Cazenove Blog

Your local Liberal Democrat Councillors for the Cazenove Ward in Hackney. Please feel free to make comments and talk about issues in Cazenove, Hackney, London, UK, Europe, the World and beyond!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Unite & Conquer

After the murder of Lee Rigby, Muslim communities around the UK found themselves under threat.  Yet in Hackney, three Lib Dem councillors have helped create links between communities that provide friendship and protection, writes Matt Withers for ADLIB Magazine


TWO Jews and a Muslim walk into a town hall. Don’t worry, it’s not a joke. Although it does provide something to smile about.

Ian Sharer, Abraham Jacobson and Dawood Akhoon are the only three Liberal Democrat members of Hackney Council in East London, all representing ethnically diverse Cazenove ward. Sharer and Jacobson are Jewish, while Akhoon is a Muslim.

While Cazenove is a rich mix (the most recent census put its population of 10,504 at a third Jewish, third Muslim and third other) the amount of cohesion between the communities is one which other wards nationwide would envy. It’s no coincidence, however, but in large part the result of the three councillors’ hard work in bringing the community together - from small things such as Jews attending meetings to mosques to earlier this year when, following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby and the subsequent threats to mosques and Islamic centres, it was Jewish volunteers who took to the streets to defend them.

On a warm evening in Hackney Town Hall, 45-year-old Akhoon reflects on a part of East London he describes as “unique”.
“I love it,” he says. “Hackney’s a really, really nice place, but Cazenove is one of the nicest places you can ever live. And it’s not just a Jewish community, we’ve got the 'St Thomas Church' on Oldhill Street.  When the Muslim community started to grow and we needed more space for young people, youth centres and things like that.   The Rector of St Thomas opened up the crypt downstairs and told us we could have the area for cricket, keep fit, the whole lot."

“That’s where it started. We’ve always had other communities come in and open up their doors. David Cameron talks about the Big Society, but the Big Society was going on ages ago, years before. He was in nappies when it began.”

All three councillors hold surgery meetings for members of all faiths and none at North London Muslim Community Centre. Other ad hoc meetings have taken place in the local synagogues.


“We will be out dropping off leaflets,” says Akhoon, “then I'll suddenly realise it's 1:30pm and I’ve got to pop in to pray. So, Ian will come into the mosque and he’ll sit in the back while I am praying. Because at the end of the day it’s a place of worship.”

Sharer, 68 and the leader of the Lib Dems on the council, agrees.
 “If you live in an orthodox area and you are a religious person, then why wouldn’t you respect the orthodox Muslim living next door, the orthodox Jew across the road, the regular churchgoer? What’s not to like about it?” he wonders. “He’s doing the same as you; he’s praying to God." 

Cazenove is seen as a model for strong inter-faith relations and Sharer recalls a  visit from Baroness Warsi and members from the now-defunct Commission for Racial Equality to the ward in 2011.  "They were trying to work out what we were doing that wasn't happening up north, where there have been riots," he says.  

44-year-old Jacobson – not only Jewish but an exiled northerner – nods.  “You can have religion and still respect the right for people to have alternative beliefs.  That’s the main thing,” he says. “Yes, we’re religiously divided but we’re all English, we’re all one and the same and we all help each other out.”

But all that probably wouldn’t have brought this tiny corner to the attention of the international Jewish press – in Israel, the US and further afield – had it not been for the knock-on effects of an horrific incident 11 miles away, the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

For the first time, mosques and Islamic centres in the area began hearing of threats against them in retribution for Drummer Rigby’s death.  Not used to dealing with such a situation, the Muslim community looked within its own area for help.

“We had never encountered that sort of hate towards Islam,” says Akhoon. “When you look on Facebook, when you look on Twitter, when you look at the terrorist attacks that have been committed on mosques . You’ve had people turn around and say ‘behead Muslim children’.

“But the thing is, the Jewish community, sadly, has always encountered that sort of stuff. It’s not new. Ian has always told me about the security at synagogues and places of worship and community centres. The mosque was looking at something. What do we do to protect our places of worship, what do we do to protect our worshippers, what do we do to protect our community? So we said, let’s speak to our Jewish friends here and see what they can come up with. And that’s where they came up with this initiative.”


Since 2005, the local Jewish community has had its own civilian volunteer patrol, the Shomrim (“guards” in Hebrew”). Both licensed and trained by the police – though with no power to arrest – they are often the first port of call for locals in trouble. Only a day after the Woolwich attack, they offered their services to the Muslim Community.

“The agreement is that they're already going to patrol and protect synagogues, they also go and see our mosques and schools too." says Akhoon.

“It’s ongoing, but the Muslim community is also learning from our Jewish colleagues and hopefully we can take on the mantle. Hopefully it’s opened up to all communities in Cazenove. At the end of the day it’s like neighbourhood watch plus. Because that’s all it is:  looking out for our neighbours."

Thinking about the way in which the councillors work tirelessly to bring the communities together, he says:  “In a way, in a micro-way, we do seem to be making a difference.” He then checks himself and says more confidently:  “We are making a difference!”

He adds: “We are part of the fabric of this society. We are taking a stand. We are getting involved. We’re open to every member of the community whether you have a faith or not. We’ll work with everybody."

"This is our contribution to society, and it works.  If this was replicated across the country I'm sure it would solve half the problems that are going on because it is just about hating ignorance, that's all it is about."

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Come Along To Your Local Ward Forum - Tuesday 08th October 2013, 7:00 pm.


Come and meet other residents and your Councillors, to discuss local issues and work together on things that matter in our Community.


Location: 

  Please use the Jubilee Primary School, Filey Ave, London N16 6NR. 

Please use the Cazenove Rd entrance.   

Fully accessible venue, refreshments provided.


Tell us what matters to you most in Cazenove - If you've got a particular idea in mind or an idea for a local project, we can discuss how it might be moved forward.


So see you there!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

New legislation on the cards to tackle council “propaganda rags” like Hackney Today

You can read the full article by the Hackney Gazette Here:
The Local Audit and Accountability Bill will clamp down on tax-payer funded council papers and “deliver the Coalition agreement pledge to impose tougher rules to protect the independent free press from unfair competition by town hall newspapers and propaganda.”New legislation is on the cards to tackle “town hall pravdas”, like Hackney Council’s fortnightly rag, Hackney Today.
Hackney Council continues to ignore government guidelines brought in by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles in 2011 which limit publication of such newspapers to four times a year under the Publicity Code.
Every fortnight 108,000 free copies of Hackney Today are posted through residents’ letterboxes, much to the consternation of Lib Dem and Conservative councillors in the borough who regard the paper as propaganda for the ruling Labour party.
But the Queen’s Speech - which sets out the government’s legislative plans for the forthcoming year - has announced the Local Audit and Accountability Bill will clamp down on tax-payer funded council papers, and “deliver the Coalition agreement pledge to impose tougher rules to protect the independent free press from unfair competition by town hall newspapers and propaganda.”
Mr Pickles said the government was “reining in the quango state, saving taxpayers’ money and giving more power to local people.”
He added: This bill extends the government’s localism agenda - ensuring robust scrutiny of council spending, strengthening the role of direct democracy and protecting an independent free press.”
Cazenove ward Cllr Abraham Jacobson said any clamp-down would come “not a minute too soon”.
“It’s good to have an independent paper rather than a council rag controlling the media in Hackney, people aren’t getting informed, and half the stuff in Hackney Today is of no interest to anybody,” he said.
“They are paying a fortune for distribution and most of that ends up in recycling.”
He added: “A council paper should be non political and inform people and not be a back slapping exercise.
“I’ve been a councillor for just over three years and other than having my picture on the page with all the councillors, there’s been no photo of one opposition councillor or anything about an opposition ward in all that time.
“If you weren’t on the cabinet you wouldn’t think any other councillors existed.”
The council is obliged to publish statutory advertising fortnightly and claims publishing its own newspaper is the most cost-effective way of doing this.
Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, said in a statement: “I have repeatedly told Government ministers that Hackney Council would stop fortnightly publication immediately the Government ended the outdated legal requirement to publish statutory notices such as planning notices in printed form, rather than just on the web.
It is disappointing that the Government is continuing in its attempts to increase the Council’s publishing costs in this way.”
All four Lib Dems and four Tory opposition councillors believe however there could be more cost-effective ways of publishing statutory notices, and that ultimately the paper is a mouthpiece for the ruling Labour party.
A spokesman for the Lib Dems pointed out that in a typical issue – like that of October 8 2012 – there were seven photographs of Labour councillors engaged in local activities, but added: “There have seldom or never been similar photographs involving members of the other parties.”
Cllr Dawood Akhoon for one, does not ever remember ever appearing in the paper. “The last time I did try to submit an article to Hackney Today was in July 2007 when the then Borough Commander was the guest and prize giver at the Tawhid Boys’ School Annual Sports Day at Spring Hill Park.
“I had sent Hackney Today pictures as well as a press release,” he said.
But nothing was published and he got no response from Hackney Today.
“Since then I have not bothered with the rag,” he added.
Conservative Cllr Michael Levy remembers how three years of hard work ensuring a playground was built on Clapton Common last June also passed by unnoticed in the council’s paper.
Although he supplied a comment, the editorial team favoured a comment from a Labour councillor.
“The new play area is an example of how the council is working with local communities to improve parks and open spaces in Hackney,” cabinet member for health, social care and culture, Jonathan McShane was quoted as saying.
Cllr Levy believes the playground might well have been abandoned had he not stepped in to help secure planning permission.
“Once it was completed the council took credit,” he said. “Of course you don’t do it for that, but it does grate.”
Tory Councillor Simche Steinberger believes the paper is overtly political and at times hostile to the Conservative and Lib Dem parties.
He claims when the Labour government lowered the cap on housing benefit from £800 to £500 a week, nothing was mentioned in Hackney Today.
He added: “But when the coalition government cut it from £500 to £400 there was an article in Hackney Today saying Tory and Lib Dem councillors did not support the Labour party in condemning the cuts.”
Hackney Council maintains the paper is not biased towards one political party.
“The District Auditor has supported the findings of the review and confirmed his satisfaction with the publication’s political neutrality,” said a spokeswoman.
And, in a statement, elected Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, said the Conservative and Liberal Democrats had claimed time and again that axing Hackney Today would save the council hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“Each time these claims have been shown to be nothing but empty nonsense and both parties have been provided many times with the true costs of the publication,” he said.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Cazenove Ward Forum - Monday 4th March 2013 at 7:30 pm


Look forward to seeing you tonight at the Cazenove Ward Forum, 7:30 pm at:


Jubilee Primary School,
Filey Avenue
London N16 6NR
Fully accessible venue, Refreshments provided.
(Please use the Cazenove Road entrance)


Items for discussion: Tell us what matters to you most in Cazenove


Come and meet other local residents and your councillors to discuss local issues and work together on things that matter in your community.

If you've got a particular idea in mind or an idea for a local project, we can discuss how it might be moved forward.

You can also contact your councillors at other times as their surgeries or by their contact details as listed on this site, in the Hackney Today or the Council website.

For more information please contact
E:   cazenove@hackney.gov.uk
W: www.hackney.gov.uk/cazenove-ward


Friday, 22 February 2013

Zone “R for Wrong” - Hackney Council admits they cocked up!

As previously reported, on the 30th January, Cllr Ian Sharer, brought a deputation of residents to the Council to say that the implementation of the new controlled parking zone “R” in Hackney Downs was Wrong.

The deputation stated that the consultation had broken the government and the council's own rules and asked that it be re-run.

Among the complaints made were that residents were not told the hours and prices for the new zone until afterwards, that rules were changed mid way through, that permits were already on sale and being advertised while the consultation was still open, and before the decision had officially been made.

“cock-up or conspiracy ?”

Asked whether this was a cock-up or a conspiracy, Cllr Sharer said:

“Whether this was an oversight or something more sinister, it is clear that the consultation on Zone R was highly unsatisfactory and has left residents feeling short-changed. Hackney Council need to remember that they work for us and have a duty not just to behave honourably but to be seen to do so.”

Response from Hackney

Responding to the resident's complaints by email, Gifty Edila, Corporate Director of Legal Services for Hackney Council, confirmed that she found evidence of deviation from the Council's Parking and Enforcement Plan when the initial stage 1 consultation was reduced from the published 6 week period in the PEP, to 4 weeks.

Gifty admitted that a number of procedural deviations followed as a result of which the Council will no longer proceed with the current process to introduce a CPZ in the Rectory Road area.  Because of this, there was no need to respond to the detailed list of complaints issued by the residents.

Gifty confirmed that the Council will terminate the current process. And that the entire process from initial consultation will commence at a future date.

Finally Gifty hoped that the Council's response satisfactorily, resolved the issues raised by residents.
 
Councllor Ian Sharer commenting on the Council's response: "The Council does need to respond to the specific complaints in order to provide a clear and transparent account of how the procedure was breached and how it should be followed in future cases." Ian went on by saying: "The Council, the lead members as well as the ward Councillor's for Hackney Downs Ward have a lot of explaining to do to the residents. Be assured we will be holding them all to account."
 
(Picture taken from the Hackney Gazette website here)




Thursday, 21 February 2013

Cazenove Recycling Success rolled out across the Borough!


(Cllrs Dawood-Ebrahim Akhoon, Ian Sharer & Abraham Jacobson)

The orange bag, dry recycling has been such a success in Cazenove that from the 1st of March it will be rolled out all across Hackney.   The only difference will be that the bags will now be a rather fetching green colour.

Commenting previously about the success of this recycling initiative which was lobbied by your Libdem Councillors.  Ian Sharer welcomed the change, saying "This system was desperately needed, which is why we've worked so hard to get it right.  It's great to see that our recycling success will now be duplicated across the Borough."

Abraham Jacobson, agreed: "No more sorting and messing about, plus more recycling means less of your money spent on landfill."

Fellow Councillor, Dawood-Ebrahim Akhoon is very pleased: "More recycling, less traffic and emissions.  This is good for all of us, our planet and less hassle for our residents too!"

You can see the results of how successful recycling in Cazenove has been here


For further details visit the Hackney Council Recycling Website Here


Monday, 18 February 2013

Thanks to your generosity, we raised over £6000 for the Rohingya People of Myanmar!


This was for a fundraising event we organised on the 16th Sept 2012. Much thanks and appreciation go to the Management Committee of Masjid Al Tawhid in Leyton, who without their support and allowing us to use their facilities for the day, we would not have been able to raise these much needed funds for the Rohingya People of Myanmar. 


(Some of our young men from Hackney helping out)




A Northwold-Cazenove Neighbourhood Forum? Meeting Wednesday 20th of February at 8.30 pm.

The Localism Act (2012) allows residents within self-defined areas to establish Neighbourhood Plans for guiding the future development and growth within their area. The Plan may contain planning policies, proposals for improving the area or providing new facilities or allocating key sites for specific kinds of development.


The Cazenove Area Action Group Residents’ Association is interested in proposing a Forum based on the Northwold-Cazenove Conservation Area but with further extensions.

We would like to gauge the level of support for establishing a Forum. For it to be successful it needs to have the broadest support across all sections of the community.

In recent years, community action has improved our environment in a number of ways. Clear examples are the refurbishment of Stoke Newington Common, the campaign for the retention of Clapton Library, the establishment of the Northwold-Cazenove Conservation Area and the routing of the 393 bus along Cazenove Road.

Perhaps you have a project you would like to see come to fruition, something that might fit in to a Neighbourhood Plan.

We are holding a meeting at the Boiler House, George Downing Estate, Cazenove Road (Stamford Hill end), next Wednesday – the 20th of February – at 8.30 p.m.

Come along. Find out what’s involved.  Share your ideas.
 
For some background information on what’s involved in a Neighbourhood Plan, look at the helpful leaflet from the Locality organisation: ‘Quick Guide to Neighbourhood Plans’: Here:
 
Yours sincerely,

Iain Bruce,
Chair,
Cazenove Area Action Group Residents’ Association




Friday, 15 February 2013

We oppose 24 hour alcohol sales in Upper Clapton, we don't want our neighbourhoods to become magnets for drunks!



(Image taken from the Hackney Gazette)


Cazenove Councillors have objected to plans to open a 24 hour off-licence in Upper Clapton Road.

The Licencing application for “K Superstore”  at 71-75 Upper Clapton Road will come before the Licensing Committee on the 18th February and, if accepted,  will operate 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. It has been strongly opposed by the Police.

Councillor Abraham Jacobson said:

“There are enough drunks in the neighbourhood and we do not wish Upper Clapton Road to become  a magnet for alcoholics from surrounding areas”

Fellow Cazenove Cllr Dawood-Ebrahim Akhoon added: “We should be promoting healthy and diverse shops so our neighbourhoods are sustainable and are there for the benefit of all, and for future generations. “The proliferation of betting shops, pawnbrokers and now 24-hour off licences in Hackney does nothing but cause problems for our neighbourhoods,” he said.

“These businesses thrive on people’s addictions and vulnerabilities, and they make vast amounts of money by targeting the poorest and most vulnerable from our communities.”

You can read the complete news on this in the Hackney Gazette here


Monday, 11 February 2013

Stamford Hill Neighbourhood Forum


Recent news reports in the Hackney Gazette and Hackney Citizen have accused the neighbourhood ward forum proposed for Stamford Hill of being a “front” for “Conservative and Lib Dem Councillors looking to build a power base”.

Lib Dems in North Hackney pointed out that they were in favour of the forum but only one Lib Dem councillor had joined the committee, and that was to represent his constituents. Councillor Dawood Akhoon had been elected as Vice Chair, but after the first founding meeting of the forum he had not been invited to attend any further meetings.

“We're in favour of local decisions being made locally” said Cazenove councillor, Dawood Akhoon. “I  joined the forum to represent all the people of Cazenove ward, with the agreement of my fellow councillors and colleagues in the party. Although I'm not happy that the committee is so heavily dominated by another party, it would be quite wrong not to be involved.  But I cannot continue to support them unless they involve me in meetings".

Councillor Akhoon added:
 “I will be just as happy to sit with any other forum that is applying or which is accepted by the Council.  The legislation is here and we cannot avoid it. It is important that the democratically elected councillors  involve themselves in the process and do not stand aloof.”

Lib Dem Councillor Abraham Jacobson added,
“There are real problems in this area which have to be addressed. Too many applications are refused and then allowed on appeal.  Some buildings allowed in the past should never have been built.  The Council's enforcement department is also far too weak, almost a joke. These forums are not ideal but they must accept anyone who lives or works in the area as members. I have been encouraging my constituents to get involved. It is only if all residents do so that we can make them representative of the whole community”

Recently there have been reports of separate forums being proposed to cover parts of the same area but with different aims.
Tony Harms, Lib Dem spokesman for Stoke Newington said,
“The proposed neighbourhood overlaps historic Stoke Newington which is still the main focus for residents' identity.  We are looking at the possibility of starting a neighbourhood forum on this basis but it needs established stakeholders to become involved and take charge. We have been looking at a number of projects in the area and are keen to hear from anyone, of any party or none, who is interested.”

But the Lib Dems also say that the proposed Stamford Hill Neighbourhood area is too large and the forum lacks democratic accountability
“There are serious problems with this Stamford Hill proposal” said Simon de Deney, chair of Hackney Lib Dems. “ The area is far too large for one small group to represent.   People are bound to believe, perhaps rightly,  that their area is being imposed on by an unelected and self-selected body.  And there are real problems with this Stamford Hill Group. Their constitution is vague and unprofessional and leaves a great deal unsaid. It's unclear how residents who are invited to join would in fact influence its governance or aims.

“What we would propose instead are directly elected community councils, similar to parish councils in rural areas, based on the 2014, Council wards . The councillors would be chosen in elections open to everybody.”
He called on the council to help implement such councils for which the legislation is already in place.



Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Deputation on Rectory Road Controlled Parking Zone

At Wednesday’s Full Council Meeting (30th January 2013), Cllr Ian Sharer introduced a deputation of residents from Hackney Downs ward protesting against the new CPZ in their area.

The residents told the council that the consultation had been unfair and badly run in a number of ways, including the fact that they were not told the cost of permits or the hours of operation for the zone until afterwards. Not only this, the council were reportedly advertising and selling permits for the new zone before the consultation was even over!

The council has so far refused to rerun the process, but Ian has offered continued support for the residents affected.

You can read about the residents fight in the Hackney Gazette here: 


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Cazenove Ward Roundup

Gerda Damaged Doors 



The Vyner Court Planning Application

Cazenove Pilot Recycling Scheme - To expand across Hackney

Cazenove Ward Forum - 04th March 2013 - See you there!