Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An evening of reflection and planning

Hackney Unite's resident blogger Mz Lashmore reports on our recent evening of reflection and future planning...

An evening in late July. The venue is Café Mostra in Stoke Newington and Hackney Unites have brought together local residents, community group leaders and workers to reflect on the Celebrate Hackney community event and conference that took place earlier in the year at Stoke Newington School.

The register from the conference had 400 signatures. Initial feedback on the day was largely supportive, with people saying how inclusive they felt the event had been. Analysis from the feedback survey revealed about 25% of those in attendance came from the community’s younger generation, those usually under represented in politics and neighbourhood engagement.

The evening of reflection echoed further those sentiments captured in the feedback survey and from those supportive discussion that happened on the day. With lessons learned and agreed tweaks for future events, the meeting turned their attention to key areas affecting our Borough: one being the restructuring of the National Health Service (NHS) and the other, cuts in community services.

On the table was a Statement of Intent from the group which in summary is suggesting Hackney Council explores an alternative to the austerity budgets currently being promoted by the Con-Dems government. Should the cuts go ahead as planned, the impact for the London Borough of Hackney is unimaginable at this time. The Chief Executive of the Borough is reported to have said, if the council was to cut back all office staff by 50%, shut one swimming pool and a library, this would save £16 million. But this is merely a tip of the ice-berg on the planned cuts for £80 million. The scale of job loses and the reduction in local services is likely to affect every citizen in this Borough and those beyond.

The NHS delivers health services locally and is also a large employer. The NHS is now under review with Primary Care Trusts (PCT) being given the main responsibility to commission private health services. This may seem like a cost effective move and is indeed being promoted as such by the government. In reality private companies involved in delivering public services begin cheaply, but those introductory costs soon rise and the overall service deliver becomes more expensive for the tax payer.

The evening concluded with food, wine, beers and coffee. The date for future meetings is to be confirmed via the website, word and mouth and other informal networks. In the interim, plans are a foot to link Hackney Unites with other political and campaigning groups for a coordinated approach to campaign against the country’s deficits - where the collective feeling is: let the banks wait!

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