Category Archives: Housing

Barnet TUC goes to Greenfell Silent Walk of Protest – Monthly Meeting Moved

In June, the second Thursday will be the 14th, which the aniversary of the Grenfell fire distaster.

Every month on the 14th, the Justice for Grenfell campaign does a silent protest of support and solidarity for survivors and the berieved of this completely avoidable catastrophe. Barnet TUC will mobilising for the aniversary protest and we are accordingly moving our meeting forwards to Thursday the 7th of June.

Invitation: London Renters Union member support training

Tuesday May 29 at 6:30pm // Common House, 5e Punderson’s Gardens, Bethnal Green, E2 9QG

To improve our lives and build a powerful union, we need to be able to deal with the immediate problems we face as renters in London  – from chronic disrepair to deposit theft to no-fault evictions. And we need to address these issues in a way that is informed, empowering and, when appropriate, can lead to collective action.

Through the experience of our members and founding organisations, and through our recent work in Newham and Eros House in Catford, Lewisham, the LRU is developing its knowledge and skills in effective member support.

This is already making a positive difference to the lives of a number of our members. We want to spread this knowledge and skill so that as many LRU members and activists as possible can do member support work themselves, as part of the branches we’re building now – or will build soon.

If that sounds useful to you, join this training, led by our member support working group. Look forward to seeing you there! The training is free and open to all, but please let us know you are coming by registering using our registration page.

What we will cover:

  • The big picture: how member support fits into the story and strategy of the union
  • Our rights as renters: how we’re protected against evictions, disrepair, and rogue landlords, and where we have little protection.
  • Training in our member support process: how to support fellow members to enforce their rights
  • Moving from individual support to collective action: how to come together to take action against the people who hold power, and win

As part of the training, we will be providing food. We can also arrange for childcare – please let us know if you’ll be bringing children along to the training workshop.

This training is free, but please let us know you are coming by filling out the form on our website. 

The Barnet Society Public Meeting, February 22nd 2018 – Report by Jenny Brown

The four political parties, plenty of questions from more than 120 High Barnet residents.

Housing:

Question from the Barnet Society Chair: What about empty residences in Barnet – approx 4,000 of them are “long term empty”?

Questions from the public showed concern about homelessness, high rents and unaffordable homes.

The Conservative comment from their woman representative, was that “the law needs to change. We have to house homeless people – it is statutory,” she said in relation to a question asking how it is right that we spend £25 million on providing emergency accommodation.

An audience member said the Conservatives had introduced “Right to Buy”

Liberal Democrat comment was they are the only party wanting to stop “Right to Buy.”

Amy from Labour refuted. She spoke about The new London Plan recently published by Sadiq Kahn, giving alternative ways to provide affordable housing.

  • Paul Edwards added that between 40% and 50% of social housing will be expected from developers because there will be the political will to negotiate this if Labour win.
  • Developers reap profit from being allowed to supply the housing market, where in Barnet £400,000 is considered affordable and some units sell for a million, showing scope for the developer to afford to build social housing on site. Rental provides housing revenue to maintain rather than sell the social homes.
  • In addition 800 Council homes would be built across Barnet for social rent. He said the Tories have caved into developers all over the borough

The Green Party:

  • Ways to use building apprenticeships under supervision to build self builds with the involvement of those who will be living in them.
  • Pre-fabs were discussed as viable and realistic.
  • Council to take over empty properties and rent them out. The rental is then paid to the property owner. The Council presumably fix the rental so it is a social rental rather than market rental.
  • The policy is “renovate not demolish”, with zero VAT on home renovation.

Robin Bishop, expressed concerns that the 32 London Boroughs have targets to build homes with density now abolished apart from in “conservation areas”. Robin and Nick from the Barnet Society showed concern that the new Labour London Plan would mean 3,300 new homes in High Barnet and Underhill by 2025.

Robin suggested to the meeting, that the next Council administration could draw up it’s own targets rather than following the new London Plan, in view of the 27,000 new homes across Barnet that the Conservative Council set as their own target and which is being met.

The Green belt and Ark secondary school were heated issues. Someone asked why a special school was not achieved. Councillor Longstaff said “We could not do anything because Barnet did not own the land saying the Dept for Education owned the land.”

Transport:

Paul Lemon, labour candidate for High Barnet, talked about improvements to transport if both the London Assembly and Barnet Council were Labour.

  • The cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians need to share our public roads
  • Electric charging points paid for by the Mayor will make a start towards alleviating air pollution. Integrated transport hubs/tram/light rail, suggested.
  • East to West transport links are poor.
  • The same number in High Barnet commute to work in Hertfordshire and beyond, as commute to work in central.
  • Cllr. Longstaff suggested Barnet Hospital build another layer of parking which could benefit those coming to Barnet. He said CPZ’s are always only after consultation.
  • Barnet currently makes between £5.5 M and £6 Million per year from parking charges and fines.
  • Trains from Finchley to High Barnet have been cut.
  • Lorries should be kept out and pay to come into our towns was popular and received applause.

The High Street.

In general the audience felt there was a lack of vision from the panel.

That we need to create reasons for people to come to this destination.

Walks in the woods, Barnet museum, Theatre space, community events around food, music and culture was suggested.

Spaces to sit with cover from wind and rain was suggested by Lib. Dems.

The Lib. Dems. spoke strongly in support of library staff and building libraries back.

Cllr. Longstaff said we are lucky because some boroughs they have closed theirs where as Barnet, he claimed, have kept ours going, increased stocks of books and built two new libraries!

Residents challenged on this as did the Lib. Dems.

Recreation, was raised – before QE girls became an Academy, the community could use the swimming pool, trampoline and other facilities. Recreation can bring people here and serve us.

Residents were concerned about the number of eating places, betting shops and charity shops.

Shops that sell craft and hobby things such as “Hobby Craft” could be approached and invited in.

Street cleaning was discussed. There was a strong mood in favour of bringing services “back in-house”. Paul Edwards said “We are committed to bringing services back in-house.”

Capita Contract was brought up. Cllr. Longstaff, standing in High Barnet for the Conservatives, stated that Council Tax would need to rise by 4% if services were brought back in- house.

Some thought the “litter police” should be catching more people.

On the whole, the event will hopefully lead to more ideas to maintain our High Streets – maybe a toy library/toy exchange with space to play chess/ board games, as a way of using an empty shop (instead of creating another charity shop). Strong support for markets. The teenage market had been successful but not sure if that can continue now that the land that Barnet market was held on, has been sold.

Barnet Market with all it’s historic links is being minimised to a band stand and bit of pavement at the back of the Spires. The meeting noted the losses to Barnet since the Tory administration. Great to have Public Meetings with every chair taken and over a dozen, standing at the back

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

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