Wave goodbye to Robin Wales – unpopular Mayor is deselected by Newham Labour!

Good feckin’ riddance to him and his agenda of social cleansing. Focus E15 can rightly chalk this one up as a battle won in the war:)

Focus E15 Campaign

Finally! Robin Wales has been deselected as mayoral candidate for Newham Labour after a tense battle against Rokshana Fiaz, who will now go on to face the electorate in the local elections in May and won by over 350 votes. The news of his deselection was announced on Friday 16 March 2018.  It was Robin Wales, who told the original group of 29 mothers from Focus E15 hostel (after cutting the funding to the mother and baby unit) that “if you can’t afford to live in Newham, then you can’t afford to live in Newham”. Robin Wales has been in charge of Newham council for 23 years as he was head of the Council from 1995 and Labour Mayor since 2002. He has been an unpopular and unreachable figure. He spent decades promoting policies that has led to social cleansing, forcing working class people out of the borough whilst leaving…

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Sara made ‘Intentionally Homeless’ by Newham Council

We’ve written numerous times about how the housing crisis in London has a direct impact on those of us living out along the Thames estuary. A housing crisis exacerbated by an intentional policy of social cleansing as part of the project of making the capital a welcome home for the global super rich to park their money in property ‘investment opportunities’. That’s block after block of empty apartments flipped to make a profit while the number of rough sleepers on the streets of London soars and more and more people are forced out of the capital. However, as you’ll see from this piece we’ve re-blogged, the architects of social cleansing are not getting it all their own way. Focus E15 are a Newham based group of activists who have been tirelessly standing up to the complicity of Newham Council in the project of social cleansing and this is a report of yet more actions they’ve taken to call the council to account.

Focus E15 Campaign

The following blog post is taken directly from a report written for the Revolutionary Communist Group’s website. Thank you for allowing  Focus E15 Campaign to reprint this report in full below.

No such thing as intentional homelessness – Sara must stay in Newham

Robin Wales, head of Newham Labour Council since 1995 and Labour Mayor of Newham since 2002 is facing the end of his reign. Rokhsana Fiaz is standing against him for the Labour mayoral candidacy and the results will be announced on Friday 16 March after local Labour members have voted. This situation came about after a trigger democracy process which has forced Wales to accept a challenger for the first time. All Newham wards voted for someone to stand against him. Wales is running scared and after decades of vicious treatment of working class people in the borough, he now proclaims himself a socialist leading a radical…

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Dispatch from Brooke House

Water coming from a blocked drain making the stairs dangerous to use

Drains in the basement area not being cleared leading to flooding when it rains

This comment made by one of the residents on the Brooke House Residents Basildon Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1587080528053394/) eloquently sums up the feelings of frustration and despair at the conditions in the public areas of Brooke House: It’s not good enough to be told it takes time. Not acceptable. I’ve complained about the flooding for 2 YEARS! I’ve also slipped twice coming out the lift, contacted the council asked if plastic flooring could be put down like they have in swimming pools until the flooding issue is sorted. Didn’t want to know. Darren Maybin doesn’t even reply to my emails any more, that’s so unprofessional and shows exactly what he thinks of our complaints. So now I’m going to the Echo and as a registered disabled person I will be quoting the Disability Act for the safety. I’m fed up now. I’m sick of being fobbed off. The emergency exits in this place are DANGEROUS. So I hope the council will respond in a quicker time when the echo run my piece and I’m telling them everything About this shit hole. Anyone else wanna join me feel free to. Babies,kids, disabled, elderly all live here and it’s an unsafe crap hole.

We’re aware the the local councillor, Andrew Buxton, is putting as much pressure as he can on the relevant officers at Basildon Council to get on top of the multiple issues at Brooke House. The problem Cllr. Buxton faces is having to deal with entrenched attitudes among too many officers at Basildon Council who regard social housing tenants as a nuisance. Which does lead us to ask the question as to who really holds the power to get things done at the council – the councillors or the permanent officers?

There are elements at Basildon Council who feel that social housing tenants have no right to be living in a convenient town centre location and should be moved out to estates on the periphery so they can flog Brooke House off to a developer and trouser the cash. The deterioration of the public areas of the block and the misery of living with the increasing risk that poses is making more and more of the residents think that the only solution is to apply for a transfer and hope they’re offered somewhere better to live. This is an intentional policy of managed decline. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again – what’s happening at Brooke House is to all intents and purposes a deliberate process of social cleansing in the name of ‘regeneration’.

A ‘heritage asset’ where the lifts don’t work and the windows leak

The ‘regeneration’ of Basildon town centre has been under discussion for a number of years now accompanied by the occasional ‘consultation’ exercise. From anecdotal evidence we’ve heard, these ‘consultation’ exercises seem to avoid any meaningful engagement with the residents of Brooke House, the unmissable block shown above that’s located slap bang in the middle of Basildon town centre.

Brooke House is a Grade II listed building and has been described by Basildon Council in their bullshit ‘regeneration’ propaganda as a ‘heritage asset’. You can see this description for yourself if you visit the premises near the Entertainer toy shop taken over by the council to display their plans for the town centre.

Let’s get one thing straight, Brooke House is more than a Grade II listed building or a ‘heritage asset’ – it’s where people live. Given the deteriorating conditions inside the block, it would appear that this is something Basildon Council can’t really grasp: The state (and future) of Brooke Househttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/the-state-and-future-of-brooke-house/

Over the weekend of the 20th and 21st January, the lift serving the even floors was only working intermittently before packing up completely. The lift to the odd floors was working but very slowly and in almost complete darkness. Residents frequently had no option but to use the stairwells. Stairwells that as a result of the wet weather over the weekend and leaking windows were soaking wet, slippery and dangerous to use.

So, in the 21st century in a supposedly advanced country, we have a residential tower block in the middle of a town centre with malfunctioning / broken lifts and a soaking wet stairwell that has rightly been described as a death trap because the windows aren’t getting fixed. All of which gives the impression that the policy of Basildon Council regarding Brooke House is one of managed decline that will force tenants and residents to seek alternative accommodation. The idea being is that once the block is empty, the council can offload it to a developer and trouser the cash.

Basildon Council now have a fight on their hands with the newly formed and vocal Brooke House Residents Basildon group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1587080528053394/ and a proactive local councillor willing to hassle the council until they start to take a genuine interest in the people living in the block. As with our previous post about Havering Council’s estate ‘regeneration’ plans, local authorities need a sharp reminder that when they talk about this, it’s not just buildings, it’s peoples’ lives they’re playing with…

What do Havering Council really mean when they talk about ‘regeneration’?

At a Havering Council cabinet meeting on Wednesday, January 17th, a preferred bidder was appointed from a shortlist of three to deliver ‘an ambitious social housing regeneration project’: Havering Council decides preferred bidder for ‘exciting and ambitious’ council estate regeneration projecthttp://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/havering-council-decides-preferred-bidder-for-exciting-and-ambitious-council-estate-regeneration-project-1-5361078 The name of the preferred bidder will be announced to us mere mortals once contractual arrangements have been finalised – this is expected to be sometime in March.

The first estates lined up for ‘regeneration’ are the Waterloo Road Estate in Romford (pictured above), Napier and New Plymouth Houses in Rainham and the Solar, Serena and Sunrise Sheltered scheme in South Hornchurch. After these, eight other estates in Hornchurch, Gidea Park, Harold Hill, Rainham and Cranham will be getting the treatment from the council and their mystery partner.

More often than not, this isn’t about refurbishment of existing social housing stock – it’s about demolition and replacement with ‘modernised, quality housing’. The homes will be available under a variety of payment models – ‘affordable’ rent, Low Cost Home Ownership, where the council will retain a share in the property, and private sale. Definitions of ‘affordable’ vary and judging by the bitter experience of previous ‘regeneration’ schemes, the definition will be stretched to the limit as will the budget of anyone renting one of these new homes.

This scheme has been under consideration for a few years – however, tenants and residents always seem to never really be in the loop about ‘regeneration’ as this report from 3rd July 2016 in the Romford Recorder shows: Shock after fate of Romford and Hornchurch estates unveiled in paperhttp://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/shock-after-fate-of-romford-and-hornchurch-estates-unveiled-in-paper-1-4600636

What is clear from reading recent reports about this ‘regeneration’ scheme is the role Crossrail is playing in this. Without being alarmist, it has to be said that any estate within walking distance of a railway station on Crossrail will be totally rebuilt with a new, more affluent resident demographic. Somehow, we suspect that existing tenants on low incomes will be getting shuffled off to a few far flung estates on the periphery of the borough and forgotten about. Which really makes you fear for the fate of tenants on the Waterloo Road Estate which is just round the corner from Romford station and Elvet Avenue just down the road from Gidea Park station…

We’re talking about people’s lives here, some of whom are elderly or may be vulnerable in some way and who do not want the anxiety and fear of upheaval and re-location that all too often are consequences of ‘regeneration’. We’re talking about people who have formed bonds with their neighbours – bonds that could well be part of a vital support network. Bonds that will be torn when tenants are relocated to make way for more affluent residents. What the likes of Havering Council and their preferred bidders need to be reminded of in no uncertain terms is they’re not talking about buildings – it’s communities and lives that stand to be disrupted by their actions…

The state (and future) of Brooke House

Above is an exterior shot of the iconic Brooke House tower block situated in East Square which is right in the heart of Basildon town centre. East Square is going to be comprehensively redeveloped. Over the years, there have been various proposals from Basildon Council for the ‘re-generation’ of Brooke House – pretty much all of which involve the removal of current tenants and residents and handing it over to a developer. Looking at the exterior shot of Brooke House, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s an okay place to live. Enter the block and as you can see from the photographs below, it’s a completely different story. If the state of the public areas inside the block isn’t managed decline by the council designed to ‘persuade’ current tenants and residents to move out, we don’t know what is. With the recent founding of Brooke House Residents Basildonhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/1587080528053394/ we suspect that any future plans for ‘re-generation’ a.k.a. social cleansing will be getting met with some stiff resistance…

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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