Wednesday, 21 March 2007


HACKNEY council is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a smoking ban enforcement and awareness campaign to be launched this week. But is it good use of money, asks Harriet Shawcross

A Post investigation has found that the total cost of the council’s campaign is in excess of £230,000 for two years.

A public relations blitz will be launched tomorrow to mark the 100 day countdown to the introduction of the ban on July 1.

Even pro-smoking campaigners argued last night that the expenditure is a chronic waste of money since the ban will be largely self-enforcing. They argue that an obedient Hackney public will defy predictions of widespread non-compliance.

Businesses in the borough will be sent posters and leaflets warning that smoking will be illegal in all enclosed public spaces.

Our disclosure comes after Hackney council admitted last week that it is giving six-figure salaries to its top bureaucrats.

But the council claims its large-scale information campaign and enforcement procedures are essential for the effective introduction of the legislation.

A Council spokeswoman was unable to confirm how the majority of the money would be spent. She said: “We have 10,000 leaflets hot off the press, and we will be running seminars to help businesses affected in the coming months.”

The £230,000 budget also includes translation services in Somali, Bengali and Kurdish.

Meanwhile, an army of council staff will be employed to enforce the ban – but the council has refused to disclose how many additional staff will be employed.

She added: “We hope we will not have to do much enforcement. If you look at the other areas that have banned smoking most people respect the legislation.”

The Post understands that the £230,000 figure does not include the costs of posters, which have already been provided by central government.

Campaign groups warn the spending is excessive and could be better spent on public services.

Simon Clarke, director of pro-smoking lobby Forest, said: “This is a total waste of money, which could be far better spent improving the borough’s hospitals or schools.”
“What we have discovered from Ireland and Scotland is that smoking bans are self regulating. The people who police the bans are the publicans themselves, as they are worried about being fined.”

Landlords claim the council is not doing enough to help them prepare for the ban and some say the costs will force them out of business.

Mary O’Riordan, landlady of The Kings Head on Kinsgland Road, said: “We’re looking to have an extension with a roof over it, to give smokers somewhere to go. All of that costs money, but the council won’t spend money helping publicans.”

“They’ll spend it on training town hall staff to police the pubs. They would be better off if they helped with covering the costs of what we’re doing.”

Anti-smoking campaigners said the spending decision is worth the investment.

Deborah Arnott, director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: “This is not about comfort, it is about health. Second hand smoke causes thousand of deaths in England every year.”

“The ban will only be self enforcing if the people who are going to enforce it know about it. This does not seem like a disproportionate amount of money, given the amount of publicity that is needed.”

The Department of Health is providing every local authority in England with a grant to enforce the ban.

Publicans not displaying a no-smoking sign will be fined £1,000 and anyone lighting up illegally will receive an on the spot fine of £50.

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RESIDENTS commemorated Dalston Theatre last weekend with three days of events under the name ‘Goodbye Cruel World’, writes Tom Calverley

The programme had a suitable radical and alternative tone, kicking off on Friday with a vegan café and a talk on political prisoners. On Saturday, alternative grassroots news outlet Indymedia ran workshops and exhibitions along the theme of the future of Indymedia London.
That evening, anti-racist campaign group No Borders showed documentaries about struggles around the world, including Woomera Breakout, Nolager Nowhere and Latitude 36. The night was rounded off with Ska from Radio Revolucion, hip-hop MCs and DJs playing reggae, jungle, drum and bass and dub step. Sunday’s proceedings closed with more vegan food and a cinema.
The former theatre, nightclub and community centre on Dalston Lane was demolished by Hackney Council in February, despite attempts to save the building through political campaigning, court injunctions and squatting.
The structure, dating back to 1896, plus two adjacent houses built in the 1820s, was knocked down to make way for the new East London Line Dalston tube station, a bus station and residential tower blocks.
The Organisation for Promotion of Environmental Needs Dalston (OPEN Dalston) campaigned to save the buildings. Bill Parry Davis, OPEN’s chair, said of the demolition: “I think the council are philistines and they will regret it. I think people will be shocked when they see what’s being built to replace the buildings.
“These developments aren’t meeting the needs of the local community, particularly the need for family accommodation.”
Hackney Council's Planning Brief for the site prescribed 50 per cent affordable housing, but according to OPEN, the new developments will have only 24 per cent affordable housing of which only half will be social accommodation.
There are also environmental concerns. Parry Davis said: “They’re putting 30,000 cubic metres of concrete over the station site, which will cost £39m. Not only will the carbon footprint be phenomenal, there’s no need as it’s only there to support the bus station. So it will cost £2.5m per bus stand, which seems very expensive.”

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ESTATE agents have exposed the scale of skyrocketing house prices ahead of the East London Line extension, writes Tom Calverley

Property experts told the Post they expect at least a 10 to 15 per cent rise by this time next year across the borough as thousands of City workers flock to Hackney.
Mayor Ken Livingstone has billed the extension, which will include the construction of new stations in Dalston, Hoxton and Shoreditch High Street, as a way to diminish social exclusion.

But experts confirmed that high earners are already snapping up Hackney property in their droves because of the forthcoming direct link with Canary Wharf and the City.
Daren Haysom, manager at Foxtons Shoreditch, said: “Hackney is already well connected to the city by buses, bike and on foot, so the East London Line will be more a link to Canary Wharf. It’s really attractive for couples when one works in the city, the other works in Docklands.

“People are realising it’s a very exciting place to be. I’m seeing people coming from central and West London, pushing prices up. We’ve seen growth in houses prices of up to 50 per cent in some areas.”

The average house price in Hackney is currently £242,806 but experts believe it will soon near the London average of £325,000.
Alan Dantes, Branch Manager of Felicity J. Lord, said that local residents are being “outpriced”.

He said: “Of our buyers currently completing, one in three are from outside the borough.

“People are moving in from Highbury, Islington, even Clerkenwell. More investors are looking at Hackney. I think that Buy to Let will increase next year as you get a 7 per cent yield on the property in a year.

“You could take something overpriced and within six weeks the market would catch up.”
Rents also look set to rise dramatically. Ismet Komuralp, Sales Consultant at Hamilton Fox, said: “The Tube puts the price up anywhere within the immediate 100 metres of a station by 50 to 75 per cent, and anywhere within 10 minutes walk of the new stops will go up in value, maybe by £30 to £40 a week. But you can only charge people so much rent.”

The expected rise drew the wrath last night of residents who complain locals will be forced out.

Meanwhile, campaigners claim the council is not providing enough affordable homes from the sale of its property. Only 12.5 per cent of the flats created as part of the Dalston Junction regeneration will be used for social housing.
Louise Brewood, head of the Broadway Market Traders and Residents Association said: “I have lived in Hackney all my life. I wanted a tube, more access, more accessibility. The problem is the way it’s being done and what’s being built around it.

“Hackney council has given accommodation over to private development. It’s very scary. My kids will never be able to afford to stay here.”
Kathryn Moore, committee member of the De Beauvoir Association, said: “Many of the new flats are so small. I’m sure this will have a long-term negative social impact. I’m not really sure who will benefit from the regeneration that’s visible to date, except the builders.”

A spokesman for housing charity Shelter said: “Anything that pushes up prices is of concern to us. London in particular is unaffordable already. That it is why we are saying it is important that social homes are maintained in these areas.”
A spokesman for Hackney Council said: “We are the only borough in London without a Tube line and the new line opens up access. The key thing about the Tube is it gives access to the rest of London.

“The benefits to the area far outweigh the concerns, such as links to jobs and improved links for small businesses.”

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A Hackney man who fitted an unsafe boiler that killed two toddlers and their grandmother was jailed this week, writes Chloe Lambert.

Atalokhia Omo-Bare, 50, was sentenced at the Old Bailey to twenty months. He installed the boiler for his friend Felicia Idugboe at a cheap rate in April last year, but failed to tell her not to use it until an extractor fan was fitted.

Three days later Mr Omo-Bare broke down the door to Ms Idugboe’s house after she did not answer his telephone calls. Inside he found her sons Jeriel and Jaden, aged three and 18 months, and her mother Roseline, 66, lying dead in their bedrooms.

Fears that the Omo-Bare could have struck again have been put at rest after police confirmed that the incident was a one off.

Police issued a warning after concerns that Mr Omo-Bare could have fitted other appliances in the area.

But DI Laurence Smith of the East London Specialist Crime Directorate told the Post no resident came forward.

He said: “It’s a relief. There’s no indication he was working for any company. But it’s all losers with this case.”

Post mortems showed they were killed by carbon monoxide fumes that had leaked from the boiler when Ms Idugboe turned the hot water on.

Ms Idugboe, 37, and the children’s 22-year-old nanny, Teminiola Arogundade, were pulled from the two-storey house in Barking by firefighters.

Both suffered severe long-term brain damage. Ms Idugboe, who was pregnant at the time of the incident, went into a coma and subsequently lost the child.

Mr Omo-Bare, of Provost Estate, Hoxton, pleaded guilty to three counts of manslaughter and two counts of unlawful wounding. He had no qualifications for fitting gas appliances. At the Old Bailey this week he was sentenced to 20 months in prison, of which he is expected to serve ten months.

The court heard that Ms Idugboe, originally from Nigeria, has been forced to give up her job and now relies on carers to wash and dress her and cannot walk on her own.

The children’s nanny, Ms Arogundade, has also been unable to continue with her studies at Newham College.

Ms Idugboe had been friends with Mr Omo-Bare for 20 years. She told the court she had forgiven him and asked the judge not to send him to jail.

Judge Peter Rook told Mr Omo-Bare: “You were like a father to the children who died. You are a very kind, caring and supportive man, I have no doubt whatsoever. But this case is so serious that I must pass an immediate custodial sentence.”

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A pioneering city academy in the heart of Hackney was the venue for Tony Blair’s speech on policy reform on Monday, writes Pamela Welsh

Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney Downs hosted the event, which saw the Prime Minister stand shoulder to shoulder with Chancellor Gordon Brown on the future of public services in the next decade.

Blair said: "What we want is to keep these basic public service values, which are about access to quality public services irrespective of your wealth, but make sure those are truly personalised services where there's a much greater diversity of provider and the old ways of working are broken down."

The government announced plans to “empower the citizen” and said that the academy system was one of the best ways to do this.

Under the controversial model, schools are given greater freedom in return for sponsorship. Mossbourne, which cost over £25 million to build, specialises in information and technology, and has the freedom to choose pupils who are interested specifically in these areas. It was established with the backing of locally born businessman Sir Clive Bourne, a freight millionaire who died suddenly last month.

The Prime Minister has had a close relationship with the school. Blair opened Mossbourne in September 2004 and used the academy as an example of his plans to double the amount of academies in the UK, after it was called “outstanding” by an Ofsted report in November.

The school’s principal is Sir Michael Wilshaw, knighted for his services to education. He said:

"Mossbourne sits on the site of the ill-fated Hackney Downs School, named the “worst school in Britain” in the mid-1990s. The boys’ comprehensive, whose alumni include playwright Harold Pinter was closed down in 1995 after direct government intervention.

Hackney Downs councillor Michael Desmond said: “The big change in education in the ward has been the Mossbourne Academy. Over 1000 kids applied for the recent intake, and its massively oversubscribed. Just since then it has turned around the borough, after the closure of Hackney Downs School. For the first time in 20 years people are actually moving into the area for the education.”

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AN ICONIC Haggerston pub that has been serving locals for 50 years is being forced to close due to the imminent smoking ban, the Post can reveal. Harriet Shawcross investigates.

The Belgrave Arms, on Queensbridge Road, will serve its last punter in June because its landlord says his business cannot sustain the ban.

Daniel Bradley has sold the pub to chain Punch Taverns. The Post understands the firm is set to resell the land for development into luxury flats.

He said: “We’re a local pub for local people, and in this area everyone smokes. I just don’t believe we could survive the ban. If people can’t smoke in the pub then they will buy beers from the supermarket and drink at home.”

Mr. Bradley, who has managed the Belgrave Arms for six years, added: “I think it’s a violation of human rights.

“We should be able to have a sign saying ‘This is a smoking establishment’, and then people could chose if they wanted to come in. The full smoking ban is madness.”
The British Beer and Pub Association said that the Belgrave Arms is just one of thousands of other local pubs which will also be affected by the ban.

A spokesperson said: “It has always been our concern that traditional back street pubs will suffer with the smoking ban. Pubs that are smaller, and are not focussed on selling food may, inevitably, be forced to close.”

Simon Clark, director of pro-smoking lobby Forest, said that the loss of pubs like the Belgrave Arms could damage community spirit.

He said: “Pubs are centres of social entertainment, without them everybody would be sitting at home in front of their televisions and computers. Councils need to jump off the anti-smoking band wagon and help their local communities.”

Regulars at the Belgrave Arms said they were sad to lose their favourite watering hole.

Wayne Burns, 52, from Broadway Market, enjoys a drink at the Belgrave Arms a few times a week after work on a nearby construction site.

He said: “It’s a shame that it’s little pubs like this that are losing out. People enjoy having a smoke when they are drinking and I don't think the ban is going to change that. It’s fine to ban smoking in hospitals and offices, but not in pubs.

“People go there to relax, play some darts and have a pint and a fag. It’s sad that soon we will not be able to do that.”

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HACKNEY may not be renowned for its romance, but behind its tough façade the borough has been hiding an amorous streak, writes Pamela Welsh

A couple who got married 60 years ago in a Hackney church have celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary this month. David and Gladys Jones tied the knot in Hampden Baptist Church, on the edge of Victoria Park in March 1947.
The happy couple, who now live in Essex, met in a shoe factory in a London ravaged by the Second World War.

David moved to London in his early teens, having been placed in an orphanage in Dagenham by his parents. He remains upbeat despite his difficult past: “It was the orphanage that got me the job at the shoe place, and without that, I would never have met Gladys,” he said.

David, now 78, said: “We were childhood sweethearts. We met in 1943, when I started to work at the factory. I was 14, and she was a year older. She taught me how to use the machinery and it was love at first sight. I married her when I was 18.”
It has not always been an easy ride for the couple. After moving to Benfleet in Essex and starting a family, tragedy struck for the Joneses when their youngest son, also called David, died when he was just 19 years old.

“I don’t like to talk about it much,” Mr Jones said, “but Gladys was always there for me. Over the years she has become my breath of air.”

With the latest statistics showing that, on average, 13 couples per thousand get divorced in Britain each year, Mr and Mrs Jones have bucked the trend. Mr Jones said: “It’s so hard to explain. I suppose its being in love all this time. We’re as much in love now as the first day that we met.

“I thought she was the best thing since sliced bread then and I still do today. It’s never turned into a companionship for us. We still love each other.”
The Joneses moved out of London almost 40 years ago, and enjoy their time out of the big smoke. Gladys, who is now 80 years old, worked as a barmaid before the couple opened up their own pub, the Chequers, which they ran for 14 years, They are now retired, and spend their time with each other and their 12-year-old grandson Harry.
David continued: “We live in a nice apartment in Rayleigh in Essex. We’ve lived here for four years; it’s very comfortable.

“I haven’t been back to Hackney since, I’ve only moved through it. There have been tremendous changes there.”

The changes in population, due to a huge surge in post war immigration, shocked Mr and Mrs Jones: “I think it’s for the better, there’s much more going on now than in the old days.”

Their diamond wedding anniversary was celebrated by a special break in Bedfordshire. David says: “My son booked us a hotel in Bedford, overlooking the river there. It was very romantic.”

And the Joneses are not the only Londoners to celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary this year. Six months after their wedding, the capital saw another set of nuptials in much different circumstances: Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey in November 1947.

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