A report from the Town Hall has called out the “cruel inequality” in society exposed by the impact of the pandemic and lockdown, and makes a number of commitments to “rebuilding a better Hackney”.
The report makes clear that, of the 225 Hackney residents who have died with coronavirus, over half whose jobs were known were employed in routine and manual occupations, with only 32 per cent of Hackney residents having worked in those jobs at the last census.
Just under 70 per cent of residents who died with coronavirus were born outside of the UK, compared to the equivalent 37 per cent of the borough’s population as a whole, with the odds of infection significantly higher for South Asian and Black adults when compared to white adults.
Those with pre-existing conditions made up 90 per cent of deaths, and almost half of all confirmed coronavirus cases were among City & Hackney residents aged 60 and over.
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said: “This crisis has exposed the cruel inequality in our society, including a disproportionate impact on our diverse communities.
“We also cannot ignore that those with the least resources to cope have been affected most.
“This report sets out what we know so far about the impact of coronavirus on Hackney and what our priorities will be as we enter a new phase of managing it.”
The Rebuilding a Better Hackney report makes 43 commitments in multiple pledges that there will be no return to business as usual in the borough, with information on how the next phase of responding to the pandemic will be managed by the Town Hall.
The report also makes direct calls for the government to devolve powers and responsibilities to local authorities, including those around apprenticeships, adult skills and employment support services like job centres.
The Town Hall has renewed its promise to end rough sleeping with a pledge that no rough sleepers will be asked to leave emergency accommodation, as well as restating its commitments to tackling structural inequality and systemic racism.
Dedicated employment support for those out of work or coming off furlough will also be offered, with a survey of businesses conducted by the council revealing that three in four Hackney businesses face a loss of more than three-quarters of their income, with over half unable to sustain further losses.
As well as calls for more financial and furlough support for businesses, the council also seeks a public inquiry into coronavirus, changing the welfare system to support those most in need, and radical programmes to retrofit homes and meet air quality targets.
Hackney residents can expect the publication of strategies on poverty reduction and ageing, with more specific promises including a dedicated summer programme for young people to address anxiety during lockdown, and the potential for a partnership with an academic institution to look at new ways to tackle inequality.
A promise is also made in the report to learn from the “hyperlocal approach” seen in the blossoming of mutual aid organisations during the crisis, as well as a raft of commitments to “rebuild greener” through a post-lockdown transport plan aimed at prioritising the needs of “people, not cars”.
In an echo of discussions being had on scrutiny committees at the Town Hall during the crisis, the plan set out by the report would see the council identifying and working with firms and business sectors which align with the council’s own values and objectives.
A pledge to support affordable workspace in town centres saw invitations for proposals from today for established providers to manage a space in the Principal Place development, which is set to be leased to the council at a peppercorn rent until 2045.
The site is to be made available to provide services which could include discounted space or support such as advice sessions for local business.
Local economy chief Cllr Guy Nicholson said: “We are determined to create an open, accessible and inclusive economy in Hackney – ensuring that growth is shaped by and meets the needs and ambitions of residents and local businesses. An economy where smaller and larger businesses thrive side by side and invest into Hackney.
“Whether it’s demanding the provision of affordable workspace in new development or converting the council’s own buildings to provide workspace, we’ll continue to do all we can to champion and support Hackney’s businesses and social enterprises.”
Only around 2,500 businesses in Hackney benefit from the government’s 100 per cent business rate relief , with around 5,000 eligible for the government’s grants programmes, leaving thousands unable to access support, with the Town Hall dismissing the £3.4m provided to it for a further discretionary grant scheme as “not enough”.
As well as its transport plans to better achieve systemic environmental change, the council has also asked government to bring forward new laws to make compulsory recycling easier to enforce, as well as the introduction of a tax on the producers of packaging and waste to help fund council recycling services.
Work will also take place to address the drivers of the underlying health inequality in the borough, with just under 8,000 people in City & Hackney currently identified as “clinically vulnerable”, with 70 per cent of those relying on the council for help saying they were struggling to pay for food.
Mayor Glanville added: “Despite the challenges, we are clear that we must continue to support those most disadvantaged in our borough, campaign on their behalf and seek a more equal recovery.
“We must stand behind our small businesses, and seize the opportunity to rebuild a more inclusive local economy driven by what profits our society, not just big business or shareholders. And we must build on some of the emergency transport and environmental measures we’ve taken as we make a permanently greener and cleaner Hackney.
“We must rebuild a better Hackney as we come out of the first phase of this crisis. It must be our mission to end rough sleeping, ensure nobody in Hackney goes hungry, support the inclusive economy, keep building the homes the borough needs and ensure a clear employment and skills offer available to all – whether someone is coming off furlough and losing their job, or is a young person leaving school or college and needing support to start their career.
“Over the next few months, we’ll get on with implementing some of the plans in this report, consult and listen to residents about their ideas and, where we need extra powers or funding from the government, we will ask for them. At the heart of all our work will be our ambition to make Hackney a fairer, more equal borough.”
For more information on Principal Place and to request an application pack, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the council’s plans, and to read its report in full, visit hackney.gov.uk/rebuilding-a-better-hackney