Thursday, November 30, 2017

WORLD AIDS DAY - 1 December 2017

ABOUT WORLD AIDS DAY

WHAT IS WORLD AIDS DAY?

World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.

WHY IS WORLD AIDS DAY IMPORTANT?

Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Today, scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. Despite this, each year in the UK around 6,000 people are diagnosed with HIV, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with the condition.
World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

WHAT SHOULD I DO ON WORLD AIDS DAY?

World AIDS Day is an opportunity to show solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV worldwide. Most people do this by wearing an HIV awareness red ribbon on the day. You can order a red ribbon through our online shop, or pick one up in a MAC Cosmetics shop and selected branches of Morrisons.
You can also order a free pack of 100 ribbons to fundraise for the National AIDS Trust. World AIDS Day is a great opportunity to raise money for NAT, which will help to champion the rights of people living with HIV in the UK. Visit our fundraising page for ideas, or contact someone in the fundraising team for more information.
You can list your World AIDS Day event on our events page. Or, if you can’t host your own event, you can find out how to attend an event near you.

BUT WHAT ABOUT AFTER WORLD AIDS DAY?

World AIDS Day may be once a year, but you can still support people living with HIV all year round. Sign up to NAT’s mailing list to stay up-to-date with new developments in HIV, and learn how you can get involved as an activist or as a volunteer.
You can also support our work by donating to NAT. We rely on your support to continue championing the rights of people living with HIV.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"Get help staying warm this winter" UNISON "There for you" 2017

(Are you a UNISON member on Housing benefit or low pay??? If you don't ask in life you don't get! https://www.unison.org.uk/news/article/2014/01/there-for-you-winter-fuel-grants)

Winter fuel grant

Application form 2017-18
Important information
• Please complete all sections and enclose supporting paperwork. Incomplete applications
will not be processed. (In the event of any queries, you will be contacted, wherever possible via
email.)
• You must also complete the survey.
• Only ONE application per household will be considered. The maximum grant award is up to £50
and will be paid by cheque to the member.
• There is a limited amount in the fund and, once exhausted, no further awards can be made.
• Priority will be given to anyone who has not previously received a winter fuel grant.

Am I eligible for a Winter Fuel Grant?

To be considered for a grant, you must be able to show that you meet the following criteria:
Either
i. You are in receipt of housing benefit
Or
ii. Your household net income is less than £18,000.
By ‘net income*’ we mean all salary after tax, national insurance, superannuation etc, and including
your partner’s salary if applicable and benefits. However, do not include in your calculation Child
Benefit, the childcare element only of Working Tax Credit if paid, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.
Also that
iii. Neither you/your partner have savings in excess of £800 (including rolling bank balance)
iv. You have not received a grant from UNISON There for you in the last 6 months.
v. You must have paid a minimum of 4 weeks subscriptions before 4 December 2017 to apply.

Where do I send my form to?
Return your completed application form along with all supporting paperwork to:
There for You (WFG),
UNISON Centre,
130 Euston Road,
London NW1 2AY
Is there an application deadline?
Your application must be received no later than 16 February 2018. Applications will then be processed
and decisions communicated over the following weeks.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"drive slum landlords out of the market" London Labour Conference #LabLon17



Housing motion 1 (my speech)

"Conference, John Gray, Chair of Greater London Unison Labour Link moving motion 1 on housing as amended by compositing.

Conference, You may be surprised that unison, a union which is a predominantly public sector trade union has submitted a motion that concentrates on reform and change of the private rental sector.

I am in fact a housing worker who has worked in social housing in London for the past 25 years. However, it is a fact, particularly in London that more of our members now live in private rental sector than in social housing, many of whom due to poverty pay, are dependent upon housing benefit, to live in damp, overcrowded, expensive and insecure accommodation. So while unison campaign strongly in favour of a mass building programme for public homes at a social rent, the private rental sector is key to us and I would imagine to all of you here today

What inadequate levels of local housing allowances means (at the risk of teaching some of you to suck eggs) is that hundreds of low paid Londoners are being forced out of London or face spending nearly all of their disposable income on making up their rent. Housing benefit will not cover the full real cost of the rent.

I have trade union members who have responsible jobs delivering public services who rely on food banks and 2nd or even 3rd jobs in the evenings and weekends to pay the rent and survive.

Even public service worker on better pay find London completely unaffordable. Recently the chief executive of a large London housing association said that many of her staff and I quote “lived in shared houses, or even shared bedrooms, or living in places that are disgusting. If they were in the social sector we would consider them homeless in those circumstances.

This is not unique and I am sure all of you here will also be able to share horror stories about friends, family or work colleagues being exploited and living in similar disgusting housing conditions but who live in fear of even challenging their landlord because they fear eviction for doing so.

So this is why we not only desperately need rent controls and more affordable rents in London we also need greater security of tenure and protection from eviction when tenants complain against disrepair and exploitation.

We do need borough wide licensing of landlords but also we also vitally need guaranteed minimum standards for all. We cannot just licence slum landlords and take fees from them we must drive them out of the property market.

Finally conference, as important as radical reform of the private sector is, I must agree with our key note speaker Emily Thornberry in her speech yesterday that the solution to the wider housing crisis is quite simple. Just build more homes.

Thank you. Please support the motion".

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Today is the day Labour must renew its determination to end online violence against women and girls"

(post from Labourlist on Saturday by my ward Councillor Seyi Akiwowo)
Earlier this year I received a wave of hateful online abuse and harassment after a video of me speaking at the European Parliament went viral. On one hand, the online world is merely a reflection of the state of our society; on the other hand the online world seems to be a comfortable place for those who know they cannot behave in such a way elsewhere.
My experience is sadly not uncommon and is an indication of how far society has to go to achieve true equality.
That’s why I founded Glitch! UK, an organisation aiming to end online hate speech and online violence against women and girls (OVAWG). Glitch believes that online violence of all forms is a vehicle to divide society and spread fear. Glitch means a temporary malfunction. This glitch of online abuse can of course be fixed and, when we look back on this period of time, we want to be able to say that the rise in online violence and hate speech was only a “glitch” in our history.
Through Glitch, we lobby social media companies to do more to stop online abuse. We have developed a set of recommendations for those firms and we are delivering training workshops for young people. In 2018 will be training online tech companies too.
Earlier this year Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary and Britain’s first black female MP, spoke out about the online abuse she receives on a daily basis. The abuse is so serious that her staff try not to let her out alone.  Sadly, Abbott is not the only MP to receive online abuse, Yvette Cooper, Jess Philips, Tulip Siddiq and David Lammy are only a few of the name names on this list.
In September Amnesty International provided more evidence of the problem. Abbott received almost half (45.14 per cent) of all abusive tweets in the run up to the election. Excluding her, black and Asian women MPs in Westminster received 35 per cent more abusive tweets than white women MPs. Online abuse cuts across party lines, however.
A week later MPs debated abuse and intimidation during the election campaign. Online abuse does not just stop with those in elected office. We have unfortunately seen a rise in online abuse and harassment among party members. Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) agreed to toughen up the party’s stance on internet abuse and published a new social media code of conduct.
This week Amnesty also used an Ipsos Mori poll to show how 23 per cent of women across eight countries said they had experienced online abuse or harassment, ranging from 16 per cent in Italy to a third in the US. Just over a fifth, 22 per cent, of women in Britain experienced online abuse and it is magnified for women from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The impact is real and victims report stress, anxiety or panic attacks as well as lower self-esteem as a result.
So how are we in Labour going to respond and act on his research? We need to immediately acknowledge that language matters and that hateful words can be used to mobiles against a group of people. Therefore, we must challenge the rhetoric of “oh it’s just words, ignore them”. Labour must have a clear process for reporting and investigation of abuse.
Today, on the International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Labour should lead the way in treating online violence against women and girls in the same way as physical violence.
I urge the party to include educational training workshops as part of manifesto commitments to national education service and a digital economy.
We need training for young people so they can understand what online abuse means and how they can act as good citizens. This should be extended for those who work with young people so they can spot the signs – rather than just issuing bans on phones in schools.
We must train online tech companies and those developing apps and social media platforms. They must learn from the mistakes and glitches of current social media. There are current attempts to fix the online abuse glitch but new platforms should not have them in the first place.
Finally, but by no means least, Labour must demand that social media companies be more accountable and be more transparent with how they enforce their own rules.
Seyi Akiwowo is a councillor in Newham in East London and founder of GlitchUK.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

London Labour Conference - Day 2 West Ham CLP & UNISON

Day 2 of conference started for me with a UNISON delegation meeting at 9.30 which was confusing since we did not know the order of business for the day.  So we agreed to meet up again at lunchtime by which we expected that any controversial matter to be explained so we could make a collective decision.

Then we found out that that the proposed rule changes were to be heard first thing that morning. So it was all rather confusing and messy.

Both UNISON and West Ham CLP had a good day I think with a number of us making speeches in conference debates and contributions during fringes.

I moved the Housing motion on the private rental sector on behalf of UNISON and Joshu moved the motion on Youth Safety on behalf of West Ham CLP. Both were passed unanimously.

During the merit awards retired former UNISON Regional Secretary Linda Perks (and Labour Councillor candidate 2018) was given a lifelong service award.

Dawn Butler MP closed conference with a lovely personal but powerful political speech about overcoming and rising above racism and sexism.

While the conference was a little grumpy and even bad tempered at times I thought it was on the whole a success and that we were united about the importance of winning both the next General Election and local elections in London 2018.

I was really pleased to end the day with singing (however badly) "The Red Flag" and posing with UNISON comrades for the traditional delegation conference picture.  

Saturday, November 25, 2017

London Labour Conference - Day 1 (and National Campaign Day)

Today was the first day of the London Labour Party conference (and a National Labour campaign day following the budget #BetterOffWithLabour).

I was an UNISON delegate and missed most of the morning session due to other commitments but arrived just as a vote on rule changes was taking place after what I hear was a long and at times bad tempered debate.

On the way in I stopped off to drop leaflets for Forest Gate branch stall. There were also two other canvass events taking place in West Ham and Canning Town South wards (our MP Lyn Brown was in West Ham).

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbot MP gave an excellent speech to conference as did Shadow Home Secretary, Emily Thornberry MP.

I attended the Housing Fringe on Grenfell, then the housing and finally the education workshop.

Tomorrow is the final day and I hope to hear the debate on the West Ham CLP motion on youth safety and also move the UNISON motion on Housing. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

#GlitchUK - Online violence & hate speech against women and girls

/ WHO WE ARE
Founded by Cllr Seyi Akiwowo, we are a organisation working to reduce online violence against women and girls (OVAWG) and online hate speech through advocacy, campaigning and training workshops.
// WHAT WE BELIEVE
When we look back on this period of time, we want to be able to say that the rise in OVAWG and online hate speech was only a “glitch” in our history. Glitch! believes that online violence of all forms is a vehicle for movements that aim to divide society and spread fear. OVAWG is a weapon used to silence women online, particularly women with an opinion, influential women and women in public office.  Online abuse takes many forms and we have seen a particular increase in OVAWG and online hate speech. We believe this has been a consequence of, and enabled by, a number of events:
  • Rise of far right movements across Europe
  • Rhetoric used during the UK EU Independence referendum and the 2016 US Presidential Election
  • Social media companies are not adequately nor consistently following enforcing rules to ensure safety of all users.
  • Underreporting of incidents to the police and robust commitment from the criminal justice system to prosecute
We believe the increase in OVAWG and online hate speech is a temporary malfunction that can be fixed. There are three important stands to our work…
1- Lobby social media companies to do more to adequately and consistently address online violence and online hate speech on their platforms.
2- Campaign to raising awareness of specific forms of online abuse and it’s impact and with partners.
3- Deliver workshops to helps cultivate the agency of users particularly young people and start conversations on how to be responsible online citizens.
// WHAT WE DO
Mobilising and working in partnership with other organisations, activists and survivors to amplify our voices, increase our impact and avoid duplication.
Lobbying decision and policy-makers to put pressure on social media companies to better self-regulate and to update UK laws.
Sign posting and providing information on rights, social media rules and how to report abuse.
Delivering interactive and informative training workshops in schools and to onlinetech developers.
// HOW YOU CAN HELP
There’s a lot of discussions and movement on online abuse given recent events so the time to make sustainable and inclusive impact is now Would you like to be a Glitch! UK Supporter? We have five ways you can become one:
  1. HELP SPREAD THE WORD ONLINE
We want to build an inclusive movement to end online violence against women and girls, online hate speech and repair this glitch. Follow us online and share Glitch!UK with your Facebook friends and your Twitter followers.
You can also sign and share a pledge on social media and encourage at least three of your friends to do the same:
You can also share these statements on social media encourage at least three of your friends to the same:
“In decades from now when we look back on this period of time, I want to be able to say that the rise in online violence against women and online hate speech was only a “glitch” in our history. #GlitchUK”
“Online violence against women and girls and online hate speech is a glitch in our online world and social media companies can and must fix it #GlitchUK”
  1. CONNECT US TO SCHOOLS + YOUTH GROUPS
We’re now heading to where it matters most, with education and young people. We cannot afford for our generation and the next to become desensitised to online violence and online hate speech.
We delivering a number of pilot workshops to supplement citizenship, PHSRE and Humanity lessons as well as school assemblies. We will officially launch our “Glitch! Training Programme” in 2018 but in the meantime we want to work with as many young people, schools and youth groups as possible.  We are also looking to work with after school youth groups and young leader groups such as Youth Councillors and Young Advisors.
  1. PARTNER WITH Glitch!UK
Our mission to fix this current glitch in our online world can only be achieved through collaboration and partnership. We do not what reinvent the wheel nor duplicate work. Over the last nine months we have developed an inclusive movement to both raise awareness of OVAWG and online hate speech and begin repairing this glitch. If you’re an individual or an organisation working to make the online world safer and would like to be part of this movement, we would love to work with you.
  1. TELL US
Evidence strengthens our call for change. We would like to capture as many experiences of online abuse. You can share your experiences with us using the #GlitchUK hashtag or anonymously via our online form.
Do you also think social media companies can do more to deal with online abuse? We have written some recommendations on how social media companies can do more to address online violence. Tell us your thoughts and ideas.
  1. DONATE
If you have skills or expertise to help Glitch!UK grow we would love to hear from you!
If you like what you’ve read and would like to help keep us going for another nine months you can make a financial donation via paypal. You could make a £1 pledge and encourage at least three of your friends to do the same.
A regular donation means you can give small amounts every month that make a huge different to our work. Monthly gifts give us a predictable income so we can commit to raising the profile of our campaign.
CONTACT US!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

UNISON LGPS Seminar - date change now January 10th 2018 UNISON Centre (& London CIV meeting)





(I will be chairing this meeting again. London UNISON LGPS will also be meeting on Monday 11 December in order to attend the public meeting of London CIV at London Councils building. We will have pre-meeting at venue nearby beforehand. Details to follow)

"We have had to change the date for the seminar - but on the plus side we can confirm Jim McMahon Shadow LGPS Minister will be speaking

National Seminar: Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS)

Wednesday 10th of January 2018 - 10.30am to 4.30pm

UNISON Centre – 130 Euston Road, London


The union’s Capital Stewardship Programme is holding a seminar for all LGPS Board members, regions and branches on the governance and economics of the LGPS. There are major reforms being implemented England, Wales and Scotland and these will be discussed across

The union has began a major organising campaign to discuss how best regions and branches can win seats on the LGPS pools.

Outside speakers have been invited from Labour’s Shadow LGPS Minister, the LGA, and DCLG

Preliminary agenda

Labour and the LGPS
The Scheme Advisory Boards - progress
Valuations, cost sharing and the 50/50 scheme
LGPS Cost Transparency – why costs matter to you
LGPS Pooling – how do we win representation
Carbon disinvestment and a just transition – how to campaign


Please contact me if you wish to reserve a place c.meech@unison.co.uk (UNISON LGPS activists only)

Best wishes

Colin Meech, National Officer, Capital Stewardship Programme"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"How the housing crisis is affecting the sector’s own staff"

A harrowing and disturbing article by Inside Housing's Jess McCabe. What happens when the workers who try and provide homes for the vulnerable are themselves living as homeless. What a sick society we live in. Employers must accept their responsibility for their staff and raise their game. See motion to UNISON Community Conference on this need.

A lack of decent, affordable housing is also affecting social landlord employees. Jess McCabe investigates. Illustration by Nick Chaffe

Social landlords are proud of their social mission: to provide decent and affordable housing. So what does it mean if some of their own staff – tasked with that very mission – are struggling to keep a roof over their heads?
Earlier this autumn, the chief executive of a large London housing association made a passing comment during an interview with Inside Housing. She had discovered that members of her own staff were living in insecure housing.
“If they were in the social sector we would consider them homeless.”

“They’re all in shared houses, or even shared bedrooms, or living in places that are disgusting,” said Kate Davies of 32,000-home Notting Hill Housing. “If they were in the social sector we would consider them homeless in those circumstances.”
It sounded shocking that a housing association’s staff could be considered effectively homeless by its chief executive.
Inside Housing wanted to investigate if this was a one-off, perhaps focused on the struggles of London life. Or was it a widespread phenomenon? We launched an anonymous survey to find out more.
What we discovered was startling. Members of staff in housing associations, councils and homelessness charities are going into work every day to contribute to the running of Britain’s social housing – and then coming ‘home’ to face the hard realities of the modern housing market (see below).
First, we must put into context that such housing problems do not affect the majority of respondents. A full 68% said they are satisfied with their housing situation. Indeed, 59% of respondents own their home, while a small number (2.5%, or 14 individuals) are in shared ownership. Another 12% live in social housing themselves. This is not always a cakewalk – particularly for staff whose employer is also their landlord – but these respondents are, by and large, happy with their lot.
Most of the problems were reported by the remaining one in five housing staff who live in privately rented homes, temporary housing, shared housing, or with friends or family. Some of these respondents were at the beginning of their careers on salaries well below the national average salary, which is £27,271 this year.
“We have members who rely on food banks and mini cabbing in the evening.”
But earning above this average, and having a managerial job, was not an absolute protection either. Even homeowners on a high income are affected by housing problems: one chief executive reported that their own child was sofa-surfing.
The majority of housing staff spend more than 30% of their salary on rent or housing costs, while 7% spend more than half their earnings on putting a roof over their head.
Many respondents told us of struggling to pay the rent – or prioritising their rent but struggling to afford food as well as things that, while not essential, are part of a satisfying life. “Some months I’m not left with much or anything after my rent goes out,” one told us. Another simply said: “I just go without everything else.”
It’s a story that is familiar to John Gray, a housing officer in east London who is Unison’s National Executive Committee member for the housing sector. “We have members who rely on food banks and mini cabbing in the evening and weekends to support their families,” he says.
Staff in the capital are particularly affected, and some are “fleeing London” for less expensive parts of the country, Mr Gray adds. He has submitted a motion calling for action on this issue to Unison’s community conference in February 2018.
Several respondents admitted to feeling despondent and even depressed about their housing. “Good housing makes for a good family life,” one noted. Of course, the converse is that a lack of good housing is not conducive to good family life.
“Depression, unable to imagine a future, no possibility of raising a family,” summarised one manager in the East of England.
When shown the results, Alison Inman, president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “I wonder what the consequences are when staff feel that the tenants they are working with are housed more securely, and in far better maintained homes than they are able to access themselves?”
“I feel like people [living] in social housing should be more appreciative of what they have.”
When we asked housing staff about how their own housing conditions affect how they feel about their job, a minority simply said: “It doesn’t.” But for most there is a direct connection.
Some of this is good, such as for one staff member who commented: “My job keeps reminding me of how lucky I am to have a safe, secure home, unlike others who do not.”
But the feelings stirred up are not all positive. Two respondents simply said they felt “angry”.
Others admitted resentment. “I feel like people [living] in social housing should be more appreciative of what they have, rather than expecting the housing association to fix every little thing that goes wrong,” said one administrative staff member, who lives with their mother. “If I was a resident, I would be grateful.”
Another said: “I love my job and what we do is so important but it’s frustrating that at 35 I still can’t afford something more permanent than a house share and because of my circumstances will never qualify for any useful help.”
Yet another comment was: “Sometimes you see residents who have [a] higher standard of living than you yet [are] still getting state aid in the form of social rents.”
Those who had experienced housing problems and been directly refused help by their employer were particularly disillusioned.
Speaking to Inside Housing about these results over the phone, Ms Davies of Notting Hill Housing is not surprised. But what can landlords actually do? Is the answer higher pay?
On the one hand, Ms Davies says that London employers in particular may struggle to retain staff if they can’t afford to live in the capital. The problem is real, she says, with “people in couples and even with kids in shared housing”.
But it may not be possible for landlords to solve their staff’s housing problems by raising salaries alone. “If the average salary is £26,000 to £27,000, that only sustains £700 a month [on housing costs]. Wages would have to be doubled to make any difference whatsoever,” Ms Davies notes.
If that is unlikely to happen, should employees despair of their employers doing anything to help?
Ms Davies argues not, pointing out that Notting Hill runs a tenancy deposit loan scheme for staff, which can help with one large cost of housing in the private rented sector.
Since April 2015, 19 employees have taken up the loan, with five currently making repayments. Landlords also should ensure that their staff are not excluded from renting or buying, or applying for schemes their employer runs.
Even if these measures are not going to be enough to solve all the housing problems of staff, they might help people working in housing feel less excluded, and as if the sector has no answer to their housing woes.
The results of this survey are in many ways a challenge to social landlords.
Knowing that their own staff members are suffering from the housing crisis, what – if anything – are they going to do about it?

HOUSING STAFF SPEAK OUT

The below are all quotes from staff working in the social housing sector:
“I suffer from mental health problems after being served so many Section 21 notices when a landlord is ready to sell. I live in London and have had 14 addresses in 13 years. I have had to seek counselling for this and was medicated in the past. My two-year-old daughter has had four addresses already.”
“I always have low-level anxiety about security. I feel unable to better my situation – trapped, it exacerbates my depression and feelings of dependency.”
“My job makes me appreciate how lucky I am and how fragile housing security can be.”
“I ended up on antidepressant tablets for depression and anxiety. I was breaking down in tears and my company didn’t support me or help to rehouse me when I asked for help.”
“I’m not paid enough to afford a decent home event after working full time. It makes me realise how close I am to the people I support (one month’s salary away from homelessness).”
“It affects all aspects of your life, because you do not have your own personal space or privacy, especially when you’re living in an overcrowded flat.”
“I am struggling currently and am going to be homeless soon and am unsure where I am going to go. This makes me feel anxious and the unknown is daunting.”
“It makes me appreciate the work housing associations do for people, but I’m annoyed at government for ignoring housing as an issue to be dealt with.”
“I feel sad that I have very minimal rights in relation to those we serve – I see the contrast between the rights of social and private tenants to be worlds apart.”
“Of all the people that promote and lobby for more social housing, few live in it and are often homeowners despite being disparaging about those who aspire to have this choice.”
“I have moved to cheaper accommodation (sharing with seven people) in order to reduce costs.”
“I am always looking at things from a customer’s point of view and find myself empathising with their financial struggles. It can be difficult to then turn these emotions off and think of the needs of the business first and pursue arrears when tenants are struggling, often through no fault of their own.”
“I feel unable to complain about occasional poor service as my landlord is my employer.”
“I am a grown adult living with parents.”
“Most of my colleagues are homeowners of social tenants themselves so it can feel very lonely as they really do not understand some of the issues with living in [the private] sector.”
“Very frustrated sometimes. I am helping people all the time but there is no help for me and my situation.”
“I live on a mixed-tenure estate and think that’s an incredibly positive experience for my family.”
“My housing association is rubbish and penny-pinching when it comes to repairs. They are also quite arrogant.”
“My relationship is fine but I couldn’t afford to stay on if we separated.”
“Other people are in a much worse situation, and without housing associations would end up homeless. I am frustrated that my own housing situation isn’t better, but I think this is the result of government housing policy.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

COME TO PENTONVILLE 5 EVENT DECEMBER 1st

(Picture of former Newham Labour Councillor & Civic Mayor, Vic Turner after his release from prison)

CELEBRATE A GREAT WORKING CLASS VICTORY
APPLY ITS LESSONS TODAY TO FIGHT THE ATTACK

ON TRADE UNIONS

FRIDAY DECEMBER 1ST 2017 18.00
EAST HAM  WORKING MEN’S CLUB
2 BOLEYN ROAD * LONDON E6 1QE
Nearest tube – Upton Park
Buses 5, 58, 115, 147

SPEAKERS INCLUDE
LEN MCCLUSKEY UNITE GS
ANN FIELD, KEN LOACH
PLUS SPECIAL GUESTS * BAR * REFRESHMENTS

In the blazing hot July of 1972, 5 London dockers were jailed in Pentonville prison. They had picketed in defiance of Tory anti-union laws. This led to a wave of unofficial industrial action and protest involving hundreds of thousands of workers sweeping the country forcing the release of the 5 within a week.
It was a massive working class victory – part of a wave of actions during the early 1970s including factory occupations, work-ins like Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, Briant printers and Fakenham women. A long battle against anti-union laws was underway. There were epic miners strikes in 72 & 74.  In Ireland 72 saw Bloody Sunday in Derry.

This event celebrates this great victory but also looks at the lessons for our battle today against anti-union laws and rampant capitalism. Pentonville stands in the list of historic victories from Tolpuddle onwards.

Join us for this historic celebration and find out about our history and our future.

Monday, November 20, 2017

"It’s the 21st century: homes should not be unfit for human habitation"

An excellent post copied from Labour Housing Group "Redbrick" while photo (and list) from "AnotherAngryVoice".

I get to speak at meetings a fair bit, normally Labour Party or tenant campaign meetings around the place. Recently I’ve taken to asking audiences if it is possible for a landlord to let a home that is ‘unfit for human habitation’. Of course not, they usually say (although some think it was probably a new measure brought in by David Cameron….).
If they were right there would be no need for the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill which Karen Buck MP has introduced as a private member’s Bill. It is scheduled to have its second reading on 19 January 2018.
Having been involved in one successful private member’s Bill in the past (on standards in houses in multiple occupation, which passed the Commons but was lost when the 1983 general election was called) I know how hard it is to make progress with one unless it is something around which there is a strong consensus and government support (or at least acquiescence).
There have been two recent attempts to ban the letting of homes that are unfit – Tories ‘talked out’ a previous Bill and voted against it when it was brought up as an amendment subsequently. However, the electoral arithmetic has changed since June, the government is beginning to be embarrassed by its reputation for being callous in its treatment of poor people, and the time might be right for them to want to be seen to be doing the right thing.
Crucially, for the Bill to proceed there must be 100 MPs present on 19 January to guarantee a vote. It’s not as easy as it sounds because private member’s Bills are debated on a Friday when most MPs have returned to their constituencies. So: that’s where everyone interested in progressive housing policies comes in. Please make sure your MP is there to vote for the Bill!
Karen is advised by a team of legal experts and the Nearly Legal website has had excellent coverage of the detail of the Bill and its progress. Giles Peaker of Anthony Gold solicitors has written a short briefing on the Bill, setting out why it is important and what it does. I’ve extracted key points below, but the Nearly Legal website will be the best destination for detailed information about the Bill.
Giles is asking that you should contact your MP and to ask them to attend on 19 January. You can find your MP here. He also refers to Shelter’s petition in support of the Bill.
“I make no apology for going on about this. It is a relatively simple change to the law, but one that could have significant and lasting effects. It is too important to be allowed to be filibustered out. Some one million rented homes in England, social and private, have category 1 HHSRS hazards, amounting to a serious risk to health.”
Please support this important Bill.
Thanks
Steve
Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill promoted by Karen Buck MP
Why is the Bill needed?
Currently, landlords have no obligation to their tenants to put or keep the property in a condition fit for habitation. There is an obligation on the landlord to repair the structure of the property, and keep in repair, heating, gas, water and electricity installations, but that only applies where something is broken or damaged. It does not cover things like fire safety, or inadequate heating, or poor ventilation causing condensation and mould growth.
There are a whole range of ‘fitness’ issues, which seriously affect the well-being and safety of tenants, about which tenants can do nothing at all. For private sector tenants, or housing association tenants, it is possible for the local authority to enforce fitness standards under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System and Housing Act 2004.
However, there is a huge degree of variability in inspection, notices and enforcement rates by councils. About 50% of councils have served none or only one HA 2004 notice in the last year. One London council, which has an active enforcement policy, amounted to 50% of notices served nationally and 70% in London. What this means is that there is a complete postcode lottery on the prospects of councils taking steps – with the real prospect being that the council won’t do so.
For council tenants, the Housing Act 2004/HHSRS standards are all but pointless. Local Housing Authorities cannot enforce against themselves. So council tenants have no way to enforce or seek to have enforced basic fitness standards, including fire safety, if their landlord doesn’t do anything.
Poor standards are a widespread problem. According to the latest English Housing Survey, 16.8% of private tenanted properties have Category 1 HHSRS hazards (which are classed as a serious risk to the occupiers’ health). That is 756,000 households, at least 36% of which contain children, and there are a further 244,000 social tenanted properties which have Category 1 HHSRS hazards. That is a million properties altogether. It is likely that more than 3 million people, including children, live in rented properties that present a serious risk to their health and safety.
What does the Bill do?
The Bill aims to complement local authority enforcement powers, by enabling all tenants to take action on the same issues and standards as local authorities can, and to give council tenants recourse. It follows the recommendations of the Law Commission and the Court of Appeal.
For any tenancy granted for less than 7 years term (including all periodic tenancies), the Bill will add an implied term that
(a) that the dwelling is fit for human habitation at the time of the grant; and,
(b) that the lessor will thereafter keep it fit for human habitation.
If the property is a flat, the obligation extends to all parts of the building in which the landlord has an interest, so it would include the common parts and the outside of a block of flats if all owned by the same landlord.
There are some exceptions, where the problem is caused by the tenant, or where the landlord can’t do anything to fix the problem without breaking the law, or where they can’t do anything without the permission of a superior landlord and that has been refused.
What this would mean is that the tenant could take action against the landlord to make them put right any problems or hazards that make the property unfit and could seek compensation when the landlord hasn’t done so.
It is not a replacement for the council’s own powers, but works alongside them, enabling tenants to take action where the council hasn’t, or can’t. For all new tenancies after the Bill comes into force, it will make it a right to have a home fit for living in".

Sunday, November 19, 2017

"The nastiest, hardest problem in finance"


Check out top pension blogger Henry Tapper on why 85% on those able to transfer their pensions out of a DB (defined Benefit Pension scheme) would be best advised not to take it (or F...k'n bonkers to do so - in my non financial advisor language)
I will quote the section where John talks about the value of retaining rights to a pension as it is as relevant for a BSPS member as for anyone else. It is an exceptional piece of writing.
Cashing in a defined benefit pension means giving up a guaranteed monthly income, increasing in line with inflation, usually from age 65 until you die, and half this amount for your surviving spouse.
Once the pension is cashed in, the decision cannot be reversed.
A final salary pension provides complex guarantees, including longevity — not running out of money, however long you live — and investment performance, as the monthly payout will continue regardless of investment returns.
The value of these guarantees to an individual member may be low if they are wealthy and their chances of running out of enough money are tiny, however long they and their spouse live.
But most people are not so wealthy and because their pension is a large part of their overall wealth, these pension guarantees are very valuable.
Make no mistake, how much to spend in retirement, so you don’t run out of money, is the most complex financial decision anyone has to make. Even Nobel prizewinner Bill Sharpe recently described it as “the nastiest, hardest problem in finance”.

Anyone looking at cashing in their pension now with high transfer values shouldn’t think they are making a financial-genius play on future real interest rates, future equity returns and their life expectancy. They especially shouldn’t be fooled into thinking they can rely on holding equities for the “long run” to replace their guaranteed pensions. The expected return from equities is not a loyalty bonus, but is just the reward for taking risk".

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Petition To Newham Council: Affordable Housing levels at former Ford Motor Showroom in Plaistow Road.


This petition is being supported by West Ham Labour Party ward. It is really positive that the branch is leading a campaign by local residents to ensure that regeneration projects comply at least with our own Borough targets for social housing. 

Ward Councillors John Whitworth and myself have formally objected to the current proposals by the developers. we have already been knocking on doors and asking residents to sign the petition. 

"The former Ford Motors’ showroom, on Plaistow Road E15, is going to be developed into
residential accommodation. As Newham residents we are keen that the site will be developed
for desperately needed social housing and not only for private sale. At the moment the
proportion of affordable housing proposed by the developers is 25% - with 60% of this
fraction being social housing. This is inadequate and falls well short of Newham’s own
targets of 35-50%.

We ask the Council to give an assurance that an increase in the proportion of social and
affordable housing in the development is being pursued on behalf of local people and in line
with its own and the improved London-wide suggested targets of 50%. We consider 50%
affordable housing to apply to 50% of all types of housing units and 50% of housing square

footage in the development".