Friday, May 18, 2018

In search of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhoods of 1986-94

We Liberals say we believe in local control, but no one has done more to put that ideal into practice than the Liberal and then Liberal Democrat administration that ran the London Borough of Tower Hamlets between 1986 and 1994.

As LCC Municipal explained at the end of last year:
in 1986, the Liberals took control of the Borough, with a one vote majority. Their manifesto “Power to the Hamlets” proposed a radical new form of decentralised local government. 
Seven Neighbourhoods were to be created: Bethnal Green, Bow, Globe Town, Isle of Dogs, Poplar, Stepney and Wapping. Each would be run by an autonomous local committee. 
Each would be given its own Chief Executive and almost all services, and a number of “back office” functions would be devolved down to Neighbourhood level.
That post includes some valuable links to academic evaluation of the experiment, though its account of history can be questioned. The BNP's success on the Isle of Dogs owed much to Labour's talking up its prospects in an attempt to hold a difficult by-election - one in which I delivered for the Lib Dems.

But it's all a long time ago, parts of the borough have changed out of recognition and its politics have been taken over by characters who make Eric Flounders, who led the Liberal administration, look like Mother Teresa.

The point of this post is to send you to a second LCC Municipal article that sets out to see what traces of the Tower Hamlets Neighbourhoods remain today. It find a surprising amount.

Rather than steal any of its photographs, I have posted here a favourite video of mine. I delivered for the Lib Dems in that controversial Isle of Dogs by-election and really liked the area.

There is more about it in Patrick Wright's A Journey Through Ruins. At least I think there is - I am too busy cooking to go and check.

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