Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Vedanta, Tampons, Roma, Monsanto & Mental Health

Saturday, May 21st, 2022

Vedanta, Tampons, Roma, Monsanto & Mental Health – there was a varied array of protests in London on Saturday 21st May 2016, and I was kept busy photographing them. Fortunately most were within walking distance of each other in central London, but I ended the day with a rally and march in Stratford.


Foil Vedanta at Jaipur Literary Festival – Royal Festival Hall, Southbank

I rushed from Waterloo station to the nearby Royal Festival Hall where I found campaigners from Foil Vedanta protesting against Vedanta’s sponsorship of the Jaipur Literature Festival. They say Vedanta, the most hated company on Earth, causing pollution, illness, displacement, poverty and deaths by its mining operations, sometimes criminal, in India, Zambia, South Africa and Australia, is attempting to whitewash its image by sponsorship of the festival.

They briefly interrupted a presentation in the main space of the Clore Ballroom to make their case. Earlier Foil Vedanta and Round Table India had sent an open letter to authors who had agreed to appear, signed by around 50 mainly Indian writers, poets, academics and activists, informing them of Vedanta’s criminal operations, and calling on them to withdraw, and some had done so, with others expected to criticize Vedanta in their presentations.

After the interruption the campaigners withdrew to the rear of the area where they continued to hand out leaflets and brief journalists, watched closely by security who insisted they keep the entrance clear but did not otherwise intervene.

More at Foil Vedanta at Jaipur Literary Festival.


Tampon tax now Osbourne! – Parliament Square

Campaigners met in Parliament Square and then marched to present a letter to Downing St calling on the government to fulfil their pledge to axe the tax on tampons. A massive campaign and lobby resulted in the removal of regulations preventing the removal of tax but it is still being levied.

Prominent in the protest were those from the 50:50 Parliament campaign for equal representation of women and men in Parliament who say that if there were more women in Parliament there would not be taxes like this – and much less of the public-school bickering that often dominates the House of Commons.

More at Tampon tax now Osbourne!


‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ Parliament Square

As the Tampon Tax campaigners left on their march to Downing St, four horse drawn vehicles arrived for the protest by Roma, Gypsies and Travellers against the hardening attacks against their way of life.

Heritage wardens and police told them it was was against bylaws to bring horses on to the square and after a short rally on the grass they led protesters in repeated circuits of the roadway around the square before leaving as the main rally on the corner of the square started.

Changes in the laws have allowed local authorities to stop providing traveller sites, and laws against fly-grazing have made finding places to stay and moving around the country much harder. Alterations in local planning guidance have meant that local planning laws have been used in a discriminatory fashion to prevent them using land even when they own it – as at Dale Farm. The ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ protest called attention to these attacks by the government on their ethnicity and demanded an end to 500 years of persecution.

More at ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’


March Against Monsanto Rally – Downing St

It was a day of several hundred world-wide protests against Monsanto, but there had been little publicity for the London protest and attendance for disappointing, and although there were good speeches these were to a small group of dedicated activists.

Among the listeners were a couple of bees and this cow

Monsanto dominates the worlds markets for seeds and agrochemicals at the expense of small scale farmers and communities around the world and is forcing harmful pesticides and genetically modified seeds on farmers in their corporate control of the world’s food system. The company has sued thousands of small farmers in the US and elsewhere to protect its patents which cover a wide range of crops and other products.

More at March Against Monsanto Rally.


Housing is a Mental Health Issue – Stratford

From Westminster the Jubilee Line takes a little over 20 minutes to get to Stratford Station, outside which I met Focus E15 housing campaigners who were holding a rally and march. It was Mental Health Awareness Week and they were protesting against Newham council’s policy of social cleansing, highlighting the mental health issues that arise from housing problems.

There is a huge boom in building around Stratford given great impetus by the 2012 Olympics, but as speakers made clear when the march paused in front of some of the the high-rise housing, this is being built largely for the rich – while those unable to afford sky-high market rents are being forced out. They say Newham is causing mental health problems for vulnerable people through evictions and placements with insecure tenancies away from families, friends and support systems in cities and towns across the UK.

Good homes on the Carpenters Estate have been kept empty by Newham for over 10 years

The new tall blocks also produce a hostile micro-climate at ground level, and when the march approached one of the most recent, gusts of wind tore one of the banners in two. The march ended on the pavement outside Wilco’s in Stratford Broadway, where Focus E15 hold their regular Saturday morning street stall.

More at Housing is a Mental Health Issue.


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Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop – Six years ago, the 14th May 2016 was also a Saturday, and like today there was a protests for Nakba Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, but also several others on the streets of London which I covered.


Reclaim Holloway – Holloway Road

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

Local MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke outside London Met on Holloway Rd at the start of the march by Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network to HMP Holloway demanding that when the prison is closed the site remains in public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up in a damaging criminal justice system.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

A group of around a hundred then marched from there to Holloway Prison, apparently already largely emptied of prisoners, and held a long rally there with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups. Islington Council would like to see the prison site and adjoining housing estate then owned by HM Prisons used for social housing rather than publicly owned land being sold for private development.

Holloway, Nakba, Refugees & Topshop

The Ministry of Justice sold the site to housing association Peabody for £81.5m in 2019 and their plans include 985 homes and offices, with 60% of so-called affordable housing as well as a women’s building with rehabilitation facilities reflecting the site’s history. The development stalled in February 2022 with Peabody saying they were unable to afford the money needed to fit out the women’s centre.

Reclaim Holloway


68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford Street

Protesters made their way along Oxford St from their regular Saturday picket outside Marks & Spencers, handing out leaflets and stopping outside various shops supporting the Israeli state for speeches against the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people and attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’ remembering the 80% of Palestinians forced out of their homes between December 1947 and January 1949 is commemorated annually on May 15th, but the protest was a day earlier when Oxford Street would be busier. The Palestinians were later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes or reclaiming their properties, with many still living in refugee camps.

The protesters included a number of Jews who are opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. A small group of counter protesters shouted insults and displayed Israeli flags, accusing the protesters of anti-Semitism but the protest was clearly directed against unfair and illegal policies pursued by the Israeli government rather than being anti-Semitic. The counter-protesters tried unsuccessfully to provoke confrontation, standing in front of the marchers and police had at times to move them away.

68th Anniversary Nabka Day


Vegan Earthlings masked video protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans wearing white masks stood in a large circle in Trafalgar Square holding laptops and tablets showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. The protest was organised by London Vegan Actions and posters urged people to stop eating meat to save the environment and end animal cruelty.

Vegan Earthlings masked video protest


Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

Another small group of protesters stood in front of the National Gallery held posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons’.

Refugees Welcome say protesters


Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

Finally I was back on Oxford St where cleaners union United Voices of the World (UVW) was holding one of protests outside Topshop stores around the country following the suspension of two cleaners who protested for a living wage; one has now been sacked. Joining them in the protest were other groups including Class War, cleaners from CAIWU and other trade unionists including Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP and Ian Hodson, Baker’s Unions General Secretary outside Topshop

The Oxford Street Topshop was heavily defended by police, as well as by illegal extra security guards wearing no ID. Several hundred protesters held up banners and placards and with the help of the police blocked the entrance to the shop, though the protesters made no serious attempt to enter the building.

Jane Nicholl of Class War poses on a BMW as they block Oxford Circus

After a while some of the protesters, led by the Class War Womens Death Brigade, moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes as police tried to get them to move. The whole group of protesters then moved to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuaded them to move.

UVW’s Petros Elia argues with a police officer outside John Lewis

They moved off, but rather than going in the direction the police had urged them, marched west along Oxford St to John Lewis, where they protested outside the entrance, where cleaners have a longstanding dispute. The cleaners who work there are outsourced to a cleaning contractor who John Lewis allow to pay low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for these workers who keep its stores running.

There were some heated exchanges between protesters and police but I saw no arrests and soon the protesters marched away to the Marble Arch Topshop branch to continue their protest.

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked


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Class War & The Shard – 2018

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

Class War & The Shard – 2018.

Ian Bone raises a fist as he comes out of the Royal Courts of Justice

February 8th 2018 was a good day for Class War, beginning with a visit to the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, where thanks to barrister Ian Brownhill they emerged triumphant after stopping an attempt by lawyers acting for the Qatari royal family to prevent a Class War protest against the ten empty £50million pound apartments in The Shard.

Lawyers for the Qataris had tried to get an injunction against protests by Bone and “persons unknown” and to claim over £500 in legal costs from the 70 year-old south London pensioner, and the case had attracted considerable publicity in the media including an article by Suzanne Moore in The Guardian and another in Le Monde and many more.

Brownhill offered to conduct Bone’s defence pro-bono and contacted the Quatari’s solicitors who immediately offered to drop the case if Class War ‘would stop attacking the Shard’ whatever that meant. In the High Court the Qataris’ lawyers were forced to drop the attempt to ban protests and the demand for fees but Bone accepted a legal restriction on him going inside the Shard and its immediate vicinity.

The case also showed the police’s insecurity over Class War and documents presented in court on behalf of the Qataris clearly showed they had been given documents by the police including one with clearly defamatory false statements about another person associated with Class War who was not named in the injunction.

Another document presented was a surprising testimonial about Class War which made it sound a rather more impressive and powerful organisation than the small but influential irritant to the rich and unscrupulous it is. The police probably the source for this certainly seem to share the lawyers’ delusions of the organisations grandeur, with an unusually strong police presence outside the court and around a corner clearly outnumbering the Class War supporters.

So the protest that evening took place as Class War intended, pointing out that the ten £50m apartments in the Shard had remained empty since the building was completed. The protest stressed that these were just a small fraction of the plans to build another 26,000 flats costing more than a million pounds each across London, many replacing current social housing a time when London has a huge housing crisis with thousands sleeping on the street, and over 100 families from Grenfell are still in temporary accommodation.

As Class War stated, there are already a huge number of empty properties in London, many in large development of high priced flats which either remain unsold or are bought as investments and largely unoccupied. What the capital needs is not luxury flats but much more social housing – and to keep existing housing on council estates under threat of demolition.

The protest, as planned, was peaceful but very noisy, and again policed by a ridiculously large number of police and private security. Ian Bone’s poor health meant he was in any case unable to attend in person. The protesters were careful to remain outside the boundary of The Shard, marked with a metal line in the pavement, but police still tried to move them away to the other side of the road, making the patently spurious claim that they were causing an obstruction to commuters attempting to enter London Bridge station. The only real obstruction to commuters attempting to enter the station were the lines of police across their route.

More on My London Diary
Class War protest at Shard
Class War victory against Qatari Royals

2015 March for Homes – Shoreditch to City Hall

Monday, January 31st, 2022

2015 March for Homes – Shoreditch to City Hall. A year before the march Against the Housing and Planning Bill featured in yesterday’s post there was another march about housing at the end of January, the March For Homes.

Outside Shoreditch Church

The event called by Defend Council Housing, South London People’s Assembly and Unite Housing Workers Branch involved two separate marches, one coming from Shoreditch in north-east London and the other from the Elephant & Castle in south London converging on London’s City Hall close to Tower Bridge for a final rally.

Max Levitas, a 100 year old communist veteran of Cable St

I couldn’t be in two places at once and chose to go to Shoreditch, partly because I knew people from several groups I had photographed at a number of housing struggles would be marching from there. The event was certainly enlivened by the arrival of activists who had marched from Bethnal Green, including supporters of Class War, Focus E15 and other groups.

Many couldn’t get into the churchyard

The Shoreditch Rally was held in a crowded area in Shoreditch churchyard at the front of St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, the ancient parish church of Shoreditch, and I took the opportunity to go inside and have a look at the church before the rally. The list of speakers there showed the wide range of community support for fairer housing policies, including more social housing desperately needed in London and included Jasmine Stone of Focus E15, Lindsey Garratt from New Era, Paul Turp, vicar of St Leonards, Nick from Action East End, Paul Heron of the Haldane Society of Socialist Laywyers, Max Levitas, a 100 year old communist veteran of Cable St, a speaker from the ‘Fred and John Towers’ in Leytonstone and Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Tower Hamlets benefits from having been formed from some of the London Metropolitan Boroughs with the best records of social housing – such as Poplar, where in the 1920s councillors went to jail to retain more money for one of London’s poorest areas. Unfortunately Rahman, the borough’s first directly elected mayor was removed from office in April 2015 after he was found personally guilty of electoral fraud in his 2014 re-election. Many of the other charges made against him in the media were dismissed by police after investigation.

It was raining slightly as over a thousand marchers set off for City Hall behind the March For Homes banner.

As the march came to the junction with Aldgate High St, Class War split off for a short protest at One Commercial St, where they had held a lengthy series of weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protests against separate entrances for residents owning or leasing at market rates and the smaller section of social housing tenants who had to enter through a door down a side alley. Class War had suspended their 20 weeks of protest for talks with a new owner of the building a month or so earlier, but these had broken down without a satisfactory resolution and the protests there restarted the following week.

As the march approached the Tower of London it was met and joined by Russell Brand riding a bicycle,

and on Tower Bridge, Class War came up to lead the march.

I rushed ahead to meet the South London march as it turned into Tooley Street for the last few yards of its march.

The rally in front of City Hall was large, cold and wet. By now the rain was making it difficult to take photographs, with drops falling on the front of my lenses as I tried to take pictures, and my lenses beginning to steam up inside. But I persisted and did the best I could, though the rain-bedraggled speakers in particular were not looking their best.

The rally was still continuing when some of the activists, including Class War and the street band Rhythms of Revolution decided they needed to do something a little more than standing in the rain listening to speeches. They moved onto Tooley Street and blocked the road. More police arrived and blocked the road even more effectively as the activists moved eastwards to protest at One Tower Bridge, a new development mainly for the over-rich next to Tower Bridge and then left for a long walk to the occupied Aylesbury Estate. But I decided it was time to go home.

More on My London Diary:
March for Homes: After the Rally
March for Homes: City Hall Rally
March for Homes: Poor Doors
March for Homes: Shoreditch to City Hall
March for Homes: Shoreditch Rally


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March Against Housing & Planning Bill

Sunday, January 30th, 2022

The March Against Housing & Planning Bill on January 30th 2016 was organised by activists from South London, particulary from the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.

These include many who are fighting against the demolition of social housing that is taking place across London, including in Lambeth and Southwark. Council tenants and leaseholders on council estates are fighting to save their homes – and fighting against Lambeth and Southwark councils who together with private developers and estate agent advisers are bent on demolishing the estates and replacing them with new estates which are largely for private rent or sale at London’s inflated market prices.

Southwark Council in particular carried out an expenisive PR exercise to demonise the Heygate Estate at the Elephant & Castle, having failed to carry out necessary maintenance and flooded the estate with people with various social problems over a number of years. The whole disastrous history has been documented in depth on the Southwark 35% site. A prize-winning estate with 1,214 homes built in 1974 to provide social housing for around 3,000 people was deliberately run-down and demolished. It’s replacement, Elephant Park has less than 100 social housing units. Many of its new flats are simply investments for overseas owners.

Southwark sold the Heygate to developers for one third of its previous valuation, and spent more on the scheme than it received. A study by Global architect firm Gensler concluded that the £35m spent by Southwark in rehousing the estate residents was exactly the same as it would have cost to refurbish the estate up to modern standards – and would have avoided the huge carbon footprint of demolishing and rebuilding.

A well as Heygate, Southwark Council’s main target has been the Aylesbury Estate, where Tony Blair chose to launch the Labour regeneration policy which has enabled corrupt councils to destroy much of what remained of social housing. For many council officers and some councillors it has enabled them to move into highly paid jobs with developers as a reward for their services. Lambeth has also been pursuing similar policies (along with other boroughs in London) and in particular with the Central Hill estate close to Crystal Palace.

An angry heckler – their argument continued after the speech by Livingstone

The protest against the Housing & Planning Bill in 2016 was also attended by people from both Lambeth and Southwark Council, and when Southwark Council Cabinet Member for Housing Richard Livingstone stepped up to the microphone to speak at the rally before the march some trouble was inevitable. Among those loudly heckling him was another of the speakers, Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing.

Class War have also been active in support of social housing in South London in particular and livened up the march by dancing along the street with banners singing the ‘Lambeth Walk’. One banner carried the words of a leading US Anarchist Lucy Parsons (1853-1942), “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live” and another had a field of crosses with the message “We have found new homes for the rich“.

Class War supporters rushed across the street for a short impromtu protest in front of a large branch of one of the leading estate agents driving the gentrification of London and advising councils and government on housing policies, but soon rejoined the main march of around 2,000 people heading for Westminster Bridge and Downing St.

At Downing St there was another protest outside the gates. Police had formed a line across Whitehall and directed the march to the opposite side of the street opposite Downing St. The march followed them across but then many simply walked back across the street to mass in front of the gates for a rally led by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! who have been active in supporting the Focus E15 Mothers in their campaign against the housing failures of Newham Council.

More on My London Diary at Housing and Planning Bill March


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Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction 2014

Monday, January 17th, 2022

Focus E15 Mothers and children party in the show flat – 17th January 2014

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction 2014
Housing remains one of London’s larger problems, with sky-high house prices and market rents. At the start of 2022 the average flat rent in London is over £360 per week – around £19,000 per year, while the average property price according to Zoopla is £681,427.

Housing has always been a problem in London, but in the 1950s, 60s and 70s things were beginning to improve, largely due to both Labour and Conservative councils building council houses and flats. By the 1960s over 500,000 new flats were added in London and nationally around a third of UK households lived in social housing.

The government’s minimum wage for 2022 will be £9.50 per hour from April – an on that rate you would need to work for around 38 hours a week just to pay for a flat – and of course would have no chance of ever buying a flat or house. Things have got considerably worse since 2010, and in boroughs like Newham average rents now are 65% of average wages.

The building programme slowed down in the 1970s as governments made it more difficult for councils to build, but the real watershed came with Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 Housing Act which gave council tenants the right to buy their properties at between 33-50% of market value – and stopped councils from using the proceeds to built more properties.

Further housing acts under Thatcher led to the transfer of much social housing to housing associations, which were allowed to access private finance while councils were very much restricted in their borrowing. Housing associations continue to build some new properties, but the numbers are small in relation to demand, and much lower than those built by councils in the 1950s-70s. Official figures for 2019 show only 37,825 new homes built for letting at below market rents while over 1.1 million households are on housing waiting lists – around 30 times as many.

So it is not surprising that councils such as Newham have a huge housing problem, and the council says it has the highest levels of overcrowded housing in the country, one of the highest proportion of people living in insecure private rented homes and in houses of multiple occupation and the largest number of homeless people – including those in temporary accommodation.

Newham was one of the first councils to get an elected Mayor in 2002, and Robin Wales held that post until 2018 when he was deselected as candidate. Many blame him for the particular failures over housing in the borough and point to properties on the Carpenters Estate in particular, some of which have been deliberately left empty for around 15 years.

The first group to organise and call out the council on their failures over housing were young single mothers who were threatened with eviction after Newham Council removed funding from East Thames Housing Association’s Focus E15 Foyer in Stratford. Newham Council had tried to get them to move well away from London, in Hastings, Birmingham and elsewhere, away from friends, families, colleges, nurseries and support networks. These offers were for private rented accommodation, with little or no security of tenure and would leave them at the mercy of often unscrupulous or uncaring landlords.

For once the group stood together and determined – helped by friends – to fight the council, not just for their own cases, but also for others whom Newham is failing to provide accommodation. Though they attracted national publicity and won their fight to stay in the London they continue to hold a weekly protest and advice stall in central Stratford every Saturday – I visited it again in late 2021. Their fight exposed the failures of Robin Wales and was certainly one of the factors in his losing support in the borough.

You can read more about the protes when a group of the mothers with their children went into the East Thames offices and held a party in their show flat on on My London Diary in Focus E5 Mothers Party Against Eviction. The East Thames staff who came to talk with them were generally sympathetic and attempted to reassure them but told them it was the responsibility of the council and not the housing association to rehouse them.


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Halloween Housing Protest 2016

Thursday, October 28th, 2021

Focus E15 and their cockroaches try to enter the offices of Theori Housing Management

Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide accommodation for families who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, which is described under the 1996 Housing Act and subsequent measures. Many housed under this are placed in temporary accommodation, and this currently includes around 95,000 households across the UK, of which roughly 60% are families with children. Local authorities now spend over a billion pounds a year on this mainly to private providers.

Protesters dressed as cockroaches which infest rooms at Boundary House

Much of this money is spent on accommodation that is unsatisfactory for various reasons, and it often involves placing people outside their local areas, particularly for London boroughs, who currently have over 21,000 households in this situation. The numbers have increased significantly (partly due to Covid) since 2016 when Focus E15 took this action on behalf of families living in rooms in Boundary House, a hostel in Welwyn Garden City which have leaking roofs and mould on the walls, are infested with cockroaches, have upper floor windows that children could easily fall out of and dangerous faulty appliances.

Boundary House in Welwyn Garden City is managed by Theori Housing Management

Theori Housing Management, a private limited company incorporated in 2000 is one of a number of companies which local authorities including including Waltham Forest and Newham make use of to provide temporary accommodation. The campaigners call on boroughs to stop using companies like Theori who provide sub-standard housing and fail to keep it in good order, and say councils should house Londoners in London where they have schools, friends and jobs.

Several residents and former residents of Boundary House were at the protest, but others are scared of being evicted or cannot afford to travel – the return off-peak adult rail fare in 2016 was almost £15. This and the time the journey takes make it almost impossible for those with jobs in London to continue to work. Residents in Boundary House who contact Theori Housing Management with complaints say they are hung up on, placed on hold for hours and called liars, ignored, insulted and patronised.

The door of Theori Housing Management is firmly closed against the protesters

They accuse Waltham Forest Council of adopting what can only be called the ‘Nelson’ approach, refusing to see any of the problems at Boundary House and similar properties. Housing departments are hard-pressed by anti-social government policies and cuts in funding, but this is no excuse for their failure to provide decent accommodation – and certainly not for using management companies that fail to provide decent housing and proper customer service.

Protesters with posters and photographs showing the terrible condition of Boundary House

It isn’t about money but about competence, and about a lack of care for those most in need in the community, the people that councils and mayors like Newham’s Robin Wales (now replaced) are on record as saying should not be living in the borough, where vast luxury housing developments are welcome, but social housing is hardly on the agenda.

As well as speeches and leafleting there was also a Halloween Party outside the Theori Housing Management office

Focus E15 also point to the Carpenters Estate in Newham, where hundreds of properties in better condition than Boundary House have been empty and boarded up for ten years or more as the council has explored various schemes to sell off what was a popular estate. They say Newham has taken out ill-advised loans which have resulted in incredible repayments of interest.

Five years later most of those properties on the Carpenters Estate remain empty, some since 2005, and Newham Council have recently announced a ballot of the remaining residents on a redevelopment scheme which would involve demolition of around 710 existing homes. The Planning Inspector’s report on the Local Plan to the London Legacy Development Corporation published in April 2020 stated “most residents in the Greater Carpenters area are expressing the wish to remain where they live now and would resist comprehensive redevelopment and the inevitable disruption and community displacement, even if those with a ‘right to remain’ would be invited back later to live in the area”.

More on the 2016 protest at Cockroaches at Theori Housing Management and more about Focus E15 campaigns and the Carpenters Esatate on their web site.


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Nine years ago: 6 Oct 2012

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

Proposals to close Accident and Emergency services at four of the nine hospitals in North West London provoked fury among local residents and opposition from local councils as they would mean slow journeys over heavily congested roads for those living in much of northwest London. The proposals seemed to be motivated simply by cost savings with no regard to the consequences.

This protest was one of a number that I photographed, particularly about the closure of A&E and some other services at both Charing Cross Hospital (which is in Hammersmith) and Ealing Hospital. The previous month I had photographed a http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2012/09/sep.htm#hospitals large march from Southall Park to Ealing Hospital against the closure plan and there was another march to Central Middlesex Hospital taking place that same day.

These large and widespread protests and legal actions taken by the protesters were almost certainly a major factor behind the decision in March 2019 by then Health Secretary Matt Hancock to finally scrap the plans for what was the biggest hospital closure programme in the history of the NHS. The campaigners welcomed the decision but said it should have come much earlier rather than after seven years of the Dept of Health supporting the plans, which would have involved demolishing Charing Cross Hospital and selling off most the site.

I photographed as people gathered for the march in Shepherds Bush but had to leave as the march was setting off for Hammersmith and a rally in Fulham to go to Westminster.

Britain First, a far-right anti-Muslim movement (it describes itself as “a modern, responsible patriotic political movement”) was protesting at Downing St against what they described as ‘Britain’s secret shame – Muslim Grooming’ and were joined on their protest by members of other extremist groups including the English Defence League. After protesting for around an hour at Downing St they marched the short distance to Parliament Square where they tried to burn an Islamic flag. It proved to be rather fire-resistant.

A few yards away, thousand of Muslims packed Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament in a peaceful protest against an Anti-Muslim film made in the USA. They called for laws to protect religious figures.

The film, Innocence of Muslims, a crude video made by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakoula_Basseley_Nakoula Egyptian-born American writer Mark Basseley Youssef had already prompted violent anti-American protests in various Muslim countries. Youssef was then in jail in Los Angeles for violations of a probation order which, among other things included making false statements regarding his role in the film, and his use of the alias “Sam Bacile”. He had a previous conviction for in 1997 for intent to manufacture methamphetamine and was under probation following release in June 2011 from being jailed in 2010 for his part in a bank fraud.

Youssef, under his alias Bacile, falsely claimed that the anti-Islamic film had been funded by $5 million from 100 Jewish donors and that he was an Israeli Jew. An Egyptian court tried him and others in absentia and sentenced them to death for defaming Islam in November 2012. He was released from prison in 2013 to serve the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house in Californinia followed by 4 years of probabation.

Finally I travelled to Kilburn for a march and rally demanding Brent council rehouse the Counihan family from South Kilburn. Two years earlier, Anthony Counihan, a London bus driver inherited a few acres of poor land in Galway on the death of his father. Rented out, it brings an income of £18 a week.

He reported this to Brent Council, who responded with an eviction order and a demand for repayment of £70,000 of housing benefit, later telling him he should move back with his family to Ireland where he was born – while continuing to drive a bus from Cricklewood Depot. His wife Isabel and five children were all born in Brent.

The case was complicated by the fact that the family had moved out of a council property to go back to Ireland for a year to look after his sick father, and had signed away their lease as the council had not told them they could sublet for the year, and by their treatment by the council after their return, when they were unable to find accomodation they could afford on a bus-drivers salary. Brent decided they had made themselves “intentionally homeless” and were refusing their statutory duty to rehouse the family.

More on all at:
Rehouse the Counihans
Muslims against Anti-Muslim Film
Britain First – Muslim Grooming
Save Our Hospitals – Shepherds Bush


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Housing: Focus E15 – Newham Show 2016

Saturday, July 10th, 2021

Housing remains a major problem, with many people and families in London still having to live in inadequate and often dangerous conditions. It isn’t that there is a shortage of homes, as many lie empty. There is a shortage, but it is of homes that people can afford to live in.

What London desperately needs is more low-cost housing. Council housing used to provide that, and by the late 1970s almost a third of UK households lived in social housing provided on a non-profit basis. Post-war building programmes, begun under Aneurin Bevan, the Labour government’s Minister for Health and Housing led to the building of estates both in major cities and the new towns that provided high quality housing at low rents, attempting to provide homes for both the working classes and a wider community.

Successive Conservative governments narrowed the scope of public housing provision towards only providing housing for those on low income, particularly those cleared from the city slums, reducing the quality of provision and also encouraging the building of more high-rise blocks, something also favoured by new construction methods of system building. Housing became a political battle of numbers, never mind the quality.

It was of course the “right to buy” brought in under Mrs Thatcher that was a real death blow for social housing. As well as losing many of their better properties, councils were prevented from investing the cash received from the sales in new housing – and the treasury took a cut too. Tenants seemed to do well out of it, getting homes at between half and two thirds of the market price, but often having bought their homes found the costs involved were more than they could afford, particularly when repairs were needed. Many of those homes were later sold and became “buy to let” houses.

Around ten years ago I passed an uncomfortable 25 minutes of a rail journey into London when a young student with a loud public-school voice explained to two friends what a splendid scheme “buy to let” was. He was already a landlord and profiting from it. You didn’t he told them actually have to have any money, as you could borrow it against the surety of your existing property – or a guarantee from Daddy – at a reasonable rate. You then bought a house and let it out, through an agency to avoid any hassle of actually dealing with tenants. Even allowing for the agent’s fees the rents you charged would give you a return on your investment roughly twice you were paying on your loan. It was money for nothing. And so it was for those who could get banks and others to lend them money, though recent changes have made it a little less profitable.

New Labour did nothing to improve the situation, and even made things worse through encouraging local councils to carry out regeneration schemes, demolishing council estates and replacing them with a large percentage of private properties, some largely unaffordable “affordable” properties and usually a token amount of actual social housing. The situation has been was still worsened since then, both by extending the right to buy to Housing Association properties and also by changes in tenure for those still in social housing. Successive governments have also driven up both house prices and rents by various policies, particularly the subsidies for landlords provided by Housing Benefit.

I’ve written before about Focus E15, a small group based in Newham whose activities have prompted some national debate. Begun to fight council moves to close their hostel for single mothers and disperse them to privately rented accommodation across the country (like Katie in ‘I, Daniel Blake who gets sent to Newcastle), having succeeded in their fight to stay in London they widened their scope to help others fight for decent housing – particularly in Newham, where the Labour council under Mayor Robin Wales was failing to deal with some of the worst housing problems in the country – while keeping large numbers of council properties empty.

Eventually Newham got rid of Robin Wales (and their campaign almost certainly helped) but the housing problems remain. A few days ago Focus E15 tweeted

Brimstone house in Stratford is the former FocusE15 hostel, now run by Newham Council as temporary and emergency accommodation.

One of Robin Wales’ big PR operations was the annual ‘Mayor’s Newham Show’ held in Central Park. Focus E15 were stopped from handing out leaflets inside or outside the show and on 1oth July 2016 set up a stall and protest on the main road a few hundred yards away. After handing out leaflets to people walking to the show for an hour or so, they briefly occupied the balconies of the empty former Police Station opposite Newham Town Hall on the road leading to the show ground in a protest against the Mayor’s housing record and policies.

Tories Out! July 1st 2017

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

It was the so-called Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP, a deeply bigoted party with links to Loyalist terrorists, that saved Theresa May’s bacon after the 2017 election, bribed to give their support after an election result which showed a rejection of the toxic austerity policies of the Coalition and Tory governments.

And in response, Boris Johnson agreed a Brexit deal which put a border in the Irish Sea which the DUP are now up in arms about. Probably the EU will agree to some relaxation of the rules – and exporters will eventually get used to making the changes in the ‘paperwork’ (surely mainly now digital) which will be required and the Tory government may eventually realise that they need to respect and implement treaties that they sign up to. But it seems inevitable that the sea border will remain, and probably eventually lead on to a united Ireland.

A Grenfell resident holds up some of the flammable cladding

Grenfell had also recently underlined the toxic effects of Tory failure and privatisation of building regulations and inspection and a total lack of concern for the lives of ordinary people.

A huge number of groups came together for the Tories Out march, organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, with around 20,000 gathering outside the BBC (who if they deigned to mention the event in any of their extremely lengthy news broadcasts will probably have called it ‘several hundreds’) to march to a Parliament Square rally calling on the Tory Government to go, saying they had proved themselves unfit to govern, and demanding a decent health service, education system, housing, jobs and living standards for all.

Had the DUP not sold themselves to the Tories, another election seemed inevitable, and perhaps having seen the closeness of the result, at least some of those Labour MPs an officials who had been actively campaigning against their leader might have decided to change sides, backing Labour and the popular policies which had led the Party to its highest vote share since 2001 (40%) and got behind a leader they had previously discarded as ‘unelectable’ to get back into power.

There was certainly huge support for Corbyn on the march, much expressed through that rather inane singing (which I suspect he finds embarrassing.) But there were a significant number who also showed their anger at the housing policies of London Labour boroughs who are demolishing council estates and colluding with huge property developers to replace them with expensive and largely private housing.

Lisa from Class War greets Victor from the United Voices of the World

One of those groups was Class War, and later at the rally, unfortunately after I had left, Lisa Mckenzie confronted both Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, asking the simple question ‘When are you going to stop Labour councils socially cleansing people out of London?’. Both men simply ignored her and walked away, though Corbyn did look a little shame-faced. His eccentric brother, Piers Corbyn, has long campaigned on the issue, and I suspect Jeremy, like others on the Labour left, would like a change in policy.

More on My London Diary: Tories Out March.