Barnet’s Labour councillors call for fire safety review at next Housing Committee

Barnet LAbourLabour councillors have submitted a member’s item to the 26 June Housing Committee calling for a review of fire safety at all Barnet Homes properties and housing association properties located in the borough following the fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington.

The member’s item from Cllr Ross Houston, the Labour Group Housing Spokesperson and Deputy Group Leader, also asks the Committee to look at what Barnet Council can and should be doing to ensure private blocks of flats have robust fire safety arrangements in place.

Cllr Ross Houston said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with all the people who are affected by this terrible fire at Grenfell Tower.

Read full story at Barnet Labour website.

Radical Housing Network: Justice for Grenfell

Join the demonstration tomorrow (Friday 16th of June) at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

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JUSTICE FOR GRENFELL TOWER — ‘Managed decline’ of council housing and contempt for tenants contributed to fire

Radical Housing Network, a London-wide alliance of groups fighting for housing justice, said the Grenfell fire was a tragic consequence of systematic disinvestment in council housing alongside disregard for council tenants safety and their concerns – and called for #JusticeforGrenfell.

The catastrophe at Grenfell Tower was foreseen by a community group on the estate. Just 7 months ago, Grenfell Action Group, a member of Radical Housing Network, warned that failings in the estate management organisation’s health and safety practices were a “recipe for a future major disaster”. These warnings were dismissed by Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) council.

It’s been revealed that Gavin Barwell, Conservative Chief of Staff and ex-Minister for Housing, ‘sat on’ a report warning that tower blocks were vulnerable to fire. Last year, Barwell was one of 312 Tory MPs who voted against making properties ‘fit for human habitation’.

Radical Housing Network called the fire a horrendous example of the consequences of a combination of government cuts, local authority mismanagement, and sheer contempt for council tenants and the homes they live in – and an indictment of London’s stark housing inequality.

A spokesperson for the Radical Housing Network said:
“The fire at Grenfell is a horrific, preventable tragedy for which authorities and politicians must be held to account. Grenfell’s council tenants are not second class citizens – yet they are facing a disaster unimaginable in Kensington’s richer neighbourhoods.

“This Government, and many before it, have neglected council housing, and treated tenants as if they were second class. Nationally and locally, politicians have subjected public housing to decades of systematic disinvestment – leaving properties in a state of disrepair, and open to privatisation. Regeneration, when it has come, has been for the benefit of developers and buy-to-let landlords, who profit from luxury flats built in place of affordable homes. Across London, regeneration has meant evictions, poor quality building work, and has left tenants with little influence over the future of their estates.

“The chronic underinvestment in council housing and contempt for tenants must stop. It is an outrage that in 21st Britain, authorities cannot be trusted to provide safe housing, and that people in council properties cannot put children safely to bed at night.

“We support demands for a public inquiry into this disaster – there must be Justice for Grenfell. We call for the immediate resignation of Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s Chief of Staff, alongside anyone else whose negligence has contributed to this tragedy.

“All Grenfell Tower residents must be offered secure, long-term local housing by RBKC, and the estate must be fully rebuilt so that no social housing is lost – this should not be an opportunity for the council to privatise homes, or for someone to make a quick buck.”

Notes for editors:

Grenfell Action Group outlined concerns on their blog over a series of posts, but were ignored by authorities. The group repeatedly warned the estate landlord, Kensington & Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO) of serious issues with fire safety in the blocks, highlighting the absence of basic fire protection measures including fire extinguishers and a building-wide fire alarm system. The local council, Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea (RBKC), dismissed residents’ concerns as it pushed through a £8.6 million regeneration scheme.

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting for housing justice. Grenfell Action Group is a member group of RHN.

Press contact:
Joe Beswick – 07873557040
Harriet Vickers – 07817724556
info@radicalhousingnetwork.org
radicalhousingnetwork.org

A tribute to Jayaben Desai: An unlikely and reluctant star of the British trade union movement

Jayaben Desai, in August 1977, outside the Grunwick factory, where she led a walkout and a long-running strike

DesaiAs one of the sacked women workers employed by Grunwick, a film-processing firm based in north London, Jayaben fought for better pay, conditions and dignity for workers in 1976 and 1977, on behalf of 137 sacked and poorly paid Asian women. At first she and her fellow workers were not in a trade union, but after a visit to the Trades Union Congress, she and her workmates joined Apex, which is now part of the GMB. Their struggle was supported by Brent Trades Council.

This was the beginning of a legendary battle for trade union rights, it was to become a watershed for British trade unionism and Jayaben Desai was to become an inspiration to a generation of trade unionists, and beyond. Famously, she told her factory manager, “What you are running is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips. Others are lions who can bite your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager”. Jayaben Desai, union activist was born 2 April 1933 and died 23 December 2010.

This Black History celebration event will feature Jayaben Desai’s struggle and will allow some prominent modern day trade unionists to describe how she helped to shape their views and working lives. Kamaljeet Jandu will explore lessons for unions from that struggle in meeting the ongoing challenge of ‘organising migrant workers’ today. There will be plenty of time allowed for contributions from the audience.

Speakers Include:    

Tim Roache               General Secretary, GMB

Betty Joseph             Chair, SERTUC Race Relations Committee and NUT

Kamaljeet Jandu     National Equality Officer, GMB (Theme: Organising of, and organising with, migrant workers)

Megan Dobney        SERTUC Regional Secretary

2 October 2017: 5.30pm for 6pm start, concluding with a short drinks reception 8pm-8.30pm

Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

Congress House is a fully accessible building. There is no charge for attending this event

If you wish to attend you must register by contacting sertucevents@tuc.org.uk, by calling 020 7467 1220, or register by post to SERTUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

 See SERTUC Resources at http://sertucresources.wordpress.com/ for information about other SERTUC events or publications

UCU: Academic boycott of London Metropolitan University

ucu-1140-400Members not employed by London Metropolitan University are asked to support the academic boycott in any way that they can.

This may include not doing the following:

  • applying for any advertised jobs
  • speaking at or organising academic or other conferences
  • giving lectures
  • accepting positions as visiting professors or researchers
  • writing for any academic journal which is edited at or produced by the institution in question
  • accepting new contracts as external examiners for taught courses
  • collaborating on new research projects.

For the avoidance of doubt, where any of the above or other related activities forms part of your contractual duties you should only refrain from doing them after your head of department (or line manager) has given you prior permission to do so. UCU is not asking or encouraging academics to act in breach of their contracts of employment. In the event of any doubt, before acting advice should be sought from the union or clarification sought from your line manager.

Important UCU members employed by London Metropolitan University must not participate in the academic boycott in order to protect their contractual position.

Please also note: London Metropolitan University amended boycott advice

LSE University cleaners to strike every week, indefinitely until they win equality

qVprSWvTCoXwiLl-fullsizeMigrant workers at the London School of Economics University begin indefinite programme of strike action over unequal treatment and terms and conditions on 11 May. An almost entirely migrant workforce of outsourced cleaners is about to embark on an indefinite programme of strike action over the LSE’s refusal to grant them simple equality with their in-house counterparts. Read more here.

Messages of Solidarity for “Barnet Two” email contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

18342733_10155078055521206_1978186995523180223_nPLEASE SUPPORT.

As a result of consultation we have now learnt that the two welfare rights workers (now to be referred to as the “Barnet Two”) are not being sacked in order to make CUTS, they are being sacked because vulnerable families will get a better service without them!

Before I address the issue of why it is so wrong to sack the Welfare Rights workers I want to highlight this scene in Ken Loach’s BAFTA Award winning film “I, Daniel Blake”

This scene shows the daily humiliating life experiences people in need are facing.

I’m referring to this scene, because the Barnet Council proposal is to move away from helping to sign posting. It sounds good in the highly paid consultancy circle world. BUT the grim reality this is not just a cut for two workers it is a cruel cut that will deny access to the vital information, advocacy and support for the most vulnerable families in Barnet.

Before Barnet UNISON found out that this was NOT a financial saving, we would have referred the Council back to the uncontrollable Agency/consultancy worker costs which have gone from a round £7.3 million in 2012 to 19.8 million by March 2017.

“I have heard of Barnet Council’s sackings of welfare rights officers and the closure of job centres. Does the Council have any idea of the cruelty of the treatment of vulnerable people? The DWP’s procedures are set up to trap and punish those who need support and advice. By these cuts, the Council is colluding in this conscious brutality. In solidarity, Ken Loach.”

On behalf of the Barnet Two and our branch I would like to once again thank Ken for his message of solidarity and support for the “Barnet Two” and his condemnation of the planned closures of job centres in Barnet.

“Why will this proposal cause hard to vulnerable families?”

In the past seven years there have been many changes in the way Advice in the London Borough of Barnet has been delivered.

The following organisations have either closed down or no longer do Welfare Rights Advice.

  1. Welfare Rights Unit (Barnet Council)
  2. Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has closed five of their offices (a) Avenue House (b) Grahame Park (c) Finchley (d) Edgware Hospital (e) Dollis Valley hub. Currently, the New Barnet Office is only open on Mondays morning and is due to totally shut in October 2017. The only remaining CAB is the Hendon one which is also only opened three days a weeks
  3. CAB also used to operate a home visiting service which has also ceased.
  4. Barnet Law Service (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
  5. Mary Ward Legal Services (Dealt with Welfare Rights Appeals)
  6. East Barnet Advice Services
  7. Disability Action in the Borough of Barnet
  8. Mencap (substantially reduced service since 2013) This service refer to the two Welfare Rights workers for Appeals and complex cases
  9. Jewish Deaf Association Barnet (substantially reduce services now drop in sessions only on Tuesdays morning for people with hearing impairment)
  10. Mind Barnet
  11. Due to the Legal Aid cuts no Solicitors in Barnet do Welfare Rights Appeals.

The two Welfare Rights workers are the only service that still provides comprehensive/ impartial benefits Advice up to Appeals level in Barnet. Both statutory and non-statutory organisations refer to the above workers.

In consultation it has been put to Barnet UNISON that the service could be picked up by other organisations. What is clear is that the report does not appear to know what is being provided out there in our community.

Below are some of the organisation mentioned who could pick up the work left as a result of sacking the two welfare rights workers.

  1. Welfare Rights Task Force – Benefit Advisors only support clients affected by the benefit CAP and assist them with income and expenditure in order for them to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment
  2. Employment Advisors do not specialise on welfare benefits, their remit is employment
  3. Shelter specialise in Housing and debts. They do not provide Welfare Rights Advice
  4. DWP is unable to help the majority of our clients as there may be a conflict of interest. We support client in taking cases to the Tribunal against DWP. There would be a conflict of interest, should the DWP provide welfare benefits advice. Welfare Benefit Advice exists to ensure that clients are made aware of their legal rights and represented in the event of disputes and maladministration of benefits.

Next actions:
On Tuesday 9 May at the Family Services JNCC Barnet UNISON declared a ‘failure to agree’ in response to the proposed sacking of the two welfare rights workers.

The matter has now been escalated to a meeting chaired by the Chief Executive.

If the proposal to sack the workers is not withdrawn the matter will be raised at General Functions Committee on 28 June where we will address the Leader of the Council.

Solidarity
John Burgess
Branch Secretary
Barnet UNISON

Messages of support and solidarity to contactus@barnetunison.org.uk

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