Community Resistance, RA Vol 4, Issue 9, November/December '00


The Labour/Tory coalition that runs Hackney council are threatening savage cuts to services and the sacking of council staff, after the borough treasurer froze all but the most essential spending, due to a huge deficit that could come to as much as £40 million.

Members of Hackney Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) have attended the various demonstrations with a leaflet demanding “No more middle class councillors.” The leaflet made clear the IWCA’s view that “There is no point in looking to any of the political parties on Hackney council. We need to replace the middle class parties on Hackney council with working class representatives. The time for protesting to the council has gone, we need our own representation.”

The IWCA branch in Hackney has been involved in ongoing work in the south of the borough, on a variety of issues. Top priority has been the role the IWCA has played in the campaign against ITNet, the company that runs the privatised housing benefits service.

ITNet runs the service in both Hackney and Islington where they have caused unprecedented chaos and misery. However, the council has announced that it is to take the failing service back in house. And while the council will have to be kept under close scrutiny to ensure there are no u-turns, this represents a great victory for campaigners, and particularly for the IWCA who were, despite what you may read in Socialist Worker, the only political organisation actively involved in the campaign. The IWCA had also held it’s own successful advice surgery, to assist people with their benefit problems.

An IWCA spokesperson told the Hackney Gazette, “Now it’s time to boot out all the councillors who allowed this scandal to wreck so many people’s lives. None of them has a clue, or gives a damn, about what’s going on in the lives of the working class majority they are supposed to represent”

Hackney IWCA have also been active around the issue of mobile phone masts on council estates, where a newsletter has been distributed and are to strengthen the branch by holding an introductory meeting for new contacts and supporters.


John Prescott has recently suffered a number of setbacks to his plans to privatise the country’s entire stock of council housing. Council tenants are now wakening up to New Labour’s plans and local anti-privatisation campaigns have recently won a number of notable victories in places as far afield as High Wycombe and Waverley, South Bedfordshire and Lambeth.

In Lambeth, south London, the council no doubt regret offering tenants a final say in the first large-scale Public Private Partnership scheme, the £440 million Project Vauxhall. The tenants on the Ethelred and China Walk estates voted No to a scheme that would have seen a loss of 411 council homes and the building of 2,500 luxury apartments. This was despite council officers blackmailing tenants by telling them that if they voted No there would be no money for even basic repairs.

With opposition to the privatisation of Birmingham’s 90,000 council homes growing, including a march of tenants and council workers recently, the Labour council narrowly voted to press ahead with the next stage of their plan, the biggest in England. Despite the party leadership threatening rebel councillors with deselection, the plans were voted through with a majority of just eight.


A development plan by Newcastle council named Going for Growth (GOG), demonstrates the reality of another of New Labour’s ‘community-led' regeneration schemes. At first many residents were delighted with COG. Then they realised that the 6,600 homes in both Scotswood, with its stunning view over the river valley and Walker next to the trendy quayside restaurants, were coloured red in the plans. Red indicated: “unviable”, and meant that their homes were to be demolished to make way for developers. Local activist, Gwen Hinde, said “COG is what we wanted: schools, transport, jobs. But they have left us, the community, out.”

Immediately, banners appeared hanging from houses declaring “we shall not be moved”, accompanied with 800-strong meetings and the drawing-up by community activists of their own alternative proposals. Tony Flynn, leader of the Labour council, dismissed their proposals as not “radical” enough. Kevan Jones. Labour’s council cabinet member responsible for development, explained to the Guardian that his leader meant it was all about offering up "large areas [of land] which make it more attractive for developers" Private housebuilders have told the council that this amounts to a minimum of eight hectares - or the size of at least five football pitches - to build houses at prices which would be out of reach for most local residents.

A city-wide Newcastle Community Alliance has now been founded to oppose GOG and look at alternatives. An Alliance organiser summed it up: “Our aim is to get the council to withdraw its proposals for demolition and to make a positive commitment to the participation of the community, based on a genuine sharing of power and co-decision making.”

The council are in dissaray and could be forced to modify or even abandon their plans. A leaked Labour party document has labelled the whole affair a “PR disaster” which might have dire “political consequences”, undermining Labour’s electoral base in the city. It also criticised the party for totally misjudging the public mood and dismissing the opposition as a few SWP’ers. It wasn’t the SWP who had 'Save Our Scotswood’ posters printed and arranged for them to be put up in people’s windows, or they who produced the homemade banners hung from people’s windows said the Labour report.

The Liberal Democrats in true opportunistic fashion, have tried to capitalise on the discontent with Labour by jumping on the bandwagon - they obviously view Newcastle, like former Labour citadels such as Liverpool and Sheffield, as ripe for the taking. Undoubtedly, the community of Scotswood is off it’s knees. In the long term it is essential that a form of organised independent working class politics is developed in the area, not just to protest against Labour or keep out the Lib Dems, but to replace them.

Reproduced from RA Bulletin Volume 4, Issue 9, November/December '00