Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Newham Labour Council has rude awakening for rough sleepers

Newham Council has been the flagship of a local authority for the Labour Party going back to the day’s of Tony Blair's leadership, headed by a directly elected mayor in the form of Sir Robin Wales it has no opposition and all 60 members are of the Labour Party.

This is a council that spent £111m on a new headquarters and is now considering moving out after just three years. Newham Council bought Building 1000 for £92m in 2010 and spent a further £18.7m on a refurbishment. Designer light fittings alone cost £1,800 each. Newham Council moved from 26 different locations to Newham Dockside. The idea was to reduce overall running costs, make efficiencies and make money by letting out other council buildings, however this has backfired big time and a serving councillor, speaking to the BBC in September last year on condition of anonymity, said: "We can't sell the old buildings - we have got empty premises we can't sell.  

Mike Law, a former Newham councillor who now speaks out against the way the council is run, told the BBC: "It's a massive bungle.

"How can they say the taxpayer is going to be getting value for money by leasing Building 1000 out when the very reason they moved in there was allegedly to save money?

"There is a real problem with fiscal responsibility at Newham Council and it's a total fiasco."

So whilst Sir Robin Wales and his Labour Council endeavor miserably to play at property development they have launched an amazing disgraceful attack on the street homeless in Newham, the following was posted on the council’s own website.  

Newham Council has rude awakening for rough sleepers

Newham Council has served anti-social behaviour warnings on 28 people who were found sleeping rough in and around the shopping mall in Stratford.                
The council, working with Newham Police, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and homeless support agency Thames Reach, has begun an operation codenamed Alabama, to deal with rough sleepers following complaints from residents and businesses.

During the operation’s first night-time patrols in late December and early January, council enforcement officers handed out notices to the sleepers warning that what they were doing was not safe and their behaviour was causing or likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress to the local community”.

The notices warned that if they returned and further complaints were received about them, legal action could be taken against them in the form of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). At the same time the council also offered access to specialist support services.

Councillor Unmesh Desai, executive member for crime and anti-social behaviour, said: “Residents do not regard sleeping, drinking, urinating or taking drugs on the streets and using threatening or violent behaviour as an acceptable way of life. We will not tolerate it and will take action wherever we are able to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime linked to rough sleeping.

“In addition these individuals are in an increasingly vulnerable position in terms of their health and safety. Through Operation Alabama we will continue working with support agencies to offer help to rough sleepers to find a way off the streets.”

Of the 28 individuals identified, 11 received offers from the council and Thames Reach of help with hostel accommodation and substance misuse. One person was arrested by the UKBA and detained as an overstayer and four others were told to report to UKBA offices. Two people refused specialist help with returning to their own countries. Two people were arrested and detained by police on outstanding warrants.

Fascist or Labour Council

Having read the above I was left wondering whether my local council was a Fascist or Labour Council, authoritarian and totalitarian in respect of homeless people just like you would expect from autocratic right-wingers. Everyone knows there's a housing crisis, and that it's particularly acute in London. But when I started researching London's crisis hotspots I was soon astonished by the scale of the problem.

In Newham – home to the Olympic stadium – the crisis is most acute with nearly 1 in 4 of its residents on the council's housing waiting list. The borough needs more affordable housing. If not we know they are looking at deporting residents to far away places like Stoke-on-Trent.  

London's housing crisis is the result of a generation or more of failed policies that need urgent redress. That redress requires multiple policy changes: building new council housing on a mass scale is long overdue – or else the 'Kosovo-style cleansing' of the poor. In the short term there are only two solutions – wages and benefits must rise and rents must be capped. Instead though, the government is going in the opposite direction: cutting and capping benefits.

Housing in London has become an investment opportunity for a few, while for many more it is a constant source of anxiety, insecurity and debt. What we have mapped in Newham and in London is at its most divided: we should not be at home to it and shame on Newham Council for giving the homeless a kicking of the worst kind.

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