The main man was ready to big it up. Rapper MC Pipey (aka
Councillor Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney) was about to tell all the good things that he and
his bredren on the Council had been doin for us Stokey people. Maximum respect was
Well, not quite. This was not cool, cutting edge Stoke Newington or the world of the
streets of Dizzee Rascal. Parish pump politics were on the agenda at the meeting of our
Neighbourhood Forum. Jules was listed for a session of Q&A, which for him given
the boroughs problems probably seemed only slightly less daunting than a hard
thrashing of S&M. In the event, he answered the questions politely and calmly,
although with a distinct tendency to distance himself from anything unpopular. The
spectres of Town Hall officials, previous administrations, architects and just about
anybody were conjured out of the air when proven cock-ups were mentioned. The Council is
now centralised and directly responsible to the Mayor, who has the power of a chief
executive in a large corporation, so the buck must surely stop with him.
The big issue was bins. For those of us who were not experts on the
various types of rubbish (sorry, waste management) bin, it was a revelation. Apparently
there are Brown Bins, Paladin Bins (round), Chamber Bins (square). One wit asked if the
latter would fit underneath the bed. There will shortly be a new bin on the block
This was even more startling. Had Brussels imposed this receptacle on us? Why had there
been no referendum to see whether the people of Hackney wanted to get rid of the
traditional British model in favour of this intruder?
Would the bin that Johnny Foreigner uses with all his unsavoury habits fit
into the ten foot spaces on the council estates? All this was hypothetical, of course, as
there were two main problems: firstly, bins of any type were not always collected and,
secondly, their wheels fell off. Jules then went into a riff about council workers not
working the hours they were paid for and moved on to the problem of litter. He said that
Hackney people seemed to be more prone to dump their chip wrappers on the streets than
were residents of other areas, particularly Islington.
We had the most expensive street cleaning in the UK. He said that priority was being given
to resurfacing the twenty worst roads in Hackney, after some years of neglect. This
includes trendy Church Street where the water and gas suppliers seem to be in permanent
competition to dig the longest and deepest holes. Would resurfacing encourage them even
The lack of public toilets was raised. This was obviously a frequent topic as the
questioner was described by the Chair as our resident toilet watcher. If
legal, it cant be a very time consuming activity as, given the Councils policy
to flog off everything it owns, the bogs have probably been converted into luxury
Jules became extremely animated when the Clissold Leisure Centre was
mentioned. The cost had risen from £9million to £28million. He said there was no need
for two pools, the roof was ridiculous, the architects were being sued, and
whoever had taken the decisions had been mad. Hmm
the question sprang to
mind as to where Jules and his council colleagues were when those decisions were taken.
Wasnt there power-sharing between Labour and the Tories at the time or were the
dreaded Lib Dems in charge? It was rather reminiscent of Macavity, the Mystery Cat. You
may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square, but when a tales from the
parish pump crimes discovered, the Macavitys not there!
Ken Worpole of the Clissold Park Users Group spoke persuasively about how the Council
should devote more resources to this highly popular open space that is used by over one
million people each year. It gets very little revenue compared with other council
facilities and people take it for granted. For instance, crummy toilets would not be
acceptable in a leisure centre but are regarded as normal in the park. He asked the
audience to try to imagine Stoke Newington without the park. To illustrate his points, he
showed slides of many of the activities that take place there.
The Neighbourhood Forum is interesting and informative but whether it has any bite is
doubtful. The minutes of the previous meeting show that the views of those present were
forwarded to the various Council Scrutiny Panels. Lets hope they dont end up
in the Eurobin.