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Fresh start for hit squad guinea-pigs

ALL change means no change at Hackney, the troubled authority which last year became the first to receive a Government improvement team or "hit squad".

Labour failed by two seats to regain the east London council it lost in a party split two years ago. The authority, criticised by Richard Painter's team for having an unworkable management structure, chaotic financial control and no political leadership, remains hung.

But of the councillors who presided over two years of bitter rows and the complete restructuring of the authority, more than half have gone. All but eight of Labour's 29 councillors are newcomers, including its leader, management consultant David Manion.

Mr Manion hinted there would be no new period of upheaval, but an emphasis on working with other parties to deliver a better service.

"We want to draw a very thick black line under the infighting and personality politics of the past," he said.

Promises of a "fresh start" were emphasised by Stephen Byers, the school standards minister, who launched the Hackney party's campaign - at the primary school where Mr Manion's partner chairs the governing body.

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