Friday, 4 March 2011

They Say All Politics Is Local

Parish the thought!

They say all politics is local, but how local? Well now, for Hackney residents (including the Wick), the way local decisions are made, on everything from house-building to park benches and licensing to Olympic planning, could be changing very soon.

London Assembly member, Andrew Boff, certainly thinks so. He came to Leabank Square Community Association’s latest meeting to tell us how he’s using a change in the law to set up a community council (a sort of urban parish council) for London Fields ( and how the same idea might apply to the Wick.

We all think of Parish councils as being something for the countryside, or small villages, like the one up North where I’m from, but few people know that residents in urban areas can set up their own ( Cities having very blurred boundaries (Where exactly is Shoreditch??), there are few places within built-up areas that can said to be a self-contained community, but if anywhere is, surely it has to be our very own Hackney Wick?

So what would we do with an Urban Parish Council, or a Community Council if we decided to set one up? Well, for a start, the community council would have the right to be consulted on planning decisions in the local area, something that’s going to be a big issue for the Wick with all the Olympic developments and Lottery regeneration coming up. Urban parish/community councils can also share in the proceeds of new developments, make arrangements to put up more litter bins, get together to run allotments, organise local festivals or improve the local land and townscapes.

Wouldn’t this just cost a lot more money and mean more politicians though? That depends. The sort of community council people want for their area is up to them. Some parish councils don’t collect money and are entirely voluntary, funding improvements using their share of planning and development fees, public subscription or donations. Others might charge a precept, usually not more than £20 a year, and some will use a combination of these options. Relations with ward councillors and the borough are all issues that have been raised by opponents in other areas and it’s clear that the model isn’t for everywhere and that there are issues to be addressed. It seems that whether the Wick gets a Community Council or not and the success of that council will be dependent on one factor: US, the residents.

As with any local enterprise, it is what people make it. The make-up and ambition of a community council is a reflection of the local population. Would this work for our area? The people of Hackney Wick (the area bound by the Eastway, Railyway line and canal) will very soon be getting a chance to have their say. If more than 10% of the local population sign a petition to set up a Community Council, we could very soon be finding out.

Further information: A google search of “Urban parish Councils” will bring up lots of articles in the local and national press. This website shows the breadth of services that might be provided:

This article was written by our most enthusiastic gardener & Conservative Party Councillor hopeful - Mathhew Woods. Some of us have been lucky to work alongside him in the gardens - and will remember just how hard he grafts. And then other will remember him canvassing locally at the last election. Whatever your politics - you have to agree that Matt has Leabank Square & the rest of the Wick's interests at heart. Thanks Matt.

See also:


Tony said...

Hi Matt.
It's a goodish idea, but I'm wondering what the socio demographic make up that's needed is?
We all know that you need many well off & worrieds to get something like this off the ground. But here in LS we have mainly least off & extremely worrieds.
It would be interesting to see if something like this could take off in the Wick.

Matt Woods said...

I think you're right, Tony. I've no idea how it will pan out really or indeed what any socio demographic would be. What I would say is that events such as Hackney Wicked, Hackney Wick Festival, the night shelter at St Mary of Eton, LSCA, the Flea Market and all the other great things that go on round here, show that the people of the Wick are more than capable of pulling together to organise things and make their area better. A lot would depend on how much local people want any new community council to do, but I like to start from the point of view that people of all backgrounds care about their area and to take it from there.

Anonymous said...

Question: Why would a group of Conservatives suddenly turn up at Leabank Square with these ideas?

Answer: To tax and control you of course.

Paradoxically, the mainstream parties promise you more accountability and power but at the same time drain you of your income leaving you with less. It's always just another £20 isn't it?

Big Society and social integration in the community are the crackpot ideas they are pushing right now.

The Conservatives have currently employed the controversial French 'Common Purpose' organisation to help them push all sorts of dubious ideas. Their 'reframing' aren't far off a subtle form of brainwashing. They have set up an department using your taxes called the 'Behavioural Insight Team.'

An overview of their techniques:

How their idea of social integration is being pushed:

List of advisors and 'experts':

Anonymous said...

Southwater Parish Council charges £170 a year per household for their 'community services'.

Even the examples in the brochure to which Boff links start at £40/year.

That £20/year charge is looking a bit cheap now isn't it?

Last time I looked Hackney Wicked was not only free but the hard work of Ingrid Zeltins and her friends.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the Poll Tax: dubious charges added to the yearly bill for fuck all back?!

Matt Woods said...

Well superlegato, I share your scepticism about Common Purpose (an organisation that most conservatives view as being a left-wing thing!) and certainly about the "Big Society", which I think is an awful phrase for describing a half-baked idea, and which is redundant because volunteering and community work ALREADY EXISTS, as you rightly say when citing Hackney Wicked.

This idea is non-party political. The bill that allowed for the creation of Urban Parish councils was passed in 2008, two years before the election. If you're worried that there are thousands of staunch conservatives lying dormant in the Wick, ready to implement some government conspiracy, do tell me where they are, because when I ran for election in May, conservatives in Hackney Wick were pretty few and far between!

Mohamed said...

Is this the same Tory Councillor Wannabe who we - of course - all met on our doorsteps throughout the whole campaign?!
Never even smelt them!

Anonymous said...

@Matt Woods:

Taxation is political by its very nature. The Urban Parish Council will require anything from £40-£200 per household in funding.

Although the bill was passed in 2008 by Labour as you said, it's the Conservatives who will allow their legislation to take its course. It makes a mockery of the idea that one party is somehow different to another.

It's a bit like the Conservatives bringing in Beeching to close some railways, losing the election only for Barbara Castle of Labour to finish the job of closure.

It's little wonder people have had enough of politicians and the system in which they thrive.

Matt said...

Hi Sóna
Remember me discussing that age old problem of border/boundary politics?
Maybe this would solve it for Hackney Wick.
All the rubbish that both Hackney Council & Tower Hamlets give us when we want dog mess, parking, yellow lines, squatters, fly tipping, speed limits, etc sorted out?
Complete independence from Hackney Council would be by far the best idea.
Pity it didn't come before the Olympic idiots moved into the neighbourhood. We could have fought for far better plans for the crap buildings they dumped on top of us!
At least let's see what interest there is in this idea.
Other Matt

Mary said...

Matt (other Matt) - it wouldn't have helped having a parish council before the olympics anyway as they are a law unto themselves.

Just as they can ban any other local indigenous, tasty, Hackney Wick based cafe's & restuarants like Morgans, the Pearl, Counter Cafe, etc selling food in the Olympic Park - so can only they pass building plans.

I seriously don't even think Jules Pipe would have passed these dumps onto the Wick if he had some control.

The oda seems to just do as it pleases, and then pretends to 'consult' us locals.

Wouldn't this just happen with any major regeneration coming the Wicks way? Let's just stick to the devil we know and let Hackney Council carry on ignoring the Wick.

Anonymous said...

To Mary:

"Counter Cafe"

I'm afraid 'The Counter' gets a lot of its food from 3663, a large food distributor (parent company is South African and has 108,000 employees). An enormous lorry pulls up outside our flats most days. 3663 also supplies prisons.

Derek said...

It'll never work man. Where do we have the time to do any of this? All us have work, sumtimes 2-3 jobs on the go. Kids to bring up and check homework in evenings. Part time job on Saturdays. Church on Sundays.
Monday the whole story starts all over agen.
Where we get time to get so involved in who picks our rubbish up and where we need more yellow lines. Never happen in Hackney Wick. Maybe dem poshie areas but not here.

Anonymous said...

This is my last word on the matter. It's to you all if you want to be fleeced by conmen.

British Waterways are planning to raise the 'rent' for boat folk from £600 to £7000 per year. A permanent mooring is currently £9000 per year. This is all despite BW having an increase in their subsidy from the Government purse.

This means the narrowboat owners from this whole area will have to move on from the Olympic area. Problem is - to WHERE?

These are real issues impacting upon real people - not pie in the sky nonsense about fake democracy.

If some of you think this may just apply to boat owners, consider how your service charge or rent may increase in the next 12 months. Those at Omega Works, E3 are currently being presented with rent increases of 10-20% - so it's pay or leave.

Paul said...

Sóna, if I've told you once, I've told you a HUNDRED times!

NEVER guerilla garden PINK flowers!

Derek said...

Paul, I think more of the pink flowers than I do of this parish idea. This new Boris Zone will mean that we're back to Square 1 when it comes to objecting to heights of the new tower blocks, extended CPZ's, etc.
Boff's a Tory, Boris's a Tory - could there be some connection maybe?

Matt Woods said...

Derek, I'm not sure I'm following your point.

We currently have no rights to be consulted on things like Tower Blocks as you suggest and we're facing having Olympic Park planning decisions (including on the Media Centre, which is part of Hackney Wick) taken away from us and put in the hands of the Mayoral Development Corporation, which isn't obliged to include ANY representative from Hackney Wick.

A community council would have a statutory right to be consulted on all of these issues and would be entitled to a cut of any money collected from new developments via the community infrastructure levy. At the moment we have nothing.

What's your point?

Derek said...

Matt, we were all asked to comment on the Felstead Road blocks that went up in 2008 - and it was only because we vociferously objected to 4 new blocks - each of 14 stories hight - that Hackney Council sent Family Mosaic back to the drawing boards.

I admit that one of 12, two of 7 and a smaller 4 story block wasn't a major victory - but they still HAD to consult our surrounding streets before passing the plans. This does not happen in the Olympic Park - and it will not happen in the Boris Zone.

Matt Woods said...

That's fair enough Derek, but in that case, you're opposing the Mayoral Development Corporation, not the Wick Council.

I agree that it will be difficult to lodge objections to the MDC, which is why I've suggested that a community council might (MIGHT) be a possible way to ensure that the peole of the Wick have a statutory right to be consulted.

Derek said...

'Might' or 'would' Matt? In one thread you say we 'would' be able to oppose planning applications, the next we 'might'.

I agree that having a smaller more geographicly-centric council would be a good thing for the Wick. We have for too long been ignored by Hackney Council man.

You also get me wrong. All I'm saying is that some of us are too busy just gettin by to have time to join a smaller local council.

But thats why its even more important that we shouldn't have a knee-jerk reaction - and support Boris.

Swapping one council thats been round longer and knows what to do (but doesn't do it) - for one that is gonna start from scratch (but with only more well off Wickers who have the time for it) - is NOT a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Matt - time to put the idea to bed now.