Forcing homeless families out of London – our report on London councils ending their homeless duties with private rented accommodation

Freedom of information report shows 95% of the households Newham council have forced out of the borough have children (e.g.’take this housing in Birmingham or lose your right to social housing altogether’)
How disruptive to their education, and they family’s stability! Our council has failed in their duty of care to local residents.

This isn’t new information if you follow local news and/or the work of groups like the FocusE15 Mothers, but this report shows Newham are one of the worst cases for this social cleansing.

Please join us and the Focus E15 Mothers in fighting back. Social housing is a right, not a privilege.

Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth

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Using Freedom Of Information requests sent to London councils, we looked at how hundreds of homeless households are being forced out of their home communities and out of London into private rented housing or else facing destitution. You can read our full report HASL report on private sector discharge -final

The Guardian has covered the research here

We wrote about our findings for Novara Media here

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Introducing our new candidate for East Ham #GE2017

Ex-investment banker Chidi Oti-Obihara has lived in Beckton for 6 years and is standing on a platform for improving local lives

I’m proud to announce that our candidate for East Ham is now Beckton-based Chidi Oti-Obihara!

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Michael (on phone) and Chidi having just finished registering on the ballot
Chidi Oti-Obihara lives in Beckton and became a member of the Green Party while working with us on our investigations into Newham Council’s mis-sold Lender Option, Borrower Option (‘LOBO’) loans.

Previously an Investment Banker, Chidi turned whistle-blower in 2007 and testified to Parliament about the practices he’d witnessed and been bullied for not colluding with. He now works as an independent financial consultant. 

Chidi said “It’s a bittersweet moment for me as I became involved in the party largely because of Rachel, so it’s a shame to have this opportunity due to her standing down. However, it’s a huge honour to have been selected by the membership to represent the party, and especially my own neighbourhood!” 

Chidi Oti-Obihara has lived in Beckton for 6 years and is standing on a platform for improving local lives:

“My part of the borough – Beckton and the Royal Docks, nearby – has been rather neglected by local government. There isnt enough sustainable planning. Whenever investment does appear, it’s privately funded or uses opaque private-partnerships that rarely meets the needs of local people. The air pollution, which is disgraceful across London, is particularly bad in parts of the borough due to the sewage works, the airport and the endless building works. The air is constantly full of dust particles and unpleasant smells. We deserve better, and that’s a large part of why I want to stand in East Ham.”

Chidi is also keen to discuss the problems with some of the privatisation in local government – such as the use of LOBOs by many local authorities. “Having worked in finance for over 15 years, I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I know some of the more questionable practices used in selling products. We know that Newham Council is by no means alone in having been mis-sold these loans, and I hope we can push this topic into the national agenda.”

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Chidi with local members as part of the #StandUpForCleanAir campaign

Today, Chidi launched his campaign with some leafletting on East Ham High Street, talking to residents, shoppers and business owners.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be holding events and stalls around East Ham, Beckton and the Docks – find out more on Chidi’s Facebook page.

Introducing our candidate for West Ham!

Today’s news is very poignant for us – as we have to announce Rachel Collinson is standing down as a candidate for the upcoming ‘snap’ election. Rachel needs to focus on recovering from current health problems and felt unable to adequately meet the demands of the candidacy, in addition to her other duties for the Party.

We fully support her decision and wish her a full and fast recovery.

As a result, it’s been a roller-coaster week; we held a second selection meeting with the local membership, to vote again for candidates in both East Ham and West Ham constituencies.

It’s a pleasure to introduce Newham Green Party treasurer Michael Spracklin, who has been selected as our candidate for West Ham. 

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Support for Green policies is at an all-time high and the party have built a strong presence in Newham. Last year the Newham Greens candidate came second in a by-election in Forest Gate North, with 31% of the vote.

The picture of a working class boy done good, Michael has always lived in East London, and is an IT Consultant in central London, but he never lost his roots and has campaigned for social equality and more social housing for many years.

Michael hopes to engage disillusioned voters. “During our EU Referendum campaigning last year, we spoke to countless people who didn’t plan to vote because they didn’t feel their vote mattered. Newham’s residents deserve to have a voice, and many currently feel that they don’t.”

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Michael Spracklin chairing our town hall meeting with No Silvertown Tunnel

Michael is passionate about politics and a big believer in social justice and equality; he has campaigned for left-wing causes as long as he can remember. “Newham Green Party have been working towards a fairer borough, through campaigns against the council’s LOBO loans, the increase in fly-tipping, expansion of London City Airport, and big new developments which don’t meet the needs – or budgets – of local people.”

Michael added “I’m also proud of our long history of supporting like-minded grass roots activists like the Focus E15 mothers, Friends of Queens Market, Newham Say No to Racism, BLM UK, and the Boleyn Dev100 campaign.”

“Nationally, we’re challenging the environmental, humanitarian and economic catastrophe that the UK now faces. The mainstream parties just bow down to the super-rich and lobbyists. I believe that the Tory government’s ideology driven “austerity” cuts should end. It’s grotesquely unfair. The super-rich, banks and multinational companies should take their losses and pay their taxes.

A green, fair and prosperous society is not only achievable but necessary.”

Introducing our candidate for West Ham!

 

This weekend we were joined by London Assembly member, Sian Berry, to announce our candidate for East Ham in June’s General Election.

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Michael Spracklin, left, with Sian Berry and local spokesperson, Rachel Collinson

It was a great start to our London Young Greens action day – part of their weekend of Ed Balls Day events across London. Sian announced the winner of our members vote – which was unanimous in favour of Michael Spracklin, from Manor Park!

Michael has been our party treasurer for the past few years, and is an IT consultant by day. Mike is sadly one of the dwindling number of East London-born working class residents who has managed to live here his entire life, without being priced out. …Yet!

Concerns around housing and the rise in social injustice was a key part of why Michael joined the Green Party:

“The banks are still ripping us off – nothing has changed since 2008 to fix the system. The mainstream parties just bow down to the super-rich and lobbyists. I believe that the Tory government’s ideology driven “austerity” cuts should end. It’s grotesquely unfair. The super-rich, banks, and multinational companies should take their losses and pay their taxes.

A green, fair and prosperous society is not only achievable but necessary.

This is his first time standing as a general election candidate, inspired by his time campaigning for recent elections in the borough. If you’ve spoken to us on your doorstep, at one of our stalls or community events, you may well remember meeting Mike.

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Michael Spracklin chairing our Silvertown Tunnel town hall meeting in 2015

One of Michael hopes for this election campaign is to encourage voter turnout and show disillusioned locals why the Green Party are a valid choice. “The EU Referendum turnout in Newham was the second lowest in the country. During our campaigning we spoke to countless people who didn’t plan to vote because they didn’t feel their vote mattered. Newham’s residents deserve to have a voice, and many currently feel that they don’t.”

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Stratford Town Centre Improvements

Newham Council has proposed changes to the one-way traffic system around the Stratford Mall (including the Broadway and Great Eastern Road), including the introduction of two-way traffic flows.

The council’s aim is to reduce accidents in the area and “encourage more people to visit the Broadway, High Street and Cultural Quarter” to support local businesses and venues.Stratford Improvements 1

The information available online is relatively limited and vague, proposing:

  • a two-way traffic system and road calming measures like 20mph limits
  • upgrading the existing cycle tracks making them more distinct
  • improving shared pedestrian and cycle spaces
  • widen the pedestrian crossing at Meridian Square
  • move other intersections to “where pedestrians prefer to cross”
  • resurface pavements, “removing old street furniture and introducing new landscaping”
  • enhancements to the ‘public areas’ around St John’s Church and the Theatre Square

So far, we’re quite excited by these proposals – which look like they might resolve many of the issues we’ve had with the shared pavement/cycle paths, although cyclists will still have to fend for themselves in certain quarters. The resurfacing of pavements and improvements to traffic crossings are also very welcome – some paths in Stratford remain uneven or steep, which can be difficult for those with mobility issues, or prams.

Our highlights from the details specified on the proposals map include:

An additional ‘Quiet way’ cycle route (for families and less confident cyclists) along Theatre Square.

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Relocating the station taxi rank from tucked away the other side of Westfield stairs to the behind the bus station, so access is improved – brilliant for those of us who are less mobile! – and taxis are easier for visitors to find.

Coaches have also been relocated from both sides of the shopping centre, to Montfichet Road, near the station’s Westfield exit.

The former rank and coach stop on Great Eastern Road will become a pick up/drop off zone.

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The main concerns are the execution of changes from a one-way ring road to a two-way traffic flow. Apparently local residents and businesses will be kept informed as the project progresses.

We’ll add more information as/when we get it.nc-nov-consult-events

You can take part in the public consultation via the Council’s online survey, and you can find the proposal’s full map in the consultation leaflet (pdf)

Alternatively, the Council is holding public information events in November, and hopefully more detailed displays of the proposals will be available at Stratford, Plaistow and Forest Gate libraries until 28 November.

Construction is proposed to be completed in phases, starting in summer 2017. Based on current projections, completion is estimated for spring 2019.

Update: Newham Cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign have both published their responses to the proposals, and residents have pointed out that there is a gap between the works featured in this proposal and the works on Maryland point – raising concerns there might be issues if the cycle paths aren’t continued. Stratford has had problems with cycle paths that just stop before, so if you are a cyclist you might want to look at that as an area for feedback.

Deadline is 28 November, so please respond here, if you haven’t already.

 

Newham to lose 286 affordable properties to ‘estate regeneration’

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.

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Rachel Collinson (second from right) of Newham Green Party protests with campaigners from Boleyn Dev 100 and FocusE15 Mothers

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.

R-CollinsonSmlRachel 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.”

Alternative Budget for Newham

Labour-led Newham Council launched their ‘Budget Challenge’ today. They are asking Newham residents to support cuts of £50 million for the next year. We think you’ll find Rachel Collinson’s alternative budget much more appealing. Let us know your thoughts!

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 19.04.46Newham council have decided to spend money to tell us all that we need to save money.

This week their budget consultation starts, asking the people of Newham where we think we can make savings. (Not in itself a bad idea!) The Green Party are delighted to help and thank the Mayor for this opportunity. We think we have the answer. But will he listen?

We have not only found the £50m in savings he is asking us for, but also… well, you’ll see…

First of all – Newham Council’s LOBO contracts. These were mis-sold by the banks as loans, when in fact they are complex financial products known as derivatives. These are illegal for councils to use. Suing the banks for this would save us £35m in interest every year – and possibly even more in compensation.

That leaves us with £15m to find.

So, then we have several Private Finance Initiatives – the brainchild of the Conservative Party in the 1990s. Newham’s Labour council grabbed them from big developers like free chocolate samples. This means £26.5m of our council tax is going directly to groups of big companies like Lend Lease.

We could buy out these PFI contracts from the council’s quarter-of-a-billion pound annual capital budget. Perhaps we could use the money set aside for Red Door Ventures, a private housing company?

£35m + £26.5m = £61.5m.

Look at that – we’ve overshot our target by £11.5m.

So, Newham Green Party would like to issue a ‘People’s Budget Consultation’ – what would you like to spend this extra £11.5m on?

230 additional teachers? 100 new small businesses for Newham, creating thousands of jobs? Council tax reductions for 30,000 families on low incomes? Community energy schemes that would reduce our air pollution and slash our electricity bills?

Tweet us your ideas at @newhamgreens and we’ll publish our own consultation results in October alongside Newham Council’s.