takes place every 10 years and is the official count of the population. The official population figures are used to calculate the amount of Government funding to be allocated to local areas for a range of services including health, education, social services, youth services, emergency serves and police.

At the 2001 Census the response rate in Hackney was 73% - second lowest in the country! It’s estimated that Hackney lost out on over £50m. So getting it right this time is critical to ensure that we have fair funding to deliver the services needed in Hackney.

You can fill your form in online, simply visit: 

If you need assistance filling in your form, there is plenty of help available.  You can call the Census helpline 03000 201 text relay service 1800 1 0300 0201 160.