Saturday, 29 December 2007

Hackney Council wastes money on "unnecessary roles"

From the Daily Mail:

In November alone, Hackney Council and the East London NHS Foundation Trust each offered three separate equality and diversity jobs paying £39,030 each – a total salary bill of more than £225,000.

The phenomenon, which has continued despite a promise by Gordon Brown three years ago to cut non-essential posts, was branded Jobzilla after the all-devouring screen monster Godzilla.

Peter Cuthbertson, research fellow for the TPA, said: 'The public sector is clogged with these ridiculous jobs, draining huge amounts of resources away from essential activities.

"It's insulting to expect taxpayers who struggle to meet the taxman's demands to foot the bill for unnecessary roles."

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Friday, 21 December 2007

Taxpayers' cash lost in translation

From the Hackney Gazette:

TOWN hall bosses have come under fire for wasting taxpayers' money after revealing at least £125,000 was spent on translating council documents last year.

The huge bill run up by Hackney Council accounts for translating the information into some 100 languages spoken in the borough.

The costs have been attacked by the government's Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, who says local authorities are spending too much on translations and not enough on encouraging people to learn English.

She has sent out guidelines to all local authorities to advise cutting down on costs.

Meanwhile, the council seemed confused over how much had been spent and gave the Gazette several figures, some as high as £200,000, before settling on £125,000.

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Thursday, 13 December 2007

Swimming club welcomed home with slashed pool bookings

From the Hackney Gazette:

Clissold Swimming Club has 'moved home' to Clissold Leisure Centre.

But a spokesman has admitted club officials are "disappointed" with Hackney Council's decision to offer them exclusive use of the pool on just one night a week.

The centre, in Clissold Road, Stoke Newington, has been closed for the past four years for refurbishment - but now that the work is complete, the club is set to make a welcome return.

Throughout the four-year period that the centre had been closed, the club had been forced to do much of its swimming outside the borough.

Spokesman Kate Cornwall-Jones said: "The re-opening of Clissold Leisure Centre will allow us to swim in Hackney six days a week.

"However, it is disappointing that Hackney Council have cancelled our two whole pool bookings at Kings Hall and are only offering one similar session at Clissold Leisure Centre between 6pm and 8pm.

"Clissold SC is ambitious on behalf of young swimmers in Hackney and to deliver our vision for excellence and increase participation in swimming we need more whole pool bookings at more appropriate hours. We look forward to working in partnership with Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) and Hackney Council to increase the opportunities for local people to achieve their maximum potential in swimming and other aquatic sports.

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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Christmas Demonstration for Housing

From an email:

Hi, this is the call out for the next London Coalition Against poverty
demonstration at Hackney,

*pls forward widely*

CALL TO ACTION: Christmas Demonstration for Housing
6 - 7:30 PM
Hackney Town Hall, Mare Street E8 []

Contact: 07932241737

Hackney "Scrooge" won't house us: We won't be turned away

London Coalition Against Poverty (LCAP) will demonstrate at Hackney
Council's Cabinet meeting on Monday the 17th of December 6pm to 7.30
pm. As Christmas day approaches its difficult to see the seasonal
spirit in Hackney's Homeless Persons office where homeless people are
daily denied their rights and left without anywhere to go. LCAP will
demonstrate this Christmas to send a clear message to Jamie Carswell
(head of Housing strategy and deputy Mayor) that we will not tolerate
this any more. LCAP will be campaigning for change in Hackney's
dealings with the homeless for as long as it takes.

Come to the picket, there'll be some hot soup, and Christmas festivity.
Dress warm, bring noisemakers and mince pies if you like.

More info:

London Coalition against Poverty (LCAP) has been at Hackney Housing
Needs office since July 2007, and we have seen time and again that
homeless people are turned away unlawfully. By law some homeless
people have to be housed immediately but Hackney Council cares more
about balancing their budget through not housing people then about
their residents needs. They try to delay or stop people making a
homeless application. To achieve this the staff often act in an
intimidating and sometimes abusive way. Because of this "gate keeping"
at the housing needs office many vulnerable people and families are
left on the street or other insecure, dangerous places. When
accommodation or advice on how to find housing is offered by the
council its likely to be out of Hackney, often even out of London.
Hackney Council will be held accountable for their failure to house
Hackney's people.

LCAP demands:

- An end to gate keeping at Hackney HPU

- Stop the intimidation of people that approach the HPU

- Genuinely affordable housing to rent in Hackney - no more people chased
out of the borough

Jamie Carswell is scrooge!
We are the ghosts of Christmas present!


Friday, 7 December 2007

“It’s no secret... it was a fairly chaotic managerial arrangement.”

From Building:

Hodder soon encountered the sort of problems that go with local government work. “In the early days, there was a constant change of personnel at the council,” he recalls. “Tony Ellison, the chief executive, left, the [in-house] project manager changed. There was a tremendous lack of continuity.”

Kim Wright, director of community and leisure at Hackney, admits: “It’s no secret. There was no overall political control and it was a fairly chaotic managerial arrangement.”

But the real difficulties started in 1997 when Sport England, one of the scheme’s co-funders, designated Hackney a priority initiative area, which meant, according to Hodder, that there was money available to take the budget to £10m. However, what should have been a boon for the project quickly became a poisoned chalice.

“That prompted Hackney, not unreasonably, to rethink the brief,” says Hodder. “I felt there were things that we could improve … the size of the gym facility could be bigger, there was no spectators’ facility. There was quite a lot of public consultation that led to changes – for example, to the changing rooms because of the Orthodox Jewish community.”

There was debate, too, over the scheme’s two 25m swimming pools. Some felt that there should be a single 50m Olympic pool – an idea that was dropped – but one of the pools was stretched from six to eight lanes.

These were substantial changes, but Hackney was keen to start work on site as soon as possible, partly because it had been advised that this would save on VAT. However, tenders for the project came in at £13m, £3m higher than anticipated. The design team and the council came up with a compromise budget of £11.5m, but in the meantime Gleeson, the contractor, was being pushed to get started.

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