FredJohn towers: A report from the campaign meeting

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On Tuesday around 100 people crowded into the Epicentre on West Street, Leytonstone to discuss Waltham Forest Council’s plans for Fred Wigg and John Walsh towers.

The council offered residents two ‘options’: Either the refurbishment of the towers or a much more radical plan involving the construction of a third tower and the loss of 70 of the 234 council properties in favour of a number of private dwellings. One of the towers would be wholly private. In reality the council were only prepared to accept the latter option and have done everything they can to impose it on the tenants.

Two residents of the blocks described the way that residents’ wishes have been ignored by the council and Ascham Homes, which manages its housing function, over the last few years. After a fire the gas supply was cut off and electric cookers installed without giving any notice to the tenants. A concierge was put into the blocks on the grounds of security whilst requests for general maintenance went unheeded.

Peter, a retired housing professional, gave his assessment of the council’s proposals. He stated that the refurbishment option was value for money and achievable whereas the council’s preferred option was wildly ambitious and likely to cause severe disruption for several years.

A lawyer from the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers offered his services to the campaign.

Several tenants spoke of their desire to stay in the towers, where they have made their homes and brought up families. Some residents want to take up the opportunity to move away from the towers for a variety of reasons including the need for more space and wanting to be closer to relatives. However it was highlighted that council tenants who currently have a Secure Tenancy, which is a long term guarantee, would, based the current offer made by the council, have to take an insecure Assured or Fixed Term tenancy under a Housing Association. Housing Association rents are also much higher than council rents. It was stressed that good quality housing, especially that suited for families, at affordable rents is in extremely short supply.

Speaker after speaker emphasized that tenants should not sign any document that the council might present to them without taking legal advice, and that unity amongst tenants, regardless of whether they want to stay or leave, is essential.

We heard from campaigns across London including Focus E15, the Carpenters Estate and Boleyn Ground. A speaker from Our West Hendon talked about their struggle and the work of the Radical Housing Network which is seeking to bring together the many housing struggles across London.

The meeting ended with a number of tenants volunteering to join the FredJohn campaign’s committee.

The mood of the meeting was positive. If tenants stand firm and with wider support from local people and other housing activists there is a real possibility that the council’s plan can be reversed.

The Wildcats of Waltham Forest act for housing justice

A report from Furball

A wildcat. Copyright Peter Trimming/Creative Commons.

A wildcat.
Copyright Peter Trimming/Creative Commons.

Chaos reigned inside Bravissima letting agent on Hoe St, E17 where the owners and manager were observed in a massive arm-waving shouting match after the Wildcats of Waltham Forest picketed the shop for three hours, to highlight their unscrupulous practices.

The Wildcats (aka Unite Community Waltham Forest) chose to intervene after a member approached Bravissima to find a home, and was told they would need to pay £450 in unspecified fees on top of a deposit and rent, was then shown a “bed in a shed” available to in-work tenants only.

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The Mouse Has Roared – Greece post-Elections

By Waltham Forest Left Unity member Susan Pashkoff

The Greeks have said enough! Hope has defeated fear and SYRIZA has won the election and have beaten New Democracy and the fear-mongers, as expected. This is a major victory for anti-austerity forces which could change the economic and political landscapes.

However, they did not win an outright majority (they were short 2 seats) and were forced into coalition with a right-wing, nationalist (pro-Greek Orthodox) anti-austerity party, the Independent Greeks (referred to as ANEL from now on).
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Irrespective of this, we do have quite a lot to celebrate! The election of SYRIZA is a shot directly across the bow of neoliberalism and its flagship of ideas, aka as the austerity project. The European ruling class (which includes mainstream political leaders) are a wee bit shaken especially Germany. Whether or not the Troika is forced to negotiate the debt successfully, this is a victory and it is forcing the ruling class in Europe to take stock over whether austerity (and destroying the working class) is more important than the EU project. The stakes are literally that high!

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Public Meeting in conjunction with FOCUS E15 Campaign: Fred & John Towers Not For Sale

Come to the meeting on 24 February at the Epicentre, 41 West Street Leytonstone E11 4LJ and support the campaign.

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Fred & John Towers viewed from Wanstead Flats, from the Focus E15 Facebook

On 11 November 2014, shameless Waltham Forest council, led by Labour’s Chris Robbins, unanimously voted for the decanting of human beings, the destruction of communities and the demolition of homes.

The council overrode the majority of residents of the 234 council homes of 17-storey John Walsh and Fred Wigg towers in Leytonstone who had voted Option 1 – the refurbishment of their flats. The council were only prepared to consider Option 3 – moving people out, selling off one of the tower blocks, building another block but losing 70 council properties in the process. The resistance is strong and the fight is on! Come to the public meeting, discuss the issues locally in Waltham Forest and make the link with those resisting social cleansing and gentrification all around London. For more information contact:

frewiggtowers@hotmail.co.uk
focuse15@gmail.com
http://www.focuse15.org
Facebook: focuse15mothers
Twitter: @focuse15