Lord Roy Kennedy of Southwark opening the meeting
On Friday 15th January the SGTO Campaign Action Group held a special steering meeting with Lord Kennedy of Southwark and tenants and resident representatives at Tooley Street to discuss the impact of the Housing and Planning Bill and ways tenants can campaign to have their voices heard in the Bill.
The meeting was attended by 44 Tenant and Resident representatives London wide. Around a third of attendees came from outside Southwark; representing various areas including Lambeth, Westminster, Enfield Camden and Ealing.
Ian Ritchie, Buchan TRA
The Meeting was held in a conference room in Tooley Street in a roundtable form and the meeting gave representatives from across London the opportunity to network and share ideas and experiences.
Barry Duckett, Canada Water TRA
Lord Kennedy of Southwark was born in Southwark and lived on the Aylesbury Estates for some time. As a young man he was involved with the SGTO as a Tenant Activist and later became a Southwark Councillor. Lord Kennedy spoke about his views on the Housing and Planning Bill which concerned him gravely. He believes that it does not meet the needs of the average citizen and its impact on Social Housing would be catastrophic. Lord Kennedy encouraged residents to lobby Members of the House of Lords to get amendments to the worse aspects of the Bill. He gave as an example the ‘Pay to Stay’ provision where households with an income of £40,000 or over will have to pay rents that are as high as Market Rents in the Private Sector.
Lord Kennedy stressed it was important to identify Lords who would be sympathetic to the concerns of tenants, by looking at their backgrounds. He gave the example of ‘Crossbenchers’ who are those members of the House of Lords who do not follow any specific party political affiliation. Lord Kennedy went on to say that Members of the Lords need hard evidence to make a compelling case when advocating amendments on the Lords Chamber.
Tenants proceeded to give their views and evidence of what the impact would be if the Bill went ahead in its present form. A tenant representative from Southwark gave a personal account. She and her partner have three children and between them they work over 70 hours a week to make ends meet. She expressed her deep concerns about how they would survive under the ‘Pay to Stay’ provision.
Barry Duckett, Chair of Canada Water TRA, warned that the Bill would hurt and destroy communities after tenants have worked very hard to build them because people in the community will not be able to afford to stay.
One Southwark delegate said that there is a need to present evidence on the economic impact of the proposed legislation, not only on the viability of Councils’ Housing Revenue Accounts but also the financial effects on the community.
Cllr. Richard Livingstone, Martin Neusum, Cossal TRA Gifty Peters, Lindley TRA
A veteran tenant representative from Westminster believed that the fall out of the Bill would hit the NHS as the Bill would damage the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable residents who would have to make a choice between rent, food, heating and other essentials.
Dolly Mace from Neckinger TRA reported that in her voluntary work helping the homeless, on one night, she saw over 100 homeless individuals. Cllr Richard Livingstone, Cabinet Member for Housing, was also in attendance and said that he shared tenants concern about homelessness. It was explained that SGTO has asked questions about how homelessness and the waiting lists are being addressed in the New Southwark Plan. There appears to be a lack of strategic clarity about these two very important issues.
Simon Thomas, a tenant who lives on a boat in Southwark expressed concerns about the uncertainty about rights of tenure. There is a fear that the boating community will be broken up in the name of regeneration.
The SGTO presented briefing documents which highlight the Members of the Lords (non-affiliated and Crossbenchers predominately) who may be able to speak to, and support amendments to the Bill. There it is a work in progress as there are over 800 Members of the House of Lords.
The SGTO has set up a Housing and Planning Bill Facebook to communicate all the work being done around the Housing & Planning Bill by the SGTO and appropriate documents to assist interested tenants. The Campaign Action Group will be meeting again to review and coordinate the campaign from the advice given by Lord Kennedy and the tenant representatives at the meeting.