Category Archives: Housing

SERTUC: Changing the Narrative and Establishing Our Vision of the Future

Today’s meeting of South East Region Trades Union Congress (soon to be renamed TUC in London, East and South England, LESE) was made two exceptionally good addresses from Labour politicians.

The first talk was from Emma Dent Coad MP, who last year went from the elation of winning a shock election victory for Labour in the constituency of Kensington & Chelsea to the horror of the Grenfell Tower fire. Emma, a lifelong resident of the borough, a student of architecture and a Labour councillor for twelve years could not be a better person to take on the K&C Tories. The high-handedness of their council administration was almost comically awful long before the tragedy of Grenfell. This was a council that accused Labour of virtue-signalling when they proposed letting a food-bank have the use of a council property, and then praised food banks as being superior to the welfare state. They were enthusiasts for the most extreme rightwing think tanks that permanently label working-class communities as “broken” by “dependency culture” and propose to fix them through means of pure social cleansing, with madcap plans to relocate Londoners to places as far afield as Hastings and Peterborough, places that they would feel completely lost in.

Emma argued that the ideological assault of the Tories cannot be fought on its own terms, which she likened to a sort of rightwing bullshit bingo. “We must challenge the social determinism of the elites… Keeping us debating in a middle ground does not help those we want to represent… We must change the narrative against the monetisation of housing and use our own language, not the language of the Tories.”. During the discussion, numerous delegates raised the ideological attacks that have come from the media, both against Emma and Labour and, horribly, the Grenfell survivors themselves, who are falsely presented as having in some way benefited from the fire. Emma said that this was part of the ideological offensive, and definitely something that is hardening up right now.

After Emma Dent Coad, we were treated to the first adress to SERTUC by Labour Shadow Chancellor for decades, John McDonnell. John informed us that had had the very great pleasure of speaking to City of London asset managers, and telling them he was absolutely in favour of investment from all investors that pay taxes and recognise unions. What he wanted to talk to us about, though, was PFI and the fallout of the Carillion collapse.

For 20 years, Jeremy and I campaigned against PFI in public services… which is all about making money by ‘sweating the assets’, which means cutting wages and spending.” He explained that the figures, which many people refuse to believe even when presented to them, that the private sector has made services anywhere between 40 and 70% more expensive. He said he had earlier in the week, he’d been discussing Carillion with Royston Bentham, a heroic worker blacklisted by that company for fighting for health and safety at work, just one example of a person who knows only too well working under these conditions are like.

Labour is going to sieze the opportunity presented by this emergency to finally end PFI. Not only will there be no more PFI contracts, but John pledged to bring services back in-house and “re-establish the credentials of direct labour and

Defaced branding is seen outside Carillion’s Royal Liverpool Hospital site in Liverpool, Britain, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble

services. We will end privatisation, full stop.”. The bigger ideas for reforming industry and work included:

  • There will be reform of the financial auditors to put an end to the tax avoidance industry
  • Workers will not just get onto company boards, but there will be a workers’ right to buy to enable people to take ownership of businesses they work in
  • Trade union rights will be fully restored, with the Tory anti-union laws repealed within the first 100 days of the Labour government
  • A ministry of labour will be established that will enable and enforce sectoral bargaining

McDonnell emphasised, particularly in response to discussion from the floor, that a radical Labour government will only succeed if we rebuild the mass labour movement to allow it to survive, and that we need to set ourselves the target of doubling the size of our trade union membership. He rounded up by saying that Labour is holding a potentially ground breaking conference on alternative models of ownership on February the 10th that he urged people to attend, and left us with these words: “We’ve spent a lifetime working towards this, lets sieze the moment!”

Help us build the first branch of the London Renters Union. When can you come door knocking in Newham?

This year, get involved with helping to launch the London Renters Union. Together we can stand up to landlords, take collective action, and give the housing system the reboot it needs.

We need your help to build the first branch of the London Renters Union in Newham, one of the areas of London where the housing crisis is most serious.

Starting on January 15, the London Renters Union is knocking on doors and talking to people across Newham as a key part of building the first branch of the Union in the borough.

Click here to let us know when you’ll join us as we knock on doors in Newham

Door knocking is a great way we can let people know about the London Renters Union and listen to people talk about the housing challenges they are facing.

Fill out this form to let us know when you’re available to come door knocking with the London Renters Union.

To begin with, we’ll be going door knocking on Saturdays, Mondays and Tuesdays. On Mondays and Tuesdays, we’ll be doing an afternoon session starting at 3:45pm and an evening session starting at 5:45pm. Saturday sessions will start at 11am.

We need as many people to get involved and help us to build the power we need to transform the housing system. No previous experience is necessary. We’ll provide training, support and refreshments to everyone who joins in.

Getting involved in door knocking is a great way to help build the London Renters Union, have interesting, meaningful conversations and meet other people interested in transforming London’s housing system.Fill out this form to let us know which dates you’ll join us to go door knocking: https://londonrentersunion.typeform.com/to/Jjfl4b

From January 15 until February 3, we’ll be focusing on Forest Gate South, one of the areas of Newham with the highest proportion of private renters. We’ll be door knocking in other parts of Newham in February and March.

We hope you’ll be able to join us as we start to have the conversations and build the relationships we need to create to help transform the housing system.

In love and solidarity,
All the London Renters Union crew

Appalling Tory Leaflet Kensington & Chelsea

The Tories in Kensington have been asking residents how important the Grenfell tragedy is on a scale of 0-10.

It is insulting and insensitive.

Preventing another fire like Grenfell couldn’t be more important. And Theresa May has the power to do it — she could use next Wednesday’s budget to set aside money to fit social housing with sprinklers that would save lives. Let’s make sure she hears our message.

Please sign this and tell the Tories why Grenfell must not be ignored.

This is unacceptable — add my name
Sign this and help us make sure that residents of high rise social housing can sleep safely with the knowledge that they are being listened to.

A Report from Stand Up to Racism Conference

Although I only managed to get to the second half of Saturday’s Stand Up to Racism conference due to attending SERTUC in the morning, I did manage to attend a particularly poignant session in the afternoon that was not only important in itself, but that has been demonstrated as exceptional vital by events today. It was held in the afternoon on the Grenfell Fire and social cleansing, with an extremely strong range of speakers.

Activist rapper Lowkey, himself from from Kensington, spoke eloquently on the very long history of working class residents of the area having to campaign for their rights to live there. This, in fact, goes back before it would have been considered part of London, or even particularly urbanised.

Lucy Masoud, of the Chelsea Fire Brigades Union spoke next. She described her colleagues’ experiences of facing the terrible blaze itself (easily the worst actual fire most of them had ever seen, even in long careers). She finished with the fire fighters’ resolve to demonstrate through thorough proof that whatever the proximate cause of the initial blaze, the fundamental cause has been austerity.

We heard from two young survivors, Tomassina Hessel and Bellal El Guenuni, who talked about how young people had come together in the emergency to try to save lives, something that the media has largely ignored about this very ethnically diverse, solidly working class, community. They also told us that most of the survivors of the tower are still not in permanent homes.

The last speaker was Glyn Harris, a campaigning housing worker and author on the subject. He related how racism has always affecting housing policy, with members of ethnic minorities often end up in housing that the least desirable and safe. It is also the least economically secure, as witnessed in the way the sub-prime mortgage scandal that triggered the great economic crash 10 years ago.

The speakers all had there own take, but they were all pointing to the intersection between racism and austerity and the way that the basic, and totally avoidable, failure of authorities in their duties toward the public are represented by the Grenfell tragedy. It is fitting, then, they are all proved completely right by the Conservatives being forced to day to confirm that despite promises, they have no intention of providing fire prevention systems for high-density housing that could prevent future Grenfells. Ultimately, people the Tories do not care about live in that kind of housing, and it for reasons like that they we must do everything we can to get them out of office.

You can get a more full report on the conference here.

Our council: Austerity for the many not the few!

Barnet TUC notes with some alarm the advert below for a new CEO of the Barnet Group which manages Housing Services and Services for vulnerable adults for the London Borough of Barnet.
 
This advertised Salary represents an increase of at least 15% on the when the role was previously advertised in 2015.
 
Local Government workers are facing a Pay Cap of 1% imposed by the Tory Government
 
At the same time front line Housing Services like ASSIST and Caretaking Services are being cut and Terms and Conditions and wages of staff are being slashed.

Your Choice Barnet workers, who were amongst the lowest paid workers in the Barnet Group, had their salaries reduced by 9.7% 
 
Every Service we provide is constantly under review looking for savings.
 
Every service in the Barnet Group is suffering from under funding and is understaffed.
 
The Barnet Group has set up a company, TBG Flex, for new workers in Barnet Homes and Your Choice Barnet – with less pay and state statutory minimum Terms and Conditions, a longer working week and no access to the Local Government Pension Scheme. So we have a two tier workforce operating in a council owned entity.

All in the name of Austerity.
 
This is a disgrace and cannot continue – TBG Flex staff must be transferred back to Local Government Terms and Conditions.
 
The waste of money in having the Barnet Group as a separate Local Authority Trading Company, where senior managers are paid over inflated salaries awarded by the Boards which in themselves are an administrative nightmare and an added expense –
 
Barnet Group Board
Barnet Homes Board
Your Choice Barnet Board
TBG Flex Board
Open Door Homes Board
 
Board members are paid £5k a year for on average 8 days work a year.
 
Austerity for the many not the few!
 
This is all unnecessary – Return Housing Services and Your Choice Barnet back In House and go back to a Director of Housing – The savings made could be put back into the front line Housing Services.

Love Carnival Hate Racism

6da3e909-3b1c-41ad-b8e6-614b256fd2b9This weekend’s Carnival is set to be a massive celebration of London’s diversity and tribute to the victims of the Grenfell Tower Disaster.

As well as supporting Love Music Hate Racism’s procession, Stand Up To Racism will be at carnival getting the anti-racist message out – if you’d like to help out at our stall, join us on from 12noon on Monday 28th August Cambridge Gardens (W10 6JD) just up from Ladbroke Grove tube station, or email us at info@standuptoracism.org.uk
And to get involved with LMHR’s procession on Sunday 27th, get along to the Love Music Hate Racism carnival pre-meet 7pm Thursday 24th August at Maida Hill Place, 2-4 Fernhead Road, London W9 3ET. You can book your place in the procession, pick up and customise your t-shirt and find out details for the day. See event page here

Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle

For some people, a housing crisis means not getting planning permission for a loft conversion. For disposothers it means, quite simply, losing their home. Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle is a feature documentary directed by Paul Sng (Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain) and narrated by Maxine Peake, exploring the catastrophic failures that have led to a chronic shortage of social housing in the UK.

These failures include government policy that prevents local councils and housing associations from building homes for the 1.4 million people on council housing waiting lists and the quarter of a million homeless people in Britain. Or the deliberate neglect of council estates by local authorities that’s used to justify ‘regeneration’ projects with private developers, which often force those who cannot afford homes in the new properties to relocate to other parts of the country, far from their families and support networks.

With unprecedented access to residents, politicians and experts in the housing industry and media, Dispossession is the story of people fighting for their communities, of people who know the difference between a house and a home, and who believe that housing is a human right, not an expensive luxury.

Screenings here.

1 2 3 4