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news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Protesters occupy Greenwich Council house in Lee Green

with 45 comments

Well, some people in Lee Green have had a busy Easter….

Supporters of Greenwich People Before Profit have occupied a huge house that has been left empty and neglected by Greenwich Council for two years.

All the families living in the house – at 88 Eltham Road near the western border of the borough – were evicted by the council. As far as we know, the evictions took place after the leaseholder couldn’t afford to renew or extend the lease.

The building had been half-heartedly secured, so it was not difficult for campaigners to gain access. We found that the overall condition of the house was good – although there is work to do, with wires and copper piping severed, floorboards lifted and a section of ceiling down.

Previously the house was divided into seven flats and we will try to make as much of it as possible habitable.

If anyone would like to help work at the house, or give support in other ways, please come to our next meeting on Saturday 14 April at 2.00 p.m., at 88 Eltham Road, or email greenwichhousing@peoplebeforeprofit.org.uk.

Greenwich People Before Profit is following the example of our counterparts in Lewisham, who occupied five long-term empty council houses in February. They are refurbishing them for homeless families to live in.

A spokesperson for Greenwich PBP said: “Given the need for social housing in the borough, and the particularly serious housing problems for young people, it is scandalous that this property has been empty for two years. We want to make it habitable.

“Homelessness is rising again. Government figures show that in the last quarter of 2011, homeless applications were up by 18% across England and 36% in London. London rents are unaffordable. We hope everyone in Greenwich, including the council, will support our action.”

The formation of Greenwich People Before Profit was discussed here earlier this year – although over in New Cross, their cafe has closed in curious circumstances. One to watch, anyhow.

Written by Darryl

10 April, 2012 at 8:46 am

45 Responses

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  1. I live about 200 yards from this property and it’s in the ward I used to represent.

    I’m in two minds about what’s going on there now. I’ve always been opposed to direct action of this kind,
    however peaceful the occupiers may be as individuals, what they’re doing effectively amounts to rule by
    those with the biggest sledgehammer rather than by those with the most votes. Who are People Before Profit to decide who lives at 88 Eltham Rd? I prefer to live under an incompetent elected council rather than under an efficient band of vigilantes. Therefore I’d like to politely ask the occupiers to shove off.

    However they are undoubtedly doing a public service by drawing atention to the Council’s apparent lack of activity in respect of this property. Greenwich Council has owned the freehold of 88 Eltham Rd for many years. A lease was assigned in 1954 which came to an end in January 2010. On 25th October 2007 the Council decided to sell the freehold once the lease had expired.

    http://committees.greenwich.gov.uk/CeListDocuments.aspx?CommitteeId=121&MeetingId=561&DF=25%2f10%2f2007&Ver=2

    The estimated freehold value at the time was £440,000. The head leaseholder had the right to acquire the freehold. I don’t know who the head leaseholder was or whether this person and/or the resident sub-leaseholders made any attempt to acquire the freehold. When the lease expired in January 2010 I believe the Council accepted responsibility for rehousing the remaining residents. I’m not sure how long it took them to do this but I haven’t noticed any lights on for a long while.

    There are two issues here:

    1) Should the Council try to sell the freehold or should it have renovated the flats and rented them to Council tenants?

    2) Why has the Council taken so long to act on its policy to sell the freehold?

    1) The position at 88 Eltham Rd may have been complicated by the rights of the head leaseholder but on principle I rather agree with People Before Profit. Although it may have cost quite a bit to do the place up to Decent Homes standards, the property seems capable of providing several viable housing units. Although the Council pleads poverty it always seems to find funds for prestige/vanity projects like the Cutty Sark or the Shooters Hill Equestrian Centre. The truth seems to be that Greenwich grossly understimated the amount needed to buy out the 200 or so leaseholders on the Ferrier Estate and for several years has been trying to make it up by quietly selling off properties and skimping on repairs.

    2) I don’t know why it’s taken so long to dispose of 88 Eltham Rd or whether the Council could have handled the process better. There was a complaint to the District Auditor last year following a row in another part of the Borough. The Auditor made some recommendations but basically found the Council’s procedures fit for purpose.

    http://committees.greenwich.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=124&MId=2430&Ver=4 (see appendix to Itam 9)

    Paul Webbewood

    10 April, 2012 at 2:10 pm

  2. If you want to make an issue of it then pressure your elected representatives or stand yourself. If not enough people agree with you then tough.

    Richard

    10 April, 2012 at 2:36 pm

  3. Do you think those local representatives care? And with no elections for another two years, what are people meant to do in the meantime? Read Greenwich Time like obedient citizens?

    Darryl

    10 April, 2012 at 2:46 pm

  4. So, the fact that our local representatives don’t care means mob rule is OK?

    The Council’s housing policy implementation might be terrible, but that doesn’t make it right to steal other people’s property – in this case, property belonging to the Council – and by extension the residents of Greenwich.

    Franklin

    10 April, 2012 at 3:49 pm

  5. Since when is living in an empty house mob rule?
    I was evicted from my ex-ILEA house 16 years ago by Lewisham Council on the pretext that ‘squatters take homes from homeless families.’ We were a homeless family. It’s still empty. Not only that but the Council nicked my sledge hammer!

    Ashleigh Marsh

    10 April, 2012 at 8:50 pm

  6. Since when is a group of people breaking into a house that somebody else owns and then claiming pro possessore mob rule? Since at least the Roman republic.

    Franklin

    10 April, 2012 at 10:22 pm

  7. Which is worse? Direct action or a council which isn’t taking action?

    Darryl

    10 April, 2012 at 10:28 pm

  8. Direct action every time.

    Richard

    11 April, 2012 at 6:54 am

  9. Non sequitur

    Ashleigh Marsh

    11 April, 2012 at 12:24 pm

  10. Direct action can be an extremely useful tool for raising public awareness and attracting attention to a cause. However, a lot of simply bad behaviour can be dressed up as “direct action”, allowing the perpetrators to thus make a spurious moral claim to some form of social or political legitimacy. That is particularly true when there are victims of the “direct action”, as there are in this case.

    I don’t think that these council property takeovers are going to improve the Council’s housing policy implementation. They are going to cost the Council a lot of time and money that could otherwise be spent on doing what the Council should be doing – and is clearly not doing very well: ensuring that its housing stock is kept in good nick and provided to families in need.

    I also don’t think that a small political party has any more right to decide on what happens with council-owned property than the democratically elected and democratically accountable council.

    Franklin

    11 April, 2012 at 1:17 pm

  11. “Who are People Before Profit to decide who lives at 88 Eltham Rd?”

    People Before Profit has no desire to decide who lives at 88 Eltham Rd. They want the Council to do that. Unfortunately, Greenwich Council has not been doing its job.

    “When the lease expired in January 2010 I believe the Council accepted responsibility for rehousing the remaining residents.”

    Believe what you like.

    When the lease expired the Council accepted responsibility evicted the tenants despite the fact that the flats were perfectly habitable.

    There tenants were not happy to see that the property has been standing empty for more than two years.

    How do you think PBP found out about this?

    “So, the fact that our local representatives don’t care means mob rule is OK?”

    Take care how you use terms like ‘mob rule’.

    There is a housing crisis in the UK generally and it is particularly acute in London. Keeping properties empty is only making the problem worse. Together with low wages, high unemployment and cuts many ordinary people are being driven to despair. The young, especially, are increasingly disaffected.

    Last summer we all saw how quickly law and order can disintegrate. If we fail to tackle problems like housing then we really will see mob rule.

    helland16

    11 April, 2012 at 6:17 pm

  12. Well, an interesting discussion here! I would like to correct a few points and add some information: I learned that this building was empty from one of the people who was evicted by Greenwich Council 2 years ago when the lease expired. He was not rehoused by Greenwich Council and would have preferred the tenancy to have been taken over by Greenwich Council – this option was not given to him or the other six families living in this lovely building.

    When I searched the Land Registry to check who the freeholder was, I discovered that the house stands on a single plot of land (for land registry purposes) together with 15 other neighbouring houses on Eltham Road and Lilian Barker Close. This indicates to me that no move has been made to sell the freehold as to do so would require the plot to be divided and a separate title number to be allocated.

    People Before Profit activists did not need to “break in” to the building, as explained in the original blog item. The house was inadequately secured – a pretence had been made of securing it.

    When inside we discovered what appears to have been deliberate vandalism to make occupation less attractive by the crude removal of short sections of copper pipe to make it difficult to restore the water supply. I don’t believe this was the work of copper thieves as just short lengths were removed along with the boiler heat exchangers, leaving much longer exposed lengths of copper visible.

    People Before Profit is not determining who lives there – we are bringing the house back into use on a temporary basis until Greenwich Council can be persuaded to renovate this once beautiful building and use it to reduce the number of families on the waiting list. In neighbouring Lewisham we have been approached by two “not for profit” organisations who are interested in refurbishing the houses we saved from sale at auction using local tradespeople and including a training programme enabling unskilled and unemployed people to learn a trade. We hope that Greenwich Council can be persuaded either to hand the house over to one of these Community Interest Companies or to carry out the work through directly employed council tradespeople, and include a training element. That way the money involved stays here in the local area, rather than being siphoned off if a contract for refurbishment is awarded to a large national or international buidling firm.

    I invite all those with an interest in working for a positive outcome for the homeless families and single people of Greenwich to come to a meeting this Saturday at 2pm at 88 Eltham Road. Come and see for yourselves.

    Joohn Hamilton

    12 April, 2012 at 12:31 am

  13. So you are squatting in a property that you do not own. Looking at the responses from Helland and Joohn its pretty obvious why PBP lost its deposit when they stoof for elected office.

    Richard

    12 April, 2012 at 8:53 am

  14. Just to put you right, Richard, I stood for Mayor of Lewisham in 2010 for Lewisham People Before Profit and received almost 6000 votes and held my deposit. A further 20 LPBP candidates stood in council elections where there is no deposit required and most received more than 5%. It was only in the Lewisham East parliamentary seat, which we contested solely in order to take advantage of the free postal delivery, that we lost our deposit. Let’s see what happens this May 3rd when Greenwich voters will have their first chance to vote for People Before Profit’s Barbara Raymond who is standing to replace Len Duval (Len who?) our GLAssembly member for the last 8 years.
    P.S. Sorry about typing error in my first post: my name is John, not Joohn!

    John Hamilton

    12 April, 2012 at 9:18 am

  15. Hi John

    Thanks for joining the debate. A few observations:

    1/ In the 2010 mayoral race, you won 5.5% of the first preference vote, behind Labour, the Lib Dems, the Tories, and the Greens. None of your 20 council candidates were elected. I really don’t think you can claim a popular mandate from the voters of Lewisham.

    2/ Your party is based in Lewisham, and yet you’ve taken over a house that belongs to Greenwich Council – and by extension to the residents of Greenwich. Your actions don’t appear to be supported by the majority of Lewisham residents, and I seriously doubt that they are supported by the majority of Greenwich residents.

    3/ I find it offensive that you contested the Lewisham East parliamentary election “solely to take advantage of the free postal delivery”. It may have been “free” for your party, but it’s not “free” for British taxpayers, who had to fund your mailshot for an election that you had no intention of actually contesting.

    4/ I don’t care that in your view the property was “inadequately secured”. If you walk into someone else’s property without their permission, you are “breaking in”.

    5/ Sounds to me that the “deliberate vandalism” that you found was done intentionally by the Council to try to dissuade people from squatting in Council-owned property, and could have been put right rather easily by the Council.

    6/ You seem to think that by providing unaccredited “training” to local unemployed people that you are morally justifying your actions. However, a large number of both public and charity-funded training schemes exist already and are readily available to local residents. These training programmes result in accreditation for trainees, so that they can actually use their training to get a proper job.

    7/ I don’t think that I have an obligation to attend your public meeting in order to hear your views on this issue. In fact, as the meeting is being held in a building that has been illegally occupied, I would refuse to attend on principle.

    And a couple of questions:

    1/ How much do you estimate that it will cost Greenwich Council – in both staff time and legal costs – to re-establish possession of this property? Is that the best use of Greenwich Council’s resources? How do you think that the taxpayers of Greenwich should feel about our resources being used to conduct a legal case against you, rather than, for example, doing up the property that you’ve taken over?

    2/ Have you at any stage engaged or communicated with Greenwich Council, Greenwich’s MP, Greenwich’s GLA representative, or the Mayor of London regarding Greenwich Council’s housing policy or the renovation of long-term unoccupied property in the Borough of Greenwich? If so, could you provide a brief summary of the dates of the communications and what response(s) you received?

    Franklin

    12 April, 2012 at 11:06 am

  16. Helland16

    What I saw last summer was widespread looting of consumer goods made possible by well-intentioned police policy not to confront and thus exacerbate politically motivated riots, combined with a misunderstanding of the nature of the rioting in its early phases. I don’t remember seeing any placards reading ‘Affordable homes now’.

    The occupation of Council-owned property isn’t goint to fix London’s housing problems. That requires changes at the levels of housing policy formulation and implementation, and I don’t see People Before Profit having much impact there.

    Franklin

    12 April, 2012 at 11:24 am

  17. As a point of information – it is not illegal to enter and occupy any building if no damage is caused. Civil tresspass is a not a criminal offence.

    Let me ask the people here – honestly – if you were homeless, perhaps with a young child, and only offered temporary ‘ bed and breakfast’ miles from your connections, would you consider living in an empty building rather than waiting for the interminable machinations of the public housing system?

    You don’t know what it’s like.

    I did. Squatting was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I learned building and renovation skills. My daughter grew up in a supportive community. I made some of the best friends anyone could wish for. And I built up a working life within the community that enabled me to earn a living doing what I love.

    Since I was evicted I have had to claim thousands of pounds in housing benefit to afford to privately rent. Does this make economic sense?

    When I was on the Greenwich Council housing list many years ago I was told by their staff that I would need to promise never to apply for housing from Greenwich, in order to be referred to the borough of Lewisham, where I had work and family, for re-housing. Then after I was evicted there I couldn’t re-apply to Lewisham as they had applied to the court for costs against me. It must have cost them a lot of lawyer time as I had a good case for retaining possession.

    What kind of ‘changes at the levels of housing policy formulation and implementation’ do you think we need?
    Perhaps just using empty homes for people to live in is a good start? It worked before. The Housing co-op movement emerged from Lewisham’s Family Squatting Movement after the war and led to a lot of innovation and stimulus for public housing provision to improve.
    This work is now being eroded with the ‘right to buy’ scheme in particular. This is the real – and utterly disgraceful – theft from the public treasury.

    ‘Affordable homes’ are now classified at 80% of the market’s rent. To be genuinely affordable they should be classsified in relation to incomes not property markets.
    This alone shows that the system is corrupt to the core.

    Ashleigh Marsh

    12 April, 2012 at 1:04 pm

  18. And by the way, where can I find Barbara Raymond’s manifesto, please?

    Ashleigh Marsh

    12 April, 2012 at 1:17 pm

  19. “it is not illegal to enter and occupy any building if no damage is caused.”

    Sure. Was the door of 88 Eltham Road unlocked? If not, and it was forced open, then it has been damaged and that is a criminal offence. Repairing the heating system or undertaking other improvements could also be construed as criminal damage. The fact that there weren’t shutters over the doors and windows doesn’t mean it was “inadequately secured”.

    I strongly support cooperatives, whether housing, retail, banking or whatever. They work within the law and use collective action to benefit their members. That’s great and should be encouraged.

    Does housing benefit make economic sense? No, probably not, but it’s one of the many sacrifices that we make as members of a civilised society to support those who are less well off.

    Does living in a property that you can’t afford make financial sense? No.

    Does trying to deflect the issue from what the current occupation will cost Greenwich Council to what housing benefit costs make sense? It’s a good rhetorical feint.

    Ensuring that council-owned property is maintained and allocated to families in need is exactly the kind of change in housing policy implementation that I mean. Clearly Greenwich Council is doing a very poor job with this. This property takeover isn’t going to change that. Lobbying our elected representatives to improve the situation might.

    “To be genuinely affordable [affordable homes] should be classsified in relation to incomes not property markets”

    I assume that you mean average incomes, rather than an individual’s income, as it would be patently absurd to calibrate affordable rents to each individual’s or family’s income. On this front, the ratio of average house prices to average incomes has fallen for the past four years, to about 5. Still above the long-run ratio of about 4, but homes are more affordable now than they were when the ratio hit 6 in early 2008.

    Of course, average house prices in some places are well above this ratio. In which case, most people who can’t afford to buy in a certain area accept that they can’t afford to live in that area. There are large swathes of London and some parts of Greenwich that I can’t afford to live in. But I accept that because I don’t believe that anyone has a RIGHT to live in any particular location – whether they were born there, have family there, work there, or just really fancy the view.

    If people didn’t have to move to distant places they can afford to live in, Sidcup wouldn’t exist. And what would the world be without Sidcup?

    Franklin

    12 April, 2012 at 2:12 pm

  20. Barbara Raymond’s manifesto is the same as the manifesto of People Before Profit – available on their website

    rp

    12 April, 2012 at 2:22 pm

  21. Well, Franklin, where would you suggest I live, since I can’t afford to buy a house anywhere in this country – alas not even in Sidcup – and I am not eligible for a council home? Perhaps in the lobby of Woolwich Town Hall? I look forward to seeing you there.
    I get approximately £110 a week in housing benefit. Please calculate what proportion of this sum is your personal sacrifice for civilisation’s sake, so I can make it up to you, for the thought of you contributing to my finances makes me feel thoroughly ill.

    Ashleigh Marsh

    13 April, 2012 at 2:38 am

  22. Wow. Charming. Sorry to make you feel thoroughly ill, Ashleigh, but I guess that makes us even as your apparent sense of entitlement makes me despair for the future of the welfare state.

    Franklin

    13 April, 2012 at 10:49 am

  23. Ashleigh regarding their manifesto I particularly liked this little gem “With the population set to rise by 7 million by 2015″ in the housing section.

    Richard

    13 April, 2012 at 11:56 am

  24. “What I saw last summer was widespread looting of consumer goods made possible by well-intentioned police policy not to confront and thus exacerbate politically motivated riots, combined with a misunderstanding of the nature of the rioting in its early phases. I don’t remember seeing any placards reading ‘Affordable homes now’.”

    Thank you this allows me clarify a number of points.

    What you saw last summer was the looting of consumer goods.
    A lot of evidence has come to light since then. None of it supports the idea that these riots were “politically motivated”.

    So it’s hardly surprising that you didn’t see any placards reading ‘Affordable homes now’.

    That is my point.

    A lot of people don’t have a realistic prospect of getting a job that will enable them to support themselves and raise a family.

    Frustration, anger and a general feeling of disaffection are the result. These people are most definitely not engaged in politics. Crime seems to be a much more popular alternative.

    I find this disquieting.

    The positive thing about People Before Profit is that it addressing the underlying issues.

    helland16

    13 April, 2012 at 12:05 pm

  25. @helland16

    Totally agree with everything you said – up to the last point.

    I don’t know much about People Before Profits’ policy agenda, but – at the risk of sounding like a broken record – I don’t believe that taking over Council-owned property is going to improve the implementation of housing policy (i.e., get the council to maintain its housing stock properly and ensure that it is allocated in a timely manner to families in need) and will therefore not address the underlying issues.

    Franklin

    13 April, 2012 at 12:57 pm

  26. “I don’t believe that taking over Council-owned property is going to improve the implementation of housing policy (i.e., get the council to maintain its housing stock properly and ensure that it is allocated in a timely manner to families in need) and will therefore not address the underlying issues.”

    Taking over Council-owned property works to improve the implementation of housing policy in a number of ways.

    1. We have actually helped some families in need. Of course, in relation to the problem the numbers are tiny. If you work on the principle that there is no point in doing anything if it doesn’t solve the whole problem then, OK, we are wasting our time. On the other had some people think that the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    2. The occupations have provided an opportunity for lots of people to do practical things instead of remaining passive. People have donated furniture and household implements. They have given their time and effort in helping to clean and renovate the properties. To give a small example, one couple spent several hours clearing the front garden of Angus Street and planting flowers. Efforts like this not only make a difference, they fight apathy and improve the social cohesion of the area.

    3. The problem has been highlighted. Organisations are more likely to do their job if they are accountable. But accountable won’t happen if nobody knows what’s going on. Since our action councilors, including Labour Party councilors, have been asking questions. This is small step towards getting better implementation.

    4. We have changed the terms of the debate about the policy of keeping houses empty and then, eventually, selling them off. Actions speak louder than words. We have proved in practice that these houses are habitable. Where repairs are required they are neither expensive nor time consuming.

    5. Long-term, we pose a electorial challenge to existing council administrations. As things stand most people don’t vote in local government elections and in most places we have effectively one-party councils. This means that most councilors feel free to ignore the electorate. By reaching out to people who are not normally involved in ‘politics’ we have the basis for overturning the existing political balance. This is a clear incentive for councils to raise their game.

    I could go on to talk about the wider causes of the housing problem, but that’s enough for now.

    helland16

    13 April, 2012 at 1:56 pm

  27. “I could go on to talk about the wider causes of the housing problem” That influx of 7 million people in the next 24 months must be a worry then!

    Richard

    13 April, 2012 at 2:22 pm

  28. It’s not true to say that in most places we have effectively one-party-Councils. Bexley, Bromley, Lambeth and Southwark have all changed control in the 21st century. Unfortunately Greenwich is one of the
    minority in a political deep-freeze and the electoral system doesn’t help.

    Labour came very near to losing control of Lewisham prior to 2010. I would suggest that the credit for that belongs primarily to the Liberal Democrats and then to the Greens. I’m not sure how much PBP contributed.

    Paul Webbewood

    13 April, 2012 at 2:27 pm

  29. Some reasonable points there helland16. I certainly agree with point 3 – the house takeovers have attracted much-needed attention to this issue. Your point 2 is also encouraging, and getting people engaged and involved is laudable. But I find myself asking, why are people “passive” until you take over a council-owned house? And why not target your attentions and energy on tackling the causes of people’s disengagement from the political process?

    On point 3, not sure I agree that you’ve ‘changed the terms of the debate’. I might have missed it, but I haven’t read of any Lewisham council representatives saying “We realise now that we need to retain and better maintain the council-owned housing stock to ensure efficient and equitable allocation”. Perhaps they will say that, but it hasn’t happened yet, so you shouldn’t exaggerate your impact.

    In terms of the families that you’ve helped, I have serious reservations. First, how long will they be able to stay in these houses? If, as I suspect, they’ll be evicted as soon as the legal proceedings are finished – and they have no legal right to be in those houses, as far as I can see – then you haven’t done any more than provide them with yet more temporary accommodation, have you? Second, why do the families you’ve chosen get to displace the families at the top of the council housing waiting list? Just because you happen to know them? What criteria do you use to assess need?

    Strongly support you on your last point. Greenwich Council is certainly monolithically single-party and desperately in need of a shakeup. However, while I wish you well, based on the 2010 council election results in Lewisham I don’t think that your party really has much local electoral appeal.

    Franklin

    13 April, 2012 at 2:29 pm

  30. “I find myself asking, why are people “passive” until you take over a council-owned house?”

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. (Proverbs 26:4)

    But here goes anyway.

    Apathy and passive are general. Taking over a council-owned house just gives people an opportunity to get involved for a change.

    “And why not target your attentions and energy on tackling the causes of people’s disengagement from the political process?”

    Good idea. But what are the causes of people’s disengagement from the political process?

    There is no single cause but the way the political establishment systematically ignore what people think is in there somewhere.

    So how does one get politicians to pay attention?
    Publically exposing their lies and hypocrisy is a start. You can do that by occupying a council-owned house that has been left empty for years and proving that with a little effort it can be made perfectly habitable.

    Of course there are other ways. And we will use those as well.

    helland16

    13 April, 2012 at 3:09 pm

  31. You’re absolutely right, helland16, I am a fool, as I have just proven by trying to engage a naive, boorish prat in a civilised debate.

    Franklin

    13 April, 2012 at 4:58 pm

  32. “You’re absolutely right, helland16, I am a fool, as I have just proven by trying to engage a naive, boorish prat in a civilised debate.”

    I didn’t mean to be offensive. However, you did say:
    “I find myself asking, why are people “passive” until you take over a council-owned house? And why not target your attentions and energy on tackling the causes of people’s disengagement from the political process?”
    I felt that this comment contained two debating ploys, Ridicule and False dichotomy.

    1. Ridicule – You misrepresented the relation between passivity and our action to make PBP seem ridiculously self-important. We don’t claim that our campaign will end apathy and passivity, we just think that it is only by actually doing things that a start can be made.

    2. False dichotomy – you counter-posed activity on a concrete issue (the Council’s failure to use empty houses) with the more general issue of “the causes of people’s disengagement from the political process”. As I explained, there is no need to see these as opposites.

    This is not the first time you have use dubious debating techniques. For example, you equated the entirely peaceful occupation of the houses with “mob rule” and our attempt to get the Council to do its job with stealing “other people’s property”. This is hardly the way to carry on a “civilised” debate.

    Top debating tip: don’t use shoddy tricks on people you don’t know: they may spot what you are doing.
    But you should know this by now.

    As Franklin (Benjamin) said himself: “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

    helland16

    13 April, 2012 at 6:20 pm

  33. Could apathy and passivity jet really mean that most people disagree with you. Your political theory is at about the same level as Hallam’s economics. These 7 million people who are coming before 2015. Isn’t that scare mongering of the lowest order? I mean if the BNP suggested such a figure………..

    Richard

    13 April, 2012 at 6:37 pm

  34. I agree with much that you say helland16, and find People Before Profit’s willingness to engage more directly with issues from the ground up refreshing, especially when compared with the ingrained flaws in the democratic processes exemplified by both Lewisham and Greenwich Councils.

    However I am not sure whether you are occupying homes primarily in order to occupy homes, or to highlight issues.
    If it is the latter there are some serious questions I would like to ask…

    What is your position on the ‘right to buy’?
    If this had not reduced the housing stock so drastically then I would not be in the invidious position of having to claim large amounts of housing benefit in order to subsidise my landlord’s mortgage. Before I lost my regular teaching job due to ‘cuts’ I could very nearly afford to pay all of my rent myself, and if I had a council home I still could. A sensible approach to the housing and debt crises would be for the banks’ stake in repossed homes to be returned to the people – these homes should be returned to the public stock, rather than the government taking a share in the banks on our behalf.

    Where have the policies previously available on you website gone?
    I started reading them this morning and would like to be able to finish before tomorrow’s meeting.

    What are your actual strategies for improving local councils’ accountabiity?
    One of your slogans is ‘Don’t trust Politicians?’ I can actually remember a few politicians I do trust – Pat Waylett in Lewisham was one. Mary Mills in Greenwich is doing what she can for her constituency. Even Tony Benn has some principles I respect. It is rather odd that your organisation seeks to replace the leaders but not to change the system that puts them there. We lack mechanisms to hold our representatives to their words. If we could hold them to account at local meetings, and de-elect as well as elect them, then those found to be corrupt could be removed. It would be harder for moneyed parties to throw their resources into election campaigns and manifestos and follow a different agenda in between.

    Ashleigh Marsh

    13 April, 2012 at 8:55 pm

  35. helland16

    Top debating tip: this is a forum for public debate. Even were I so devious as to employ Germanically- capitalised debating techniques, which I am not, I’d be perfectly entitled to use whatever the fuck technique I choose. If you can’t deal with ridicule or false dichotomy, get off the internet.

    You evidently did mean to be offensive, otherwise you wouldn’t have googled ‘Franklin’ and ‘fool’ to come up with the rent-a-quote with which you choose to insult me again.

    Another top debating tip: at least make a pretext of answering perfectly reasonable questions that are posed in good faith and pursuant to congenial agreement with some of your positions; not doing so makes you look like a shallow, evasive poseur.

    Finally, “mob rule” has nothing to do with violence: it has to do with a large group of people – in this case, you – using the force of numbers to get your way. You have stolen other people’s property, most recently the property of the residents of Greenwich, of which I am one. Please give it back and piss off back to Lewisham.

    Franklin

    13 April, 2012 at 10:20 pm

  36. Just thought I’d share this with the locals –

    Dear Mr. O’Hare,

    Thanks for your prompt reply.

    Apologies for my delay, but I have tried several times to open the .pdf using adobe and my web browser and it does not open.

    I would like to see this detailed breakdown of the last local elections displayed on the Council’s Website – I do feel this is the right place for it with another related local election approaching. Could this be arranged, please?

    If, by apologising for any misunderstandings, you are referring to your remark that I must have ‘special needs’ for making this request at this time, well my understanding of the Council’s special needs policy is that you are obliged to accomodate them.
    Hopefully this will enable you to carry out my request.

    Many thanks,
    Ashleigh Marsh

    Ashleigh Marsh

    14 April, 2012 at 12:36 am

  37. A few brief replies: Ashleigh: Barbara Raymond’s Election Address will be available at various locations in both Greenwich and Lewisham, we will be delivering door-to-door and also distributing at schools, railway stations, shopping areas. It is also available to download at http://www.PeopleBeforeProfit.org.uk/greenwich/downloads as is a poster which you are welcome to download and print out for your window. We do have posters and election addresses available if you ‘d like some – come to Mansion 88 at 2pm Saturday.

    The “Policies” section you were reading is still there – click on the “London” tab and they are on the left hand side. Web site maintenance is not my strongest point!

    We oppose the Right to Buy, which has been used as method of destroying adequate provision of social housing.

    Richard: I’m not sure whose manifesto you were reading when you claimed that it says the population is set to rise by 7 million by 2015. I’ve checked ours ( http://www.PeopleBeforeProfit.org.uk/lewisham/downloads) and can’t find it.

    Franklin: when we had refurbished 7 Angus Street to a standard where it was ready for a family to move in we wrote to Lewisham Council’s housing allocation officer informing her and asking if she would like to nominate a family from the waiting list or in B & B accommodation (costing us all around £40,000 a year). We also printed 10,000 leaflets explaining what we had done and asking if anyone needed a 3 bedroom house in New Cross. Families then approached us and met each other and decided amicably among themselves that the Khan family should have that house. They have attempted to pay council tax to Lewisham Council but so far without success. We have installed a bath, basin, gas hob, extractor and decorated the house. We have arranged for electrical safety certificate and gas safety certificate. We’ve done it because no-one else was prepared to and we didn’t think this house should be sold off to the private sector. See our website for short video clips made by independent film makers.

    John Hamilton

    14 April, 2012 at 1:07 am

  38. I’ve just googled ‘Franklin’ and ‘fool’ and all I could get was:

    “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do”

    helland16

    14 April, 2012 at 7:42 am

  39. “You evidently did mean to be offensive, otherwise you wouldn’t have googled ‘Franklin’ and ‘fool’ to come up with the rent-a-quote with which you choose to insult me again.”

    As it happens, I am a long-standing devotee of Benjamin Franklin for more years than I care to remember. I first heard the “experience keeps a dear school” saw from an American acquaintance thirty years ago. I’ve found it to be all too true. There have certainly been occasions when I’ve found that it applied to me.

    As far as being insulting, I regard foolishness as an integral part of the human condition. We all behave like fools at some time or other. Consequently, I regard ‘fool’ as quite a mild comment, certainly a lot milder than, for example, “perpetrator” implying criminal intent as in:

    “a lot of simply bad behaviour.. dressed up as “direct action”, allowing the perpetrators to thus make a spurious moral claim to some form of social or political legitimacy. That is particularly true when there are victims of the “direct action”, as there are in this case.”

    helland16

    14 April, 2012 at 7:48 am

  40. Just a thought but Franklin would appear to be supportive of the Assad view of mob rule!

    Kevin

    14 April, 2012 at 8:15 am

  41. http://www.peoplebeforeprofit.org.uk/london/policies/housing

    There you go John. In your policies section on your website. Choose your own debating style but at least check your own propaganda first! This is baseless scare mongering.

    Richard

    14 April, 2012 at 11:27 am

  42. Perpetual motions

    I ask for your views on voting reform
    and you offer me more manifestos
    Average workers in given areas
    might question this agenda

    I’ll come to your meeting
    to see what it’s like
    as a victim of indirect action
    but frankly my dear
    though I may be a fool
    I’d rather go on a bender

    Ashleigh Marsh

    14 April, 2012 at 11:48 am

  43. Ashleigh

    We might disagree about housing policy, but I do like your poetry. Very nice rhythm.

    Franklin

    Franklin

    14 April, 2012 at 10:37 pm

  44. @helland16

    Thirty years ago? My apologies – I assumed from your comments that you were in your mid-teens.

    I really love the witty quotes – no, really I do. They all make me think of my old standby:

    “Je me presse de rire de tout, de peur d’être obligé d’en pleurer”.

    But – though I love them – could you please stop? Your repeated self-masquing with other people’s words has just the smallest whiff of pseudo-intellectualism about it, and rather makes me wretch.

    I also really like the riff on foolishness. Admirable, really. You might have heard, however, that – surprisingly – not many people appreciate being called a ‘fool’. I am one of them. I happen to fly a flag for pretentious dickheads, but have restrained from calling you one as I appreciate that some people are (inexplicably, in my view) offended by such a label.

    Finally, , on ‘perpetrators’ (for fuck’s sake, I have to repeat myself again): breaking into property that doesn’t belong to you is, technically, a crime. Who am I to split hairs? But still! People who perpetrate crimes are, surprise!, perpetrators.

    Hey, crazy idea! Why not try responding to one or more of the perfectly reasonable questions that I’ve posed?

    Franklin

    14 April, 2012 at 11:13 pm

  45. @John Hamilton

    Thanks for directing a PR statement in my general direction! I’m honoured!

    No, I’m not really. In fact, I feel like the Ghostbusters team after they’ve been slimed. But hey! You’re pretending to talk, and I’m pretending to listen!

    So, just in case you can spare, oh, I dunno, 3 minutes from your busy schedule of seizing our property to the greater glory of your egomaniacal campaign, here are my questions again:

    1/ How much do you estimate that it will cost Greenwich Council – in both staff time and legal costs – to re-establish possession of this property? Is that the best use of Greenwich Council’s resources? How do you think that the taxpayers of Greenwich should feel about our resources being used to conduct a legal case against you, rather than, for example, doing up the property that you’ve taken over?

    2/ Have you at any stage engaged or communicated with Greenwich Council, Greenwich’s MP, Greenwich’s GLA representative, or the Mayor of London regarding Greenwich Council’s housing policy or the renovation of long-term unoccupied property in the Borough of Greenwich? If so, could you provide a brief summary of the dates of the communications and what response(s) you received?

    Franklin

    14 April, 2012 at 11:27 pm


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