Housing activists plan for action

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A summit meeting in London last month to plan next steps against the Housing and Planning Act drew 250 people in a serious and determined mood. They included council, housing association, co-op and private tenants, union members and several local councillors.

Among them was the elected mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, who repeated his council’s opposition to the Act and called on other councils to join the campaign against it.

Janice Sweeney, a council tenant from Kensington and Chelsea threatened with the “Pay to Stay” tenant tax, set the tone when she refused to be blamed for the housing crisis created by successive government policies.

The growing breadth of opposition was reflected by Guy Shennan, national chair of the British Association of Social Workers, who shared members’ testimonies of the catastrophic impact the housing crisis is already having on communities.

A statement to the summit, initiated by the Bishop of Stepney and signed by 22 other faith leaders, including the Muslim Council of Britain, the UK Hindu Council and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Southwark, called on the government to “think again”.

Determination to resist racist blame and divisions led to a warm welcome for Stand Up to Racism’s Weyman Bennett.

The all-day meeting was attended by people from 20 local authority areas outside London, as well as half the London boroughs.

Liz Davies from the Society of Labour Lawyers advised the meeting not to look for legal loopholes as a way of stopping the Act. She was pessimistic about the scope for non-compliance. Heather Wakefield, Unison’s national secretary for local government, pledged her union’s support for the campaign.

There were many calls for council and housing association landlords to inform residents and to join the campaign and resistance. Several councillors pledged to push for action.

A plan of action includes a lobby of the housing minister and a protest outside parliament on 23 November during the Autumn Statement.