Getting there but…it’s a slog!

The image above shows the bins by the blocks of flats on the ¾ estate in Vange (located on the southern fringes of Basildon). Even though there are a few bits of uncollected rubbish lying around, believe it or not, what you can see is a vast improvement on what it has been like. Anecdotal reports from a number of sources seem to indicate that the situation is being turned around.

It’s starting to look as though the pressure being applied by the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG), helped by Clean Up Basildon and Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) is starting to pay off. That’s pressure on Basildon Council, educating residents on the protocol for rubbish disposal and encouraging them to take pride in the estate, and last but by no means least, starting to put pressure on some of the landlords to clean their act up.

A couple of points need to be made: a) the estate still has to reach the level of cleanliness that residents have a right to expect as the norm and b) the aggravation that VHCG and BASHA have had when trying to work constructively with Basildon Council officers beggars belief. Community activists are putting themselves through the mill simply to achieve a level of cleanliness and maintenance that should be the basic duty of a local authority to provide for their residents.

The attempts to deal constructively with Basildon Council, which all too often have been rebuffed, only serve to prove that the system of local governance we have is dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. Which is why in the long term, the only meaningful solution to the problems on the ¾ estate is going to have to come from the residents having more of a say and taking more of a responsibility in how it’s run. We’ll do whatever we can to facilitate that…

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If you want a job done properly…

Regular readers of this blog will be well aware of the issues our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) have had in dealing with the authorities who are supposed to be responsible for the ¾ estate in Vange which is located on the southern fringes of Basildon. Both BASHA and VHCG are fed up with the wrangling over which authority is responsible for (not) clearing the trash properly, (not) trimming back out of control undergrowth and (not) maintaining footpaths and steps to a decent, safe standard.

There’s only so much banging your head against a brick wall you can take in dealing with the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of local authorities and housing associations and trying to contact ward councillors conspicuous by their absence. At a recent meeting we (the Stirrer) and BASHA decided to do something about this with a day of therapeutic community cleaning where we can see a definite result at the end of a day’s hard graft.

Any of our supporters are more than welcome to join us on the day – please wear suitable footwear and clothing you don’t mind getting mucky. Tools will be provided, but if you can bring along anything you think will be useful, you’re welcome to do so…

Threatened with eviction when grieving: housing association turns its back on tenants

If you want to know what housing associations are really like, read this post from our friends at Focus E15 who really are at the sharp end of the housing crisis. If this doesn’t make you angry, nothing will…suffice to say, the scumbags at East Thames Housing Association are devoid of any humanity and decency…

Focus E15 Campaign

East Thames Housing Association in the limelight again….
Every week on the street stall Focus E15 campaigners meet people in housing need. We have recently met residents of  East Thames Housing association who are worried about being evicted. Focus E15 campaign have had extensive dealings with this housing association in the past because it was East Thames that wanted to evict young mothers,  when Newham council cut funding to the mother and baby unit in an East Thames managed hostel. These bullying and vicious threats  gave rise to the Focus E15 campaign  in 2013.

In December 2016, East Thames Housing Association joined forces with London&Quadrant Housing Association. Together they manage over 90,000 homes across Britain and pledge to build 100,000 new homes, 50% of which will be ‘affordable’ (we all know that that means 80% of market rent and this is not affordable). Their website states that they ‘combine [their]…

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A little reminder about why people are moving out of London

There are proposals to build 32,000 homes in Thurrock over the next 20 years. These were discussed at last week’s full council meeting. See here for the full report from the Thurrock Independent: Concerns over 32,000 new homes expressed at Full Councilhttp://www.thurrockindependent.com/2017/11/01/concerns-over-32000-new-homes-expressed-at-full-council/

Legitimate concerns about the necessary infrastructure required to support this new housing were raised by a number of councillors. There was also some discussion about who these homes were intended for, with some references being made to outward migration from London. Philip Gibbs, a local campaigner whose concern seems to be restricting the number of new homes being built in Thurrock had this to say: “We were assured that only 11 per cent of the houses would be for people coming into the borough, but for that to be true it would require a natural population growth of over 43 per cent over 20 years. To achieve that rate you need people to be having an average of five children per couple. Given the real figure of about two children per family the population would grow only about four per cent in 20 years. So even ignoring the people who leave, the truth is that at least 92 per cent of the new housing would be for incoming migration.”

We think it’s time for a little reminder about some of the major causes of outward migration from London, one being social cleansing by the London boroughs, many of them Labour controlled, who are in thrall to the developers. Here’s a leaflet we produced a while back to explain what the situation is…

Here’s pretty much everything we’ve ever written (or re-blogged) on the Stirrer about the housing crisis in London and the way it’s impact spreads right out into Essex and beyond:

Marching from tower to towerhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/marching-from-tower-to-tower/
Newham Council…it’s just got personal…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/newham-council-its-just-got-personal/
Booted out of Londonhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/booted-out-of-london/
A housing reading listhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/a-housing-reading-list/
Clusterfuck! Labour’s Shameless Council Estate Rip-off (re-blog from ASH)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/clusterfuck-labours-shameless-council-estate-rip-off/
10 Myths about London’s Housing Crisis (re-blog from ASH)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/10-myths-about-londons-housing-crisis/
No More Fake News! This is reality (re-blog from Focus E15)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/no-more-fake-news-this-is-reality/
A reminder of why we support housing struggles in Londonhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/04/13/a-reminder-of-why-we-support-housing-struggles-in-london/
Why I am a Focus E15 campaigner (re-blog from Focus E15)https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/why-i-am-a-focus-e15-campaigner/
The housing domino effect…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/the-housing-domino-effect/

This is a pretty comprehensive reading list so please…take your time to read this and absorb what we have to say. We’ve said this more times than we care to remember and feell doomed to carry on repeating it until the message finally sinks in…

What happens in London with social cleansing has a direct impact on the housing situation out here along the estuary which gets exploited by the divide and rule merchants.

This is why we support housing struggles in the capital as residents battle against so called ‘regeneration’ schemes that amount to social cleansing.

We will challenge every attempt by the divide and rule merchants to exploit concerns about housing and twist them to suit their nefarious, reactionary agenda.

Silenced

A few posts back, we wrote about the frustrations that the Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) have been having in dealing with Basildon Council and the other authorities and agencies who are (supposedly) responsible for the ¾ estate in Vange: At the risk of endlessly repeating ourselves…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/at-the-risk-of-endlessly-repeating-ourselves/ We made it crystal clear at the end of this post that both the Vange Hill Community Group and BASHA want a constructive working relationship with Basildon Council. After all, in theory, the council are supposed to be servants of the people and part of that should involve working co-operatively with local residents.

Well, it would seem that Basildon Council are in no mood to co-operate in any way, shape or form as you can see from the communications sent by Basildon Council below

This was sent to the Vange Hill Community Group:

Dear Xx Xxxxxxxx,

Many thanks for your further email. I am particularly keen to work with you, both individually and as part of the Vange Hill Drive community group.

Please combine your service requests into one email, sent to me weekly, to enable me to enact resources in the most effective way and to ensure that works are completed in the correct timescales. This is over and above what we would normally provide residents with, and I hope that this shows how committed I am to working with you to ensure that we can work towards a cleaner Vange Hill Drive estate.

Kind Regards,

James

…and this was sent to BASHA:

Dear Xx Xxxxx

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of the below email and to advise you that with immediate effect, the Council will only respond to one email per month from you. The email from you may contain a service request if it relates to your household only. Any further emails you send in will be acknowledged but no reply will be provided.

We have chosen to take this action as your contact with the Council is excessive and the content of your email (particularly cutting and pasting facebook messages and phrases such as ‘If you cannot do your job I suggest you fall on your sword and resign’) is found to be unnecessary. The Council’s limited resource is spending a disproportionate amount of time on dealing with your correspondence and cannot be maintained.

We will monitor your level of contact for the next three months and if no improvement is made we will further restrict your access.

Yours Sincerely,

James

Thank you Basildon Council, you’re about as much help as a kick in the nether regions! The offer was made to put aside previous differences, meet face to face and start to build a constructive working relationship – this is how the council responded. When we make political points about the system of governance we have not being fit for purpose, it’s not empty rhetoric – it’s based on bitter experience. Until power can be brought right down to the grassroots allowing residents to have real control over how their estates and neighbourhoods are managed, this is the kind of obstructive, arrogant conduct we have to deal with from those who claim they have the right to run our affairs…

Will the sorry saga of Orchard Village ever end?

This is the latest episode in the sorry saga of the botched, cheapskate Orchard Village development in South Hornchurch: ‘Planned maintenance’ means troubled Rainham estate will be without water again for six hours on Thursdayhttp://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/planned-maintenance-means-troubled-rainham-estate-will-be-without-water-again-for-six-hours-on-thursday-1-5240367

This is down to the estate’s water supply being pumped into an energy centre which also controls the estate’s power and heat – if this loses power, then everyone on the estate loses their drinking water. This particular energy centre is unreliable and keeps breaking down. Also, according to a study commissioned by Leeds University and Fuel Poverty Action, this is a seriously expensive heating system.

So, on top of all the other issues with Orchard Village: Building the slums of the futurehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/building-the-slums-of-the-future/ – we have a totally unreliable heating system which a) costs residents a fortune and b) leaves them without water when it’s being maintained. The distress caused to medically vulnerable residents without water and heating for hours on end doesn’t bear thinking about.

To add insult to injury, complaints from residents about power and water outages are met by Circle Housing, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Essex and Suffolk Water all claiming they’re not responsible. As the experiences of our friends at Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action have shown, Circle Housing have plenty of form when it comes to denying responsibility for a problem on one of their estates.

Seriously, you couldn’t make this up if you tried! The scary part is that with 3,500 new homes (mainly flats) proposed for the Romford Housing Zone in locations in or close to the town centre, if they’re built to the same crap standard as Orchard Village, we’re looking at a housing disaster. As we’ve stated many times before, the planning and provision of new housing has to be made fully accountable to local residents to a) ensure that what’s provided is genuinely affordable and b) it’s built to a high standard. However, as we have also stated before, it’s going to take a major political, social and economic change before this will be possible…

Fours years on the street and the struggle goes on

A comprehensive update from our friends at Focus E15 on various activities and initiatives. Pay particular attention to the section about Newham Council and how they’ve run down the Carpenters Estate in Stratford so they can offload it to a developer and trouser the cash. Also good to see a few Focus E15 people at the Clapton FC game at the Old Spotted Dog – reinforcing the kind of links that need to be made to build a real movement for change…

Focus E15 Campaign

Saturday 7 October was a busy day for Focus E15 campaign as we celebrate four years of campaigning for social housing and against social cleansing. 

On our lively weekly stall on the Broadway in Stratford, Focus E15 campaign was joined by members of the Renters Power Project and the London Renters Union, along with Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

Then we had our monthly campaign meeting (first Saturday of the month, 2.30-4.30pm Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, E15 4DN). The meeting had updates on people working with the campaign and their current housing situation, including the racism of detention and threatened deportation, the isolation of families socially cleansed from Newham when they run into local difficulties, and the threats of people being separated from their children in desperate housing situations despite Section 17 of the Children’s Act regarding keeping children and parents together.

During the campaign meeting we…

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Residents organise against regeneration in Southend. 30 Sept.

Originally posted on the Genesis Residents Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/genesis-residents/residents-organise-against-regeneration-in-southend-30-sept/478760239153169/

Residents of Genesis held their own Resident’s Meeting on Saturday 30th September – a stone’s throw from Roots Hall, the ground of Southend United Football Club.

Whilst the meeting lacked the ‘finesse’ of similar meetings held by Genesis H.A. there was a distinct lack of ‘spin’ and a complete departure from the half truths/prevarication that Genesis is so well versed in.

40 people attended this first meeting. Glyn Robbins from UNITE and Tim Baster from Genesis Residents spoke about regeneration, the policies of Genesis and the proposed merger between Genesis and Notting Hill Housing. Residents discussed the proposed plans to ‘regenerate’ the area.

There is no doubt that Genesis are making an attempt to grab the land that the Queen’s Estate in Baxter Avenue is built on. The Estate – built and maintained by Springboard H.A. in the early 1980’s until the merger with Genesis – was a pleasant, well designed small estate in the centre of Southend. Genesis with their heavy handed approach, including contempt for the residents are systematically decimating the area, with a view to ‘re-generating’ it.

Estate ‘regeneration’ has without exception resulted in a net loss of social housing and the dispersal of the community that lived there. It is clear that the emphasis from Genesis is ‘social cleansing’.

At the meeting residents voiced their ongoing frustration with regard to poor maintenance/non-existent communication/increased service charges (a double whammy here, as although the service charges have been increased, the services, if they are delivered, are inconsistent at best.) There was a strong sense of the growing dis-satisfaction with Genesis that appears to have misplaced its moral compass.

The residents are now fully aware that this is not just about us, in Southend, it is about every tenant in Social Housing.

A message to Genesis: We are not going away!

The truth…


Working with both Basildon & Southend Housing Action and the Vange Hill Community Group on the troubled Vange ¾ estate which is located on the southern fringes of Basildon, one of the problems we face is that of tenure. When the right to buy came in, a fair number of tenants brought their homes. However, since then, too many of these homes have been flogged off to buy to let landlords. A heck of a lot of these landlords are scumbags, neglecting their properties while cramming in as many tenants as they can get away with.

Properties with six or more occupants are not uncommon – these are termed ‘houses of multiple occupation’ (HMOs). All too often, the tenancies in HMOs are on short term leases so there’s always a churn in the population. Because the tenants are on short term leases and likely to move on within a year, landlords feel they can get away with the bare minimum of maintenance. Basically, a lot of HMOs are slums…

It’s the buy to let landlords running HMOs that have played a major role in bringing the ¾ estate down to where it is today. They have no sense of responsibility to the community they operate in. They’re the ones responsible for undermining the sense of community on the estate, creating a feeling of atomisation, mistrust and fear. All they’re interested in is lining their pockets. To those who say that private landlords have a role to play in solving the housing crisis, we say you’re deluded. These landlords are parasites and need to be dealt with as such…

The Truth about Grenfell Tower: A Report by Architects for Social Housing

This is an incredibly long read but if you want a forensic examination of the systemic failures that led to the Grenfell Tower disaster, this is the place to go…

architectsforsocialhousing

A PDF file of this report is available here: The Truth about Grenfell Tower

On Thursday, 22 June, 2017, in response to the Grenfell Tower fire the previous week, Architects for Social Housing held an open meeting in the Residents Centre of Cotton Gardens estate in Lambeth. Around 80 people turned up and contributed to the discussion – residents, housing campaigners, journalists, lawyers, academics, engineers and architects. Below is an edited film of the meeting made for us by Line Nikita Woolfe, with the assistance of Luc Beloix on camera and additional footage by Dan Davies, and is produced by her company Woolfe Vision. The presentations we gave that evening are the basis of this report, to which we have added our subsequent research as well as that collated from the numerous articles on the Grenfell Tower fire published in the press and elsewhere, to which we have attached…

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