Category Archives: Newham council

March of the towers takes off in the East End

On Saturday 12 August Focus E15 campaign, responding to concerns from Newham residents, organised a local ‘march of the towers’. The route of the march encompassed 3 significant tower blocks, starting at a tower block called Ferrier Point in Canning Town, where residents have been shocked and angry to learn that their homes have been covered in the same cladding as Grenfell Tower. The route of the march then went to Tanner Point in Plaistow for a speak out, because this is another tower block covered in flammable material. The last stop was the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, where for 15 years three tower blocks have been left to waste by Newham Labour council who evicted residents leaving 410 flats empty.

Little wonder then that for the whole route this march was noisy, angry and vibrant and passersby and shopkeepers stopped in their tracks to see what was happening in their community. They were met with chants of “the people united will never be defeated” and “social housing is a right, here to stay here to fight”. There were drummers, pot and pan bashers and political speeches. Residents demanded that Newham council provide safe and secure homes for all, and stop social cleansing.

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Excellent observations were made by the many speakers at Tanner Point: that the social murder which happened at Grenfell Tower must not be used by the government as an excuse to destroy our homes and demolish more tower blocks, that organising together in our local community is necessary for building movements of resistance, that the capitalist system will never provide enough secure and safe homes, that housing insecurity is a mental health issue, that women fleeing from domestic violence are being let down by the system as they have nowhere to go and that community action can also be creative and that we all have something that we can bring to a march – including our singing, drumming, chanting, political speech making, our colourful home made banners, and our commitment, solidarity and camaraderie .

At the end of the march on Carpenters Estate a party took place, food was handed out, phone numbers were swapped and children’s games got underway, free haircuts were given courtesy of Fringe Movement and more plans were made to strengthen the movement for housing justice.

Focus E15 campaign would like to thank everyone who took part. The march was supported by residents from all the towers, the Revolutionary Communist Group, Movement for Justice (who kindly supported the march by lending their megaphone when we had a blip with the sound system), the Socialist Party, residents from the Frampton Park Estate, One Housing Tenants Action Group, South Essex Stirrer, East End Sisters Uncut, Whitechapel Anarchists,  Socialist Equality Party, Debt Resistance UK, Housing and Mental Health Network and Journey to Justice.

TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.

Caught on camera with Newham Nag!

Have a Nag Robin…

The Newham Nag is a spoof magazine, put together by Focus E15 campaign and Debt Resistance UK to bring some truth to the streets of Newham and to challenge the Labour Council’s in house magazine,The Newham Mag, which unfortunately pops through people’s doors every two weeks. The latter publication is full of pictures of smiling Mayor Robin Wales telling us all what an inspiring borough Newham is, when in reality, Newham faces huge debts from LOBO loans, instigates ongoing social cleansing and has residents living in towers with cladding that has failed recent safety tests. Newham also owns many empty council homes like those on the Carpenters Estate where 410 homes are still boarded up and remaining residents there now face eviction and are worried about where they will live. The borough has a rising number of homeless people sleeping rough or living in temporary accommodation. Plenty of reasons then to Nag Newham!

At the annual Newham Mayor’s Show in July this year, Focus E15 campaign spoke to local residents and ran an open mic outside, demanding safe, secure, long term housing for all and distributed the Newham Nag for free.  The campaign set up outside the show grounds because Newham council will not allow anyone to hand out their own literature inside. Our campaigners and supporters made sure everyone got a copy of the Nag as they came out.

We thought you might like this photo taken of the Mayor at ‘his’ show…

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If you feel concerned about housing safety standards and the rising number of residents sleeping rough or living in inadequate accommodation then join us on the streets, 12-2pm every Saturday on The Broadway in Stratford for a  public speak out and stall with open mic.

Please also join the campaign on Monday 23 July at 1pm at Bridge House in Stratford to demand Newham Labour council  saves the Carpenters Estate and that it is repopulated immediately.

All eyes on Newham council as fire safety concerns continue to mount

The disaster at Grenfell Tower, is a heart wrenching and unbearable ‘social murder’ on a devastating scale. Focus E15 campaign have been responding to this atrocity and politically charged moment by organising speak outs in the community and attending residents meetings. The campaign is urging tenants across the country to take immediate action and organise together to put pressure on local councils to ensure the safety of all tenants in their neighbourhoods.

We also know full well the frustrations of dealing with councils who refuse to listen to their tenants concerns and understand how worried people will be about the safety of their homes.

On Thursday 22  June a BBC radio programme called World Tonight investigated a tower block in Newham in east London called Ferrier Point. A BBC reporter called Andrew Hosken took two fire experts,  Professor Arnold Dix and Arnold Tarling into this particular tower block because Ferrier Point is covered in cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower and was worked on by the same contractors, Rydon Ltd. Both experts on the programme were horrified by what they saw regarding the lack of fire safety standards in the block and voiced serious concerns over residents safety.

One expert said, ‘already my hair is standing on end’, after noticing that the windows could not offer a potential escape route. Residents would be trapped behind fully fixed double-glazing that they would be unable to open in the event of a fire. As they moved inside to check the boiler, one of the fire surveyors exclaimed, ‘crikey;’ as it dawned on him that flammable plywood was connected to the boiler and went into every single flat, essentially meaning that there is a fire route into each living quarter. He also observed that it would be impossible for fire services to access the boiler in order to stop a fire. A resident in the building claimed that she hadn’t even used her boiler for three years as she was worried about a potential gas leak.

When asked if the building would pass a fire inspection, the surveyors replied that Ferrier Point was ‘an absolutely unequivocal fail’, and ‘a failure with capital letters in neon flashing signs’.

Focus E15 campaign therefore urge Newham council to take immediate action over Ferrier point. We demand that they  put people before profit! The council must act and remove  flammable cladding from all buildings in Newham to ensure the safety of residents. We also urge the council to inform the public of their immediate plans in light of the fire at Grenfell Tower and to take urgent and effective action. It is disturbing to note that Newham council have not yet announced on the council website what they intend to do.

Focus E15 campaign are also clear that the Grenfell tower fire should not become part of a cynical excuse to get rid of remaining social housing stock in the false name of regeneration (as it was this cosmetic tinkering and lack of overall quality control that certainly caused the fire to spread so fast at Grenfell Tower). Social housing is not the problem here but must be part of the desperately needed solution to the escalating housing crisis – after all Newham has recently been shown to have the highest amount of homeless people in the whole of the UK.

Please join the campaign to speak out and make plans to work together in the community to put more political pressure on Newham council regarding our housing needs. Join us on the street stall every Saturday from 12-2pm outside Wilkos on the Broadway to say:

Justice For Grenfell!

SOCIAL HOUSING NOT SOCIAL CLEANSING!

Take a look at the Labour Party’s new shadow Home Secretary’s record at local level

Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham in Newham, east London, was in the shadow home affairs team when Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader of the Labour Party, she then resigned a year later after placing a vote of no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership but then was allowed to return as shadow minister for policing. 24 hours before the general election in June 2017, she was promoted to shadow Home Secretary as Diane Abbott was taken ill.

Focus E15 Campaign has had first-hand experience of her consistent attempts to dodge responsibility towards young mothers in her constituency who faced being socially cleansed out of London. We therefore register a  massive vote of no confidence in the decision to promote her.

Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham since 2005, was the local MP for the young mothers in the Focus E15 hostel. The mothers started campaigning in 2013 when Newham Labour Council withdrew funding from the hostel and the housing association tried to evict 29 young women and children out of London, to Manchester, Birmingham or Hastings, miles from family, friends and support networks…Lyn Brown did nothing to support the mothers and challenge social cleansing. The council’s solution was to push these young women into short-term expensive private-rented accommodation. Lyn Brown continued to ignore the problems despite meeting those directly affected at her surgery and at public meetings.

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When approached at an International Women’s Day event in 2014, she accused the young mothers of being exploited by the campaign and tried to stop an independent journalist filming her. A year later, she offered a washing machine and a bed to two of the mothers in dire housing situations – empty promises that never materialised.

If Lyn Brown won’t represent the most marginalised in her own constituency, then we know what her positions will be in government or in opposition as home secretary.

In the words of a campaigner from Focus E15 Campaign:

‘People may think Jeremy Corbyn represents them but you only have to look at the new shadow home secretary Lyn Brown to see how unheard and let down working class people will be left once again by the Labour Party. We need to be organising on the streets and putting pressure on the people fighting for real change. Remember no one can represent us but ourselves.’

Read more about what happened when Focus E15 campaign met Lyn Brown at an International Women’s Day event in 2014:

http://www.katebelgrave.com/2014/03/focus-e15-stories-so-far-iwd2014/  

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Working class women face court fees as evictions keep rising

No time for your Housing issues, we have an election on…

This is what Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms said to Chantelle, when she visited him last week as a last resort in her struggle for decent long-term accommodation with her young son in Newham.

Three years ago, Chantelle and her two month old son, were placed by Newham Council, under the Bond Scheme, in private-rented accommodation. The flat has mice and cockroaches, damp, no loft insulation and intermittent problems with the boiler leaving Chantelle and her son with periods of no hot water or heating. Chantelle’s son is in a local nursery and has a place in the school for September 2017.

Out of the blue, in January 2017, Chantelle received a Section 21 Notice of Possession (Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, is the legal eviction notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property at the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy). Frightened by the prospect of homelessness with her young son, Chantelle sought advice and Newham Council advised Chantelle to stay put, not to move out to stay with a family member as she would then be making herself intentionally homeless. She was advised to look for private accommodation in the two weeks that followed and when she was not successful, she was then advised by the housing office to go through with the eviction process and she was told she would not be liable for court fees.

However  outrageously Chantelle has been ordered to pay court costs of £355 to the landlord for this eviction and bailiff’s have been summoned to evict her, creating more stress and anxiety for Chantelle and her son.

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Chantelle’s case worker has said that once the bailiffs have come and Chantelle is on the streets she will be given emergency accommodation, but only out of London. The case worker said that unless a child is in their GCSE year, they are ‘expendable’ and will cope with being moved away from their family, friends and teachers.

Labour Mayor Robin Wales in his address to the Annual Council Meeting last month said that Newham ‘has real Labour values that create for each of us the means to realise our true potential’ and boasted that Newham has ‘amongst the best services in London’ and ‘doing more than other boroughs to get rid of rogue landlords’ and as housing reaches a crisis point, Newham is ‘showing the way for others to follow’.

The reality is that social cleansing continues, with people like Chantelle being forced out of borough and out of London, tearing them away from their family and support networks, their children’s schools and their jobs or job prospects. Meanwhile thousands of homes lie empty in the Newham, not least over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford.

Chantelle will be at STRATFORD MAGISTRATE COURT 389-397 High Street E15 4SB Tuesday 6 June at 2pm. She should not be financially penalised. Chantelle knows that her struggle is the struggle of thousands of people across London. Focus E15 campaign will be there to support her when she requests an extension to stay in her current property and for the court costs to be waived. The struggle goes on to ensure that Chantelle and her young son are not moved out of Newham. 

Social housing! Not social cleansing!

Newham nag is a hit with residents

Read all about it. Real news hits the streets of Newham

Focus E15 campaign and Debt Resistance UK  joined forces to launch a one off  publication, the Newham Nag on Saturday 20 May outside Stratford station in London.  Both campaigns agree that Robin Wales and the Labour council in Newham continue to pull the wool over the eyes of residents and this needs to be exposed. The Newham Nag draws attention to the official publication for Newham council, the Newham Mag.  This latter publication paints a rosy version of Newham that is unrecognisable to those who are facing the effects of years of austerity and council cuts. Clearly an alternative voice is needed in Newham!

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Passersby flocked to get their free copy of the Newham Nag and stayed around to chat to campaigners. Speakers on the community sound system included Debt Resistance, Focus E15 campaign and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! with a special Newham news and weather bulletin from our very own correspondent.  Points were made about the financial scandals, the growing disparity in wealth in the borough, gentrification, social cleansing, the corruption in the Labour Party at local level, the ongoing cuts to services and the appalling state of temporary and emergency accommodation that people are being forced into as evictions and homelessness increase.

The event was brought alive by some special guests including someone dressed up as Sylvia Pankhurst, the revolutionary, anti-fascist, communist, who was also campaigning in east London for the rights of working class women a hundred years ago; there was someone dressed up as Lyn Brown, the local Labour MP who received a fair few boos and also someone dressed up as a council worker and a cockroach, a symbol of the overcrowded slum living conditions that many residents have to put up with in Newham.

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Just as members of the public came forward to share their stories the police and local enforcement officers approached campaigners and suggested that there may be a problem with the street event under S137 of the Highways Act. It was hard to take this seriously given the amount of space available outside Stratford station and no passersby were complaining.  After some discussions,  with police officers ominously hanging around, the enforcement officers came back to announce that they were now going to ‘take enforcement action’, which turned out to be the threat of issuing a penalty notice, which they never did as campaigners took to the community sound system and made points about police harassment  – a fine lesson in standing your ground and knowing your rights and garnering the support of people on the streets.

The council may not want us distributing real information but we won’t be silenced.

Come and get your copy of the Newham Nag, available every Saturday on the Focus E15 stall 12-2pm outside Wilko’s on The Broadway, Stratford E15. Email focuse15london@gmail.com for more information.

For more information about the work of Debt Resistance UK and their involvement in exposing local council financial scandals all around Britain, see lada.debtresistance.uk.

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No More Fake News! This is reality

Robin Wales and his parallel universe of lies and deception!

Focus E15 campaign went along to Newham’s Annual Council Meeting on the 18 May. This is a big gala event.  250 people heard Robin Wales make vainglorious speeches about how wonderful he has been for Newham.  It was grotesque. Robin Wales made a speech about his work programme for 2017/18 and spoke of Newham having the best services in London, compared to 25 years ago when the borough was, an “incompetent backwater”. It was hard not to feel sick.

He  then went on and blamed the housing crisis on the Tories and explained that Newham Labour are standing up against criminal and rogue landlords. He promised that Newham Labour are putting “power into the hands of the residents”. Robin Wales ended his speech by concentrating on the Newham borough motto, which is, ironically, considering the amount of social cleansing that has been going on, Live, Work and Stay. He repeatedly emphasised that Newham is a place where people CHOOSE to live, work and stay, knowing full well that for those who are sent out of borough and out of London for housing, there is no choice at all in gentrified post-Olympic Newham.

As the applause started and the standing ovation began Focus E15 campaigners stood up too and started shouting questions about Lobo loans, financial mismanagement, social cleansing, slum living conditions, the empty council housing on Carpenters Estate and then broke into chants of Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! Robin Wales shrugged his shoulders and mumbled in to the microphone about 2018 council elections. He was then mobbed by his sycophantic supporters while ‘We’ll meet again’ was played very loudly over the public address system and Focus E15 campaigners shouted YES WE WILL.

Leaving the Old Town Hall in Stratford the reality hit – almost in every doorway in the old shopping centre  was a bed space for a homeless person tucked into a sleeping bag on cardboard. Homelessness and rough sleeping is rising and Newham has the highest number of residents in temporary accommodation in London and is one of the boroughs moving the highest number of people, who it has a statutory duty to house, outside the borough and outside of London. Outrageously, after over a decade, the Carpenters Estate in Stratford still stands mostly empty. Newham council is continuing its attempts to empty these homes, remove the residents and demolish the estate while claiming there are no homes in the borough.

Join us on Saturday 20 May to tell the real news of Newham. Meet outside Stratford station from midday  and tell the truth about what is going on in the borough. Please share this facebook event

Why I am a Focus E15 campaigner

Janice Graham has been out campaigning with Focus E15 campaign on the streets of East London every Saturday for 3 years. On International women’s day 2017 she takes time to explain why:

I am a mother of 4 children and I have 11 grandchildren. I have lived in Newham most of my life, bringing up my family single handed.  I have just plodded along getting on with my life, not being interested in anything to do with politics: I always thought it was boring and couldn’t be bothered to listen to a load of old rubbish coming from politicians thinking they know everything.  This changed when Newham Labour Council’s policies of social cleansing started to affect me and my family.

My daughter Jasmin was moved into Focus E15 Hostel in Stratford in East London, when she was 7 months pregnant. The hostel was home to 100s of young people under the age of 25, all from different backgrounds and many of these young people were quite vulnerable.  The rooms were very small and damp, but at least I thought, my daughter has a roof over her head and hopefully she can move somewhere more suitable for bringing up a child soon. After all there were all those lovely brand new flats on the Olympic Village sitting empty.

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Janice, left, with her daughter Jasmin

How wrong could I be: in September 2013 Jasmin and all the other 29 mothers and mothers to be, received eviction notices and were told they would have to get out because the council’s funding stream to the mother and baby unit suddenly stopped.  It was scary because the Council  were moving people as far as Hastings, Birmingham or Manchester.  I went with my daughter and tried desperately to find something in the private rented sector, but each time we met landlords it was clear that they were not interested in housing single mothers on benefits.

I thought, this cannot happen, I am not letting Newham Council separate my family. My daughter is not going to live hundreds of miles away from me – I would never see my grandchild.  The insecurity was putting my daughter under so much stress.  I started to worry about all the other mothers from the hostel and wondered how they were coping; they must do something together.  I suggested to Jasmin that she should speak to the other mothers, knock on their doors and get some kind of petition going.  And that is exactly what they did. A campaign was formed, supported by other organised groups like the RCG, Feminist Fightback and many talented individuals offering campaigning experience and solidarity to the mothers.  I am very pleased to say that we stood up to Newham Council and made them listen and the mothers were all rehoused in London. A massive victory!

For more than 3 years now Focus E15 Campaign has been going strong. Every Saturday  we meet people on our street stall on the Broadway in Stratford who are going through similar housing problems, causing people much misery and stress. Why should people have to move away from their area so property developers can build sky high apartments that often stay empty?  The empty homes all over the country should be repopulated now.  There are even empty council homes in Stratford on the Carpenters Estate where homeless people could be rehoused.

My message to anyone and everyone is you can fight back, get together in numbers. Make demands, say what you want and keep on pushing until you get what you want.  I would never had dreamt in a million years that I would have been out on the street making a noise and fighting for what I now realise is our right.  You can do that too.  Stand up to the council bullies and fight back.

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Solidarity to all residents resisting estate ‘redevelopment’.

This year Focus E15 campaign have been in talks with campaigners resisting gentrification across London. At the campaign meetings there have been lively discussions with some new supporters  including academics from Ruskin College Oxford and students from Birkbeck; members of the Women’s Equality Party; residents resisting the sell-off of Northwold Estate in Hackney and also actors and directors from Lung Theatre, who are raising the issue of housing with the play E15 (now on tour).

SOLIDARITY TO Northwold Estate!

At one of the campaign meetings this year we heard directly from some brilliant residents from  Northwold estate. Northwold estate in Clapton, East London, is a Guinness Trust estate built in the 1930’s with some later developmental additions. Tellingly, the Guinness Trust slogan is ‘business with a social purpose’ and contrary to their claims to be easing the housing crisis through providing ‘affordable’ housing, Guinness Trust have, in recent years, doubled rents. Their plans are to demolish a third of Northwold estate by building luxury flats which can be sold at market prices of up to £1 million.

Guinness trust have misled residents about the latest redevelopment plans, creating a sham ‘consultation’, and cancelling a recent meeting about the proposed redevelopment. Many residents remain unclear about the plans and are upset, frightened and angry. The plans for redevelopment of the estate would mean a ten-year process of regeneration, no play facilities for residents, and no guarantee that if they knock down a third of the estate that the rest of the estate would even be saved.

Active resistance is spreading on the estate, with a committee now formed and 60-70 people coming out to the first public meetings. Residents are fighting for their community, their homes and their estate.Their demands to Guinness are: no demolishing of flats, no loss of social homes, maintenance of the current homes and a proper consultation. Residents are speaking out because they know their homes could be lost if they tow the line.

Focus E15 is offering support and solidarity to the Northwold Estate campaign. Keep your eyes open for more meetings and actions. Victory to the residents of Northwold Estate!

All eyes on Carpenters Estate

At our last campaign meeting  there was a lively discussion on the future of Carpenters Estate led by a former resident of the estate who is very worried about the recent announcement in the Newham Mag that the estate will soon be redeveloped. 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate remain empty, while homeless people, whom the council has a statutory duty to house, are often moved out of the borough.

Focus E15 campaign agreed to mobilise all forces to attend up and coming public meetings, council meetings and cabinet meetings in order to raise the issue of immediate repopulation of the estate.The campaign will expose the bogus claims from property developers that they are creating affordable housing, when they are in fact doing the opposite.

Focus E15 are fighting against social cleansing and for social housing, demanding secure long term stable housing for all. Join us on the streets every Saturday from 12pm- 2pm outside Wilkos on the Broadway.