“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”

Isabelle Anderson, Green Party candidate for Stratford and New Town ward, explains how the Green policies on crime would tackle the true causes of crime in Newham. For a safer Newham, vote Green on May 7th

Despite reported crime levels falling, residents do not feel safer
Despite reported crime levels falling, residents do not feel safer

Anyone remember this mantra, beloved of Tony Blair and his New Labour government which swept to power in 1997? Since that time, under both New Labour and a Con-Dem coalition, we have seen the introduction of a raft of new criminal justice measures. The UK is about to get its first supersize ‘Titan prison’ in Wrexham with space for more than 2000 inmates. Our civil liberties have been threatened by legislation under a series of ‘Terrorism Acts’, which introduced detention without charge and Control Orders that enable the government to hold individuals under effective ‘house arrest’ for indeterminate periods of time. And austerity too has had an impact; with cuts made to legal aid and the probation service privatised.

Then came 2010 and the introduction of a record number of new laws – 3,506 in total [1]. So shouldn’t we all feel much safer? Despite a year on year fall in crime since 1995, polls show that the majority of people still believe that the crime rate is rising [2]. This is borne out by my experience on the doorsteps, talking to residents around Stratford and New Town. Many cite crime as an important issue and express feelings of fear and isolation. Yesterday, the Newham Recorder reported that our borough has been ranked as one of the worst in London for 13 separate crimes, including violent crimes such as rape and grievous bodily harm [3]. While the rates of many crimes including burglary and theft have fallen in Newham, violent crimes have increased.

If previous governments have been so ‘tough’ on crime and its causes, why does this issue remain high on the agenda? The prison population in the UK is higher than ever before, with more people imprisoned than in any other European country. And yet, despite the tough punitive approach taken, crime remains a problem.

The Green Party takes a radically different approach to crime and justice. We believe that the principle causes of crime are poverty, lack of opportunity and poor community cohesion. Take the following statistics [4]:

  •  60% of offenders have no qualifications;
  • 48% have literacy skills below those expected of an 11 year old;
  • 67% were unemployed at the time of imprisonment;
  • 71% suffer from two or more mental disorders;
  • There is more crime in unequal societies.
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Nationally, Green policies on crime are more popular than other parties (source: vote for policies website)

By addressing inequality, redistributing wealth and improving quality of life, we can reduce crime and create a society in which we all feel safe. Green Party policy on crime places emphasis first and foremost on education, employment and security for all. We would shift the focus of the justice system away from punishment and make rehabilitation and reparation a priority. Reoffending rates are at a record high and more than half of criminals handed prison sentences of less than 12 months will reoffend [5]. This proves that prison and retributive sentencing does not work. Effective justice must involve community participation rather than being imposed from above. Restorative justice, that is community-based justice, can empower victims and improve social cohesion. Prison sentences would be reserved for the most serious crimes. In addition, the Green Party would:

  • Focus on crime prevention measures, including more community police, more local police stations, and increase resources for caretakers, attendants and railway station staff.
  • Abolish Police and Crime Commissioners, and return control of the police to local government.
  • Treat drug addiction as a health issue.
  • Restrict police use of random stop and search powers and end the disproportionate targeting of of BME communities.
  • Oppose the privatisation of policing and of the probation service.

To tackle the true causes of crime, for a safer Newham, vote Green on 7th May 2015.

Sources:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13569604
[2] http://www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2013/aug/01/crime-falling-people-dont-feel-safer
[3] http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/newham_is_in_bottom_five_boroughs_for_13_crimes_1_4051947
[4] https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/manifesto/Green_Party_2015_General_Election_Manifesto_Searchable.pdf
[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-reoffending-and-improving-rehabilitation/supporting-pages/transforming-rehabilitation

Unfair consultation on Upton Centre future

uptonThe Newham Green Party have been actively supporting the campaign to save the Upton Centre.

The Upton Centre was closed unexpectedly and “for the foreseeable future” on Friday 19th December by Newham Council. Cabinet members agreed to launch a consultation with residents about the future of the centre. You can access and respond to the consultation questionnaire online here (closes Tuesday 26th May).

Caroline Tomes, Newham Green Party member, filled in the consultation questionnaire yesterday and was shocked and dismayed at the questions being asked. In response Caroline has emailed her councillors noting her concerns. She’s said:

Having attended a number of public meetings concerning the closure of the centre and heard about the poor communication from the council in this regard, I am very concerned for the future of the community groups who depend upon the Upton Centre and the wider community who also benefit from this community asset.
Yesterday I completed the consultation questionnaire. As a public health professional who has experience in questionnaire design and delivery, and lectured on this topic at various Universities, I was dismayed. The consultation is nothing short of appalling. It has many leading questions, is not explicit in its assumptions or costings, and most disappointing of all, it appears to suggest that LBN council is already favouring the option to demolish the site.

 

Newham Council appear to prefer tokenistic research rather than carefully planned engagement to find out what people actually want or think, and this supposed consultation further evidences this. For Caroline’s critique in full, read her storify here.

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Newham residents campaigning to save the Upton Centre (source: Newham Recorder)

As with many community campaigns in Newham there appears to be a common underlying theme. The complacent Labour one-party state of elected officials, led by Mayor Robin Wales. Whatever the outcome of May 7th, Newham Green Party are committed to supporting and raising the profile of community campaigns for a better Newham.

When walking around Newham, we’ve heard people ask ‘what difference can one Green voice have?’

The answer is one heck of a difference!

A Green MP or Green Councillor for Newham would mean a strong voice of opposition, challenge and change.

That is worth voting for.

Please mind the gap between the rich and the poor

Tackling the gap between rich and poor has become a major political issue in Newham as almost 1 in 2 households in the borough are now poor, new research shows.

Rachel Collinson for West Ham
Rachel Collinson for West Ham

Rachel Collinson, Green Party candidate for West Ham, says:

“We can no longer ignore the inequalities in Newham; they are shocking, unfair and unacceptable. It is a reflection the impact of the recession but also ineffective Labour policies which are not tackling the root causes of poverty. We believe everyone in Newham should have decent housing and fair working conditions and the Greens are the only party who you can be confident will tackle poverty in Newham”

Ahead of the General Election, a group of leading academics completed an audit of the political parties’ manifestos to assess the impact of their policies on UK and global poverty. The Green Party came out on top. We in the Green Party pride ourselves on our record of consistently proposing innovative policies to address long-standing public policy challenges.

povertyThe audit highlights that the Green Party policies are likely to make a lasting difference, as they are far-sighted and seek to address the structural causes of problems, like housing. Such policies are expected to make a big difference to people’s lives, especially to deprived boroughs like Newham.

In sharp contrast, Labour and Conservative parties fail to outline a robust strategy to address poverty, and promote flourishing, at home and abroad. However its not just their plans, its also their actions. Earlier this month we saw the House of Lords reject a ”Good Samaritan’ food donation plan for Britain. With an estimated 13 million people in poverty in the UK, we can’t ignore it.

Isabelle Anderson for Stratford and New TOwn
Isabelle Anderson for Stratford and New Town

Isabelle Anderson, Green Party candidate for the Stratford and New Town by-election says:

“As a young family with a modest income we struggle with the spiralling cost of housing. I believe that Newham Council should be working harder to provide decent affordable homes for all. Newham Council’s failure to provide sufficient social housing pushes vulnerable people out of London and breaks up families and communities. By electing me as your councillor for Stratford and New Town you will ensure that Labour’s unwillingness to stand up for the vulnerable and the marginalised will not go unchallenged.”

“The Green Party offers a real alternative – a party that fights inequality and prioritises the needs of the many above the profit of the few. If I am elected I will campaign for social housing; for measures to improve the toxic air quality that kills 4000 Londoners a year; and for community initiatives that will address social issues such as crime, inequality, unemployment and poverty, and improve wellbeing.”

Research from the University of Oxford reveals the number of households in poverty has jumped by 60% since 1980, meaning that now almost three in 10 are poor. London has always been a city of extremes but the extent to which it has become polarised between rich and poor is laid bare in research released yesterday. Analysis of Census data reveals a 60% increase in poor households and a 33% increase in wealthy households. This has come at a time – 1980 to 2010 – when the number of middle-income households went down by 27%.

For further information:

Four legs good, two legs better… The tragedy of unopposed “revolutionaries”

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 07.23.06This afternoon I got a call from Isabelle, our candidate for Stratford and New Town. It’s unusual for her to call in the middle of the day. I put down my work and answered immediately, fearing the worst.

“Rachel we need some help urgently. The police have arrived and they are breaking in.”

My heart sank.

Isabelle was just a short walk away from where we both live, helping the Focus E15 mums protect the home of one of their friends, Jane, and her 14-year-old daughter. The council had evicted her last month because she had fallen behind on her rent payments. She had lived there for 20 years, but only recently had been sanctioned on her benefits and had her housing benefit cut. She chose to eat rather than pay the rent. So the Labour-run council decided to evict her. Even when her family offered to pay the full amount owing, they refused to let her back in.

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Green Party members helping FocusE15 mums to renovate Jane’s home

Focus E15 stepped in and let her back into the flat, gave it a much-needed redecoration and had a welcome home party. Two of our members went down to help over the weekend and pitched in with stripping the wallpaper and buying a heater.

The council had invited Jane to a meeting today at 3.30pm. That sounds great, you might think, until the cynic in you wonders what the council might do while she’s out. And behold, as soon as she left, the council were straight in to board everything up. Fortunately Focus E15 were wise to this plan and had decided to house-sit. Jasmin, their courageous leader, was there.

“They have told her that if she won’t give them her name, they will take her children into care.”

Isabelle’s next words were a bombshell. Lost for words, I fumbled a bit.

“Oh, um, OK,” I said, though, ashamedly, I was scared. “I’m coming over.”

I called others in the area, left my husband ill in bed and got there as fast as I could.

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Rachel Collinson, Green Party candidate for West Ham witnessed the illegal eviction of Jane and arrest of FocusE15 mum Jasmin

Inside, the police were blocking access to the building. We peered in through the window, tapped on the door and politely asked what was going on. They pretended that we weren’t there. There was no warrant for arrest, no court order.

When I announced that I was the parliamentary candidate for West Ham (not a card I really like to play) suddenly the police started talking. They promised me that they would bring down a ‘representative from the council’ to answer my questions. Eventually they came out and bundled Jasmin into their van ‘for questioning’. They refused to say under what grounds she was being detained (I’m not sure they themselves knew, apart from it being something to do with squatting) and drove off.

Al Thomas, the council’s enforcement manager, said that I should contact Newham’s communications team rather than talk to him. Why, I wonder? Could it be that he might get himself in trouble again?

It’s sad to see George Orwell’s tale Animal Farm played out once again in the theatrics of Newham’s Labour Council. The reds have learned how to walk on their hind legs, and us quadrupeds are being left out in the cold.

You have a chance to bring them back down to earth, if you vote Green this May.

Update: Jasmin Stone has been released without charge. However the fight for Jane’s home and the struggle for social housing for Newham residents continues.

Help save Newham by getting Greens elected!

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Tamsin and Rachel need your help!

Newham, where we all live, is in crisis. The council is evicting single mums from their homes for no good reason. They are locking thousands of people out of their community centres without warning. Hundreds of people are dying too soon because they live in the most polluted part of London.

Despite all this, our councillors and our MPs refuse to stand up to the mayor who is the mastermind of this social cleansing.

Something different is happening this election. It hasn’t been this close in a lifetime. This is a rare opportunity to stop our leaders in their tracks. We can’t do that without you.

The truth is that if everybody in Newham votes for what they believe in, the Green Party can win. But we have no big corporate backers, no billionaire donors, no giant unions behind us. All we have is people like you who want politics to change for good. For the good of all of us.

There are less than 34 days left before the election. We urgently need the funds to pay for our deposits to stand here. Only you can help us do this.

Time is very short, so please give today and help us to make Newham great again.

Click here to visit our crowdfunder page today – don’t delay!

Green solution to the housing crisis in Newham

Tamsin Omond, Green Party candidate for East Ham, highlights the current housing crisis in Newham, and how a Green win would help things change for the better.

There is no easy solution to the housing crisis in London. The banks and the politicians told us that a house is an asset rather than a safe place where can go as we are and not be questioned – and we took their word for it.  Housing crisis followed housing crisis and we are all now held hostage to the market, struggling to get a place on the ladder, fixated by an idea that owning a house is a symbol of success in the competition of life which is less and less a game.

There are 1.3million people on the housing list in the UK.

24,000 of these people live in Newham. 

Focus E15 mums

And yet Sir Robin Wales (the Labour mayor who leads the current one-party state of Newham Borough Council) has the cheek to tell mums fighting for their right to live and stay in the city they grew up: ‘If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can’t afford to live in Newham.’  Robin’s words reminded me of something a rightwing US millionaire, Glenn Beck, said: “What we don’t have a right to is housing, healthcare and handouts – we don’t have a right to those things”.

One of the main causes of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing.  The reason we don’t have affordable housing is the council selling off its stock to private landlords (who are given tax breaks to profit from the housing crisis) and to large scale property developers. Although Newham – in its own ‘local plan’ – promises to “seek a tenure mix of 65% market housing and 35% affordable housing” (p.130), in practise they are more likely to rubber stamp developments that offer no truly affordable housing.

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Boleyn Development 100 campaign

Newham Council’s relationship with Galliard Homes is just one example of our Labour council prioritising the profit of luxury property developers over and above the people of Newham’s need for homes.  Already Galliard have benefited from the public-funded connectivity of the Olympic Borough.  At Stratford and at Canning Town they have built luxury homes that they proudly publicise has no social housing.

Now Newham Council are on the cusp of giving Galliard another profit boost.  The legacy of the Boleyn development (the redevelopment of West Ham stadium) hangs in the balance.  Galliard are proposing 94% private apartments, the community are demanding 100% social housing and Newham Council are yet to make a decision.  If we don’t join with the Boleyn Development 100 campaign to collect objection letters and fight back then it seems Galliard will be granted yet another jewel our Olympic legacy by this Labour council.

So what would a Green elected voice in Newham do differently?

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Tamsin and Rachel campaigning against the Boleyn development plans

Our housing policies would begin to rebalance the system – prioritising people’s need for a home over the market’s need to monetise everything that we value and turn these things of value into potential profit of the 1%.   But more urgently we would continue as elected members or as community activists to hold Labour to account, to voice opposition to their manipulation of the housing market as a tool for social cleansing, and to fight alongside community campaigns to gain ground against the relentless drive of a flawed argument that tries to convince us that there is no place like home.

Nationally we have pledged the following:

  • We will build 500,000 new socially rented homes by 2020.
  • We will pay for this by reforming landlord tax allowances to incentivise good practice rather than profit, starting with scrapping the mortgage interest tax allowance.
  • Building new homes is not the only answer. We will also bring empty homes back into use, end the right to buy, provide better support for tenants in privately rented accommodation and take action on soaring rents.

What has the Green Party got to offer young people?

Rachel Collinson, Green Party candidate for West Ham, explains what we have to offer young people.

This evening I was the only Party representative at an event about engaging young people in politics. To a lot of those aged 18-24 (or even under 40) this would be no surprise.

So many parties claim to be interested in young people, but actions speak louder than words. Only the Green Party actually demonstrate they care.

In a recent poll, young people said their main concerns are:

  • Lowering the voting age to 16
  • Youth centres reopening
  • Free education
  • A living wage for everybody

All those are Green Party manifesto commitments.

Jobs!

They are probably trying not to think about it, but a huge proportion of those under 24 will probably be unemployed when they leave education. The Green Party have found ways to create over a million new jobs, so there would actually be hope for them.

We’d put financial education and politics back on the curriculum for schools so that every child will have a chance to learn things that will actually affect them for the rest of their lives, as opposed to doing quadratic equations. (Sorry maths fans, but I have never needed to do a quadratic equation since I left school.)

Danger in the air

Importantly, it’s young people that will be most affected by the millions of tons of polluting gases that we pump into the air – gases that are changing the weather and the composition of the air we breathe.

So many people who vote reliably and regularly – those over sixty – are in denial that they will affected by this. But our young people recognise the danger. So, for them, the Green Party will do everything we can to limit and reverse the damage.

Warning: cynicism alert

Finally, I think I understand why politicians have a tendency to ignore young people, and give their attention to big business and older people instead.

I’m going to be blunt: young people have no money.

When you look at the state of party politics, you begin to realise that financial interests drive the parties. UKIP, Labour, the LibDems and the Tories all have billionaire donors, support from multinational corporations or giant unions and the media. And when you look at the targets of their manifestos, you can see that they reflect the concerns of their donors, rather than those who have less money. That means women, the young, ethnic minorities and the working class.

The Green Party just don’t have that kind of money or powerful support. But when people actually read our policies, they decide to vote for us.

So we need a big change to the way the system works – an end to private donations to political parties, and public funding for politics instead. That would level the playing field and be fairer for everybody.

Interestingly, it is also a Green Party policy.

What to do about this?

There are two simple things you can do:

  1. Register to vote.
  2. Join the campaign for a fairer political system.

There are also some great quizes to help you work out which political party is closest to your views, such as Vote Match and Vote For Policies. Give it a go!

You can also find out more about Generation Vote Green, our General Election campaign to get young people engaged, empowered – and voting.

Y Vote from UK Young Ambassadors on Vimeo.