Posts Tagged ‘Cooperative Council’

Community Not For SaleLambeth Housing Activists are organising a stall this weekend, asking people to sign a petition against Lambeth Council evicting people from their homes in the Lambeth United Housing Coop. Lambeth SOS has been proud to support the Lambeth United Housing Cooperative in campaigns last year,so we urge all our supporters who are free this Saturday to help out at the stall

Stall – Don’t Evict Maritza
Saturday 4th January, 11am – 1pm
Meet at the junction of Wandsworth Road and Lansdowne Way
Organised by Lambeth Housing Activists

You can download a leaflet giving background on the campaign here

If you can come please email Chris on chrisblake1977@yahoo.co.uk to say you can make it and give your phone number. This means if anything changes at short notice (e.g. the stall is cancelled because it’s raining) you can be kept informed.

Hope to see people on Saturday

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Community Not For Sale & PeopleLambeth United Housing Cooperative has always been very good at getting coverage in local papers. But recently they have done even better and got coverage in the national papers. You can read the Guardian article here

Lambeth Save Our Services is proud to support the Lambeth United Housing Cooperative in their campaign for affordable housing. If you want to know how you can help with the campaign please contact us

As well as having a protest outside the council meeting on 20th November we also sent a delegation inside. Pilgrim Tucker from Unite Community read the following statement. It was greeted with cheers from the public gallery and muted murmurs of approval from some councillors

My name is Pilgrim Tucker. I am the co-ordinator of Unite the Union Community membership in London. I am presenting this deputation with members of Unite Community in Lambeth and other housing activists on behalf of many local groups and individuals who are urging Lambeth Council to do more for their residents on the issue of social housing in the borough.

For some time now we have been working alongside tenants, residents and members of the community on the issue of decent, affordable homes for all. What we have found and continue to fight against is the anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity caused by the wretched bedroom tax and benefit caps brought in by this government.

These measures will hit thousands in our community. Across the borough tenants are living with the fear of homelessness because of rent arrears and the possibility of being uprooted from neighbourhoods where they may have lived all their lives.The council should act to prevent this insecurity, by reassuring the tenants that they will not be evicted due to the bedroom tax, and set an example to housing associations that are already starting legal proceedings against tenants.

To add to this council property and land is being sold to private developers leading to a reduction in social housing in the borough. Where new tenancies for social housing for tenants are proposed they include unaffordably high rents and shorter, more insecure tenancies.

The policy of ‘short life’ recall threatens people who have been in their homes since the 1970s. Pensioners are among these people who have maintained social housing that the council abandoned. These people were given categorical promises by their Labour councillors that their right to stay in their homes would be defended!

The council says it is using the proceeds from the sale of council owned land and void properties to refurbish existing council properties, but this is a short sighted approach. We need to stop the sale of existing council housing and go further – to start to build new social housing which is available at rents that ordinary local people can actually afford to pay.

Without such action we will see soaring rents and the destruction of secure tenancies for our communities, and risk the loss of the vibrant diverse population and culture for which Lambeth is rightly celebrated.

To have a decent home is a basic human need without which well-being and progress is not possible. With the increase in soup kitchens and homelessness in Lambeth we call upon this council to:

Make a public commitment that no legal action will be taken against tenants who are in arrears due to the the bedroom tax and benefit cuts.

Take no disciplinary action against staff that refuse to be involved with legal action and evictions against tenants.

Give tenancies to those currently occupying short life co-op housing in Lambeth.

Stop the transfer of council land and property to private developers.

Build 100% council homes at low rents with secure tenancies.

Pressure the government to abolish the bedroom tax, restore benefit cuts and undergo a massive, publicly owned house building programme to end this crisis.

Congratulations to the Lambeth United Housing Cooperative for getting this article in the Lambeth Weekender
Weekender on Shortlife

Crowds outside town hall
Large crowds gathered outside Lambeth Town Hall last night (Nov 20th) to lobby the full council meeting happening inside. Despite torrential rain and bitter cold, residents, teachers, students, campaigners and trade unionists converged on the steps of the town hall in protest at a number of decisions being made that have may have dramatic effects on the local area. (more…)

The campaign the save a housing cooperative, which Lambeth Save Our Services supports, has got some good coverage in both last week’s South London Press and this week’s South London Press
part 1
part 2

demo 12 april 2013

We had a lovely Friday afternoon protesting the latest auction viewings of Lambeth’s ‘short-life’ cooperative housing, housing in bad condition that decades ago was squatted or given to people on the housing waiting list for them to occupy and make liveable in return for rent. This week it was 10 and 21 Lillieshall Road in Clapham, just a five minute walk from Rectory Gardens. Apologies for the photos, my phone was clearly a little damp! But it only adds to the atmosphere.

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We started out in the rain, and the reporter and the BBC cameraman were looking quite bedraggled as I walked up a few minutes late to join everyone, but spirits were high. Residents not at work were also out, and did the most beautiful job of engaging those who had come to see the residences before auction.

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Julian has been quite brilliant in mobilising and bringing all of the residents together, below you can read his text for the deputation that the ‘short-life’ cooperatives sent to Lambeth Council. It lays out the importance of keeping this housing and the multiple vague statements of support and promises that have been made by Lambeth’s representatives.

The auction itself is taking place Mon 17th December, 12 noon, Hotel Russell, Russell Square. Be there if you can!

Deputation to Full Council Meeting, Lambeth Town Hall, 21st November 2012

Re: “shortlife” housing co-operatives

Delivered by Lambeth United Housing Co-operative

We’re sure that there is no one in this chamber who is now unaware of the issue of “shortlife” housing in Lambeth…

…and the complete nonsense that label has become nearly 40 years later!

Members of self-reliant, registered housing co-ops – of 4 decades standing – are being threatened with eviction by a supposedly co-operative council…

…and the process of “shortlife recall” is out of control…

…it threatens some of Lambeth’s longest-term residents and it undermines the credibility of this council’s collaborative aspirations.

We’ve reached this situation because of years of neglect on this issue by Lambeth – punctuated only by its abortive permanency deals and promises.

It can’t be right to betray communities and then purge them to raise funds through evictions…and in the process for Lambeth to pay out large amounts of money to lawyers, vacant property managers, contractors and auctioneers.

There’s a litany of failings here – and I know that there are plenty of people in this room who are uncomfortable with this –

…but If the council is not already aware of how this situation is perceived let me spell it out…

…first, how about some input from Lambeth’s own Co-operative Council Commissioners?

“I do certainly sympathise with your position” says one, “and view that it would be in the spirit of the 2011 Housing commission report, for Lambeth to work with you more collaboratively.”

Here’s another commissioner:

“I think it is important that they understand how to deal with legitimate challenges such as the ones you have raised. If they do not understand how to do this, there will be no hope for the development of a Cooperative Council.”

And finally one more Co-op Commissioner who simply said:

“Next time I see Steve, I am going to encourage him to get a grip on matters before the project loses its credibility.”

Well, let’s hope he finds the new leadership more credible!

And let’s not also forget Lambeth’s own councillors including Cllrs Wellbelove, Haselden and O’Malley who said:

“We have reminded colleagues and officers that some of these homes would not be standing if it was not for the work of the people living in them.”

They also remarked that…

“It would be senseless as well as expensive to evict people only to have to re-house them again.”

Even the people who come to buy our houses are not impressed!

“Why don’t they just give you tenancies?” one said.

“It’s ridiculous isn’t it, after 25-30 years or more?” said another

“I’d rather be dealing with Westminster, at least they are honest about being nasty.”

But also on the flipside of this, is one charming lady who typified the purge of a community:

“I’ve listened to what you have said about your community being here for nearly forty years but I don’t care, I want that house.”

…and whoops there goes the neighbourhood!

We are not asking for favouritism but the chance to continue living along co-operative lines.

We are not asking the council to repair our homes, we want to continue to do this within a co-op – at no cost to the borough – and apply our experience to empty homes.

So, Lambeth – rather than funding reserves and services through evictions – engage with the ‘Super Co-op’ solution that will both guarantee and extend social housing in the borough.

Thank you.

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Lambeth Council is at an advanced stage of flogging off the last of its “short life” properties to private property developers. Evictions of the people in them are starting next month and those emptied are being sold at auction.

Once Lambeth had about 1200 of these properties, houses in such bad state of repair that they were given to people on the housing list at no or low rents to do up themselves. Today they have about 170 left. Some residents have been in these “short life” houses for 30 or 40 years and are now in their 60s and 70s.

Many are run by housing co-operatives a number of whom have now grouped together in a “super-co-op” to campaign against the sell off and propose an alternative co-operative solution ( see  http://www.lambethunitedhousingco-op.org.uk/ ) But this is no block to council selling these houses off to the private market and destroying the co-ops, and with them well established communities. The residents have often spent thousands of pounds putting in new windows, central heating and on general repairs. They were given to them precisely because at the time the councils wouldn’t spend the money on them.

Last July a small group of cabinet members decided to push ahead and terminate all short life properties, revoking the licences and putting them on the market. Since then there have been a series of court cases with the Council trying to evict or harass people to leave. Private Eye reckons that at least £175,000 has been spent paying the legal firm Devonshire’s bills so far.

Lambeth council rejected offers from social landlords to take over these properties. A local Co-op Ekarro offered to pay 25-27% of value to keep them in social ownership – it was refused. For a long time Lambeth claimed it was negotiating a deal with Notting Hill Housing Association and needed the tenants to leave to achieve it. It soon became clear this housing association turned property developer was going to sell off 80% to the private market keeping only 20% for social housing! This deal fell through as well. So with its eyes on £32 million worth of property Lambeth turned to the private market itself, entering a hugely expensive process paying off a series of corporate vultures.

Money no object

When a property is vacated the Council pays to make it uninhabitable to “stop squatting”. Later, it pays a multinational Camelot to go in and make it habitable again for its “Guardians”, people often in desperate housing need who live in the property. The council then pays a fee of anything up to £100 a week for Camelot “protecting” the property.The Guardians, who have no tenant rights, live in the property paying Camelot a deposit of £500-600 and paying a “rent” of up to £65 a week. Little wonder this Netherlands based multinational had a turnover of £20 million in 2011.

The council then has to pay auction houses like Andrews and Robertson fees to sell properties at an average of 30-40% below market prices. A recent 10-bedroom house in The Chase in Clapham, cleared of short life tenants, was sold for £1.6 million. At the same time a much smaller house in the same street was being marketed for £2.6 million.

How much will be left of the £32 million after the lawyers, multi-nationals and auction houses take their cut is anyone’s guess. Where the money will go is another unanswered question. What is certain very little will go into providing new social housing because Lambeth does not build any. Lambeth Council has said “We are selling off properties that are uneconomic to refurbish and part of the money generated will go into the Single Capital Programme of which in part will be used to allocated housing” (our emphasis)

Lambeth Council argues that all evicted “short life” tenants will be offered priority on Choice Based Lettings in council housing. But this misses the point – the members of these co-ops do not want to move and see their communities destroyed. Neither do they want to take someone else’s place on the council waiting lists because Lambeth is selling off publicly owned housing into the private sector without replacing it. Lambeth already has 25,000 on its waiting lists and only 25,000 councils properties – by selling its housing it is just contributing to London’s housing crisis.

Fighting back

The co-op members are not going quietly. They are fighting the council in the courts, where in a series of shambolic appearances by council lawyers, things have moved very slowly. The Co-ops have the support of local MP Kate Hoey, who even forced an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the issue last December.

With evictions now starting and property going under the hammer at auction protests must be stepped up locally. Lambeth SOS is supporting all short-life tenants and Co-op members who want to fight. For information about the campaign contact Stuart King on 07944 040363.

Which is sadly the opposite of what the council is bringing to libraries, though some of them may have bought their own misleading rhetoric which is as positive as can be.

The meeting was called by library staff to talk about what has to be done to preserve and improve our libraries in the face of the reports released on Monday wrapping up years of public consultations. While it is fairly certain that few people have actually read the reports — the size of large encyclopedia volumes, their faded text product of a failing photocopier — the summary from devoted library staff who have read them is that they say very little. “Punching at clouds” is a direct quote. Very heavy, impossible to read clouds.

The clear result of the consultation, however, is that people want to preserve all of Lambeth’s libraries, and they want professional librarians to run them. This does not mean they don’t want to be involved in libraries or volunteer in them, but they do not want to manage them or try to poorly cobble together an inferior service as a last ditch effort to save something so important to our community. It is a service that should be provided and paid for by the council from our taxes.

The stakes in this struggle are clear. Libraries are one of the great equalizers of our society, no? The place where poor and working-class kids can access books, learning, quiet time for themselves. While some people pretend that the technology gap in our society doesn’t exist, the libraries have been proving it wrong as kids come in to use the computers to do their homework and explore their world. The point was made that for disabled people, mobility is a huge issue, yet almost everyone lives within a mile of their local library branch. This is a safe place for them to come and be part of the community, and they have just managed to ensure that all library computers will be installed with the software making them accessible to the blind. Shutting down libraries is an attack on the poorest and most vulnerable residents in our community, but because they are one of the few places providing services for all levels of society where different people meet and mingle, their loss will have a large impact on all of us, no matter where we stand. Local governments closed 10% of libraries across the UK in the past year, and the future looks even bleaker.

So while the message from the community is clear — save libraries and their staff — the council seems to be ignoring it, and just carrying on with what they’ve been carrying on with. On the face of it the report says all libraries will be kept, and gives the welcome news of investment in the physical buildings. But dig a little deeper and you will see the following issues with it:

  • the fragmentation of library administration, which both sets branches and neighborhoods into competition with each other for funding, while also making it easier to privatise or sell individual branches in the future.
  • £750,000 to be cut from the budget,  but no real indication of from where
  • The suggestion that libraries will be converted into ‘community hubs‘, which invokes the possibility of a few books on a shelf and a few self-service machines counting as a library service. This could also serve to pit community organizations who need funding and space and see community hubs as an opportunity, against those wishing for libraries to remain fully staffed, fully funded, and with a full complement of resources and books.
  • Management reports making clear that 10 staff positions will be lost to help pay for the new self-service check out machines, but that has been nowhere stated in this report or public discussion. Originally, the machines were to have been brought in to free up librarian time to work with community and focus on additional programming. A beautiful dream now lost.

The problem of staffing is already a large one. On Sundays only four staff are working in the beautiful and very big central Brixton branch. Not enough. At least we are still better off than the village libraries of Cambridgeshire. They have cut staff so severely there is only one person working in the library at any given time, so in the interest of safety each library now has a strong room where the librarian can escape to in case of any trouble, bolting the door and calling the police. Possibly a great new plot for Jodie Foster to work with, but hardly a way to run a public resource.

There are also two discussions on that would in effect result in the loss of libraries. One is a proposal to move Streatham library off of the main street and into Gracefield Gardens, which everyone agrees would effectively kill it. The other has been the ongoing discussion of what to do with West Norwood library, putatively closed since its roof was stolen. The council neglect to say that the beautiful copper roof was in fact stolen over a period of ten days, and while it was reported to them they hired no security and took no action. They have spent £780,000 on repairs and could have reopened the library long ago. It turns out that most of the money was spent not on urgent structural repairs, but upon building a separate entrance to Nettlefold Hall, which contains a cinema. It also turns out that one of the “community partners” being claimed by the council and interested in buying the West Norwood property is a private picturehouse company.

This seems to show a bit of planning on the part of the council, a clear intention to unload services and sell off valuable real estate. That is the bottom line, underneath all the rhetoric of cooperation and consultation. They are trying to sell off public property and stop public services, which is why we are standing up to stop them.

A number of suggestions came out of the meeting about what to do next. There will be a delegation to next week’s council meeting, a petition, and a broad campaign not just to save our libraries, but to ensure the council funds libraries to provide the services we need. More will be coming soon with what you can do and how to get involved!