Focus E15 campaign reply to Robin Wales, Comment is Free, The Guardian, 6 October 2014

The Focus E15 campaign’s Open House social centre on the Carpenters Estate showed that behind the sitex boards lie flats in fine condition ready for occupants. This is the victory, exposing Labour Mayor Robin Wales’s lies that there is no local affordable housing, and Newham Labour council’s policy of evicting people out of London.

Robin Wales’s apology to the Focus E15 families on behalf of the council and their landlord East Thames Housing Association (The Guardian, Comment is Free, 6 October) is not an apology. It is a pathetic attempt to use the support the Open House has had to shift the blame onto factors such as the housing crisis and the Tory government. How outrageous that Robin Wales should say that ‘the impact of moving families away from schools, family networks and their communities is devastating’ when that is exactly what was the catalyst for the campaign in 2013, in Newham, overseen by Robin Wales himself, when young single mothers from the Focus E15 foyer mother and baby unit were being offered accommodation in Manchester, Hastings and Birmingham. This is social cleansing and it is still going on under Robin Wales’s watch.

Wales says that the Conservatives lack of housing supply, benefit cuts and spiralling rents are the problem, but what is Labour promising? In 2008, Labour restricted housing benefit for those renting private accommodation to the 50% point of local market rents, Labour has made no promise to restore that cut. In September 2013, Labour said it would scrap the bedroom tax, but Labour councils continue to impose the tax on social housing tenants despite Robin Wales talking of ‘Conservative government’s barbaric benefit bashing’. Robin Wales was at the last MIPIM property fair in Cannes and will be represented this month at Olympia as MIPIM comes to London – hundreds of property developers, financiers and politicians doing deals while working class people face benefit cap, bedroom tax, arrears, evictions and social cleansing.

Over the last year, Robin Wales and his council have shown nothing short of contempt for the Focus E15 mothers. That he feels the need to publish any sort of apology may be related to the fact that his reputation is about to be further sullied… Wales is under investigation by the Newham Standards Committee which has found that his behaviour towards the Focus E15 campaign in a Newham Park in July showed a potential breach of code of conduct.

The demands of the Focus E15 campaign are decent long term affordable housing for all, the end to social cleansing and an immediate repopulation of the Carpenters Estate, London E15. Robin Wales has been pressured to promise to ‘make up to 40 of those homes available for homeless families’, the campaign believes there are over 400 such empty properties. We must hold him to account and ensure that these new tenancies are long term and secure.

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