I’m Elisabeth, the Green Party candidate for the Forest Gate North by election.
Here’s my manifesto for Forest Gate.
I will push the council to take the banks to court to get £millions back for Newham residents.
Newham council was mis-sold bank loans amounting to over £500m, and the pay-back terms on these loans are so high that 80% of our council tax is now going to pay them off. That’s £51m a year – just over the amount the council is suffering in budget cuts from central government. If elected, I’d make it a priority to encourage Newham council to take the banks to court to get our money back. With this money coming back to the council rather than to the banks, we’ll be able to invest in better waste collection, council housing, sure start centres, cycle routes and community centres across Newham.
I will seek to improve the current recycling contract and challenge the £20 bulky waste fee.
Rubbish on the streets is a major problem in Newham. Despite this, the council have decided to charge residents £20 for each bulky waste collection. This will just make things worse. If elected I would challenge the council to take this charge away and set up new pilot schemes to tackle flytipping in Forest Gate.
Not only that, Newham has one of the worst recycling schemes in the country. If elected, I’d seek to end the current recycling contract and get a new one in place that can collect food waste, more plastic items, tetra paks and glass.
I will fight for more social housing and oppose estate demolition if residents want to stay.
Somewhere good to live is a basic human right and a world leading city like London can afford to offer that to our citizens. However, Newham’s housing is in crisis. Local people are being priced out of the area and rogue landlords are charging rip-off rents while allowing tenants to live in damp, crowded conditions. Social housing tenants are being forced out of their homes, making the problem worse.
If elected, I’d oppose the demolition of council housing schemes that residents love, such as the Carpenters Estate, and work with local residents to resist evictions. I’d push to make sure that any new development offers a majority of social and genuinely affordable housing as standard.
Traffic and cleaner air
I will work to reduce pollution and increase investment in safe cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Newham has some of the worst air quality in the capital, and schemes such as the proposed Silvertown tunnel will only attract more cars into our borough. That’s the last thing we need!
I’d oppose this unnecessary development and encourage the council to invest in better cycling and walking facilities instead (such as the London Cycling Campaign’s plan for Upton Lane and Woodgrange Road). This would give us cleaner air to breathe and we’d have fewer traffic jams. I’d also push to get bike hangars for Forest Gate’s residential areas, which provide parking spaces for 6 bikes in half a regular parking space.
Friday saw the official launch of the Green Party manifesto for East London (pdf), ahead of the Mayoral and London Assembly elections on Thursday 5th May. Support for Green policies is at an all-time high, with a particularly strong presence in East London, and we are aiming to increase the numbers of Greens on the London Assembly from the current two.
Green Party Mayoral candidate, Siân Berry, and local candidate, Rachel Collinson, were joined by local Green Party members outside of the proposed Bishopsgate Goodsyard site.
Rachel Collinson, who is also the Newham Green Party Chair, said: “The Bishopsgate Goodsyard development controversy perfectly illustrates what is wrong with London’s urban planning system. Boris Johnson has repeatedly ignored the wishes of local residents and Councils. The Green Party’s Jenny Jones AM challenged the Mayor on the decision, and it has now been deferred until after the Mayoral election!
“The Green Party have a strong record of supporting communities, and holding those in power to account. If elected to the assembly I will work with residents to ensure local concerns continue to be heard.”
The Green Party have already highlighted their flagship policies on housing, transport, policing, the living wage and air pollution during this campaign. The manifesto provides more detail on each of these areas and gives examples of what Siân a Green Mayor and Green London Assembly Members would do for East London. Such as…
200,000 new homes across London, for ALL Londoners – with 50% to be built by smaller developers, communities and housing associations to provide truly affordable housing across the city. In East London the party will take a stand against the proliferation of luxury developments for the super-wealthy, such as Bishopsgate Goodsyard and the Newham Council Masterplan to replace the social Carpenter’s Estate with private developer blocks, and fight for the development of genuinely affordable housing for Londoners.
Celebrating and supporting London’s diversity – including rethinking the flawed and discriminatory Prevent strategy, creating a new City Hall position for monitoring policy impacts on London’s older residents, and making sure London remains a leader in LGBT+ rights and culture.
Ending the air pollution crisis – bringing pollution below legal limits by 2020 at the latest. In East London, we will continue to resist the proposed Enderby Wharf Cruise Terminal in Greenwich and the Silvertown Tunnel at Blackwall which would increase pollution across several boroughs that are already dangerously polluted. Also, we’d close London City Airport and use the land for homes and up to 16,000 more jobs.
The London Living Wage for all – currently one in five working Londoners are still paid less, many of whom live in Newham and surrounding boroughs. Siân also pledges to create 150,000 high quality apprenticeships, and improving conditions and opportunities for part-time workers.
New figures obtained from the GLA (pdf) by Darren Johnson, Green Party Assembly Member, show that estate regeneration schemes in London are set to cost Newham up to 286 socially-rented homes, and leave the borough with a newly-built ‘affordable’ stock of just 77.
According to figures from the London Development Database, this would result in a housing market where the stock of ‘affordable’ rented homes make up just over 5% of the Borough’s rentable properties.
Separate figures published by the Mayor of London, requested by Darren, also reveal that estate regeneration in the Mayor’s Housing Zones will lead to a net increase in all types of homes that is 3,099 lower than the Mayor has claimed, due to demolitions of existing homes. The Mayor has not yet provided a breakdown for types of affordable homes.
At the announcement of these figures, Darren Johnson AM said:
Under the cover of tired stereotypes about sink estates, the Mayor is whittling away at homes that are genuinely affordable to Londoners. He then tries to deceive by talking about new homes being built, without mentioning all those he is knocking down. With a few exceptions, estate regeneration has been a complete disaster in London and has made our housing crisis worse.
It’s time he called a stop to the demolitions and got behind community-led plans to renovate estates, with infill development where it makes sense and demolition where it’s absolutely necessary.
Across London there is expected to be a net loss of 1,389 affordable homes, and more dramatically the net loss of 7,326 social rented homes. These are schemes with planning permission, but that have not yet started or been completed.
Rachel Collinson, Green Party Spokesperson and London 2016 GLA candidate for City and East constituency, said “Many of the 24,000 Newham residents left hanging on the council housing waiting list are rightly angry about the lack of social housing available to them. The fact that Newham is set to lose hundreds more social rented homes – the joint fault of our Labour council and Tory London mayor – will make this even worse. A Green mayor would ensure that our existing council housing stock is not destroyed but renovated and extended.”
As many of our members are private renters we were incredibly excited about this proposal, especially following Lastminute.com’s recent PR stunt based on rent increases.
Profit over people turned into an advert… Is that meta or just a sad state of affairs? –
(Of course, most of the us effected by renting increases can’t afford the hotel option either!)
But, how did we get here?
Newham Greens member and Paralegal, Tim, gave us the rundown.
The Renter’s Union: A Legal and Historical Perspective
The American journalist and political economist Henry George, in his first book Poverty and Progress, wrote of what he saw as the danger of an over-mighty class of landlords is presented uncompromising terms; ‘Could he thus concentrate the individual rights to the whole surface of the globe, he alone of all the teeming population of the earth would have the right to live’. George’s words, written in 1879, probably sounded somewhat comical, even to the Victorians, in their sheer apocalyptic heft. One can assume that he was exaggerating for effect, to give an illustration of the dangers of excessive claim to ownership being brought by only a small group of people. But surely, things would never become as bad as that?
Since 28 February 1997, it has been the default position that all tenancies granted in England and Wales, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the relevant agreements, were to be Assured Shorthold Tenancies. These differ from Assured Tenancies in that the occupant, upon expiry of the agreement (usually after one year) has no inherent security of tenure, a position enshrined in section 21 of the Housing Act 1988.
The reasons for this move are well documented; property as a resource was intended to become more alienable and therefore more saleable, so as to allow for the greatest ease of commercial transaction. There has been a deliberate shift in legislative emphasis away from the idea of property as, primarily, a place in which to live, and towards an idea of property as an exploitable commodity.
This is no great secret; the intention behind the legislation has been a well-documented, relatively uncontroversial matter in parliamentary and judicial circles for years. It was even opined as recently as 2005 in the Court of Appeal case of Secretarial and Nominee Co. Ltd. V Thomas that the ultimate result of all of this would be to make the letting of residential property ‘more attractive to landlords and thus more available to tenants’
Evidently, Lord Justice Rix did not have in mind a housing and rental market warped by successive property bubbles and the terrifying speed with which wage growth was outstripped by the growth of house prices. (Perhaps, but for these factors, something of that libertarian utopia, guaranteeing a ‘right to roam’ for anyone who had the means for it, might have been realised?) And yet all of this risks overlooking the simple reality of how the use of land and property is linked, at a more fundamental level, to human wellbeing. In the words of Lord Bingham, giving judgment in the House of Lords in 2004 in Harrow LBC v Quazi “few things are more central to the enjoyment of human life than having somewhere to live”.
Granted, one of the rights which an Assured Shorthold tenant is supposed to is that of ‘exclusive possession’ of the property, that is, the ability to eject anyone from the property, including the landlord, except for the purpose of carrying out necessary cleaning or repair duties. However, this right is only guaranteed for the life of the tenancy. Section 21 ensures that after the terms of the tenancy have expired the tenant can effectively be ejected at will and must, if the court so orders it, vacate the property within 14 days. The courts enjoy maximum discretion to delay the eviction for up to six weeks in cases of ‘exceptional hardship’, but so long as the paperwork is in order, that’s it.
In some cases, the tenancy will continue unofficially as a ‘periodic tenancy’, with the landlord continuing to accept rent every month even after the expiry of the tenancy. However, this leaves the tenant in an even more vulnerable position, whereby a landlord can effectively hold the tenant to ransom in exchange for allowing them to overlook some of their own duties as landlords to maintain the property. So-called ‘revenge evictions’ are an ever-present danger.
According to the homelessness charity Shelter, 52,270 households were accepted as homeless by their local councils in England in 2013 and 2014. Of those, over a quarter were made homeless by the ending of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. In London, this proportion rises to four cases in ten.
Fighting one’s case becomes that much harder when, after the coming into force of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (‘LASPO’), Housing cases were one of a number of sectors which were deemed to be no longer eligible to receive civil legal aid. Anyone finding themselves at the sharp end of a landlord’s notice and in need of advice or representation now either has to put up the cash or, in the majority of cases, represent themselves, usually appearing opposite a well-briefed advocate for the other side in an uneven fight.
Although the ability to fight these cases and knowledge of such rights as tenant’s do have is only one facet of a much larger problem, it is nevertheless one where practical action can be taken now, and which Sian Berry, as part of her Mayoral campaign, is now proposing. The official briefing (pdf) cites the successful growth and campaigning power of a number of other citizen’s organisations, including ACORN in the USA (and now sprouting in parts of the UK) and the network of tenants’ unions being fostered by NUS Scotland, together with a growing number of London-based community associations.
A Renters Union, of which every one of the 2.3 million privately renting tenants in London would automatically be a member, would be an important step in trying to redress this unbalanced state of affairs. After that, the long work of root-and-branch reform of decades of housing policy must begin, and soon.
We’ve seen so many loved ones and valued community members forced out of their neighbourhoods by rising housing costs, if you have a story to share please let us know in the comments below.
If you need help with your housing situation, you should contact UK housing charities Shelter and Crisis.
Today Rachel Collinson, our local representative for the upcoming GLA election, joined Newham Greens members out around the borough to leaflet and talk to commuters about TfL’s latest fare changes, and how we hope to make a difference with our own #FairFares policy if we can secure a bigger presence on the Greater London Assembly, and perhaps even our first Green Mayor of London! (The GLA and Mayoral election is run on PR vote, we usually get a much better result than at more traditional FPTP elections for MPs and local councillors. We came third in 2010, so we think Sian is really in with a shot!)
We had a lovely (if a bit chilly!) morning with volunteers around Newham, watching the sun rise on a beautiful day.
In fact, it was so nice that Rachel and a few more volunteers headed back out to meet people on their homeward journeys in the Royal Docks and at London City Airport station this evening.
We heard stories and feedback about all sorts of transport concerns, as well as about a lot of other local issues. Interesting and helpful conversations were had around the borough, whether it was 7 AM or PM, and we’d like to thank everyone who came to volunteer or stopped for a chat – the time was truly appreciated!
In case you missed our volunteers today, what could #FairFares mean for you? Well, you can find the full lowdown at Sian Berry’s website, but here are the parts we’re most excited by:
Simplify the zone pricing structure, leading to fairer charges London-wide.
Single zone with a fairer flat-rate fare for all of London by 2025. Prices would start to get cheaper from 2016, with 2 of the current zones removed in 2017.
Our “ONE Ticket” policy means that you pay 1 charge for your complete journey, not each time you change bus/train/tube as part of it.
Lower rates for the daily pay-as-you-go caps, so part-time workers can gain from the savings too.
Integrating TfL’s cycle hire scheme, taxis and riverboats into the Oyster system for easier payments on the go.