Tag Archives: newham council

Victoria Street E15: the Mayor concedes it’s no place for children but residents demand to know how & where they’ll be rehoused

On 25 May at Newham’s Annual Council Meeting, parents and children of Victoria Street, Stratford E15, and members of Focus E15 campaign, stood up with banners and placards to get their voices heard. Fed up of being under the radar, fed up of housing officers not replying to emails, fed up of being fobbed off and left in Victoria Street, sharing beds parents and families, no space for cots, toddlers with nowhere to walk, children doing homework on their beds, no ventilation, no space, mental health trauma, prison-like feeling to the building – we all shouted: We are humans, not numbers. Victoria Street is no place for Children.

The Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz acted promptly to remove heavy handed security and usher everyone to another room, putting the meeting on hold, and apologising to the residents of the building for what they are going through – unacceptable she said. She made a promise, repeated in the chamber afterwards, and recorded for posterity, that by May 2023 no more families with children would be in Victoria Street, no more to be moved in and all those there to be moved out. She spoke of the first year of her tenure, as if this was all news to her. But this is her second term in office as Mayor of Newham, and she knows very well the outrageous and degrading conditions of those who live in Victoria Street.

Watch the Mayor’s speech on Wed 25 May 2022

After years of campaigning with residents of this slum-like, overcrowded, damp, cramped, unsafe building, this is indeed a victory. However, the question remains – how and where will residents be rehoused.

Since 25 May, there has been two meetings with the Mayor, the Director of Housing and their teams. They have also visited Victoria Street. The first meeting coincided with a brutal attack the previous evening on a woman in the doorway of her flat within Victoria Street, with her child present. It transpired that the security door was broken, the intruder had a fob and the CCTV cameras don’t work. The Mayor and Director of Housing are very sorry. It shouldn’t happen.

Monthly meetings have been implemented to address all the issues. The Mayor and the Director of Housing admit that they can’t give a guarantee that everyone will get permanent housing, they are not allowed to implement a rent cap, the Right to Buy has taken away council housing, they are looking at the impact of overcrowding in the private rented sector, especially on children, that the standards of the landlord licensing scheme are not good enough, and repeat again and again and again that there are 34,000 people in Newham on the housing waiting list and the council must act legally and fairly and therefore can’t make everyone in Victoria Street top priority.

The residents are organising and they are angry. There is no rhyme or reason to who is offered what. The bidding system via choice-based lettings system is the only way of getting permanent housing, the allocated resettlement officer is pushing people to take offers that they deem suitable, appropriate and affordable, in the private rented sector.   If a resident says no, then they have made themselves  intentionally homeless and the council washes its hands of them. This threat leaves families no choice but to accept temporary accommodation, meaning more insecurity, more moves, more school changes for children, often loss of support networks and more mental health pressure.

The latest family to be moved out of Victoria Street;  a mother and two school-age children, offered a place out of borough, away from support networks, family and childcare, an hour from the children’s school and no choice but to accept to avoid intentional homelessness. They moved in (unfurnished, only white goods) to find no water in the kitchen, no hot water at all, almost £2,000 unpaid on the gas/electric. They were told by the repair person to not touch the switch on the cooker, told by the housing officer to turn on the red switch – leading to a blast, a bang and smoke from the red switch. This was a terrifying event, and a wholly unsafe and unacceptable situation. Phone calls were made and emails  sent in an attempt to contact appropriate people. The outcome: the council is moving the family back to Victoria Street while it sorts out the problems.

Meanwhile, one of the residents shared a photo of the living space she and her nine-year old daughter have in Victoria Street (below). Only one double bed that they share. The bed is also the only place for the child to do homework. This is not only unacceptable, it is criminal and has lasting health effects on families.

The Mayor and the Labour council in Newham may well have inherited a system that they feel is not of their making and are very sorry. But sorry is not enough.

Together the fight must go on to expose what is happening and demand long term, safe and secure, housing for everyone, not just those who can pay for it.

Newham residents disrupt council meeting due to mounting concerns about living conditions.

Victoria Street! No place for children!

At Newham’s well-attended public Annual Council Meeting on Wednesday 25 May, mothers and children of 10 Victoria Street, Stratford E15 (formerly called Brimstone House and Focus E15 foyer) stood up with banners and placards to make their voices heard about the unacceptable conditions in the building. They were brave and strong acting in solidarity together.

For years residents, supported by Focus E15 campaign, have documented every day life at the hostel – cramped,unlivable for families, appalling accommodation with mattresses that give backache and living conditions that lead to depression, damp and stuffy rooms, no privacy for women forced to change in front of their sons. Parents and children of all ages are forced to share beds together due to lack of space, there is aggressive security on the door and no space for children to play. Children and adults with disabilities live in unsuitable and distressing conditions and fire alarms go off through the night.

This is the horror of emergency accommodation that merges into temporary and can last for years. It is no place for children and families because it is a building designed for single young adults and living like this is effecting everyone’s mental health.

As the interruption of the council meeting began, security ran forward to silence the campaigners and take the banners away, but their voices were heard above the commotion explaining to the large crowd why this was necessary and that the appalling living conditions for so many in the borough must not be below the radar and buried from public view.

Residents from Victoria Street protesting at length of stay at the hostel and the effect it is having on their children.

The Labour Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz stepped down from the podium and came over. She officially stopped the meeting and took the campaigners downstairs with a few of her entourage to another room. The Mayor apologised for there not being any resolution to Victoria Street since she came into office for her first term in 2018 – embarrassing, shameful and morally unjust were her words. She admitted that housing services are a mess.

Then, significantly, Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, said that she would go back to the main meeting and in her address would announce the ending of the placement of families with children in Victoria Street. She pledged that by the end of the first year of this term, she would work to have all families rehoused from Victoria Street. Residents cheered.

Labour-run Newham council has the highest number of children in the country living in poverty, the highest level of homelessness, the highest number of households in temporary accommodation, more households on its housing waiting list than any other London council, and the worst overcrowding at 25.2% of households. There are also empty homes all around the borough and council homes that have been left to rot.

This is a key moment to note these promises and hold the Mayor firmly to them.

Victory to the families of Victoria Street! Collective action is the way forward. Housing justice for all now!

Join Focus E15 campaign on the weekly stall outside Wilko’s on Stratford Broadway, Saturdays 12-2pm.

Residents join in solidarity and raise their collective spritits to say rehouse us now!

Residents say NO to redevelopment plans: ‘We must fight for the people, the planet and our beloved Carpenters Estate’

A resident of the Carpenters Estate, Stratford, Newham, London E15, speaks out:

From the day I was born, I have lived on the Carpenters Estate. 
It was also home to my Mother, Grandfather, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, along with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, childhood friends and so on. 

It has been a special place for me and my past generations, so you can see why the place means so much to me.

I reached many milestones on Carpenters, I learnt to ride a bike on this estate, had my first kiss (cringe), began nursery and even took my first steps here. Carpenters had and still has a great community of elderly and young people.

A lot of us went to Carpenters primary school and then would all play out afterwards on the beautiful green spaces we have on the estate, plus the park and cage, where we would arrange some serious football matches and the different blocks would go up against each other.

We never had any trouble around here, we was like one big family that all looked out for each other. 

Summer-times were the best, because all us kids will play outside until the street lights came on, one of our favourite activities being our 100m races down the slope at the back of Dennison point.

These are beautiful memories of an estate that Newham council now wants to demolish. Like we are now seeing with many inner London boroughs, they want to take away the authenticity of our great East End and get rid of beautiful homes to replace them with new-builds. The homes they are proposing are nowhere near the standard of homes that we already have here.

Newham is already very populated as it is, and the council want to overcrowd Stratford even more, shelving people on top of each other between plasterboard, where the walls are so thin, you can literally hear your neighbours farting next door.
There are many over 60s still residing on the estate, and after a life of working hard, they do not want the stress and pressure of having to leave a place that many have called home for there whole life. 
Tragically a lot of residents have died from the uncertainty and stress that they will have to move from their beloved homes and it is unacceptable.

It is very sad that in this day and age profit is more valuable than a human life.
Not to mention the horrendous carbon footprint this will have on our already crippled environment, that the pollution from demolition and rebuilding will produce. 
With Newham having one of the highest pollution levels in the country, it is very concerning that Newham council’s proposed plans have no consideration towards making the global climate crisis any better.
Yes I do believe we have to move with the times, but what I don’t believe in is liveable durable homes that are already here being knocked down to build new ones.
I don’t believe in the elderly being forced to move, or stressed to death, and The Carpenters Estate being demolished to make way for more overcrowding and pollution.

I vote for refurbishment over demolition and community over capitalism. 

So I will be voting NO to demolition and hope others will too.

We must fight for the people, the planet and our beloved Carpenters Estate.

CALL OUT: STAND WITH NAZRAH AND ISMAIL! NO PROPERTY DEVELOPERS IN NEWHAM COUNCIL!

On Friday, Nazrah and Ismail, two of the most active members of the Focus E15 campaign, will be facing Newham Council at the Royal Courts of Justice in Central London, and they need your support in the courtroom.

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Ismail and the boys on a street stall earlier this year

CALLOUT: 10:30am, Friday, December 4, 2015
Central London County Court, Thomas More Building WC2A 2LL

Since coming to a Saturday campaign stall in November 2014, looking for help resisting their family’s eviction, Nazrah and Ismail have worked tirelessly to support other families in Newham and beyond going through housing struggles of their own. They have lived in Newham for over 6 years and developed strong ties and support networks in the borough.

In that time, with their three young boys, the family have experienced their own high court bailiff eviction and been in constant conflict with Newham Council and the Home Office about their housing, right to work (as a teacher and teaching assistant, respectively) and Asylum claims.

On Friday they will be appealing Newham Council’s rejection of their responsibility to house the family, while challenging the role of a senior housing manager at Newham, who is also a board member of a property developer in the borough. The family are arguing that someone who makes a profit from property development, management and rentals, should not be in a position to determine the borough’s housing needs, or decide where families in need should be housed.

Join them in the courtroom on Friday to help keep the pressure on Newham Council!

Stand with Nazrah and Ismail!

No to property developers in Newham Council!

Central London County Court, Thomas More Building WC2A 2LL
10:30am, Friday, December 4, 2015

Carpenter’s Estate Tenant’s Management Organisation being starved of funds by Newham Council

An urgent message from the Tenant’s Management Organisation on the Carpenter’s Estate:

We have reason to suspect Newham council is wilfully engineering the closure of the Tenant’s Management Organisation despite a 91% residents’ vote to continue the organisation for another 5 years. The council have declared us insolvent and closed as of tomorrow (1st December) without due explanation or external audit

Newham Council has been unlawfully withholding funds to the CTMO since the 1st October 2015 (to the sum of 191,880). Our view is that Newham council is purposefully doing so knowing that our funds are limited. Since Newham Council are both our only source of funding and our only creditors we believe that they are constructing the abolition of the CTMO to expedite their eventual sale of the Carpenter’s Estate.

The CTMO runs a vibrant community centre at the heart of the Carpenters Estate that provides residents with a number of services including a soup kitchen a free IT suite and a meeting space for several residents’ groups.

We have been told that the CTMO will no longer exist as of tomorrow (1st December) the staff have been transferred without consultation to work for Newham Council. What will happen to the community centre and the services it provides to residents is unclear.

Signed by the TMO and Residents of Carpenters Estate.

CTMO is also directly employed by the CTMO’s board, which Newham Council have so far refused to consult with, as would be necessary when attempting to transfer staff. The CTMO has refused to accept any terms from the council until they go through the board.  A council officer will now be based on the CMTO’s site, reporting directly to her line manager at the council.

Please help us by spreading this message far and wide and join us at our strategy meeting on Saturday 5th December at the CTMO centre 17 Doran Walk, Stratford at 2.30pm.

Why we are marching against evictions

You are invited to the second  anniversary birthday of the Focus E15 campaign for decent housing for all. Join us to March Against Evictions 12pm Saturday 19 September 2015 at Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, London E15 4PT.
Bring whistles, horns, sound systems, drums and pots and pans!
We will not be cleansed and we will not be silenced!
Campaigner and Focus E15 mother Jasmin Stone said:
“The housing crisis continues, with no major political party offering viable solutions. 126 families are evicted every day across the country. We continue to demand the repopulation of the Carpenters Estate, an immediate end to decanting and evictions of residents from the Estate, long term and secure tenancies for all, and of course, social housing, not social cleansing.

In the two years the Focus E15 campaign has gone from strength to strength, with a weekly street stall in Stratford, and occupations of East Thames Housing Association show flat, an open top bus with petitions for Boris Johnson and regular challenges to Labour Mayor Robin Wales – all contributing towards to the growing national profile of housing activists. Last year the Focus E15 campaign sprung to national attention during the two-week occupation of empty homes on the Carpenters Estate in September 2014.

Campaigners gather at the weekly street stall in Stratford to demand decent housing
Campaigners gather at the weekly street stall in Stratford to demand decent housing

This year, join us for a vibrant afternoon of marching, music and noise for people of all ages. Be sure to bring whistles, horns, sound systems, drums and pots and pans. We will not be cleansed and not be silenced. We will continue to expose the reality of the housing crisis. Join us! Make your voices heard on the open mic throughout the march!

At the end of the march we will meet on the Carpenters Estate, the site of the 2014 Focus E15 Open House occupation, to highlight that it is full of perfectly good social housing that has been emptied and boarded up because Newham council wants to sell off the land to a private developer.

 We will finish on the Carpenters Estate with a finale to give solidarity to the more than 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the last three years.
When and where?
Assemble: 12pm
Saturday 19 September Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, London E15 4PT

For those who want to join us for the last part of the march, meet us at Bridge House, 320 Stratford High St, E15 1EP. We will be arriving there at around 1.30-1.45pm.
Nearest station: Stratford overground,tube, and DLR
Stratford
Buses: 25, 86, 69, 104, 262, 238

Hashtags we will be using on the day are #MarchAgainstEvictions and #housingcrisis

Lyn Brown MP says – stop ringing me. We say – stop social cleansing!

A few weeks ago we met some local residents at our street stall in Stratford. This is their housing story.

Sabrina and Matthew have two children aged 13 and 16 years – both at school in Canning Town, borough of Newham, east London.

Their private landlord sold up and they were evicted. After putting their belongings into storage and going to Bridge House (Newham council housing office), they were offered a two-bedroom home in East Ham. They were told there were a few steps up to the door as Matthew walks with a crutch, however in reality there were several flights of stairs involved. Worse still was that the property was in no fit state for anyone to move into, with vomit and blood on the furnishings. Sabrina and Matthew said no. They returned to Bridge House, pleaded to be seen and were offered a place in Luton. This is impossible for their teenagers who are in important stages of their education. Sabrina and Matthew said no. The staff at Bridge House told them they would have to go to Sabrina’s mother for two weeks – two months later they have heard nothing and are now in an overcrowded flat with Sabrina’s mother having had to refuse her offer of a downsize as the family are all there.

Sabrina’s mother contacted local MP Lyn Brown to ask for advice and support for her daughter and family. There has been no support and all she has been told by Lyn Brown’s personal assistant is to stop ringing every day. Councillors Alan Griffiths and Bryan Collier have told them to look for private-rented accommodation.

With little support from their elected representatives and unsuitable housing being offered, Sabrina has decided to take the brave step of joining others who refuse to let this housing crisis be conducted behind closed doors and to tell her story so that others can understand what families are going through in the post Olympic Labour borough of Newham under the watch of mayor Robin Wales.

Focus E15 campaign gives Sabrina, Matthew and their children our full support, we say to Newham council: keep families local to their community, their support networks and their children’s schools. Stop social cleansing and repopulate the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, where hundreds of flats still lie empty and must be filled as soon as possible with people who need housing.

Sabrina and family will be joining us on the March against Evictions on Saturday 19 September – join us, meet 12 midday Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, E15 4PT https://www.facebook.com/events/463931240434645/

Response to Newham Council on their offer to house 10 refugee families

On our street stall recently Focus E15 campaigners met Ibrahim, a refugee who was left to sleep on the streets of the borough of Newham for months due to the inadequacy of the council and their unwillingness to give refugees and other residents in the borough stable, secure housing. Unfortunately it is clear that Ibrahim’s story is not an isolated case.

A crisis in housing has been unfolding for decades and is only set to get worse when the Immigration Bill  comes into law later this year. This Bill proposes to build on the measures in the Immigration Act and to extend document checks by landlords and banks to stop undocumented migrants from renting housing or opening a bank account. Landlords could have the powers to evict migrants without a court order making the present situation even worse.

Focus E15 campaigners meet the incredible Asylum Clinic in West London
Focus E15 campaigners meet the incredible Asylum Clinic in West London

The Focus E15 campaign believes that the recent request from the government to every council, asking them to house 10 Syrian refugee families, is not only inadequate, but shameful when the reason so many refugees from around the world have had to flee their homes is due to the wars waged in the interests of,(and financed by) our capital and country. We encourage people to stand together, as humans, to say 10 families per council is not enough. If our local council, Newham in East London really wanted to help refugees, they should rehouse people on the Carpenters Estate where 400 flats have been boarded up for several years.

We are demanding safe and secure housing for all who need it! So councils in London, in solidarity with people around the world needing safe stable homes, it is your responsibility to open the 22,000 empty homes in the capital and immediately start rehousing people.

Focus E15 campaign will be present at the demonstration for refugees in central London on Saturday 12 September. Please join us there.

UPDATE
We have recently heard that Ibrahim has now been given shelter in a hostel.This is because after passing our street stall he had the confidence to go to the housing office and not move until he was offered housing! Although a hostel is not ideal, it is safer and warmer than the streets. There are 100s of other like him who need support today. Please consider supporting the work of the  Hackney Migrant Centre or RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum in Essex and East London)
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Newham Mayor’s security behave like crocodiles

Below is our response that we are sending to the Newham Recorder regarding their recent article and the outrageous comments from council spokespeople about Focus E15 campaigners. Please also scroll down to watch the latest video about the Mayors Newham show.

Dear Newham Recorder,
The spokespeople from Newham council were clearly not in the park judging by their comments. We did not go ‘with the sole intention of disrupting this fun day, causing upset to families with…aggressive and confrontational behaviour’. We went to talk to people and to give out leaflets, hardly an aggressive crime in a public park. As Ben Geraghty from the campaign, quoted in your article says, our ‘intention was to raise awareness’.

In fact we barely had time to talk to anyone before we were rounded on by aggressive APS security staff, who snatched away our leaflets and placards before herding, dragging and pushing us out of the park. The video which shows this action has now been seen by over 14,000 people on facebook.

The security staff certainly did not evict us to ‘ensure the safety of the members of the public’ or because of any ‘threatening behaviour’ on our part. Such council statements are an attempt to draw attention away from the aggression shown by their security. Everyone we spoke to inside the Newham Show showed great interest and support for the campaign because the housing crisis in Newham is affecting so many people.

Focus E15 campaign wanted to leaflet  people attending the Mayor’s Newham Show to let them know the facts about Newham: Labour Mayor Robin Wales is an unashamed advocate of gentrification, a supporter of sanctioning and kicking out the poor and most vulnerable. Under his rule, over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford remain empty and around the borough many more homes are boarded up, while homeless people whom the council has a statutory duty to house, are forced out of London.

The security staff were told to remove us as quickly as possible  to prevent us giving out information to people and to stop Robin Wales being embarrassed again. Last year, at the same event, Mayor Robin Wales himself was so physically and verbally aggressive to members of the Focus E15 campaign, that it was taken up by the Newham Standards Committee, and their investigation concluded with him being found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct.

Outrageously the council distributed their own leaflets at the Newham Show which read ‘£50m, that’s how much the council has to save next year’ and council employees were going around asking people what services should be cut. This is a council that sides with big business, banks and property speculators, while cutting social housing and continuing a policy of social cleansing.

We should remember that Newham has one of the highest rates of poverty of any London borough and, since 2012/13, it also has one of the highest levels of LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loan debt in the country. Newham has  spent £563m on borrowing money which in turn  has generated  huge interest repayments: the council  owes over £40m in LOBO debt and this is likely to rise. For some reason, Newham council have refused to disclose the loan contracts when requested to under the FOI Act.

Services for the people of Newham should not be cut. Focus E15 campaign will not be silenced by aggressive security staff. We will continue to highlight the housing crisis in Newham  and side with all those in housing need.

This video shows more footage from the Mayor’s Newham Show:

Mum and her baby allowed to stay on in B&B

The young woman and baby who was threatened with eviction from her B&B when she refused to be moved to the outskirts of Basildon (due to racist abuse) is no longer being evicted tomorrow, Tuesday 7 July.

Her case has been highlighted by Focus E15 campaign and other eviction resistance housing activists.

Today Newham council phoned her up to say that they will continue payment for the B&B until there is a decision from her appeal.

She will keep us updated on her housing situation.
She and her baby still need to be housed in a decent long term affordable stable home.

Onwards!
Keep up the pressure!
Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!