A Green manifesto for Forest Gate North

FGN banner

I’m Elisabeth, the Green Party candidate for the Forest Gate North by election.

Here’s my manifesto for Forest Gate.

Council loans

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.

Please sign my petition asking Newham council to take the banks to court.

Flytipping & recycling

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.

Affordable homes

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.

Let’s clean up Newham!

Help us get our council taxes paying for much needed services, not paying interest to banks

So you may have heard by now that there is a by-election coming up in Forest Gate North.

FGN bannerWhile I’ve been going round talking to local residents about what we can do to help them, I hear time and time again about environmental concerns: fly-tipping, rubbish on the streets, and dog mess.

If elected, I would prioritise solving these problems. However, some of them come down to one thing: money. And we all know how this Conservative government has tightened the screws on the most disadvantaged boroughs in the country. Newham is high up on that list.

Sir Robin Wales has been spreading the news everywhere that we have to save £50 million a year from now on; potentially even more after the economic disaster of last week. So Labour in this area have been quietly getting on with privatising one public service after another. So far this includes:

  • Council housing (Red Doors);
  • Administration (OneSource);
  • Supplies to council services (NewCo);
  • Waste collection (East London Waste Authority);
  • Language and translation services (Newham Language Shop);
  • Schools (academisation across the borough)

…and worse is to come as more savings need to be found. (Here’s an excellent blog by councillor John Gray of West Ham on his concerns over the increasing privatisation of council services).

However, Newham Greens have a plan to raise the money we need without privatising one more service. It can get us the extra money we need to stop fly-tipping, and improve street maintenance, as well as reopening Sure Start centres and community centres!uk-pwlb-vs-lobo-debt

How?!
Throughout the 2000s, our Labour council took out over £500million in loans (called LOBOs) from private banks. They were a very bad deal. And now we are paying the equivalent of 80% of our council tax in interest each year. How much does that work out at? Surprise: £50 million!

Our legal advisers say that Newham’s mayor, Sir Robin Wales, could put a stop to all this by taking the banks to court for mis-selling, just like we can do with PPI.

Help us get our money back from the banks by signing this petition.

If you support our efforts and live in the the ward, please make sure to vote Green on the 14th July.

EJW ballotpGP

Your Green Candidate for Forest Gate North!

A Coalition of Environmental Groups hand in the Microbeads Petition

Hi, I’m Elisabeth, and I’m the Green Party candidate for Forest Gate North. I live on Sebert Road under the Goblin line, having decided to move here when I fell in love with Wanstead Flats four years ago. Forest Gate has been my home for a relatively short time, and yet I feel more a part of the community here than I have anywhere else since I moved out of my parents’ house. I guess it’s that kind of place.

In my professional life I’m an environmental campaigner (in the above photo I’m handing in a petition against plastic microbeads to Number 10!). I’ve led successful campaigns to create marine reserves in far flung corners of the world, getting to know island communities and working with them to protect their incredible underwater life. I also helped to achieve a reversal of government proposals to water down the National Curriculum’s requirement to teach children about nature.

IMG_9902 editedMy degree in psychology and my experience in environmental campaigning have given me the skills to understand how to tackle issues like flytipping, one of the most pervasive problems that this area faces. The recent decision to introduce a £20 charge to collect bulky items seems to me to be a big step in the wrong direction, and shows a real misunderstanding of local people’s circumstances.

You might have met me when I worked at Coffee7 a couple of years ago. While talking to other people who live here, I’ve heard that many are deeply dissatisfied with the current council and Mayor. No matter what your political allegiance, it’s surely bad for democracy to have only one Party represented on our council, with no opposition to scrutinise their decisions.

In the last local elections here in 2014, the Green Party came second in Forest Gate North. If you want to send a strong message to the council, increase the democracy and accountability of the council, and elect a candidate who will listen to residents and fight hard for their concerns, then please consider voting Green on 14th July.

This blog first appeared on forestgate.net

Siân Berry launches the Greens’ East London manifesto

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.

EL Manifesto Group

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!

R&S“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.

This comes just a week after Siân and Rachel were joined by fellow Green Party candidates Shahrar Ali and Benali Hamdache to launch the Manifesto for Londoners from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds (pdf) in Newham’s Queens Market.

market-newham

Rachel Collinson – A Greener London is possible

You might have noticed we have the London Mayoral and Assembly elections coming up in May.  This weekend we held the official launch of local candidate, and Newham Green Party Chair, Rachel Collinson, who is running as the candidate for City and East.

Assembly Member Baroness Jenny Jones presided over the launch, which took place in Shoreditch, by the proposed site of the controversial £800 million development of Bishopsgate Goodsyard. This proposal has been rejected by local residents as well as Tower Hamlets and Hackney Councils, and has also been opposed by the Green Party.

20160305_120521(0)

Rachel said “The controversy surrounding the planned development of Bishopsgate Goodsyard is a perfect illustration of what is wrong with London’s urban planning system. Boris Johnson is ignoring the wishes of local residents and both Tower Hamlets and Hackney Councils. A strong Green Party voice within the London General Assembly is crucial for redressing the mayor’s follies.”

We currently have 2 Green Party members of the London Assembly, Baroness Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson AM, who have worked hard to provide Londoners with civil partnerships, the Living Wage and a huge increase in the cycling budget, as well as helped design the new Low Emissions Zones. Just imagine what we could accomplish with even more Green members on the Assembly!

Green Party supporters were out in force, and we were joined by members from the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, and Tower Hamlets and the Young Greens from Queen Mary University. We had a fantastic turn out, and the weather was on our side – only raining after we’d finished our tour of the area and outdoor activities!

Jenny Jones AM, who has served on the Assembly since it was established in 2000, said “It’s great to see so many local Green Party members turning out to support the City and East campaign launch. East London has a vibrant and growing community of dedicated Green Party supporters, and if the enthusiasm on display here today is anything to go by, you can be sure they’ll be making their voices heard loud and clear in the run-up to the London Assembly elections in May!”

If you’d like to make your voice heard too, we’ve launched a crowdfunder campaign this week, to help us pay for the election deposit and campaign materials.

Rachel Collinson, is determined to provide a voice to the people of East London who share our vision to create an inclusive, prosperous, safe area for people to lead productive, well connected lives.

To do this, we need to raise money for our election campaign. This money will go directly to help us stand our candidates and ensuring our vision for a fairer future is delivered to every constituent. By building a Green voice in East London, we can capitalise on the current Green surge and work towards Green success throughout London.

Green Party members of the London Assembly have achieved great things, please help Rachel to carry on their work for a fairer, healthier London for all.

Support Rachel’s campaign

Corbyn’s “not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

Why Rachel Collinson is sticking with the Greens – and you should too!

Angela Eagle MP looks up at Jeremy Corbyn during PMQsThe election of Jeremy Corbyn is another happy milestone in the journey of British politics out of the right wing hinterland and into the sunny dales of People-over-Profit. The news that he got over 50% of the vote in a 4-way contest was glorious. A poke in the eye for the establishment.

Not only that, it means the Overton Window (if you don’t know about that, it’s worth reading up on) is shifting rapidly back to centre ground. This bodes well for us as a nation.

But, I have a warning for you, my lovely leftie friends. Don’t think that the Labour leopard is about to change its spots, just because one turned out to be a benign mole.

“OUCH! That’s a bit harsh,” I hear you say. “Bitter, much?”

Alright, I know what it looks like. But hear me out, like the open-minded sage I know you are.

Just like you, at one point I was prepared to bet the farm on Labour. I even signed up to volunteer for them at a high level. But what I saw was an organisation unwilling to listen to its members, preferring to trust in its old (failed) guard. An organisation unprepared for a society with a culture and technology that have changed beyond recognition since the 1980s.

Fast-forward 2 years and alas, that’s still the reality. Like the decades-long moribund Battersea Power Station, the only hope for Labour is that Momentum is able to transform the old structures.

I’m sorry, but I don’t hold out much hope for that. Why? There are too many hints that the foundations are sandy. Here’s a few:

A reluctance to collaborate

As the resurgent Left grapples with our new political landscape, Labour have shown a disappointing lack of interest in collaborative politics. I applaud Caroline Lucas’ stance, offering an open hand to other parties who share the will to implement policies where they overlap.

I also applaud the stance of councillors here in East London who are open to working together on problems that affect us all. However, there are precious few hints that Labour MPs are open to joint projects, whether that’s an alliance, a pact or sharing of resources. There’s no understanding that this kind of politics can benefit all parties.

In the meantime, Caroline Lucas continues to do Corbyn’s job (for example, relaunching the Railways Bill) while Labour continues its public squabble over Old vs New.

All mouth and no green trousers
Support for polluting industries that benefit the rich more than the poor – such as air travel – is still a Labour priority over sustainable development. East Ham Labour MP Stephen Timms supports expansion of City Airport, despite the fact that 1 in 3 children who live around the airport are sick from the pollution.
Poll showing twice as many yes as no votes to the question "London City Airport. Do you agree with the Green Party’s proposal?"
Never mind the dire signs of global warming all around us.
Not only is this environmental folly, it doesn’t make economic sense.
The Green Party’s proposal for replacing City Airport, is partly based on a 2014 report from the New Economics Foundation, which found that using the land for housing, small businesses, schools and hospitals, it would create 15,000 more jobs and serve everybody.
A poll in the Newham Recorder shows that residents agree with us.

Forgetting how to win elections

Since 1997, Labour have bought into the Tory idea that winning elections is all about winning over the media. Ed Miliband’s over-coached speech-making, the stone of doom, and romancing Russell Brand were all cringey symptoms of this problem.

Corbyn’s ability to listen and rally the ranks of ordinary people is masterful. But his ground troops haven’t yet caught up. Labour’s canvassing strategy is, frankly, broken. Those doing it well were told by HQ that they were misbehaving and should follow orders from on high.

Having seen the Green Party’s plans to re-engage people in politics from the ground up, I can tell you that they surpass anything Labour has yet devised. The astonishing swing to the Green Party in Bristol West – one of the biggest in English election history – is testament to this.

A lack of commitment to democratic reform

Labour let us down badly in 1997, when they had the chance to reform the House of Lords and change our voting system. However, no lessons have been learned from this. The Old Labour souls seem to pine for the old times (in reality, all ten minutes of them) when First Past the Post served this country well.

If Labour were the party this country really deserved, they’d be all over the opportunity to reform our voting system and end the hereditary principle once and for all. We’d be seeing murmurs of land reform and an end to Royal interference in politics. Sadly, no dice. Not even loaded ones!

There are many more policies and qualities I could list where the Green Party has a huge edge over Labour in solving the UK’s (and the world’s) deepest problems. Such as Land Value Tax, devolution of power as far as possible, Community Land Trusts, Citizens’ income, net neutrality, investment of 1% of GDP in research, restorative justice, Positive Money, Piketty’s wealth tax… the list is extensive.

Yes, I love Corbyn. I especially love the hope that he’s inspired in hundreds of thousands of people. But as far as I can see, he’s more the establishment’s no-tie naughty boy. Not the Messiah.

Will the red shoots of growth around him become fruitful plants?

I hope I am wrong about this. But if I’m judging by the ground these seedlings are growing in, we’ll be waiting a long time for that to happen.

And that, in summary, is why I’m sticking with the Green Party. I am prouder of my membership now than I’ve ever been.
Monty Python gif:

 

Rachel Collinson is Newham Green Party’s Chair, and is currently running as a candidate for City and East London in the London Assembly elections in May.

The Renters Union: A legal perspective

We were incredibly excited about Sian Berry’s Renters Union proposal, but how did we get to this state in the housing market?
Local member and paralegal, Tim, gives us a bit of historical perspective

renters_union_logo_final_720Last week, Sian Berry announced her Renters Union plans, which would be funded by City Hall, and help renters to rein in private rents and expose rogue lettings agents.

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? –
top-secret-hotels
lastminute stats

(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.

Statistics from NPI research - poorest private renters pay 57% of earnings in rent
Source: New Policy Institute

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.

Crisis - cause of homelessness
Source: Crisis – Homelessness Monitor England 2015 (pdf)

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.

gov figures homeless Q1 2014
Source: Dept. of Communities and Local Government – ‘Statutory Homelessness: January to March Quarter 2014 England (Revised)’ (pdf)

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.