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:


Richard Brannigan said...

Hi. Most of the local initiatives (festivals, gueriila gardening, art festivals, soup kitchens, etc) are put together by middle class & upper working class Wickers.
How would a parish council engage ALL Hackney Wick residents sufficiently?

Or do the tories think that they can pretend to engage everyone in the safe knowledge that only the middle classes will be making decisions for the rest of us.
What time do the majority of us have to attend endless council meetings, planning sessions, license applications, etc?

This smacks of a tory stealth take-over of Hackney Wick.


Mohamed said...

OMG!!!! I never saw a single Tory on my doorstep at the last election. Now they are trying to be elected by stealth!
If Boff really wants to change local politics, maybe he & Woods should get out a bit more.
How about starting by coming to all the Curiosity Shop events this weekend?

Beth Goodson said...

What would the border actually be? As we are half in Tower Hamlets (TH) & half in Hackney Council (HC - can we decide to create a new cross-border parish council?

It would certainly put paid to both TH & HC's normal excuse for not paying too much attention to us 'because it's their responsibility'.

'Their' always being the other council.

Jill Hayden said...

Hi Beth
Yours (as usual) is a good point.
I can't stand it when the councils play each other off - when I as a Hackney Council tax payer want illegal parking sorted at the Wallis/Berkshire intersection.

Every working day I have to push our buggy into the very fast moving Berkshire - to-&-from school.

And when I phone up HC - they say it's Tower Hamlets repsonsibility. When I phone Tower Hamlets up - it's supposedly Hackney Councils responsibility?!

If we had our own local Wick parish council - maybe we can cut through all this nonsense?

Superlegato 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, all 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?

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?

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':

Ade Finni said...

Thanks for posting this article up here.
Like superlegato above, I find it very worrying that the Tory party are trying to act all urban & pretend that they REALLY care about the great unwashed of Hackney Wick.

What does Mathew Woods mean by '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.'

It can only mean that there's another expensive consultation making its way to the Wick.

How soon? Who's sponsoring it? Are the Tories involved in drawing up the questions?

I would like more info please Matthew Woods.

Matt Woods said...

Thanks for your comment, Ade.

When I say that the people will have their say, it means that if 10% of the electors in the area petition the council, it must instigate a "community governance review" to find out the opinions of people in the area. The questions will be decided and asked by Hackney council and they will report their findings within a year.

At the moment, all I'm doing is sounding out local opinion to see if people want to look into this further. They might. They might not.

This process also has nothing to do with political parties. The legislation that encourages these sorts of councils was enacted by the previous Labour government and parish councils tend to be non-party political. I think that's the way it should be. Andrew Boff was invited to the community meeting by me because of his involvement with the London Fields Community Council and also to explain changes to local planning rules as a result of the Mayoral Development Corporation taking over planning authority from Hackney Council for Hackney Wick. In the case that the new MDC doesn't have any representatives from Hackney Wick, the setting up of a Community Council was suggested as a way of ensuring the people of Hackney Wick had a statutory right to have an input at the planning stage for all the upcoming legacy developments, which will impact hugely on the Wick.

If you'd like further information, Ade, please e-mail me ( and I can send you more stuff or give you a call for a chat.

Superlegato said...

To: Ade Finni

I totally agree with your concerns. They only want your money, they're not interested in what you really think.

Here are some examples as to why it's a bit late to ask our opinion on anything at all. I'm using the issue of local radioactivity as an example. (note: Thorium-232 has a half life of 14.05 billion years)

1) Drums of radioactive waste on the Olympic Site dating back to the 1960s (old Manor Garden allotments):

2) Tories didn't know about the reactor at 101 Marshgate Lane!

3) 7,300 tonnes of radioactive waste to be buried at Olympic Site:

You can find non-media based articles at the archives of Newham Council to verify any of this.

Ade said...

Thanks for the reply Matt

I'm not too sure if you're aware that none of our objections to the designs for the Olympic media & press centre buildings were considerred.

We objected in the strongest terms and even got Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) to object on our behalf. The buildings are a disgrace to the Olympic park.

Because the ODA only submit their planning applications to ...... wait for it........ the ODA - how do we - the local community ever stand a chance of objecting to any new developement that comes our way?

Believe me when I say that I'm not being Nimbyist - I'm all for the regeneration & investment into Hackney Wick.

But it has to support the existing (less well off) population - and increase the job prospects for everyone. Be they caterers or software developers.

What is the difference between the ODA and the mayors new MDC (old LDA)? Ultimately, they both are answerable to only themselves. Boris will submit his planning to the new LDA - and pass his plans anyway - just as the ODA does.

Plus - I've been consulted by a few Hackney Wick Partnership reps for the past few years now - and given my input. What happens to all the plans they showed us late last year?

Does Boris just rip up all their hard work and start again?

Matt Woods said...

Ade, I share your concern about the new MDC. Sounds to me like a rubber stamp for the Olympic park and a way of taking planning away from the boroughs and local people.

The real test will be whether they allow any local council to take a cut of the community infrastructure levy from developments that lie within its boundaries but also those of the Olympic Park. The Media Centre (opposite my apartment!) lies within the London Borough of Hackney. If the MDC were duty bound to consult the Wick Council on its development and give us a cut of the CIL, it could be worth it. If they cut us out and it all gets lost in the MDC sausage machine, then that would just confirm people's cynicism.

Do put together these types of questions though, as if we put this to consultation, we'll need to know answers.

Superlegato said...


Lovely lovely taxes disappearing to the ether...

If we have the Wick Council on top too, we could have more acronyms. That would make the Wick Council - the WC :)

That's where your money will go too.

Matt Woods said...

I do not believe the Wick Community council should collect a precept.

I don't think 10% of the people in an area should have the right to take money off the other 90%. Taxes are high enough as it is and once any council starts collecting taxes, it only encourages it to spend money and become dependent (just look at how dependent Hackney council is on an annual government bailout)

I would favour the Wick Council being voluntary. If it wants to put up park bences or bins, or plant trees and flowers, it can raise the money from public subscription or donations (be they monetary, material or practical) from local businesses. It can also claim a portion of the community infrastructure levy (CIL) on new developments, so there really shouldn't be the need to start putting up taxes. I also think that a council that can't charge taxes has to involve people more in local fundraising and decision-making.

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