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Archive for the ‘Public meetings’ Category

by Charlie Kiss, a Camden Green Party member
After leaving my own picket line, we travelled to Camden Town Hall, Judd Street from Camden Town and we passed three other pickets. One by Bayham Street, one outside the Working Men’s college and one by St Pancras hospital. At Camden Town Hall, there was a large group gathered. Mostly Unison members like myself and also PCS union members.

I was surprised but pleased to see some Labour Councillors showing support outside the Town Hall as the Labour Leadership were saying they did not support the strike action. The Green Party Camden councillor was there, Maya De Souza, and she spoke to the crowd from the Unison open-decker bus.

She explained that no Green Party elected representative would cross the picket line today. (This was confirmed by BBC news, noted that this wasn’t just in England and Wales – Scottish Green MSPs also refused to enter Holyrood.) And that the Green Party was the only national party back the strike, with strong statements on it from Caroline Lucas MP and Jenny Jones, our London mayoral candidate.

Then we set off towards Lincoln Inn Fields, marching along Euston road and stopping off at other pickets that were still ongoing, such as one outside the UCH in Euston Road, and then the Colleges in Gower Street and Malet Street.
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To to be held in Camden Town Hall’s Chamber (opposite St Pancras station), starting 5pm on Monday 21st November (until 8.30pm).

Top-notch speakers including
* Isabel Dedring, London’s deputy mayor for transport
* Professor Frank Kelly, Director of the Environmental Research Group, King;s College
* Simon Birkett, founder of Clean Air in London (CAL)

There will be exhibitions stands too.

Signup through airquality@camden.gov.uk or by phoning: 0207 974 6981.

More about air quality in Camden.

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by Natalie Bennett

I was able to snatch a little time on Wednesday to show support for the protest against workfare outside the Welfare to Work Conference, held at the Business Design Centre in Islington. (Interestingly the protest organisers report that they paid for three, high-cost, tickets for this conference about this lucrative “industry” but were denied entry.)

As speakers explained, what’s increasingly happening is that unemployed people are being forced to work for their payment, getting far less than the minimum wage for their work, and providing free labour for for-profit, indeed highly profitable companies, from major supermarkets to discount stores to councils and charities.

No one would object to the unemployed being provided with appropriate training, but forced shelf-stacking, and other unskilled labour, at what should be regarded as illegal rates, absolutely can’t be defended.

There should be the opportunity for the unemployed to take up the internship-type roles with charities and public service institutions for significant periods, while not also being forced to jump through hoops to show they continue to look for work. But it should be voluntary, it should offer opportunities to acquire real skills, and it shouldn’t be an option for for-profit companies, which should paid proper wages to anyone working for them.

And as many of the speakers pointed out, if this work is being done by unpaid forced labour, it isn’t available to properly paid workers…

Speakers also highlighted the way in which parents caring for children are being forced to look for work from when the children are aged five, with potentially disatrous consequences for the children’s care, and the parents’ peace of mind.

More information from the organisers. (Blogger Harpy Marx was also there.)

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And more on Green policy on the City of London Corporation.

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Today at 2.15pm there was a protest not far from St Pancras station to defend NHS mental health services against cuts and privatisation.

Speaking at the demo, Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition, said that in an area of London that had one of the highest suicide rates in the country, mental health cutbacks could do untold harm. During a recession the need for mental health services increased and already people were staying too long on assessment wards because of a lack of spaces.

In the meantime staff are angry at what’s taking place and some are being forced to reapply for their jobs.

Mental health cuts are an attack on the most vulnerable in society and right now we need those services more than ever.

(The CNJ today also reports on threats to the pay and conditions of staff of the Camden and Islington Foundation Trust.)

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by Natalie Bennett

Report from tonight’s London Federation of Green Parties London’s Housing Crisis meeting

Dave Smith from London Citizens told us about East London Community Land Trust and its plans for the St Clement Hospital site in Mile End, which hope to provide permanent affordably housing for the community. He said the chief threat to the project lay in the government’s refusal to recognise the public good it would deliver – the trust would have to compete against private developers on the open market to buy it.

He explained that with all of the talk now about “affordable housing”, London Citizens was conducting comunity research to consider: “what does affordable mean in terms of housing?” Olympics construction was supposed to provide 35% affordable housing, but this was defined in part in terms of local market prices, while his group was trying to synthesise a new definition, working from what people can afford to pay. (Based on the same principles as the London Living Wage.)

Robert Taylor from the Camden Federation of Private Tenants set out the changing balance of housing. Now 70% of households own, while 30% rent, but after the Second World War 90% rented. London has the highest proportion of private rented accommodation – 690.000 households, or 20.2%. The England average is 12.2%. Those are 2009 figures; they would now be higher.

There was a lot of talk of a new category of private tenants,’generation rent’ – who can’t afford to buy. “This is being seen as negative thing, but it should be seen as positive. There needs to be a culture shift that final end of “housing journey” can be renting.”

One problem in the sector, he said, was that it was functioning as a “cottage industry” – in 2006 73% of properties were owned by individuals and couples, who typically owned 1-4 properties. Standards could be lot more professional.

Unlike the situation in the past, when tenants had mostly dealt directly with owners, now 60-70% of lets were via agents, who frequently charged large admin fees to tenants. Again regulation was needed.

But the biggest issues now were short-term insecurity, with tenants always at risk of being tossed out of their home on two months’ notice, and rent inflation, which was now 8-10%, reflecting an imbalance between supply and demand. Four tenants are seeking every property. “Choice doesnt exist in private rental sector.” Robert suggested that tenants should acquire more rights as the tenancy continued – this could benefit both sides of the transaction as landlords frequently complained they wanted more stability in tenancies.

Rachel Orr from Shelter said that the government had replaced social rented housing with “affordable model”, with rents set at 80% market rate. “The government won’t subsidise assets but individuals through housing benefit.” Local authorities were placing homeless people into private sector housing, but it was itself a huge cause of homelessness.

She said huge cuts were coming that would create a housing crisis. A quarter hostels in London would have to cut hugely or close in coming years, and cuts legal aid had been proposed that meant tenants would only be able to get help when faced with imminent homelesness, not when problems first arose.

There was a huge problem in a change in approach. Housing was seen as one of pillars of welfare state, with the others being education and health. The last two were regarded still as essential public provisions, but people generally saw housing as an individual not a collective problem.

“We need to shift public perception. Everyone knows about university tuition feeds and the threats to the NHS, but I dont think people understand that massive changes are coming in housing, particularly for low-income households.”
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* London’s Housing Crisis: An open meeting hosted by the Green Party
Thursday 16th June, 7-9pm, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn. All welcome

London faces a chronic housing shortage, with hundreds of thousands of families on council waiting lists – and more than 6,000 council properties standing empty. Also rents are climbing, and a recent survey showed those hoping to buy do not expect to do so until they are 38. Where do we go from here? What is to be done to help renters and first-time buyers, and stop buy-to-let landlords cashing in?

Speakers: Rachel Orr – Shelter; Dave Smith – London Citizens; Katy John – Priced Out; Robert Taylor – Camden Federation of Private Tenants
Chair – Alastair Milne – West Central London Green Party

Also
* Environmental Films at Open City London Film Festival, Friday, June 17, from 6.15pm at Torrington Place, Bloomsbury. More.

* Join Transition Belsize, Transition Primrose Hill and other local groups and churches for a Midsummer Picnic to celebrate the summer solstice. Bring local homemade food to share on Sunday 19 June at Primrose Hill, More details at http://www.transitionprimrosehill.org

* Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association: Environment and Human Rights Day on Saturday 25th June – open to all in the morning, youth focus (workshops) in the afternoon. More

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