Booted out of London

We’ve written more times than we care to remember about the social cleansing of London as the capital is made into a welcome home for the global super rich and their money while ordinary working class people are pushed out. We were recently alerted to a case which illustrates the personal toll of councils acting like shits and decanting people they don’t want to house right out of the capital. The case concerns Elina who was originally dumped by Newham Council in a block of studio flats in Welwyn Garden City which were simply not fit for purpose. This is her account of the conditions she had to endure: Families are speaking out against social cleansinghttps://focuse15.org/2015/12/13/families-are-speaking-out-against-social-cleansing/

Elina was offered accommodation in Pitsea which understandably she accepted in a bid to get away from the horrendous conditions she had to endure in Welwyn Garden City. The problem is that as in Welwyn Garden City, she’s a long way from family, friends and the support network she needs. Elina is not alone – there are many, many people who’ve been turfed out of London by councils who are willing to bend over backwards for the developers but who don’t give a toss about their working class residents. All too often, people booted out of London by councils who want to wash their hands of any responsibility for housing them, are dumped in estates that already have more than their fair share of problems.

The problem is that the local authorities out here are not fully in the loop as to how many properties they could potentially have in their housing portfolios for use as social housing (IF they had the political will which they DON’T!) that are actually owned by housing associations based in London charged with the task of helping to socially cleanse the capital. Even if Basildon Council did know, somehow we doubt they would care as the problem is a) mainly to the south of the great divide known as the A127 b) the Tory Mafia from Billericay and Wickford regard anywhere south of the A127 as a potential development opportunity regardless of the human cost and c) they don’t give a toss about social tenants anyway!

Another problem is that long standing residents are not fully in the loop as to what’s happening with people being decanted from London and effectively ‘dumped’ on their estate. When this happens seemingly out of the blue without any explanation, there are elements on the estates who will regard any newcomers on their turf with hostility and it’s not long before the rumours, verbal and physical harrassment starts. We’re doing our level best to get the truth about what’s happening with social cleansing from London out to people on the estates to counter the crap coming from the divide and rule merchants on the far right. The problem is that with this blog, and pretty much most political blogs, it tends to be a self selecting audience. With the South Essex Stirrer paper, owing to our constrained finances, the print run is in the hundreds rather than the thousands we would like. However, we’re working on a flyer explaining the situation in the plainest terms possible and linking it to the shite conditions that long standing residents have to endure on estates across Basildon.

There are also renegade elements on the estates out here who while they are in the minority, with their persistent anti-social behaviour and utter contempt for any notion of neighbourhood solidarity and cohesion they can drag an entire neighbourhood down with them if their actions remain unchallenged. It’s scum like these who glean the vibes coming from the divide and rule merchants and use that as a justification to harass and bully anyone they regard as ‘different’ or an ‘outsider’. It’s this element who have targeted Elina among a number of other residents in the area. Suffice to say, solutions to isolate and deal with the renegades are being looked into: How do we deal with the wreckers?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/how-do-we-deal-with-the-wreckers/

In Elina’s case, the property in Pitsea she’s housed in is owned by the Stratford based Local Space Housing Association – http://www.localspace.co.uk/ – who have close links with Newham Council. At the time of writing, we suspect that Local Space own considerably more than one property not only in Basildon but across the rest of southern Essex. We also suspect that a fair number of other London based housing associations with dodgy links to councils with a penchant for social cleansing own a considerable number of properties across southern Essex.

If you have clicked the link to the Local Space website, here’s a content warning…it’s bullshit! These housing associations do the bidding of the London councils who are in effect their masters and to help them implement their agenda of social cleansing and removing so called ‘difficult’ tenants as far away from their original neighbourhoods in the capital as they can get away with. Their definition of ‘difficult’ is anyone who has the nerve to question the way they operate and the way they come to decisions about decanting people from the capital. In Elina’s case, it’s because she’s a housing activist with Focus E15 that Local Space and Newham Council don’t want her moving back. So, it could be said that Elina is on the receiving end of a political vendetta from these two because she had the temerity to challenge them.

We’re all in favour of residents and tenants who reject the bullshit that spews from the mouths of local authorities and the housing associations who do their bidding and instead, stand up to them demanding justice and respect. As mentioned in our previous post: Notice to Basildon Council – FFS, listen to your tenants!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/notice-to-basildon-council-ffs-listen-to-your-tenants/ we’re putting Basildon Council on notice that we’re intensifying our scrutiny of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s people displaced from Newham putting their council under the cosh for what they’ve done to them or Basildon & Southend Housing Action piling the pressure on Basildon Council, as far as we’re concerned it’s one fight for decent, secure housing for all!

Notice to Basildon Council – FFS, listen to your tenants!

For years, residents at Brooke House have been nagging an out of touch, arrogant Basildon Council to be open and honest with them about the future of their block to no avail. When there was a consultation about the future of the town centre, the council somehow managed to avoid sending consultation forms to any of the residents in Brooke House – a blatant snub if ever there was one. As for maintenance of the block, a quick tour round the public areas is enough to confirm that Basildon Council’s policy is one of blatant neglect although, in private, they might like to refer to this as ‘managed decline’. It’s common knowledge that the council want Brooke House ‘re-developed’ as soon as the right offer comes along and that they couldn’t give a s*** about the residents currently living there.

With the full horror of the fire at Grenfell Tower in West London still to be revealed, it’s understandable that anyone living in a tower block is going to be worried about fire safety issues. While Brooke House doesn’t have cladding that would pose a serious fire risk (the building is listed), there are concerns about escape routes in the block. The damaged and un-repaired stair rails, steps, etc. in the block don’t exactly inspire confidence. If anyone from Basildon Council is reading this, in the next few weeks, in conjunction with our friends at Basildon & Southend Housing Action we intend to undertake our own survey of the public areas of the block and we’ll be publishing our findings here on this blog…

Away from Brooke House over in Laindon at Nursery Gardens, residents have been badgering Basildon Council for years over conditions on the estate and more often than not, are treated with utter contempt. When a resident had issues with a waste pipe from the property above his flooding his home, constant nagging failed to secure a proper, professional decontamination and he had to do the best he could himself. Issues such as repairing broken fences take an inordinate amount of nagging before the council gets of their arses to do anything about them. When residents take matters into their own hand to try and improve matters such as putting up warning signs about speeding in an area where kids are playing, the council gets stroppy and demands the removal of the signs. They don’t seem to care about the risk of a kid being hit by a speeding car but the prospect of a resident produced sign ‘defacing’ the estate is something they are not prepared to tolerate FFS!

We could go on for ever with story after story of situations where Basildon Council have refused to listen to the concerns of their residents and when they do, all too often, the response is one of utter contempt. In the 21st century, is it such an imposition on a local authority that their tenants want decent, safe and secure housing? Simply asking the council for this gets you branded as a nuisance. Enough is enough – the council need to learn some humility, listen to the concerns of their residents, treat them with respect and above all, act on what they hear so people get decent, safe and secure housing. Any local authority that fails in this duty is simply not fit for purpose…

The deliberate neglect of Brooke House

Brooke House is the iconic looking tower block right in the middle of Basildon town centre. While it may look iconic from the outside (and from a distance), when you get inside, it’s a different, considerably grimmer story altogether as you can see from the images above…

Phil Turner, the Tory leader of Basildon Council, has come up with some grandiose schemes for Brooke House, none of which take any account of the wishes of the residents currently living in the block. One such scheme was converting the building into a hotel! When ‘consultations’ were held about the future of the town centre, the residents of Brooke House were not included despite them living right in the middle of the area to be ‘transformed’.

While the powers that be attempt to formulate a plan for the town centre, Brooke House continues to suffer from a policy of deliberate neglect. The images above from public areas of the block show missing ceiling tiles, rusting hand rails and blocked up rubbish chutes to name just a few of the indignities residents have to endure.

While the long term future of Brooke House is being decided, Basildon Council appear to be totally uninterested in spending any money on maintenance of the block. The council are giving the impression that they regard the current residents of the block as a nuisance they wish would go away.

This is part of Basildon Council’s plan to gentrify the area with the aim of turning it into a Tory voting commuter town. They hate the idea that the iconic Brooke House is inhabited by social housing tenants instead of young professionals. It would seem that the policy of deliberate neglect is aimed at driving the social tenants out so they can pull in a developer to ‘transform’ the block.

All of this shows the twisted priorities of Basildon Council who seem to be more concerned about the image of the town centre and socially engineering and cleansing the area, than they are about the residents currently living in Brooke House. This is what we get in a political, economic and social system that views housing as an asset rather than the basic right it should be…

A lifeline faces the axe

The Basildon based Disability Information & Advice Line (DIAL)http://dialbasildon.co.uk/index.php?id=1 – faces closure on 21st April as a result of its funding being cut. One of the services offered by DIAL was to help disabled people appeal against Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) assessments wrongly declaring them fit for work. Last year, Basildon Council axed its £10,000 annual funding to DIAL and gave it to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) instead. This amounted to five percent of DIAL’s budget – because of this cut, other backers pulled their funding and a situation has been reached where it’s impossible for them to carry on. See here for the full story in the Yellow Advertiser: EXCLUSIVE: Disabled Basildon residents will die if local charity DIAL is forced to close, service users warnhttps://tinyurl.com/lv8xsj4

With the CAB, an appointment is needed and people are given an allotted time. With DIAL, people can walk in or call the hotline and be seen pretty much immediately – if needed, casework taken on is carried through to its conclusion and is not subject to time constraints. Basically, we’re looking at two different modes of operation here with DIAL being more flexible and responsive. Basildon Council’s scrutiny committee challenged the notion that the CAB could provide the same kind of service as DIAL but that was ignored by Tory councillors who went ahead and approved the funding cut regardless.

There has been a long litany of horror stories where people with serious disabilities have been declared fit for work by target driven contractors operating on behalf of the DWP when it’s patently obvious they’re not. All too often, these callous, botched decisions have been followed by the death of the claimant as a result of their condition or suicide as tragically, they see no way out of an impossible situation. Voluntary groups such as DIAL are the only ones speaking up for vulnerable claimants against a system that displays a horrendous mix of incompetence and callousness. DIAL literally are a lifeline for disabled people being screwed over by the system. Despite all of this, the Tories on Basildon Council approved the cut to DIAL’s funding knowing it could eventually force the group to close.

This illustrates the sick and twisted priorities that underlie the political, economic and social system we have to endure. People are judged by how much they can contribute to the bottom line. If for whatever reason, you’re no longer able to work and are forced to rely on benefits, you’re treated as an ‘unproductive’ burden. You’re vilified by rags like the Sun, Mail and Express and bullied and harassed by the DWP and the agencies they sub-contract their dirty work to. While it may not be publicly expressed (yet), when someone with a serious disability is driven to the depths of despair by these scum and can see no other way out than suicide, you get the distinct impression the powers that be see it as a result…

* DIAL manager Jan Stevens said they had funding applications outstanding but was being forced to close before hearing the results as it cannot cover its costs in the meantime. However, she said that an offer of free premises could provide a ’last minute lifeline’ in case those grants proved successful in a few months’ time.

Anybody with possible premises for DIAL can call 01268 285676

St. Martin’s Square, Basildon – what (if anything) is happening?


Photo from GAG2011

In a previous piece, we wrote about the complex development chain that starts with a development of executive style homes at Dry Street, part of which will be on the site currently occupied by the Basildon campus of South Essex College which is scheduled to be moved to the site currently occupied by Basildon Market which is being moved to St. Martin’s Square: A breakdown in the chain?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/a-breakdown-in-the-chain/

We’ve heard anecdotal evidence from a staff member at the Basildon campus of South Essex College that it’s already being run down even though there’s absolutely no move on building the new campus on the site of the market. This is on top of stories circulating that all is not well at South Essex College. Then we see the photograph of the ‘work’ at St. Martin’s Square to prepare it for the re-location of the market. Note the use of quotation marks around ‘work’ because to all intents and purposes, it would appear that the ‘work’ has more or less ground to a snail’s pace.

On the Facebook page of the local amenity group, GAG2011https://www.facebook.com/gag2011/ – they’re quite rightly raising the question of whether Basildon Council have run out of money again? Given the loss of the trees and seating that made St. Martin’s Square a welcome oasis to relax in while taking a break from the shopping during the summer months, a fair number of residents would like an answer to that question as well. If anyone could enlighten us as to what the heck, if anything, is happening with this complex but seemingly broken chain of development, we’d love to hear from you!

It’s getting harder to escape the impression that Basildon Council (and South Essex College) are becoming victims of their own hubris and arrogance. As we’ve written before, this is what happens with a top down planning system that wilfully refuses to take on board the concerns of people who are impacted by schemes they feel are being imposed upon them.