Political

Past hope, present disappointment and future hope: canvassing on a Hackney estate

New River ward by-election - Hackney August 2010On Sunday I was canvassing the Woodberry Down estate with Ben Mathis, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the New River ward council by-election due on September 16th. Going around with Ben and the team, I was really struck by the mix of past, present and future.

When originally built, the estate’s curving Art Deco style brickwork made it an attractive and distinctive piece of architecture, full of optimism about how good the future could be (though the construction was not without its controversies). The Daily Star in 1949 called it an “estate of the future”.

That optimism of the past has turned into the failure of the present, with residents badly treated by Hackney Council as they are kept largely in the dark over changing plans to demolish or not different blocks. As Ben puts it, “There are too many families around Manor House who cannot decorate, spend money on their homes or make plans for their own future because tomorrow might be the day they are told to move out”.

As for the future: out canvassing I came across many bright, cheerful young children. The question (for people in all parties) is whether we can avoid the mistakes of the past that have let down the bright cheerfulness of previous generations. As one chap I chatted to in the street just around the corner from the estate said, “We’re good at mouthing off when things go wrong but maybe we should do more”. With a bit of luck I did persuade him to take one small step in that direction and go and vote on September 16th to help choose his next councillor. That would be one small step on a long road.

If you’ve got the time to help Ben Mathis’s by-election campaign, or would like to make a donation, you can contact him on message4binny@googlemail.com or via Twitter where he’s @binny_uk.

3 responses to “Past hope, present disappointment and future hope: canvassing on a Hackney estate”

  1. Interesting. Was in same estate, different day, and different party, but similar feelings. Much flux and confusion. Think however that hearing some of these massive blocks were being given an upgrade, with new double glazing fitted, immediately prior to their demolition, was what really took the biscuit!

  2. Thanks for the write-up, Mark. The estate really was very attractive when new and would be still had it not been left to rot for so many years.

    Neil, the mini-upgrade some blocks are receiving is due to the ongoing delays in the redevelopment scheme, some but not all of which can be blamed on the financial crisis making private builders reluctant to take on jobs with big social housing content. The new windows will just about bring these flats up to Decent Homes standard (more than 1 in 3 social housing properties in the borough currently fail these criteria) so that they can remain in use another five – or realistically ten – years.

    The whole issue is a massive example of what anyone maintaining their own home could have told Hackney Council – you can spend a hundred on repairs now or a thousand when it’s about to fall down. Hackney chose this.

  3. Ben – Thanks. Don’t begrudge residents the upgrade esp if they don’t meet minumum standards as you say and that they do end up having another ten+ years of life – however it such a mess and being poorly communicted I am not surpised that residents at at wits end.

    Still left with a not unfamilar feeling of Hackney council/agencies mismanagment, maladministration etc. You make a good point, re false economy – is indeed a huge example of “what anyone maintaining their own home could have told Hackney Council – you can spend a hundred on repairs now or a thousand when it’s about to fall down”. I’m not even clear where they spent all the cash they ‘saved’ by doing so little over the years.

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