Below are the words of a former resident of the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, Newham, London E15. After decades in her home, she was forced out by the council in the run up to the Olympics. The Labour Council, led by Robin Wales, was champion of gentrification and social cleansing. It is an outrage, that the homes that people were forced to leave have remained empty ever since. The writer below can still look up at the windows of her beloved home in one of three deserted tower blocks on the Carpenters Estate. Shame on Newham. An apology is long overdue, and reparations are still awaited. The pressure is on the new Mayor and her council to immediately refurbish and repopulate the Carpenters Estate.
The decant out of Dennison Point – Carpenters Estate.
I lived at Dennison for many many years, the decant was a sad day for me. Residents were told by the council that after refurbishment of Dennison Point, those who wished to return would be able to do so. I was moved out in one day, there was no time given to think about leaving. I had no cooking appliance for a few weeks because the new location did not have gas. So I phoned someone who told me that there was money allocated for cooking appliances. One would think that these necessities would have been sorted out before I moved in to the flat.
It is plain to see that Dennison Point has no defect and therefore should not be demolished.
I lost my friends.
Many of the committee spoke out and the council did not expect the news to be in the open.
I am standing with Focus E15 campaign, who are passionate about the right for social housing. They are giving a voice to the people who are being pushed out of council homes and out of the area where they have lived with their friends and relatives.
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!
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!
Sara is the mother of two children, forced to move out of where she was living when her second child was born, due to overcrowding. She was given emergency accommodation by Newham Labour council, in Brimstone House in Stratford. That was six months ago.
In the last two weeks, Newham council offered Sara and her children a property to consider in Birmingham…. She was scared and she was brave …. all her family, support networks, and her oldest child’s education, is in Newham… so she said no. She explains to Focus E15 campaign that she is facing eviction from Brimstone House on Monday 11 December. Sara says that Newham council is:
‘asking me to leave the property because I rejected what they call a suitable offer and they are discharging their duty of care to me. I have lived in this borough for 12 years and all my local connections are in Newham as my family is the only support system I have.’
Followers of Focus E15 campaign will see an irony here…. Brimstone House is what was formerly Focus E15 hostel for young people and where the Mother and Baby Unit was based and it was the young single mothers living there in 2013 who stood together to say no to Newham council who told them to pack their bags and move to Manchester, Hastings and yes… Birmingham. That is what launched the campaign against social cleansing and exposed Newham’s rotten record of sending people out of borough and out of London.
Four years on, the council behaviour hasn’t changed and we will stand with Sara and her children to prevent their social cleansing, to prevent their eviction and to demand that they be housed in Newham, in accommodation suitable for them as a family.
20 years ago, in 1997, Labour Mayor Robin Wales made his priorities clear when he was leader of the council and 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, and raise the income profile of all our residents’.
Within Newham Labour Council, 46 councillors own or control almost 100 properties and one has 19 properties with combined estimated value of over £4.5m and collective monthly rent of over £20,000. When the young mothers from Focus E15 hostel challenged Robin Wales in 2013, he had the arrogance to say: ‘If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can’t afford to live in Newham’. How can such people represent our interests?
Recent vital research by Debt Resistance UK has shown that Newham now has 12,000 homeless people, one in every 25 residents, the highest number in England. Newham also has the highest number of residents in temporary accommodation in London, and is among the councils moving the highest number of people out-of-borough and indeed out of London altogether.
Despite housing being a top priority for Newham residents, the council is spending significantly less money on housing than it is on debt repayments to banks for dodgy loans, known as Lender Option Borrower Option loans (LOBO). These are short-term, variable rate loans taken out by councils from the banks (when they should have secured safer fixed-rate 50-year loans from central government). Between 2001 and 2010, Newham took out £563m worth of loans from Barclays Bank and RBS. The teaser interest rates started low but continue to escalate and Newham is now paying back 7.5% interest on these loans. Interest repayments increased from £54m (2010) to £83m 2017. The upshot of this scandalous financial wrongdoing is that in 2015, Newham paid the equivalent of 70% of its council tax as debt servicing and in 2016/17, this has risen to 125% – the highest in England – meaning that more than all of what comes in as council tax payments, goes straight out to the banks.
Whilst cutting services to residents and pleading ‘Tory austerity’, Newham Labour council has sat on an ever-growing pot of money: ‘usable reserves’ increased from £77m in 2010 to £434m currently, a staggering rise of 560%.
If you sickened by any of this, come to our campaign stall and meeting on Saturday 9 December. Join us in our demand that Sara and her children must stay in Newham!
No more evictions! No social cleansing!
The campaign stall runs from 12-2pm on the Broadway in Stratford, outside Wilkos.
The campaign meeting is at Sylvia’s Corner on Aldworth Road, Stratford, E15 4DN at 2.30pm
In November 2016 Focus E15 participated in an exchange with Budapest housing activists who are in a campaign called A Város Mindenkiè– The City is for All (AVM).
This exchange was organised through the European Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City. The aim of this exchange, which was the first of its kind run through the European Coalition, was for campaigners in both London and Budapest to share protest techniques, learn new skills and examine our political approaches in the fight for housing.
First, AVM activists came to London and participated in various events –in the ‘day-to-day’ life of Focus E15 campaigning.
We took them along to our weekly street stall in Stratford outside Wilkos on the Broadway for leafleting, petitioning, using the open mic and of course a bit of street dancing:
After the street stall, at the Focus E15 campaign meeting, activists from AVM gave a presentation about how their campaign in Budapest is structured. We were impressed to learn that their campaign has been active for 6 years with different sub groups, weekly meetings and street stalls organised on a regular basis. Focus E15 campaign also invited Joel Benjamin from Debt Resistance UK to speak. Joel presented information on how local council are raking up huge debt due to servicing the interest on massive loans. The interpreters were working very hard to ensure that our guests understood the murky details of Newham Council’s finances and how this relates to the sell off of publicly owned housing.
The evening ended with some fireworks as Focus E15 campaign members challenged the Mayor of Newham Robin Wales over Newham council’s appalling housing record.
On Sunday, a housing conference co-hosted by Focus E15 and The Revolutionary Communist Group was held in Kings Cross. The housing activists from AVM spoke about their own experience of homelessness and the extent to which the local Municipals in Budapest take children of homeless or evicted parents into care in a matter of hours. This is what they are exposing and fighting against.
Focus E15 campaigners then spent a few days in Budapest learning more about AVM and housing issues in Hungary. Prior to 1990, state-owned housing in Hungary accounted for 23% of the overall national housing stock, rising to 54% in Budapest and 25% in the cities generally. However, social housing in Budapest has decreased significantly since 1990 when a capitalist government took hold.
We spent most of the time in Budapest in District 8, which is close to the city centre. District 8 has a very right wing Mayor who has accelerated the demolition of social housing and the eviction of poorer residents. Various tactics are used by the authorities to evict people from the remaining social housing stock. Residents who are in arrears are removed immediately. Others are offered a buy-out deal for little money. If you refuse this, you are in danger of eviction. And if you have children and you find yourself evicted, your children will be removed and taken into care.
Focus E15 campaigners with AVM in Budapest. ‘Lakhatast Ne Zaklatast’ – ‘Homes not Harassment’.
We also found out that AVM have been supporting people with eviction resistance. They took us to meet Gizzy, an amazing woman who has been fighting to keep her housing, whilst the Municipal try and push her into an old people’s home – she is in her mid-50s.
We spent a great deal of our time in Budapest discussing tactics with AVM. We discussed ways to fightback, the confidence to be explicitly left wing and the need to link clear anti racist messages to the struggle for housing. This is significant in Hungary as the central government is moving down a deeply racist path – this certainly has an effect on the Roma population we met in Budapest.
Other issues discussed were should you bring children to a demonstration, or is it too risky? Also, how do you ensure that you are not simply ‘fire-fighting’ individual housing issues, but ensuring people stay involved and are inspired to lead a bigger movement in the fight for housing?
If you would like to find out more about our trip to Budapest, see some slides and discuss all these issues more, Focus E15 will be holding a full presentation and discussion at the next campaign meeting on Saturday 3 December, Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, London E15 4DN, 2.30-4.30pm. All Welcome.
Newham’s housing is a health risk Newham is the most overcrowded borough in London with conditions for many residents increasingly best described as slum housing. In Olympic legacy Labour Newham, in the fifth richest country in the world, every day people face evictions, social cleansing and literally being dumped on the streets. Below are just two examples of the consequences of what can happen when you remove social housing.
Jennifer is the mother of five children and a grandmother. On Wednesday 8 June she will be at Bridge House homelessness Unit in Stratford, east London in the borough of Newham. Jennifer is about to be made homeless for the second time in nine months. She has been in temporary accommodation for 14 years, shunted from pillar to post, and in this last home, didn’t even totally unpack when she moved in nine months ago because she didn’t think it would last. She is right, a housing association put her in private rented accommodation and now the landlord says no more, possession order has come, meeting at Bridge House and all the usual emotions of fear, insecurity, shame, powerlessness. What will Jennifer tell her son who is on the autistic spectrum and is just settling in yet another home, when they have to move again, what of her son doing GCSEs and anxious about his exams. These are the issues facing her again.
Focus E15 campaign is supporting Jennifer in her request for long term stable housing in Newham. Housing Justice for Jennifer!
On Saturday 4 June, Focus E15 campaign held its monthly public meeting. The theme was Housing is a Mental Health Issue. A speaker from Psychologists Against Austerity spoke of the direct and indirect effect of poor housing and overcrowding on our physical and mental health. At the end of the meeting we met Beverley, a resident of Focus E15 building, or Brimstone House as Newham Council would like it now to be known, who is facing eviction. She has physical and mental health needs. On Tuesday 7 June, Beverley was told to leave Brimstone House. When they first placed her in Brimstone House, Newham Council said it was interim accommodation while a decision was made on whether to provide her with housing. Her dog, vital to help her maintain her health, was not allowed in the room and Beverley had to give her dog away causing her great anguish. The council assessed her as ‘homeless and eligible but not priority need’. She has now had her Housing Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) stopped. On Wednesday 8 June they will come to evict her and with no duty to house her, Beverley will be on the streets.
When Robin Wales announced in April that Newham Council had bought Focus E15 hostel, Brimstone House, from East Thames Housing Association, he said: ‘We cannot turn down this unique opportunity which makes both financial sense at the same time as helping some of our most vulnerable residents.’ So tell us Robin Wales, Labour Mayor of Newham, how throwing vulnerable people out onto the streets with their belongings is helpful?
On Thursday 16 June, at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards, Newham Labour Council is up for an award for the best trading standards and environmental health and has been nominated in the best environmental health category. What a slap in the face for the Newham residents who know the reality.
Expose the shameful actions of this Labour council. No one should be indefinitely in temporary accommodation! No one should be out on the streets!
Repopulate the Carpenters Estate where over 400 homes in Stratford lie empty.
Join Focus E15 campaign weekly stall every Saturday12-2pm, on The Broadway, E15 outside Wilko’s.
Join the protest at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards where both Newham and Lambeth are due to receive awards: Thursday 16 June 6.30pm Hilton Hotel London W1K 1BE
Two of the original mothers who founded the Focus E15 campaign, Sam and Jasmin, respond angrily below to the latest news in Newham Recorder that the hostel known as Focus E15 Foyer is to be bought by Newham council. Back in 2013 Focus E15 hostel was where Sam and Jasmin and the other mothers were all living at the time they were handed eviction notices by their housing association East Thames. This was because Newham council cut a funding stream that had supported the vulnerable young people living in the hostel. The young mothers were told by Newham council to pack their bags and get out of the city.
Read Sam and Jasmin’s response to the ‘sudden’ news of the sale of this hostel to the council:
Robin Wales this is ridiculous, even for you. Your council has given no assistance to the 210 young vulnerable people at Focus E15 hostel and at least 40 babies have been evicted from there during the last three years. You have called us names. You have tried to silence us. You told the mums from the hostel that it is not suitable for anyone to live in and needs to come down.
You have knowingly let families be split across separate rooms throughout the building, you let elderly and people with disabilities live on stupid floor levels -when the lifts never work, whilst rents have been doubled.
You cut the support for vulnerable residents -that was possibly the only thing useful about dumping us in a prison like hostel and now you are taking credit for saving it! How dare you Robin! You made life hell for so many of residents who lived in that building and were evicted. Some were moved out of London and others live on the streets.
Now you announce you are the saviour making it yours! What a disgrace of a human being – you should be ashamed of yourself. You say “We cannot turn down this unique opportunity which makes both financial sense at the same time as helping some of our most vulnerable residents.” You make us sick! Are you talking about the same people your colleagues from the Labour party said were not ‘vulnerable’ but ‘needy’? Do you remember that you said to us that “if you can’t afford to live in Newham – you can’t afford to live in Newham”!
Was this always part of your plan three years ago Robin? You have no care for the homeless or vulnerable people, they are not rich enough for you. As for it making financial sense – what about all of those living in B&B’s at stupid rents, what about those forced to live in Welwyn Garden City and what about the 410 flats on the Carpenters Estate which the council has left empty for the last 10 years? The flats on the Carpenters are much more suitable to live in than the tiny cramped bedsits of Focus E15 hostel. As you should know!
What about investing some of your £80,000 a year expenses back into the borough you “care” about so much! You are corrupt! You do not care about working class people, you socially cleanse them. Newham does not want you, Newham does not need you! Newham is not a place for you to “live work or stay”. You are nothing but the Sheriff of Newham ROBIN the poor. Shame on you!
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.
Below is our response that we are sending to the Newham Recorder regarding their recent articleand 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: