Annual Report 2005-6

Haringey Federation of Residents Associations - Annual Report 2005-6

Over the last 12 months the Federation has continued to consolidate and positively develop our activities – for example the range and depth of issues taken up; the number of associations on our mailing list, sending donations, and attending the monthly meetings; the increasing communication and co-operation between associations; and the increasing general publicity and influence we and local residents associations are having in the borough.

Promoting the concerns of local RAs We’ve done our best to support the work of local associations, & to support the principle that people in every street, block or neighbourhood can organise themselves, speak out & take action for themselves and their communities. At our monthly meetings we’ve continued to hear a wide range of local reports, to discuss & identify some of the key concerns during the year, and to develop ways in which the Federation and the borough’s residents’ movement can support and take these forward effectively.

Planning and development Following the ever-increasing number of planning controversies all around the borough we’ve worked hard to build on the momentum of our special residents’ conference at the end of 2004: ‘Communities First – planning & development issues’. The conference had helped us get to grips with many of the issues involved. Throughout the year we’ve organised and supported protests and lobbying over planning issues and policies, with some success - including over green spaces, conservation, over-development and the (un)sustainability of the massive increase in house-building. We’ve participated heavily in the Council UDP consultation process at every stage over the last 3 years, including regular attendance at the UDP Public Inquiry last summer. All the while we have been encouraging ‘networking’ around these issues and trying to keep local RAs well-informed. We’ve also attended the Planning Stakeholders Forum and proposed a range of improvements for the planning service and its practices.

Green Open Spaces Mirroring the overlap and liaison between RAs and local Friends groups, we have worked closely and successfully with the Haringey Friends of Parks Forum to protect and promote green spaces, to call for improvements and also expansion of the number of sites. Concerted protests and lobbying in 2004&5 forced the Council into a U-turn over controversial proposals to allow schools to annexe parts of neighbouring parks. In January we jointly launched a campaign for park-keepers, distributing 10,000 leaflets, getting a great deal of publicity and lobbying the Council (who have since agreed to review parks staffing).

Street Scene and Living Streets We’ve continued to support RAs seeking traffic calming, safer streets and indeed living streets. We’ve elected an HFRA Living Streets officer and gradually widened our involvement into taking up the issue of removing street clutter (eg. billboards, as well as other advertising). We have contributed ideas which have been adopted for the new LBH ‘Streetscape Manual’, & recently supported RAs in the centre of the borough auditing & drawing up detailed proposals for improving Wood Green High Rd.

Local services We organised a special conference in October: ‘Keep It Local! – local facilities and services for local communities.’ This enabled discussion about the need to support local communities’ efforts to stand up for facilities and services that serve them (eg health facilities, POs, libraries, playgroups, schools, sports, community centres, parks etc). We’re beginning to discuss some of the issues in more depth, eg. school places, and health care services. We’ve also elected two new officers for Special Needs and Older People.

Council housing We continued to support tenants’ & leaseholders’ issues when asked to, including discussing estate regeneration projects – to aid this process we elected a Council Housing officer. We’ve supported the Defend Council Housing campaign in their call for investment in council housing without strings, and for informed and open debate amongst tenants about the new ‘ALMO’ management organisation.

Heritage & Conservation There have been a number of local and Haringey-wide planning controversies with a ‘heritage’ significance, eg: the Federation’s has actively supported the year-long residents’ campaign over the demolition of Wood Green’s oldest public building to make way for proposed tower blocks. We also supported efforts by Bruce Castle Museum to identify and list all the historic street furniture and features throughout the borough. As a result we have recently elected a Heritage and Conservation officer and started to develop a broad strategy for promoting and protecting Haringey’s social and physical heritage.

Other issues Other concerns and activities which have cropped up during the past year include:
- waste management Reports have indicated that the Council seems to be improving recycling efforts, but dumping and litter remain ongoing problems.
- environmental sustainability We published a 4-page briefing to encourage debate about this important issue.
- anti-social behaviour We have discussed licensing issues, safer neighbourhoods etc.
- consultation processes
- We’ve discussed how to ensure local communities are actively involved in local decision-making. We support RAs in their efforts to be respected and treated as equal partners by all decision-making bodies.
- The HFRA has increasingly effectively engaged with Council departments, including as an active member of the Better Places Partnership. An HFRA Questionnaire was sent to all candidates for the May 4th local elections, asking them to commit to 28 key policies. There were 163 replies, almost 100% positive, covering the candidates eventually elected. Haringey Councillors have therefore committed to a resident-led agenda to which RAs can now hold them.
- community events Organising our own events (socials, quizzes, public meetings, events in parks etc) is a positive strength of local RAs. This year we have encouraged local mid-summer street parties.

Participation and support There are now 135 local residents associations on our monthly mailing list, of which 107 have now either attended Federation meetings or sent in apologies, an increase of 20 over last year. Monthly attendance has consolidated, with a gradual increase over the last 5 years (now averaging around 11 RAs attending and 18 sending in apologies). In addition there are now 82 RAs on our internal e-mail info-list (an increase of 10 groups this year) to enable communication between meetings. Our website also continues to help make info easily accessible, but is in dire need of updating and upgrading (being done).

In the last year, to encourage more local activity and new RAs, we have produced:
- 2 editions of our Community Action newspaper (4000 copies of each);
- distributed our own special ‘Local community action’ leaflet with ideas for setting up a residents association; - begun to make a short documentary film about what residents associations around Haringey do.

Potential in coming year RAs want to achieve real and long-lasting improvements in the quality of life for residents. To that end we need to continue to grow as movement - to share information and experiences, to combine forces and to build up our influence across the borough. The existence of the Federation has created the framework which has started to unlock some of the enormous potential – over the last year this potential has slowly and surely developed. However, much more could be achieved with greater involvement & focus.

Improving Federation activity, and communication and co-operation in general

There was a long discussion at our January 2006 meeting about how we work together, and how we could improve our effectiveness etc. The following points are the key issues that came out (to be acted upon in the coming year):

- Communication between RAs We agreed to set up a new collective e-list so that local RAs can communicate directly with each-other, sharing news etc. The Secretary will also retain the HFRA announcements list. There are issues to sort out first to ensure that the list is used appropriately and effectively. We need to compile and produce a list of all RAs, with any public contact details they may have – each RA need to be asked first. We agreed that it would be good to help RAs in the same areas of the borough to develop closer co-operation and networking – eg by having area co-ordinating groups, holding special ‘area networking days’ (eg Crouch End, South Tottenham etc).
- Taking up issues effectively Many key issues could be pursued more effectively if we were able to build up ‘working groups’ around our officers (eg Living Streets, Council Housing, Heritage etc). Also, local RAs should feel encouraged to keep in contact with these officers, and to contribute to ‘strategic’ networking and lobbying efforts etc. Key issues need to be followed through - we need to be aware of LBH publications & attend the right meetings.
- HFRA Website Needs to be kept up to date and upgraded. There is much potential for it to be a real public asset. It needs some technically proficient volunteers, and possibly some funds.
- HFRA Meetings These were felt to be pretty good, but there was always so much to discuss! It was agreed that this was a strength, but that local reports often squeezed out other issues needing discussion. Agreed to put local reports last every third meeting. We should all try to encourage more RAs to come along, and also more of our own members to attend with the regular delegates or instead of them.
- HFRA structure This was felt to be generally OK, although the more people who get actively involved the better.
- HFRA finances Need to raise our own funds on a regular basis. On top of affiliations and grants we could ask for public donations and ‘standing orders’ from residents who appreciate what we’re trying to achieve.
- Overall The Federation and the wider residents’ movement seemed to be growing in strength and depth each year. It was pointed out that we’re all volunteers also very active in our local RAs, and that we’re doing our best!

How your association or your members can help strengthen borough-wide co-operation

We recognise that people active in their own neighbourhoods are usually already pretty stretched - however, there is much that members of local associations can do to help strengthen Federation activities. Let’s raise our voices together ever more loudly and clearly in the coming year!

1. Choose members to attend the monthly Federation meetings. Go on our email list.
2. Pay the annual HFRA subscription, and donations, so we have financial independence
3. Send in reports/copies of your leaflets or Newsletters for our mailings (260 copies if possible)
4. Help set up Working Groups on key issues - waste, traffic, council housing, planning, local services etc
5. Establish communication among RAs in your area of Haringey. Encourage new ones to form.
6. Distribute HFRA literature widely to members, libraries & events. Invite a HFRA rep to speak at local meetings.

As ratified at the HFRA AGM, May 20th 2006