Haringey Federation of Residents Associations:
Annual Report 2008-9

During the last 12 months the Federation has continued to consolidate our activities and issues taken up. We have also enabled and supported other residents’ networks, whether localised in a part of Haringey, or whether borough-wide networks organised around specific issues and concerns.

Supporting local RAs As always we’ve continued to do our best to support the work of local associations (and encourage new ones to set up). We support the principle that residents in every street, block or neighbourhood can organise ourselves, speak out and take action for ourselves and our communities. We particularly welcome the growth in the number of RAs now doing their own newsletters and websites.

Promoting the concerns of local RAs At our meetings – now changed to bi-monthly since last September - we’ve continued to exchange a wide range of local reports, to discuss and identify some of the key concerns for local communities (see below), and develop ways in which the borough’s residents’ movement can support and take these concerns forward effectively.

Planning and Development Planning controversies continue all around the borough. Throughout the year we’ve continued to inform local RAs on these issues, and to support lobbying, protests and networking over planning issues and policies: supporting heritage & conservation, opposing over-development, high-density housing and loss of facilities, supporting efforts to save backlands, and to develop ‘Community Plans’ for contested sites. Local RAs continue to help form alliances around major local planning issues, including the intense community campaign to save and restore the Wards Corner area of Seven Sisters. The campaign and Federation hosted a by-election ‘hustings’ meeting in South Tottenham to enable community debate on this and related issues.

We’ve also responded to a range of planning policy consultations regarding green spaces, housing policies, the local development framework, and the ‘London Plan’ etc. We responded positively to much of the proposed improvements for Wood Green Town Centre street scene as they were based on the ‘Wood Green Audit’ written in 2006 by local RAs and backed by the Federation.

Green Open Spaces We've continued to work closely with the Haringey Friends of Parks Forum to protect and promote green spaces, and to call for improvements and minimum standards of provision. Most notably this year our joint campaign with the Forum for more on-site staffing finally led to a new ‘Parkforce’ strategy being implemented. Unfortunately Council budget cuts continue to undermine the Parks Dept’s efforts.

Street Scene and Living Streets As always, we support RAs seeking traffic calming (including a 20mph default speed limit for all residential streets), safer streets and ‘living streets’. We helped publicise a special ‘Rights Of Way’ consultation, and publicised the new ‘Streetcar Club’ for car sharing at sites around the borough.

Local services RAs continue to have a range of concerns about public services, seeking improvements rather than cuts, closures, privatisation or poor management. These concerns are likely to grow in the light of central government policies, the economic crisis, and the redirection of public funds into propping up financial institutions. The government has so far refused to reimburse Haringey Council’s £37m loss due to the collapse of Icelandic banks. Unfortunately, even before that, the Council has been making cuts across all departments.

The year began with the closures of 6 local Post Office branches, despite very strong campaigns led by local RAs. Throughout the year we backed the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition’s efforts to defend local health services, particularly local GP surgeries. The HFRA Vulnerable Groups officer also worked hard all year to support the users of social services facilities facing cuts. A focus of our general meeting in January was the major local and national controversy over the death of ‘Baby P’, and whether the Council was responsible due to the lack of adequate resources for social services or due to mismanagement.

The Haringey Forum for Older People and ourselves publicised the lack of action to implement the new ‘community toilets’ scheme we’d been lobbying for, following which the Council has said it should be starting summer 2009.

Housing We continued to support tenants’ & leaseholders’ issues (regarding Council and Housing Associations) when asked to, and to support them in taking up these matters through the various official channels. We held a special housing discussion at our meeting in January 2009 focusing on Homes for Haringey’s Decent Homes works programme, and the campaign against rent and service charge increases (led by Haringey Defend Council Housing). Other housing issues have included waste management and recycling on estates, and the need for effective access to community meeting places (about which, following Federation lobbying, there’s been some Council recognition that something needs to be done). We’ve worked with other boroughs’ tenants/leaseholders organisations through the London Tenants Federation, including hosting an LTF event in Wood Green.

Regarding housing planning policies, we have continued to express concern at new high-density and poor quality schemes, the low % of affordable and social housing, the dearth of family-sized accommodation, and the need for protection and expansion of community facilities of all kinds in local neighbourhoods.

Heritage & Conservation There have been a number of local and Haringey-wide planning issues with a ‘heritage’ significance. Our HFRA Heritage and Conservation officer has also worked very hard to raise the profile of heritage issues, including organising a series of very successful public walks and talks last summer (and this) for the Tottenham Civic Society.

Long-term Sustainability Over the last 12 months the Sustainable Haringey network, which we helped to launch in 2007, has established itself as an important and highly-influential residents organisation. The network, has promoted a range of practical measures and policies which are needed to make our society sustainable and prevent dangerous climate change. Key milestones actively backed by the Federation and RAs include June Sustainability Month events, Car Free Day, the new Growing In Haringey initiative to promote increased food production throughout Haringey, neighbourhood-based ‘ecoteams’, and the development of new local green networks in Muswell Hill, Finsbury Pk, Crouch End, S. Tottenham and Highgate.

Other issues Other concerns and activities which have cropped up during the past year include:
- anti-social behaviour We have discussed what RAs can do ourselves to respond to anti-social behaviour and strengthen local neighbourliness

- anti-racism We worked with local RAs and trades unions to counter the threat of the British National Party promoting racism and fascism in Alexandra Ward during a by-election. We helped leaflet the entire ward twice and helped organise a successful public meeting promoting community solidarity. The BNP candidate got 29 votes.

- waste management We are pleased that recycling services are slowly and surely improving across the whole borough, but disappointed that dumping and litter remain ongoing problems as always.

- community events Organising our own events is a positive strength of local RAs. We successfully encouraged more groups to hold local street parties in 2008, and organised a public meeting in 2009 for RAs to share ideas and experiences in preparation for the coming summer. We backed and took part in a 10,000-strong Car Free Day in Wood Green High Rd, and worked with a dance group to highlight ‘special places’ in neighbourhoods around Haringey.

- consultation processes We’ve continued to promote effective consultation, engagement and empowerment of residents generally.

- partnership-working We’ve continued to actively promote partnership-working among Haringey’s community organisations. Examples include the Stop Haringey Health Cuts Coalition, the Sustainable Haringey network, Haringey Anti-Fascist Coalition, Haringey Community Link Forum – and our good links with Friends of Parks Forum, Forum for Older People, Trades Union Council, UNISON branch and Wards Corner Community Coalition.

Finances We’ve again received no grants or funding at all, relying entirely on subs / affiliations / donations from RAs. We no longer do postal mailings except for the AGM, and would benefit from fundraising ideas and efforts!

Participation and support There are now 169 [162 last year] local residents associations on our mailing list, and over 144 [140 last year] RAs have now either attended Federation meetings or sent in apologies since 2001 – over 70 in the last year. Attendance has remained good, averaging around 10 [10] RAs attending and 12 [18] RAs sending in apologies. However we still need to attract more RAs who've not attended before, more young people, a more diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds, and more RAs from Council and Housing Association blocks.

There are now 125 [116 last year] RAs on our internal e-mail info-list. Our website has been overhauled, and the aim is for a number of HFRA reps to take on updating the pages on key issues. The ‘What’s New’ page of rolling news is a valuable public source for updates, but the site needs to be publicised more.

Publicity We have not promoted the Federation itself as much as previously, and to some extent have stepped back from taking as much initiative as in the past. This is maybe due to a sense of having successfully established ourselves. But it is also due to a positive commitment to partnership-working, affiliation to other ‘single issue’ organisations and campaigns, and due to our encouragement to RAs in various parts of the borough to form their own joint networks and campaigns. Lack of funds hasn’t helped. We have relied on sporadic email bulletins (which we need someone to take on regularly), hoping that RAs will forward the relevant info to their own members. We mustn’t get complacent, and should endeavor to keep up a high public profile in order to encourage RAs to link up - and to encourage everyone in Haringey to support RAs, get actively involved or set up their own.

Potential in coming year To make the kind of long-lasting improvements we'd all like to see, RAs need to share information and experiences, combine forces and build up our influence. An effective and empowering borough-wide framework to do this now exists. However, the Federation could achieve much more with greater active involvement and a consistent focus on taking up the key issues of concern.

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On July 8th 2008 we held a special HFRA general meeting to take stock of some of the strengths and weaknesses of our collective activities as a Federation. Points made included:

- the Federation has enabled better communication, co-ordination and informal networking among RAs in various areas of Haringey and around certain issues. This now often happens outside of the Federation meetings/channels.
- more funds are needed (donations and fundraising ideas welcome!)
- there is enormous mainly untapped potential for RAs across the borough to work together and pool their efforts on key issues
- are we spreading ourselves too thin sometimes? Or aiming too high? Or not high enough?
- we should ask RAs their views on what the key issues and activities should be, and how they can link in better.
- we need to develop a stronger core group of reps and be less reliant on one or two key people
- our officers could be more pro-active for the Federation and report back to each meeting if possible. But they need more support/feedback, and assistants/working groups around them if they are to be successful.
- we need to avoid very active people ‘burning out’ eg by sharing responsibilities better, or easing off on certain activities
- a volunteer is needed to compile regular email news bulletins/updates. The Secretary hasn’t got the time or energy to deal with the amount of news/information being received thesedays.

These points still very much apply! In summary we could do more to achieve our potential as a Federation as long as more people get actively involved. Meanwhile we should make sure we don’t get overstretched.