Fighting back against London’s Labour councils

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• Newham

In the run-up to the general election, comrades from East London RCG and Focus E15 campaigners took the opportunity of exposing the shocking record of Newham Labour council on housing, and its embroilment in a raft of financial scandals.

We attended the Annual Council Meeting on 14 May to heckle Labour Mayor Robin Wales as he boasted that over the last 25 years he had brought Newham from an ‘incompetent backwater’ to a place where there are ‘real Labour values that create for each of us the means to realise our true potential’. He boasted that Newham is ‘showing the way for others to follow’. Yet behind the shiny towers of luxury accommodation, the swathes of shopping outlets and the new cultural ‘mega-hub’, the reality for Newham’s working class is grim: the second-highest poverty rate in London, the second-highest proportion of homeless residents in the country and more people living in slum-like temporary accommodation than ever before. Meanwhile, council housing estates like the Carpenters Estate remain largely boarded up, facing demolition and replacement by unaffordable private flats.

That is the background to the launch in May of the Newham Nag, a publication by Focus E15 campaign and Debt Resistance UK – to counter the Newham Mag, a sycophantic pro Robin Wales magazine published every two weeks by the council. Newham Nag exposes the real crimes and shabby dealings of the borough’s Labour politicians. One of them is local MP Lyn Brown, newly promoted to Shadow Home Secretary. Focus E15 campaign has three years’ experience of her broken promises, hypocrisy and total contempt for the poorest sections of the working class. There is nothing progressive about her appointment.

Hannah Caller

• Haringey

Despite growing local opposition, the Labour leader of Haringey Council, Claire Kober OBE, is forging ahead with the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). The HDV is a 50-50 joint enterprise with the Australian construction giant Lendlease, which will see £2bn worth of public assets in the north London borough handed over, gratis, for the promise of future profitable returns. In the first phase of the plan the civic centre, Wood Green Library, and more than a thousand publicly-owned homes on the Northumberland Park estate will be demolished and redeveloped to create profitable housing and retail units. The second phase has more housing estates such as Broadwater Farm in its sights. The whole process has been conducted behind closed doors, and only one of the six board members of the HDV is an elected councillor. No guarantee of rehousing in the borough has been offered to council tenants who face eviction because of the plan.

The RCG has been taking part in local protests against the HDV, including a large community festival in May protesting against the proposed demolition of the Latin American community area in Tottenham. The mainstream left regrettably chose to postpone its protests as soon as the general election was announced, in order to concentrate on getting a Labour government elected. As if Labour on the national stage would be any less in hock to the demands of developers like Lendlease, big business and City hedge funds and bankers!

Susan Davidson

• Southwark

RCG comrades attended a pre-election hustings in Bermondsey & Old Southwark to challenge the Labour MP, Neil Coyle – a former Southwark councillor – over the accelerated demolition and sell-off of council estates, most notoriously the Heygate, and the erosion of homes for social rent in his constituency. We had submitted a question, as had a number of other individuals and organisations, including Architects for Social Housing, who were chosen to speak. Coyle squirmed and attempted to shift blame, but could not avoid the fact that new developments are being built at Elephant & Castle with zero affordable housing of any kind. He was also challenged over the destruction of the shopping centre, which has been handed over to developers Delancey, which will see livelihoods in the predominantly Latin American community destroyed. The local SWP-run Defend Council Housing campaign called for a vote for Coyle in the election.

• A parasite sang in Berkeley Square

On 14-15 June come and let your local London Labour council know what you think about its efforts to sell off public land to the highest bidder at the annual London Real Estate Forum in the heart of Mayfair. Property developers, landlords and estate agents will be salivating over stalls and presentations run by councils including Haringey, Lambeth, Southwark, Newham and Croydon as they queue up to buy council homes, open public spaces, libraries, community centres, etc for profitable development. The event is sponsored by major banks, estate agents, investment companies and construction firms and has the blessing of London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan. Rally 2pm Wednesday 14 June, Berkeley Square, Mayfair.

Cat Wiener

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 258 June/July 2017