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News from Mayor Jules Pipe - March 2016

This is the second newsletter to keep members updated on key issues and events in the borough as well as the work of the Labour council.  We have now set a budget that best defends services from the Government’s punitive cuts and continue to deliver our local Labour manifesto for greater fairness and equality.

Housing Bill

Campaigning against the Housing Bill continues.  With ‘Save Hackney's Social Housing’ Cllr Phil Glanville is organising the Hackney element of the national ‘Kill the Housing Bill’ march on Sunday 13th March. ‘Save Hackney’s Social Housing’ is a loose group of Hackney tenants who attended the Hackney Homes briefing on the Housing Bill on 11th February and are now campaigning across Hackney to oppose the Housing Bill. Cllr Glanville met with them last week and agreed to arrange a Hackney meeting point before the march.  

If you want to join campaigners from Hackney they are meeting outside Hackney Town Hall between 10-11am before setting off together for Holborn, There is also a Facebook Event to RSVP to and share: https://www.facebook.com/events/610054879133719/

CllrG_Housing_Bill_march.jpg

Cllr Demirci, Cllr Glanville and Cllr Bramble on the Town Hall Steps - Join them this Sunday to save Hackney's Social Housing

The Housing and Planning Bill will cause untold damage to Hackney's social housing and it would be great to have a big turnout from Hackney.

If you want to know more about the wider campaign please visit: https://killthehousingbill.wordpress.com/

Budget

Hackney Council has approved a budget that will save £22 million over the coming year, while continuing to maintain vital frontline services and delivering our manifesto commitments to keep the borough clean, green and a great place to live, work and visit. 

 Central Government cuts mean that in 2016/17 Hackney must work with £110m less a year than in 2010, while rising costs and increased demand for services has added a further £42m of expenditure for the Council to find each year. In spite of these challenges, the 2016/17 budget will sustain and deliver the vital services the Council provides and on which its most vulnerable residents rely.

The Council also agreed to increase Council Tax for the first time in over a decade. The two per cent increase will go directly towards funding the rising cost of services for older and disabled adults. Government funding is based on the assumption that councils will apply this increase, which it calls an ‘adult social care precept’. Although Hackney’s element of the Council Tax will rise slightly, other reductions mean that average bills will rise by less than £1 a year.

Savings for the next 12 months were from continued back office savings, renegotiating contracts, reducing the amount of office space the Council uses and ensuring services are run as efficiently as possible. Service reviews have found new ways of using existing expenditure to improve, or at least maintain at reduced cost, front-line services.

Further savings will be necessary in future years, between 2017-2020, the period of the current Government funding arrangement.

Hackney continues to be hit hard by Central Government cuts and it’s not mathematically possible to go on making up the shortfall through efficiency measures alone. Along with the rest of local government, we are always making the case to Central Government that greater funding, not less, is required. We have been clear that if the Government doesn’t change its approach to local government funding, budgets in the future are going to require difficult choices.

Raising Council Tax for the first time in over a decade was a hard decision because we recognise the pressure that residents are still under, particularly when the cost of living rises faster than wages. Unfortunately, this year’s Government funding is based on the assumption that councils will introduce a two per cent increase for funding the costs of adult social care.

However, freezing Council Tax for so long has saved Band D tax payers around £1,400 over 10 years, and the Council’s £20 a year increase (for a Band D property) will be almost entirely offset by the decrease in the GLA element of the charge.

In the face of unprecedented Government cuts, we also have to be realistic about the rising costs and increased demand for our services. Services like temporary accommodation for homeless people, social care for children and adults, and concessionary travel are among the most important things we fund and require some of the largest budgets of the Council. These vital areas of expenditure present bigger pressures every year, so we’re having to think carefully about how in future we can fund and operate other, discretionary services. Where changes are being considered for future years, we will consult with residents to ensure their views and concerns are taken into account.

In spite of the challenges, we’ve agreed a budget which we believe reflects residents’ priorities. It will see our streets kept clean, our green spaces maintained, continued weekly waste collections, as well as ambitious projects including the provision of 1,200 extra primary school places, two brand new secondary schools and 3,000 new homes built. But above all, the budget seeks to protect the most important services we provide, which is care and support for our most vulnerable adults and children.

10 steps to better private renting

Renters are being reminded of their rights and responsibilities as part of a fortnight of action by the Council to put private renting in the spotlight.

Posters are currently on streets all over the borough not only highlighting the legal rights of tenants who rent privately, but also inviting them to sign a petition to the government calling for a range of legislative changes to improve their living conditions.

Thousands of landlords across the borough are also being written to, to update them of recent changes in the law and also to remind them of their responsibilities.

The Council’s ‘10 Steps to better private renting’ petition launched last year, and since then the government has agreed, in part, to four of the Council’s requests - compulsory installation of smoke alarms; making retaliatory evictions harder; national bans for rogue landlords; and for lettings agents to display certain fees.

Other proposals that the Council is pushing for include inflation-capped rents; longer tenancies; asking the government to publish a list of convicted landlords and letting agents; fast-tracking property licensing schemes; a national quality kitemark for good accommodation; paying housing benefit direct to landlords offering longer tenancies and stable rents; a public register of landlords and properties; compulsory protection for rent and fees paid, in case a lettings agent goes into administration or misappropriates funds; landlords publishing utility bills; lettings agents explaining all their fees; and mandatory five-year electrical tests.

The Council is also supporting a campaign by local housing group Digs to end discrimination by some landlords and lettings agents against housing benefits claimants – otherwise known as ‘no DSS’.

To sign the petition, and find out more about the 10 Steps to better private renting campaign, please visit www.hackney.gov.uk/10-steps.

Female Genital Mutilation

More than 3,000 women in Hackney and the City of London are said to be living with the consequences of female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is a horrific form of child abuse, and the Council with partners is committed to breaking the cycle of FGM within a generation.  

The Council has developed a joint strategy and action plan to tackle FGM with the City of London Corporation, the Homerton Hospital, police and other partners.  

Research by City University estimated that in the Hackney and the City, 3,292 women have undergone FGM (12th highest across England and Wales – 10th highest in London).  One hundred and forty FGM-related referrals were made to Hackney Council’s Children’s Social Care team between November 2014 and December 2015.

By working more closely together the aim is to improve the response of professionals to girls and women who have undergone or are at risk of FGM and make specialist information, advice and support more readily available.

The first steps already underway include:

• Development of a protocol for key professionals who are likely to come into contact with girls and women. This will give them a deeper understanding of FGM and the actions they must take to safeguard girls and women who they believe are at risk, or who have already undergone FGM

• Involvement of more survivors, men and faith leaders in future policy work

• Creation of a directory of statutory support, specialist services and voluntary groups for all relevant professionals

• Ensure clear guidance is in place for teachers and that training is given to primary schools

• Increase in training for a wider-range of stakeholders.

The Council and partners are committed to working together to abolish this cruel and barbaric practice.

Fairtrade fortnight

The borough has renewed its Fairtrade status, in line with our manifesto commitment.  This was achieved by the Hackney Fairtrade Group, a community led group supported by the Council and chaired by Cllr Clare Potter.  Fairtrade Fortnight runs from 29 February to 13 March, with a theme this year of ‘Sit down for breakfast, stand up for farmers!’.

The Hackney Fairtrade Group will be out and about promoting Fairtrade and sustainable businesses in the borough throughout the fortnight, inspiring people to get involved.  Activities in the fortnight include:

• Running a best Fairtrade recipe competition with schools 

• Holding Fairtrade workshops at Hackney museum for two schools (Gainsborough Primary and Northwold Primary) on 2 and 8 March

• A Fairtrade Business Breakfast on 9 March, to which the winner and runner up of the Mayor’s Best Fairtrade Business 2016 are invited as speakers. 

• Holding stalls in a number of libraries, churches, and mosques throughout the borough 

Fairtrade is about decent working conditions and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers. When you buy products with the Fairtrade Mark, you support farmers and workers as they work to improve their lives and their communities.  

Hackney Opportunities Fortnight

A fortnight of free workshops and events, designed to get Hackney’s under-24s into employment or training, was launched on 5 March.

Hackney Opportunities Fortnight is a programme of free events, activities and workshops that will help Hackney’s young people explore their future careers. They will be able to hear from those in-the-know and find out about educational courses or training to help make a dream career become a reality.

Hackney is a borough with a huge variety of opportunities across all industries, from retail and hospitality to tech and fashion, amongst many others. However, despite this huge local economic growth, some of our young people can find it difficult to start a chosen profession; might not know what career is right for them; or would simply like to hear directly from those that have built careers, how they managed to do it.

That’s where Hackney Opportunities Fortnight comes in. The Council has teamed-up with a host of partners to arrange a line-up of events that will give Hackney’s young people an opportunity to explore their ambitions, get the know-how from Hackney businesses, while also finding out what training, further education or volunteering roles may help to start a career or get back into employment. 

16 different events have been organised that will cover a wide range of employment topics.

There are also creative events to help young people illustrate their career ambitions with art and sculpture; the launch of the Saturday Sewing Project for burgeoning fashion designers and an introduction to Bootstrap creative space in Dalston which includes a Q&A with the self-employed and small businesses that work there.

Other highlights include events that will feature inspirational women form various professions discussing their career stories with young women, and a tech-focused event in Shoreditch, which will include a series of interactive seminars, workshops and activities to showcase and promote the different paths to get into the digital industries and what skills are needed to get there.


Jules Pipe
Mayor of Hackney

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