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Social housing, not social cleansing!

Wave goodbye to Robin Wales – unpopular Mayor is deselected by Newham Labour!

Finally! Robin Wales has been deselected as mayoral candidate for Newham Labour after a tense battle against Rokshana Fiaz, who will now go on to face the electorate in the local elections in May and won by over 350 votes. The news of his deselection was announced on Friday 16 March 2018.  It was Robin Wales, who told the original group of 29 mothers from Focus E15 hostel (after cutting the funding to the mother and baby unit) that “if you can’t afford to live in Newham, then you can’t afford to live in Newham”. Robin Wales has been in charge of Newham council for 23 years as he was head of the Council from 1995 and Labour Mayor since 2002. He has been an unpopular and unreachable figure. He spent decades promoting policies that has led to social cleansing, forcing working class people out of the borough whilst leaving homes empty and boarding up Carpenters Estate. Today 1 in 25 people in Newham are homeless as a result.

Focus E15 Campaign will be pleased to see the back of Robin Wales – because he was an advocate of kicking out the poor and most vulnerable, running a council with £563m debt after reckless borrowing from the banks and lately using the equivalent of a staggering 125% of council tax revenue on debt repayment. However the campaign also knows full well that the pressure needs to be applied to the new (very likely Labour) Mayor to promote a sustainable housing policy that benefits and suits the needs of working class residents.

Before the next leg of the campaign is fired up, Focus E15 campaign will be reflecting on the last four years and celebrating  Robin Wales’s deselection on Saturday at their street stall in Stratford by having a bit of a party and then carrying on raising awareness of all the above issues by taking an open top bus through the streets of Newham. Focus E15 campaigner Jasmin Stone explains that:

“Robin Wales is out! We have spent, four and a half  years fighting his social cleansing and demanding the repopulation of Carpenters estate! So many times being locked out of council meetings, attacked by private security at the Mayor’s show, arrested illegally for protesting against wrongful evictions and now he is out! Good riddance. However the fight is not over. We must make sure that the Newham People’s Charter demands are heard and met. And Robin Wales I think you will need to use Workplace and find a new job… can’t imagine anyone wanting to employ you though….

Watch this and share… More about Robin Wales’ legacy…

Let us not let Newham Labour Party and the new Mayor off the hook -we must hold them to account immediately! Read more about the Newham’s People’s Charter which Focus E15 campaign is endorsing here:

Please do join us in our celebrations to mark an end of a long era for Newham at our weekly stall on Saturday 17 March – 12-2pm outside Wilko’s on Stratford Broadway, London E15 1NG and then afterwards for more adventures on the free Focus E15 bus trip around Newham. Bring children, placards, food and drink!

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Sara made ‘Intentionally Homeless’ by Newham Council

The following blog post is taken directly from a report written for the Revolutionary Communist Group’s website. Thank you for allowing  Focus E15 Campaign to reprint this report in full below.

No such thing as intentional homelessness – Sara must stay in Newham

Robin Wales, head of Newham Labour Council since 1995 and Labour Mayor of Newham since 2002 is facing the end of his reign. Rokhsana Fiaz is standing against him for the Labour mayoral candidacy and the results will be announced on Friday 16 March after local Labour members have voted. This situation came about after a trigger democracy process which has forced Wales to accept a challenger for the first time. All Newham wards voted for someone to stand against him. Wales is running scared and after decades of vicious treatment of working class people in the borough, he now proclaims himself a socialist leading a radical council. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Focus E15 Campaign has been working with Sara, a mother of two young children in Newham. Her story is outlined on the Focus E15 website here. Since she refused to be moved to Birmingham, Newham Council says she has made herself ‘intentionally homeless’ and has discharged their duty to house her.

On International Women’s Day, Thursday 8 March, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! stood with Sara and Focus E15 Campaign, alongside children and parents from Sara’s son’s school, Museum of Homelessness, Streets Kitchen and Newham Green Party,  as we challenged Robin Wales at the Mayoral Proceedings. This meeting is where Robin Wales rubber stamps anything he likes surrounded by his hand-picked cronies from the council. Usually an hour long, on 8 March Robin Wales looked shifty and nervous as the public gallery filled up and he raced through proceedings. After only 22 minutes he and his colleagues made a swift exit. They saw and they heard but not one stopped to look at the messages on the banners or placards nor listen to the speeches and chants from the gallery, as we demonstrated our solidarity with Sara. There is no such thing as intentional homelessness and Sara must be housed in Newham, near her family and support networks, in her community and where her children go to school.

With news of the protest spreading on social media, the local press took interest and Wales’ challenger Rokhsana Fiaz asked to meet with Sara and Focus E15 Campaign. Newham Council was forced to issue a statement defending their callous treatment of Sara and her children and standing by their decision to refuse her any further housing support.

The pressure is on, but we must all remember that Sara is just one of thousands of people and families who are facing social cleansing in Newham and at the hands of rotten Labour boroughs all around London. We must also be aware that replacing Robin Wales, while a huge victory after his years of abuse of working class people, migrants and the most vulnerable in our communities, will not solve the problems of capitalism. Rokhsana Fiaz says that housing is first of her top three priorities. It is up to us to hold her to account. Focus E15 Campaign has pledged to do this. Join us!






Newham People’s Charter drawn up as Robin Wales faces deselection.

Newham People's Charter finalRobin Wales, head of Newham Labour Council since 1995 and Labour Mayor of Newham since 2002 is facing the possibility of deselection by the end of this coming week. Rokhsana Fiaz is standing against him for the Labour mayoral candidacy and the results will be announced on Friday 16 March after local Labour members have voted. Robin Wales is running scared and after decades of promoting policies of social cleansing of working class people, forcing them out of the borough, he now proclaims himself a socialist and a radical. We know that nothing could be further from the truth.

If this is the end of the reign of Robin Wales, now is the right time for community groups and campaigns to put maximum pressure on the new Mayor and not let the Labour council off the hook.   Focus E15 campaign is endorsing a people’s charter for Newham. It is a work in progress and is intended to spark debate and discussion about what kind of Newham we, the people, want.

Focus E15 campaign presented this idea of drawing up a people’s Charter to the prospective Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz on Saturday 10 March 2018 at her surgery in Custom House. If your group or community would like to endorse the People’s charter please email the campaign and we will add you onto a list


Focus E15 campaigners presenting a People’s Charter for Newham to the prospective Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz.



Why I am A Focus E15 Campaigner: celebrating International Women’s Day

Rebecca Morris from Focus E15 Campaign gives a personal reflection on International Women’s Day.

On March 8 Focus E15 Campaign will be marking International Women’s Day by joining the International Women’s Strike, and singing with Rebel Choir in Russell Square from 1pm. The Rebel Choir is an activist-community choir. Together we will be singing songs in solidarity with victims of abuse, UCU strikers, mothers in Colchester who are protesting at the introduction of Universal Credit, and with women and non-binary people the world over. Then at 5pm, we are going to make a din at the mayoral proceedings in Newham, in solidarity with a single mother of two who is about to be evicted by the council for refusing to be relocated to Birmingham:

I want to talk about why I think it is still important to participate in the Women’s Strike and why I am a Focus E15 campaigner.  I am not a Focus E15 Campaigner because I am a mother. I am not a Focus E15 Campaigner because I identify as a woman. I am part of Focus E15 Campaign because we campaign for a society where all, regardless of gender, background, race or familial attachments have an adequate home – a place to feel safe and comfortable. This is not the reality for many people. Every week on the Focus E15 stall horror stories are heard: evictions from rogue landlords, the awful, cramped conditions of temporary accommodation, where some families share just one room for lengthy periods of time, making it seem as if we really have gone back in time.

A hundred years ago, Sylvia Pankhurst’s campaigned for decent housing in the East End and her writings discuss the inadequacies of housing for the working class. The following outlines what she considered to be essential for every family home:

“A moment’s thought conjures up many requirements which should be considered essential to every home, but which in almost every working-class home are lacking. Each adult member is surely entitled to at least one room of his or her own (and whoever works or studies all day at home should have two rooms). There should be a place, to sit in, a place to meet friends in, a place to read and be quiet in, a place out of doors where the children can play in fine warm weather, and a place indoors for wet, cold weather, furnished with toys and childish things. These are essential, but the problem of cleaning and tidying must be taken into account, for the housewife must not be an overworked slave.”

It is depressing that nowadays this vision seems impossible for so many. Yet we must not give in for our struggle for decent secure homes for all.

Focus E15 campaign was started by 29 young mothers who were about to be evicted from their hostel by Newham council, they stood together and refused to leave their communities. Over 4 years on, Focus E15 continues the weekly street stall on the Stratford Broadway. It is a multi-gendered campaign that would not have been able to win countless victories without the support of so many from the community.

In Paul Watt’s recent article, Gendering the right to housing in the city: Homeless female lone parents in post-Olympics, austerity East London, he breaks down how Newham council and our neighbouring council of Waltham Forest used the greater powers councils received to allocate council houses after the 2011 Localism act. Waltham Forest slashed 11,925 applicants off its waiting list, the largest reduction in England, while Newham sliced 5000 off its list, the eighth largest reduction. They began prioritising applicants in paid employment and ex-members of the armed forces. As Watt argues, “this prioritisation has had considerable, albeit under-appreciated, gendered effects. Newham and Waltham Forests’ housing allocations’ policies effectively discriminate against women who have a small presence in the armed forces and are also less likely than men to be in paid employment, not least because of caring responsibilities.”

Watt uses personal case studies with single mothers to further outline the disadvantages women and children experience in temporary accommodation. These mothers have the right to be in safe public housing yet their “safety was jeopardised by their experiences of living in temporary accommodation where they had to share communal areas with strangers, including men who could be intimidating and even violent.” Moreover, Watt argues the huge disadvantages to mothers being re-housed out of borough, and the fact that particularly in the time of austerity they rely heavily on support and services of the city. The campaign believes it is vital that we support and give solidarity to the most vulnerable. If lone parents struggle to find a safe home for their children, then our society has failed.

Yet herein lies another issue that Focus E15 have had to contend with: the dichotomy of mothers and women who consider themselves activists being labelled as ‘victims’. It sometimes feels as if no matter how clued up and radical we are as campaigners, the mainstream media and those in power will only listen, or lend us a voice if we are presented as victims, or fragile women who only went the radical route when all other options failed. When the campaign started, the mothers did not give in, and who knows what might have happened to them if they had. They fought back and responded quickly. They did this simply by knocking on each other’s doors; by organising together with other political groups; keeping each other’s spirits up; supporting each other; going out onto the streets and talking to people and asking them to sign a petition.

I truly believe that Focus E15 Campaign is challenging traditional power structures through collective organising. Involved in the campaign are a fantastic and creative collective of people; pooling resources to create dynamic publicity stunts; generating memes; sourcing local news about the council; sharing inspiring quotes, videos and raising political awareness. There is so much power in this style of organising. We look out for each other. And we are not victims.

We want to inspire other people, women, mothers, children to start a campaign. You are never too young or too old – there is a diversity of ages represented in our campaign, and children have always played a huge part, always present at the weekly street stall in Stratford.

To conclude, I would like to recall a moment that stood out to me at an open meeting we recently had on children and homelessness. A member of Focus E15, the housing activist and single mother of three who has been re-located to Basildon, stood up, and brushing angry tears away from her eyes, told a silent room how as a result of her displacement she had suffered racism in her local area, as well as mental health issues, yet maintained that no matter how she is treated by the council and her neighbours, she will stay determined to fight until she sees victory, and that she has been able to do this with the support of Focus E15. This put me in mind of a quote by Sylvia Pankhurst, one that we have had stitched onto a banner by activist and artist, Andrew Cooper: “I am going to fight capitalism even if it kills me. It is wrong that people like you should be comfortable and well fed while all around you people are starving”.


Positive community housing meeting held in East London

Don’t make our babies homeless… Children in the housing crisis

People filled the hall in the Carpenters and Dockland Centre on the Carpenters Estate on Saturday 3 February at a public meeting, hosted by Focus E15 Campaign and with invited speakers from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, the Housing and Mental Health Network and Kate Belgrave, journalist and housing blogger. The meeting was held in the grounds of the Carpenters Estate, where over four hundred homes lie empty in a Labour-run borough which has a rising homeless population and many people sleeping out on the streets.

The meeting was proposed after hearing  issues affecting parents in housing need, who are being labelled intentionally homeless and then finding out that the council  no longer has a duty of care towards them, but has for their children  – meaning that social services may be called to intervene – a frightening prospect for any family in housing need.

This is well documented in the recent post that Kate Belgrave has on her site and was well illustrated by speakers at the meeting, which included a retired social worker who spoke of  her battles decades ago to challenge similar situations. Clearly our society is going backwards and we have to take a stand again and challenge  any human rights violations, including the right to family life and stand up for the rights of children. Read what Kate Belgrave has to say about this on her excellent blog:

The chair of the meeting set the scene well by describing the 100s of thousands of children in B&B and hostel accommodation in Britain, which is the six richest nation on the planet. Over two million people, including children are living in privately rented homes in England that are so squalid their health is affected and over half of all children in Britain’s poorest areas are now growing up in poverty.

While almost eight months on from the Grenfell Tower fire, in the richest borough in London, 100 households (including hundreds of children) of the 208 made homeless are still in emergency accommodation/hotel rooms.


The speakers from the Housing and Mental Health Network spoke very clearly about the link between housing instability and mental health problems and how people are being asked to parent in situations that are fundamentally not suitable. The end of short term rental tenancies are the biggest reason for people being evicted and forced into temporary accommodation.

From the floor, we heard from and about Newham residents fighting intentional homelessness and fighting to stay in the borough and Libby Liburd, actor and writer, spoke about her play Muvvahood and her next play about temporary accommodation… keep up with her work at

The speaker from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! put the current housing situation in the context of austerity and the crisis of capitalism. While Britain wages war abroad, plunders and occupies and destroys, at home it uses racism and attacks on the working class to pursue its policies in the interest of a minority, enriching themselves from the exploitation of working class people. In the words of Sylvia Pankhurst, revolutionary, communist, anti-imperialist fighter in the East End in 1918: ‘One of the election cries of the Lloyd George Coalition was Housing Reform, but with what unsurmountable obstacles are those tinkering reformers faced who are unprepared to abolish the Capitalist system.’   

A Newham resident speaks out.

A brave woman spoke to the campaign at the end of the meeting, having been inspired to tell her story to help reach out to others and work collectively to raise the issues and find solutions and support. This illustrates everything and more that was raised in our meeting. She told us:

I am a single mother of three who was in private accommodation for seven years and was evicted when the landlord wanted to sell. The landlord became aggressive, and has currently kept the deposit and tried to sue me for contacting environmental health about the mould. My daughter was born extremely premature and has chronic lung disease. I can’t afford another place in the private sector and the landlord still has my deposit.

I suffer with Anxiety and OCD and both my children have medical problems.

My children are not currently staying with me and are staying with their father and grandparents.

I have chosen to do this because I don’t want them to be in the horrible temporary accommodation I have been given. I can’t cook adequately there.

I am staying at the property in the evening and leave early in the morning to get the children ready for school and to take them to school. I stay with the children until they go to bed and then I go back to the property. The house the children is in is overcrowded.

Newham Council is fully aware of my difficulties and have letters from my psychiatrist detailing how I am currently suffering a significant deterioration in my mental illness due to recent changes in my housing circumstances and made particularly difficult and unbearable due to my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depressive illness. 

The housing officer said that Newham Council has carried out their duty by giving me a house and that no one can say how long the temporary accommodation will be for.

I am very ashamed of being in this situation and more so having to put my children through it.

We demand housing justice for Newham’s residents. 

Join us on our weekly street stalls, Saturdays 12-2pm on the Broadway in Stratford outside Wilko’s and come to the next campaign meeting, Saturday 3 March 2.30-4.30pm at Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, E15 4DN. Robin Wales must go! The Carpenters must be saved! 


Rumours of Robin Wales’s resignation have been squashed!

Robin Wales is NOT out. The past 24 hours social media has been going crazy with rumours of the Mayor of Newham Robin Wales stepping down!

We should have seen this was too good to be true and that he would never have done the right thing… it isn’t in his nature. Robin Wales thinks he has a chance of winning the mayoral selection. Robin has a history of using sneaky tactics to buy more time.

Wales has served as Mayor of Newham since 2002 and had leading roles in the council since 1995. The gentrifier of Newham has recently let £52.5 million slip away from tax payers money from the sell off of the Olympic stadium. The equivalent of 125% of our council tax is spent on paying back the interest on LOBO loans the council has taken out.
Wales’s agenda is clear. In 1997 he said:

“There are too many people, those currently living in Newham and those attracted from other London boroughs, who survive on low incomes or who present themselves as homeless. Whilst we will offer support and carry out our legislative duties, our aim will be to increase Newham’s property values”.

In more recent years Robin Wales said to Focus E15 campaigners “if you cant afford to live in Newham you can’t afford to live in Newham”. Social cleansing is happening across Newham. We must stop all this housing misery now.

We have seen Red Door ventures coming into the borough, private insecure renting increasing and social council housing demolished and left empty. These are few examples of the many corrupt schemes introduced and supported by the Mayor as homelessness increases every day. One in 25 people in  Newham are homeless – the highest in Britain. This makes 13,607 people. The number of people homelessness in Newham has increased by 1,361 from 2016 to 2017. (Source: Shelter).

We all had the feel for celebration when we heard the news yesterday; if you for one moment said oh finally he is out -then we need to be working together! We must demand Wales steps down! We must demand the end of this dictatorship and we must be united! Join Focus E15 every Saturday 12-2pm, Stratford Broadway (outside Wilkos) and  join us at our next meeting, where we will be discussing the Mayoral selection procedure and the all next steps of the campaign. The meeting is at Sylvia’s corner, 97 Aldworth road E15 4DN at 2.30pm on Saturday 3rd March. 
Robin Wales get out!


Don’t make our babies homeless!

Public meeting happening  on Saturday 3rd February

Carpenters and Docklands Centre, 98 Gibbins Rd, E15, Stratford, 2.30pm

The number of children living in temporary accommodation in Britain has been steadily increasing since 2011, from 80,000, to an estimated 128,000 by December 2017. In England alone, at the end of 2017, 85,000 children, of which about 26,000 were under-fives, were stuck in temporary accommodation. Tower Hamlets had the highest number of under-fives in temporary accommodation last year, followed by Newham. This instability is damaging our children’s physical and mental health.

Come to our public meeting to have your say, discuss and debate these issues, educate ourselves, agitate in our communities, schools, workplaces, and organise to hold our local councils to account. Homeless children? NO WAY!
Speakers: Focus E15 campaign, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, Kate Belgrave (journalist and blogger), The Magpie Project, the Housing and Mental Health Network.


Newham council we are watching you

Focus E15 campaigners started the new year as we mean to go on, as thorns in the side of Newham Labour Council. This is because Newham council continue to prevaricate about dangerous cladding, keeps hundreds of homes empty on the Carpenters Estate and continues to move people out of the borough and out of London, with no regard for the health and well being of adults or children.

On Thursday 11 January, Mayoral Proceedings were held at East Ham Town Hall. Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, due to contest his seat in May this year, opened by saying what a fair place Newham borough is, giving an example that all children, rich and poor, receive free school meals. He didn’t mention that 1 in 25 people in Newham are classified as homeless and many poor, vulnerable and immigrant families are being sent out of Newham and out of London for housing – which is not fair at all and just shows the corrupt mismanagement of the borough’s housing stock.


With vocal campaigners in the public gallery, and some fine umbrella-messages, these contradictions were pointed out and the proceedings were forced to end early with one very irate Robin Wales. Campaigners then made their way to a second meeting, The Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which heard (with a section on fire safety), superficial and inconsequential ramblings about safety in clad towers (seemingly satisfied with only having ‘fire marshals’ sitting by the front door), how important it is to engage with residents (clearly councils have to remind themselves of this regularly) and how most people are happy with their housing situation (allegedly 80% of people asked said the council are doing a good job). Yet every week on our street stall campaigners meet residents who are struggling with housing and are fed up and furious with Robin Wales and Newham Labour council.

It was at this point campaigners got to their feet with the new propaganda weapon. Impassioned speeches were made about the political reality of what is happening in Newham and the councillors were forced to adjourn to another room.  Our intervention ended with a chant of ‘Newham Council, we are watching you’. We certainly are and will continue to do so.

Join Focus E15 campaign on the streets, in the meetings rooms, in the council chambers, and stand in solidarity with us to build a movement for decent, safe, secure housing for all.

The next campaign meeting, open to all, is on Saturday 3 February 2.30pm – What about the rights of children…their rights and the councils wrongs in the housing crisis. Come and discuss and make plans together.

Repopulate the Carpenters Estate!
Stop social cleansing!
Make our homes safe now!


The Olympic Stadium Debacle


Cllr Conor McAuley

Councillor Conor McAuley has written to all members of the council about the Olympic stadium disaster.

Prior to 2014, Cllr McAuley sat in Sir Robin’s cabinet as Executive Member for Regeneration & Strategic Planning. He was also on the planning committee of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the planning decisions committee of the London Legacy Development Corporation.


I cannot be the only Council member appalled at the loss of £52.2 million invested by this Council into the Olympic Stadium.

To make matters worse, the statements and press releases from Newham Council on the matter have only sought to mislead both elected members of the Council and the public.

Mayor Wales tells us that he is “angry that the deals and decisions made by the former Mayor of London and his administration have left the stadium finances in such a dreadful mess”. 

This is an outrageous attempt by Robin Wales to…

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Focus E15 campaign meetings: finding ways to educate and organise

Every month Focus E15 campaign holds a public meeting at Sylvia’s Corner in Stratford. Public meetings are where Focus E15 campaigners network with other groups, share information and meet local residents engaged in fighting for secure housing. The campaign is always trying to find ways to bring  housing issues out into the public domain and challenge the local power structures in Newham by exposing the council’s appalling record of social cleansing and finding opportunities to take direct action.

It is always such a pleasure to welcome outside guests to these meetings. At the last meeting of the year in December 2017 the campaign was fortunate to have a presentation from Taisa Sanches who gave a talk about the housing situation in Brazil  and the large squatters movement in Rio de Janeiro as she shared her PhD research. We thought followers of this blog would appreciate reading about what we learnt at the campaign meeting. Here are just some of the facts that Taisa presented to us:

  • In Brazil 6.2 million families (more then 20 million people) do not have a secure home. This number includes people who live on the street as well as those who pay rent which is higher then their wage or where more than one family live in the same house.
  • In Brazil there was a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. Social movements bravely fought to end the dictatorship.
  • In 1988 the first constitution was written after the fall of the dictatorship. There was a lull in the amount of social activism but soon new movements appear – housing was soon on the agenda again!
  • During the 1990’s neo-liberal and privatisation policies set in, worsening conditions for the poor. There are a number of growing social movements.
  • During 1990’s there was the Favela-Barrio program which saw new policies of  urbanisation of the poorest areas of the city – but only those close to tourist places. Social movements demanded more urbanisation of the favelas as a way of improving the condition of poor quality housing.
  • 1997 MTST – national movement of homeless workers emerges.
  • 2000’s – increasing violence against favela dwellers is justified by the government in the name of ‘public security’.
  • 2014 World cup and 2016 Olympic games saw the removal of 67,000 people from the poorest areas of Rio. Housing campaigns emerge to resist evictions.

We were struck by some of the similarities of what happens to areas which host the Olympic games as ‘regeneration’ is used as the buzz word to clear away social housing (in East London the second largest housing coop in Europe was bulldozed to make way for the Olympic Village, which was then sold off to a Qatari ruling family in 2011). We then had a discussion about learning from other struggles, the meaning of effective solidarity and the importance of having a  platform to organise from during the savage housing crisis in London. Campaigners from East London were inspired by the active resistance shown by campaigners in Rio and thought that sharing tactics and ideas is an important way of raising  awareness of  housing struggles that occur internationally. At the end of the meeting we made a video with a message of solidarity to housing campaigners in Rio.

Our next public campaign meeting will be at Sylvia’s Corner, 96 Aldworth Rd, Saturday 6 January 2018 at 2.30pm. If you would like to speak at our campaign meeting please send an email to