Tag Archives: newham council

Newham Council tries to intimidate the Focus E15 Campaign.

The Focus E15 campaign is appalled by the recent bullying tactics of Newham Labour council and the police who worked hand in hand to intimidate peaceful housing protesters involved in the ‘Jane Come Home’ political occupation. We proudly stand by Jane Wood who bravely reoccupied her home on Saturday 11 April after being tossed aside by Newham council. The flat was raided by police on Monday 13 April. It is clear that by arresting Jasmin Stone, one of the most prominent members of our campaign, the authorities in Newham are trying to intimidate us.
What happened?
Jane Wood, a Newham resident, was evicted from her flat by the council on the 24 of March alongside her 14 year old daughter. The eviction was a terrible shock for Jane, she had been living in the flat for 21 years. Now she was homeless. Jane decided that the only way that Newham council would listen to her was if she took direct action. On Saturday 11 April, with chants of ‘Jane Come Home’, we marched to a house-warming party in Jane’s old flat. The brief occupation of the flat was a joyfully defiant gesture attracting press attention. Jane was deeply touched by the support from the community around her who were quick to show their solidarity by bringing all types of food, furniture and cooking equipment into the occupied flat.

Jane Come Home. Stop the evictions!
Jane Come Home. Stop the evictions!

On the same day the local Labour MP, Lyn Brown, responding to growing pressure, tweeted that Jane should phone her. Jane did, twice, but only got an answermachine. By Monday 13 April the authorities in Newham were furious and running scared of the powerful message of direct action embodied by Jane and the other campaigners. The council then acted in the most underhand way possible: they asked Jane to attend a housing appointment, whilst at the same time unleashing police and council officials in order to break into the flat. A terrifying ordeal for the people left inside the flat.
After over ten minutes of violence, smashing through the front door, with children screaming, the police began intimidating the women – aggressive and threatening to take the children into care. It was at this point that Jasmin Stone from Focus E15 was arrested inside the flat, on suspicion of squatting, a ridiculous charge on many fronts especially when considering the council knows exactly where Jasmin lives. We have been advised that the police and council have acted unlawfully: they did not acquire a possession order from a court to enter the flat. Jane may also have had some rights as a former tenant but Newham Labour council just wanted to shut down the protest by any means possible. Fast.
Jasmin was taken in an unmarked police car to Waltham Forest Custody Centre outside which a growing crowd gathered. A banner was unfurled with the clear message ‘Free Jasmin Stone – Let Jane Come Home’. Whilst the solicitor negotiated inside, Focus E15 campaign supporters chanted, danced and sang outside.

Supporters of the Focus E15 Campaign celebrate after the release of Jasmin Stone
Supporters of the Focus E15 Campaign celebrate after the release of Jasmin Stone

Jasmin was greeted with a huge cheer when she stepped free from the custody centre, bailed pending further enquiries to a date in mid May and banned from attending Jane’s former flat, a clear sign of the political nature of this arrest.

What about Jane? Jane’s first offer from the council was an uninhabitable temporary flat in a neighbouring borough that she rejected as unfit for her and her teenage daughter to live in. By the time of the next discussion with the council housing department, the staff had obviously seen the news and read the papers and started to make offers of a longer term council tenancy, this is yet to be confirmed.

The campaign is overwhelmed by all the support that has come flooding in since Jane’s second eviction and Jasmin’s release. Thank you to all those who have sent messages of solidarity. We will not be shaken in our belief that housing is a human right. Everyone deserves a decent home to live in.
No more evictions!
No to political intimidation!
Stop social cleansing!

Evicted by Newham Labour council after 20 years, we say Jane Come Home

Jane Come Home
Friends, family and campaigners support Jane outside her newly occupied flat

Jane is occupying her former council home as a political protest after she was evicted by Newham Labour council in March 2015. On Saturday 11th April, with full support from the Focus E15 campaign and many others, the doors of her former council flat were flung open and Jane threw a surprise house warming party. She was warmly welcomed back by her neighbours, family and friends. Jane was quick to hang up a newly made banner which states ‘Jane Come Home’ to the delight of her many well wishers and supporters who partied alongside her.

Jane has a daughter who is 14 years old. They were both evicted from their home on the 24 March 2015 after being a tenant of Newham council for 20 years. Another victim of the government’s harsh benefit sanctions, she fell into rent arrears when her Employment Support Allowance was suddenly stopped and her housing benefit cut. She was evicted because she owes the council about 5 months rent of £2,569 (this figure includes some court costs). She missed the court date due to a combination of depression, illiteracy and fear.

Help was in hand when her family offered to pay the full amount of rent owing but the council point blank refused the offer and said it was too late. On the day of the eviction Jane passed out with the stress and became another part of the tragic statistics for the amount of homeless families in Newham: almost 5,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. In the last two years alone, Newham has seen a 42 per cent increase in the amount of homeless familes, according to the  figures analysed by Labour MP Dame Tessa Jowell and released from the Department for Communities and Local Government. This injustice has to stop.People need homes. The council should start to address these shocking statistics by giving Jane and her daughter their home back.

After all, the amount or rent that is due is not much more than the monthly rent of one of the new luxury apartments that are mushrooming all over Stratford.We are asking the council to accept Jane’s family’s offer to pay the rent, clear the debt and allow Jane and her 14 year old daughter back into their home so that normal family life can resume. Jane’s daughter needs to attend her local school where she is due to sit her GCSEs.

After 50 years since Ken Loach made the film Cathy Come Home, we  are raising the issues of evictions and social cleansing in our community with the slogan Jane Come Home. Victory to Jane and all those who face the brutality of being ripped from their homes by council enforced bailiffs.

What you can do to help.

Contact Jane’s Labour MP Lyn Brown to ask her to put pressure on the council  for Jane to Come Home.

Telephone Lyn Brown: 0208 470 3463 Email: lyn@lynbrown.org.uk

Post: Lyn Brown, 306 High Street, Stratford, London, E15 1AJ

Tweet: @lynbrownmp

Share this story on  Facebook and twitter. Tweet Newham Labour Council @newhamlondon

Tweet the local councillor Terry Paul @terrympaul

Come to the next street stall on Saturday April 18th, on the Broadway outside Wilkos from 12pm-2pm in Stratford and then our open campaign meeting afterwards at the Carpenters Arms pub.

Article in the Huffington post hits the spot

“Our campaign is one led by women most affected by the ongoing austerity which is tearing families from their homes and making countless people street-homeless. We are directly challenging our Labour council and the wider government. We’re angry, organised and are demanding change!” Read the rest of the article  about the Focus E15 campaign written by Saskia O Hara in the Huffington Post

Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, guilty of breaching Members Code of Conduct

PRESS RELEASE
Focus E15 Campaign                                                2 February 2015

Robin Wales, mayor of Newham, guilty of breaching Members Code of Conduct

Newham Labour mayor Robin Wales has been found guilty of breaching the council’s Members Code of Conduct after investigation by the Newham Standards Committee into treatment of Focus E15 campaigners last summer.

The investigation was sparked by an official complaint, submitted by local resident and activist Kevin Blowe [1], after he watched footage (below) of Robin Wales which showed his aggressive verbal and physical response to the Focus E15 mothers and supporters of the campaign. This took place last July at the Newham Mayor’s Show [2].

RW restrained YouTube screenshot

This is a victory for the many people who have been the target of Robin Wales’ arrogant and rude behaviour and who have witnessed the contempt that he has for working class people in his borough over the last 13 years as mayor. However, Wales runs a tight ship and has managed to keep most of the criticism of him out of the public spotlight, including through attempts to muzzle critical Labour backbenchers  [3]. So while this isn’t the first time that Robin Wales has behaved badly, it is one of the first times that he has had been held to account for the way in which he treats people.

Robin Wales, and his cronies at the council, continue their policy of social cleansing, sending people out of London to homes miles from friends, family and support networks, while leaving the Carpenters Estate in Stratford E15 mostly empty with perfectly adequate flats boarded up.

Focus E15 campaign continues to highlight the outcome of this policy that tears communities and families apart and demands the repopulation of the Carpenters Estate.

In the year when Newham is celebrating 50 years as a borough, we say that Robin Wales is not fit to be mayor and it is now time for him to go.

You can find the campaign on the Broadway, outside Wilko, Stratford E15, every Saturday from 12-2pm on the weekly stall. www.focuse15.org

For interviews please email focusE15london@gmail.com or phone 07469 889 069.

[1] http://www.blowe.org.uk/2015/01/newham-mayor-guilty-of-breaching.html?m=1 
[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsPxancNiqk&x-yt-cl=85114404&x-yt-ts=1422579428
[3] http://forestgate.net/2014/11/12/gagging-order/

Victory! A home in Newham is found for Zineb and her children.

The Focus E15 campaign is thrilled that Newham Council has found appropriate local accommodation for Zineb and her three children. The family had spent a sleepless night on the floor of the local police station, following their eviction on Friday 16th January.

Then, after being placed in an unheated and distant hostel in Barnet, Zineb, a council employee and single parent working for minimum wage, was rehoused in reasonable reach of her job and her eldest child’s school. The family can now begin to resettle their lives, following the shock of their eviction last Friday.

However, as the Council is paying the family’s rent to a private landlord, wider questions remain about the hundreds of empty homes on  the Carpenters Estate (council owned), and in the Focus E15 hostel (managed by East Thames Housing Association). Public money is being put into the hands of private landlords during emergencies like this one, while publicly-owned homes remain empty. Zineb’s new flat is a great win for the family, but the bigger issue of poor and working people being pushed out of their homes and their communities remains critical.

We will continue to stand with one another to make sure Newham remains a place where everyone is truly able to ‘live, work, stay.’

Focus E15 campaign helps homeless Newham Council employee and her three children left in police station lobby overnight

On Friday morning, Zineb, a single mother of three who works part-time for Newham Council was evicted by a private landlord, leaving the family with nowhere to go.

Zineb went to Newham Council’s Bridge House at 11am to declare the family homeless at which point she was offered temporary accommodation two hours outside of London. Upon rejecting the offer because of what it would mean for her job and her eldest daughter’s school, she was deemed to have made herself intentionally homeless.

She refused to leave Bridge House and council workers called the police, who took her to Forest Gate police station where the family had no choice but to stay overnight, in the lobby, sleeping on the floor. The next day she came to the Focus E15 campaign stall and asked for help. We immediately put a message out to our networks and were able to find emergency accommodation in Newham for the weekend.

On Monday 19 January people from Focus E15 campaign will be accompanying Zineb and her children to Bridge House and expect Newham Council to find accommodation for this mother and Newham employee in reasonable reach of work and school.

Join us on Monday 19 January at 9am at Bridge House, 320 High Street, Stratford, London E15 1EP

The message is clear – NO TO SOCIAL CLEANSING

Russia Today gets in on the action

They wrote:

Protesting against the lack of affordable social housing in an East London borough, a group of 29 homeless single mothers and their children have occupied a block of flats to demand action on the city’s housing crisis.

The group, calling itself “Focus E15,” complained that an estate in Stratford was almost empty, having been cleared by the local council, while increasing numbers of local people could not afford to buy or rent a home.

The women said people were facing homelessness and displacement due to the lack of affordable and social housing in London. They called for “social housing, not social cleansing”.

For the full report click here

The Newham Recorder reports on our occupation

The local reporter, Mike Brook, wrote:

Members of the Focus E15 campaign used the occupation on Stratford’s Carpenter’s Estate next to the Olympic Park to try and shame Town Hall bosses over leaving “perfectly habitable” homes empty for years.

They accused Newham Council of shipping families from the estate out of London, leaving homes vacant in site of the Olympic Stadium.

“The estate has 2,000 empty council homes due to the decision to sell off the land to a private developer,” said Focus E15’s Jasmine Stone.

For the full article click here

A great Guardian report on our occupation & political inaction

Special thanks to Aditya Chakrabortty for this great report that got the rest of the media following in herds. He wrote:

This weekend, while commentators yawped on about local democracy, and Ed Miliband vowed he’d close the chasm between the rich and the rest of us by a whole couple of centimetres, a bunch of young women in east London just got on and did it.

They began with a Sunday afternoon fun day, the mothers laying on facepainting and some Sister Sledge. What jarred was the location: the Carpenters estate, next to the Olympic village, was long ago cleared of most of its residents as Newham council tried to flog the land.

Except the last deal fell through, leaving around 600 council homes empty. This is in a borough where more than 24,000 households are waiting for somewhere to live, and where, last winter, the shopping precinct was full of rough sleepers.

To read the full article click here

A communist report on the street party & occupation

Amidst a ‘Fun Day’, organised to celebrate the one year anniversary of the campaign, supporters of the campaign occupied four properties on the Carpenters Estate, which the local Labour council has earmarked for demolition and redevelopment.

With Newham’s Labour Mayor away at the Labour Party conference, an occasion which saw Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls reassert Labour’s commitment to savage service cuts – ‘balancing the books’ -, what better time to step up the fightback against cuts, social cleansing and gentrification?

Hundreds of people were invited to tour the homes, which the campaign has set up as the E15 Social Centre – a place for the community to discuss housing, social cleansing and gentrification.

To read the full report click here

They also put this video together of the day..