Introducing the new Speaker of Hackney

COMMUNITY spirit is what it’s all about for Cllr Ian Rathbone, the new Speaker of Hackney.

During his year in office, he will be working to encourage more Hackney residents to get involved in schemes to benefit their local area.

Cllr Rathbone said: “I would like to see more people working together in the community - we need to find out who our neighbours are in a society which is heading down the road of individualism and isolation in front of a TV or computer screen, mistaking information exchange for real relationships.

“We need to find, nurture and highlight more of those people who show a lead in the community, role models for others to follow, including as many people as possible in the political process helping to emphasise participation - and tackle the alienation which some people feel about the way things happen in society.”

The new Speaker and Deputy Speaker, Cllr Muttalip Unluer, were elected to their posts during the Council’s Annual General Meeting, held on 14 May at the Town Hall.

Cllr Rathbone was born in Hackney, and has been a Leabridge ward councillor since winning a by-election in 2002.

He helped to found the Council’s Street Leaders scheme during the 1990s, which encourages local residents to report nuisances such as fly-tipping, and has recently co-ordinated efforts to make Hackney a Fairtrade borough.

However, it’s the achievements of local people working together that he is most passionate about. In his acceptance speech, he praised the efforts of the young people of De Beauvoir, who refurbished their clubhouse with new IT equipment after it had been burned out by vandals.

This is why over the coming year the Speaker will be working closely with Hackney Voluntary Action, an organisation for residents to find out more about volunteering opportunities.

Cllr Rathbone said: “There are some wonderful people you meet as a volunteer, people very committed to improving life for others, and often unrecognised.

“I feel democracy has a big problem if working people are not able to take part in some community activity, or denied the opportunity of public service.”

He added that he was looking forward to visiting more of the borough’s schools, continuing from his stint during the past 12 months as Deputy Speaker, and emphasised the importance of explaining to children and young people how democracy, choice and participation work.

This year’s Speaker’s chosen charities are: the Laburnum Boat Club, which provides activities for children, young people and their families on the Regents Canal and beyond; the Hackney Society, which works to involve and support local people in conservation of the built environment in the borough; and Strengthening Families, Strengthening Communities, a group which gives parenting skills classes.

If you would like to make a donation to the Speaker’s charities, contact the Speaker’s office on 020 8356 3350, email, or write to the Speaker c/o the Speaker’s Office, Room 118b, Town Hall, Mare Street, London, E8 1EA.

The first citizen

Hackney Council has a directly elected Mayor with executive powers, and the role of the Speaker fulfils many of the ceremonial and public duties traditionally associated with the post of Mayor.

The Speaker’s job is to chair full Council meetings; preside over citizenship ceremonies at the Town Hall; and as Hackney’s Civic Representative to attend numerous events throughout the year and welcome visitors to the borough.