Thursday, March 05, 2009
Our report to March
Budget and council tax 2009/10
The council meeting to set the budget took place last night. As intended, we were able to freeze the Hackney element of the council tax again, for the fourth year in a row. Hackney is the only major council in the country to be able to do this. Residents are on average £256 better off. In addition the GLA/Mayor of London are intending to freeze their element this year.
Despite this, through better use of resources we plan to
* Increase schools spending 3.9% per pupil
* Reopen Stoke Newington Assembly Hall and offices
* Invest a further £0.576m in recycling
* Open 1 new and 1 completely refurbished library
* Put an additional £0.5m into cleansing
* Further expand statutory youth services by £0.38m
* Recruit more environmental health officers, including ones specialising in noise pollution and food standards
* Allocate over £1m more towards adult social services
* Offer free swimming to children and seniors all year round
The Audit Commission will announce tomorrow that Hackney is again a 3 Star (out of 0-4) council, and continues to improve strongly. We also commission annual research from MORI into levels of satisfaction with public services in the borough. In 2000, overall satisfaction with the council was under 20%. It is now over 70%. In addition, 48% agree their council is getting better – 12% higher than any other.
Kings Crescent Estate
We previously reported residents’ disenchantment with the prolonged tendering process for regeneration partners, and the delays to the start of interim works. They have had to endure 11 years of lengthy negotiations and false starts, while the fabric of the estate has sometimes been allowed to decline. At the previous Steering Group, the TRA notified us that they no longer sought a comprehensive regeneration, but wanted the estate refurbished and retained by the council.
Whilst we have been advised that legally we cannot arbitrarily terminate the current process, we have made clear to officers our view that the current developers should either sign up to Heads of Terms, or be regarded as no longer credible. The crucial meeting with them is due this week.
The interim works which we have been campaigning for during the last year have finally begun. The entrance to Kelshall Court on Brownswood Road (opposite the Poundstretcher) which attracted prostitution has been converted to a door entry system. The residents there are delighted.
The rest of the interim works and associated repairs are programmed between now and the autumn. They will include –
Highway repair and replacement
Lighting replacement and upgrading
Roof repairs where necessary, especially to staircases
Safety and access improvements, including some repainting
The first set of refurbishments which the council has funding set aside for, could then begin as soon as June if we are able to use existing framework contractors including those for Decent Homes. We have asked officers to properly consult residents on the materials and design to be used.
Assuming negotiations with the current potential development partnership are unsuccessful, the future programme of refurbishments will be subject to adequate provision being made in the capital programme. We have met with the new Deputy Mayor several times to try to ensure she makes Kings Crescent a top priority.
The Brownswood Safer Neighbourhoods Team will be moving in to a shared office with the Highbury team in the former plant hire/carpet warehouse on Blackstock Road later this year. This may also be the base for a new dedicated Blackstock Road/Nags Head SNT.
The Labour Government, through the Homes and Communities Agency, has made £16 million available to ensure the social housing on the Old School Site is built as planned. A ground breaking ceremony is now planned for 12th March.
Bids for the rest of the “Kickstart” sites totalling £50m have been submitted. Again if agreed these would allow the building of the social housing to start before any private units.
A revised PDA for these sites is being put to cabinet members on 2nd March.
It remains the intention to select a housing association to take forward the regeneration of the rest of the estate – ie non Kickstart sites – by 3rd March. The accompanying private developer for the rest will be appointed in June if it goes according to schedule.
Interim works are being put on hold pending greater clarity of the phasing of future development.
WDCO (the Woodberry Down Community Organisation) is the body meant to represent all tenants and residents, but sadly is frequently poorly attended and unrepresentative. It feels that priority for the first new homes should be given to residents already moved elsewhere within the estate. If this was agreed rather than priority for those in the Spingpark Drive part of Phase 2, it would seriously compromise the overall programme and mean a “double decant” for future waves.
The building of the new Skinners Academy has started on programme. A ground breaking ceremony there had to be abandoned because of the bad weather last month.
Feryat is one of the council representatives on the Hackney Homes board. HH has recently undergone it’s second Audit Commission inspection of the year. It’s success in obtaining at a two star rating means that £225m additional decent homes funding has been released.
Manor TRA – Portland Rise, Amwell Court and Lakeside Court
The TRA have raised issues including noise nuisance from the adjoining Thames Water site which we are following up.
We are still seeking new development partners to help regenerate the site and provide rented, intermediate, private, and possibly retail, accommodation. One of the original four tenderers has been shortlisted. Their bid is currently being evaluated.
Brian and Feryat attended the residents meeting on 25th February to support them in establishing a permanent TRA. Further meetings are planned for 18th March and 22nd April.
Brian and Feryat were delighted to have been chosen to represent Labour again in 2010.
There was a very successful voter ID session on Sunday 25th February when 25 members from the ward and beyond turned out. In a single day we spoke to 3% of residents in the ward, and got 100 new Labour promises.