Posts Tagged ‘evictions’

House The Homeless In Empty Properties

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

We don’t actually have a housing shortage in the UK. There are more than enough homes to go round. What we have is mainly a failure to get homeless people into empty homes. A failure to provide homes that people can afford.

Of course there will always be a few empty homes, as people move or die and it takes a little time to sell the empty properties. But the latest official figures for homes that have been empty for more than six months in England is 268,385 – and the figures are growing. According to Crisis, “more than 200,000 families and individuals in England alone will be … finding themselves sleeping on the streets, hunkered down in sheds and garages, stuck in unsuitable accommodation or sofa surfing.”

Covid will make homelessness worse, with huge numbers of people now threatened by eviction as they have been unable to keep up with rent payments. There were various extensions to a ban on bailiff-enforced evictions, but this ban came to an end in England on 31 May – but continues until 30 June 2021 in Wales and 30 September 2021 in Scotland.

As well as making people homeless, evictions also increase the number of empty properties, and those who are evicted are unlikely to be able to afford new tenancies.

There are various reasons why properties remain empty. They may simply be in places where people don’t want to live, and while there is huge pressure on housing in some areas – and we have seen house prices leap up 10% in a month – there are others where houses are difficult to sell – and even some new build houses remain empty for long periods.

Covid has meant that many holiday lets – conventional and Airbnbs – have stayed empty, and demand may be slow to pick up. People with two homes, one close to their place of work, may now have decided they can work from their more distant home and abandon the other. But even when taking these factors into account there seems to be an underlying rise in empty homes.

But housing in England has become a dysfunctional system, and we need changes so that people who need homes can afford them. To put it simply we need some way to provide more social housing. And the best way to provide these is for councils to be given the resources to build this – and to take some of those empty properties into public ownership – including some of those sold off on the cheap under ‘right to buy’, many of which are now ‘buy to let’ properties from which people are facing eviction.

Newham Council, under the then Mayor Robin Wales, began emptying people from the Carpenters Estate in the early 2000s. Many perfectly good properties on the estate have remained empty for years as the council has looked for ways to sell off the area close to the Olympic site, despite the huge waiting list for housing in Newham.

Focus E15 Mums, young mothers facing eviction from a hostel in Stratford, were offered private rented properties hundreds of miles away with little or no security of tenure and relatively high rents. It’s difficult for one person to stand up to the council, but they decided – with support from others – to join together and fight, with remarkable success – which gained them national recognition. And they continue to campaign for others facing housing problems.

Seven years ago on Monday 9th June 2014 they came to the Carpenters Estate to expose the failure of Newham Council pasting up posters on deliberately emptied quality social housing vacant for around ten years on what had been one of Newham’s most popular council estate and called for it to be used to house homeless families.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Universal Discredit

Monday, May 24th, 2021

T-shirts spell out StopUniversalCredit’ in Tate Modern Turbine Hall on the Unite Day of Action against Universal Credit, 24 May 2018

There were some positive ideas behind the introduction of Universal Credit, a new social security payment system first announced by the then Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, in 2010, claiming it would make the social security system fairer to claimants and taxpayers. It aimed to simplify the system by replacing six existing benefits for working-age people who have a low household income: income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. It would also taper off gradually as people moved into employment, removing the ‘cliff edge’ of losing benefits when going back into work.

But both Duncan Smith and Welfare Reform Minister David Freud, had failed to grasp the complexity of the varied and often varying circumstances of those in low paid and often insecure employment, particularly those on zero hours contracts or other sporadic or seasonal work, or with fluid family arrangements. Nor did they make clear that the main driver behind their changes was to simply cut the cost of benefits. And it now seems likely it will end up being more expensive than the benefits it replaced.

Outside Parliament

Following the Welfare Reform Act 2012, UC roll-out began to selected claimants at pilot job centres in 2013, and problems rapidly became apparent. There were entirely predictable problems with the IT system and the implementation costs were six times the initial forecast at £12 billion. The roll-out was intended to be more or less complete by 2017, but is now expected to take until 2024. Cuts were made to the initial system by George Osborne in 2015, making the transition to work less generous and removing some of the payments for child support, though these were partly restored in 2018 by Philip Hammond. And in 2020 there was a temporary £20 increase as a response to Covid.

What is clear is that the introduction of UC has caused a great deal of hardship to claimants, some temporary, some permanent. It has led to many being unable to keep up rent payments with a great increase in evictions and homelessness. UC has been the main driver of the huge increase in the need for foodbanks. It has forced some women into prostitution and made some claimants turn to crime to keep alive – while some have starved to death.

UC has had a particularly hard effect on families with children, particularly those with more than two children since 2017, and also on self-employed claimants and others with fluctuating incomes. Overall there have been both winners and losers, with around half losing out and a little over a third gaining compared to the replaced benefits.

Marching to the DWP

One of the major problems for everyone has been the long wait before any UC is paid, partly because of the change from a weekly to a monthly benefit. Even where the process works smoothly, the delay between making the claim and receiving money is six weeks, and around a fifth of claimants have had to wait around 5 months or more. There are now emergency loans available – but these mean that when people do get their payments they are reduced to repay these advances. There are also many whose benefit has been cut or stopped for largely trivial reasons through a savage system of benefit sanctions imposed by job centres.

Many other problems have also been caused by UC – you can read a long list of criticisms in the Wikipedia article. As well as evictions and homelessness it has resulted in an increase in domestic violence and a steep rise in mental-health problems. And, as the National Audit Office reported, there is no evidence Universal Credit has met its aim of helping people into work and they say it is in many ways unwieldy and inefficient and is unlikely to provide value for money.

It is clear that UC is in need of a complete replacement, and that it’s monumental failure should have led to the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith in 2015 after the DWP admitted publishing fake testimonies of claimants enjoying their benefits cuts and statistics showed 2,380 people died in a 3-year period shortly after a work capability assessment declared them fit for work, but instead he was knighted in 2020. Under the present government we are unlikely to get more than very minor tinkering that will quite likely create more problems that it solves. One of the proposals under debate is that of a Universal Basic Income, along with targeted welfare payments (some of which are still in existence) to cover those with additional needs. Earlier this month the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that this would be trialled in a pilot scheme in Wales.

Universal Credit rally & march
Universal Credit protest at Tate Modern


London 20 May 2017

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Probably the question I’m most often asked about my photographs of protest is how I find out what is happening. Back in the old days of the last century it was difficult, and I photographed far fewer events. I’m not sure if there were fewer protests, though I think so, but it was certainly then much harder to find out about them. Apart from the printed newsletters and magazines of organisations there were posters pasted illegally on mainly derelict sites around parts of London and the flyers that were handed out at one protest about others in the following months. And word of mouth, again mainly from people I met at protests.

With the Internet, and in particular the World Wide Web and web browsers things began to change, though fairly slowly at first. Organisations slowly began to have web sites and advertise their protests on them; others set up e-mail lists and in 1999 Indymedia began. Google had been founded a year earlier, but there were other search engines more prominent for some years; at the time I was earning money writing for a commercial web site and much of my work depended on web searching to find content to write about – and I also searched for protests, building up a long list of useful sites.

Over the next few years, Google came to dominate web searching and social media began to be more important. By around ten years ago most protests had become Facebook events and much of my diary could be filled in by a search through the events on that platform. Also as I put more of my photographs on-line, at first through Indymedia and later through Facebook and Demotix, I began to get more and more invitations by e-mail and through Facebook to events, some in London and others around the country and world I could not possibly attend. And of those that were in my area I could only cover a fairly small fraction, generally those I saw as most important.

But there were and are those protests I came across by accident, often when covering other events. I’m not sure now whether or not I was aware that 20th May 2017 was Fight Dog Meat Kindness and Compassion Day, but while I’m against torturing animals I would not have gone out of my way to photograph the End dog and cat meat trade protest but was there in Trafalgar Square for Teen Voice says votes at 16, where young people were saying it was unfair they had not been able to vote in the Brexit referendum – while they can work, pay taxes and even join the armed forces they had no say in a decision which will effect their future to an arguably greater extent than anyone who voted.

The protest at The Guardian newspaper was very definitely in my diary, and I was saddened by their coverage of events in Venezuela, which has consistently taken the side of the right-wing middle class in that country against President Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez whose reforms have done so much, decreasing poverty, providing free health care and education, devolving power into the hands of local collectives and building homes for the working class. While reporting on the ‘pro-democracy’ protests which are part of a US-backed right-wing coup it has failed to report their attacks on hospitals, schools and socialist cities which have led to many deaths and the mass demonstrations in favour of the government by working class supporters.

Thanks to the Jubilee Line I was able to travel on to Stratford to photograph Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag, a handout giving some of the facts about Newham Council which somehow were not included in the council’s glossy information sheet. Newham has more homeless than any other local authority in England – one in 27 residents – and more evictions from rented accommodation than any other London Borough. As well as failing housing policies with many homes deliberately kept empty for over ten years, Mayor Robin Wales is also responsible for huge and disastrous expensive long-term loans which mean 80% of council tax from Newham’s residents goes directly in interest payments to the banks.

The protesters here on the wide plaza in front of Stratford Station were harassed by both police and Newham Council officers who made the ridiculous claim they were causing an obstruction in the large uncrowded area and issued them with a £100 fixed penalty notice, part of the ongoing attempt by Newham to silence Focus E15 who continue to throw a spotlight on the activities of Newham Council and Mayor Robin Wales, both a disgrace to the Labour movement. Eventually even Newham Labour could no longer stomach another term for Robin Wales, though his successor has yet to greately improve matters.

Finally it was back on the Central Line to Grosvenor Square, still then the home of the US Embassy, where March Against Monsanto was protesting – along with others in an international day of protest – against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, dangerous bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, and the need for improved protection victims of multinational corporations. It turned out to be a disappointingly small protest even though the then ongoing secreetive TTIP trade talks between the EU and the USA could have lead to a deal which would override our national laws which protect our health and safety and endanger the integrity of our food supplies as well as banning or greatly restricting the traditional practice of farmers saving their own seeds.

March Against Monsanto
Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag
End media lies against Venezuela
Teen Voice says votes at 16
End dog and cat meat trade


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Rally For Jerusalem – Save Sheikh Jarrah

Saturday, May 15th, 2021

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

Like many I’ve been shocked at the accounts, pictures and videos coming from Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel and occupied Palestine, particularly Gaza, in recent days, and on Tuesday 11th May 2021 I went to Whitehall to cover the emergency protest there, the ‘Rally For Jerusalem – Save Sheikh Jarrah’ .

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

The event was called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, Friends of Al Aqsa, Stop the War Coalition and Palestinian Forum in Britain, and supported by a wide range of other groups.

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

Several thousand had turned up and more were arriving as I left to go home after a little over an hour, as I was getting rather tired. Police had tried at first to keep Whitehall open for traffic, but it was soon clear that there were just too many people to allow that, and first one carriageway and then both were stopped by people spilling out into the road. It also seemed very likely that later there would be some confrontations if police tried to move the protesters. But it was a peaceful protest with many families and children present and there seemed little need for any police intervention other than some increased security of a few key sites – such as the gates and armed police at Downing St. It is important to protect the public from them.

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

I listened to a few speakers and photographed some of them, including a Palestinian woman who had grown up in Sheikh Jarrah, rapper Lowkey and Glyn Secker of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, but moved away to photograph in the crowd before the main speakers arrived.

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

As usual a group of Neturei Karta Jews had come to support Palestinian rights against Zionism which they see as the cause of bloodshed in Israel, and there were also other Jewish groups who had come to protest against the actions of the Israeli police force and the Israeli government who have launched disproportionate attacks on Gaza, with air strikes killing over 30 people, including many women and children, and demolishing homes.

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

I missed the speech by Jeremy Corbyn, in which he called for an end to the occupation of Palestine and the recognition of the Palestinian state, but he tweeted earlier in the day:

Deliberately provocative attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque and the ongoing home invasions #SheikhJarrah have led to horrendous violence in Jerusalem. As the occupying power, the Israeli government has it in its gift to rectify the current situation and not exacerbate it. #Palestine

https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn/status/1392043526066774020
Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

Saturday 15th May is Nakba Day, and there will be a large march in London today, gathering at Marble Arch at noon and marching towards the Israeli embassy against the continuing repression and attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem and in Gaza and elsewhere in occupied Israel. I’ve put almost 50 of my pictures from Tuesday including those above into a Flickr album, Rally For Jerusalem – Save Sheikh Jarrah.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


UK Uncut Party against Freud

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Protesters meet at Kings Cross Station

Not Sigmund, but his great-grandson, a millionaire merchant banker responsible for government welfare reforms. The ideas behind many of the changes in the benefits systems which are having such disastrous effects on the lives of many and particularly those with disabilities, impoverishing many, driving some to suicide and driving the enormous growth in the need for food banks come largely from the work of one man, David Freud, now Lord Freud. A modern-day Scrooge promoting Victorian ideas, the man who launched a thousand foodbanks. Rather more, over 2000 by 2021.

They came with a notice of eviction for Lord Freud

Freud went into journalism after his PPE degree at Oxford, working for 8 years at the Financial Times before becoming a merchant banker. It was Tony Blair who, impressed by his work raising finance for Eurotunnel and EuroDisney brought him into politics in 2006, asking him to produced a report on the UK’s welfare-to-work system. His 2007 report called for the involvement of private companies paid by results to get people, particularly single parents and those suffering from long-term illness and disabilities back into work and for a single benefit to replace the various benefits for working age people, combining Housing Benefit, Job Seekers allowance etc.

UK Uncut had brought a removal van and cardboard boxes, but…

His ideas were taken up enthusiastically by New Labour and incorporated into a White Paper in 2008, by which time Freud was an adviser to Gordon Brown’s government, but in 2009 he became a member of the Conservative Party, who made him a Lord and a shadow minister under David Cameron, becoming in the 2010 Coalition government Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Welfare Reform at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Police prevented the protesters reaching the house

There he began a programme against people on incapacity benefits, lone parents and the self-employed whose earnings were low, who he said were enjoying a lifestyle of living off benefits. After the 2015 election he was promoted to Minister of State at the DWP and given the job of expanding the Universal Credit scheme, retiring at the end of 2016.

Listening to songs and speeches on the road outside the house

On Saturday 13th April 2013 I went with UK Uncut supporters who travelled from Kings Cross to hold a lively but peaceful protest in the road outside Lord Freud’s home in Darmouth Park, Highgate against the bedroom tax, another of his ideas to disadvantage the poor. At the same time protesters from DPAC (Disabled Persons Against Cuts) visited the home of Ian Duncan Smith and delivered an eviction notice there.

At the party there was street theatre, games, a quiz and speeches about the bedroom tax and other measures against those on low incomes and benefits that Freud was bringing in. The bedroom tax hits particular groups such as foster carers, disabled people and single parents many of whom will be unable to meet the extra rent and will face eviction, including many now in homes with special adaptions for their disabilities. In social housing there simply are not the smaller properties available that the act is designed to force people to move into.

People are also hard hit – particularly in London where rents are high – by the strict limit of the benefits cap. Other measures, including cuts in legal aid and council tax benefits and the end to disability living allowances will also cause real distress, and those benefits that remain are getting a real terms cut by below-inflation increases. Among those speaking at the event were Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and journalist Owen Jones.

Who wants to evict a Millionaire?


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


13 December 2014

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

I started work on December 13th 2014 in Brixton, where a well-dressed Santa was with other Lambeth Living Wage protesters including National Shop Stewards Network chair Rob Williams, calling for all workers to be paid a living wage. They entered a number of shops on the main shopping street where workers are only paid the minimum wage, spreading their message through a megaphone and placards and handing out leaflets and union membership forms to shop workers.

They left when asked to do so by security staff and continued along the street to the next shop on ‘Santa’s Naughty List’.
‘Santa’s Naughty List’ Living Wage


The Victoria line from Brixton tube took me to Green Park and I made my way to join the ‘Advance to Mayfair’ protest organised by Class War at the Mayfair offices of US property developers Westbrook Partners. The protest was in solidarity with the tenants of the Hackney New Era Estate who Westbrook are intended to evict before Christmas.

There had been some disagreements expressed on social media before the protest and the organiser was ill and unable to publicise the event over the previous few days and the protest was rather smaller than anticipated. The police had however come out in force for what was a small and well-behaved protest in which after some speeches, Class War delivered a Christmas card to Westbrook – and someone came out from their office to accept it.

This and other protests by and in support of the residents and the publicity they generated in the media worked, and a few days later Westbrook sold their interest in the New Era estate to the Dolphin Square Foundation and the New Era tenants were saved from eviction.
Class War: ‘Evict Westbrook, Not New Era’


My final destination for the day was the flagship John Lewis Store in Oxford St, not for some Christmas shopping, but to meet with members of the IWGB and John Lewis customers who were campaigning for equality for the cleaners. Cleaners who work in the store receive less than the living wage, and are not entitled to the considerable bonus payments that other staff who work in John Lewis receive as ‘partners’ in the business. John Lewis outsources the cleaning to cleaning contractors to avoid having to give them decent wages and conditions while retaining its reputation as a decent employer.

We met up in the café on the fifth floor of the store, and after unrolling there banners there was a brief speech about the unfair treatment of the cleaners from Alberto Durango before the protesters marched around the top floor to the escalator blowing vuvuzelas. They made their way slowly around to the down escalator on each floor, pausing to hang their banners over the balcony and continuing the noisy protest.

By the time they arrived at the ground floor, police had arrived and were confusing the issue, with some trying to stop the protesters leaving the store and others trying to force them out. Most of the protesters were trying to leave and like me had to push our way past police to get onto the pavement where the protest continued. Police made one or two arrests, though I think all were released without charge as John Lewis would not welcome the publicity a court appearance would provide.

Cleaners Xmas Protest in John Lewis


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.