LONDON & MANCHESTER JOINT SILENT MARCH

THE FIGHT for justice for every single man, woman and child who died in the Grenfell Tower and their families and the survivors who are still languishing in hotels almost eight months after the tragic fire is now spreading across the nation.

For the first time, next Wednesday 14th February, Manchester and London will march in tandem, with a silent march in North Kensington, London, coordinated with a silent march through central Manchester.

Since the tragedy on 14 June, protesters have held monthly silent marches near the Kensington site and with each march the deep-rooted anger, at the council, the government and the Tenants Management Organisation (TMO), has increased. Every month, the numbers grow. Last month, there were thousands on the streets.

Hundreds of survivors from the tower and the surrounding buildings are still languishing in temporary accommodation, despite promises to fast-track them into new homes.

The march through Manchester will include a silent candlelit procession led by 71 people – each carrying a placard bearing the photo of someone who died. This will be followed by a minute’s silence and speeches in Piccadilly Gardens.

Kevin Allsop, who has organised the event for trades union association GMATUC, said: ‘We wanted to show our support to the people of Grenfell and hope that other cities will then pick up the baton and do something similar on the anniversary of the fire, on 14 June.’

Joe Delaney, a Grenfell survivor whose low-rise block is connected to the tower, will attend the march. He is still living in a hotel almost two miles away from home. According to Kensington and Chelsea Council, 248 households continue to reside in their homes on the Lancaster West Estate, of which the tower is part, while 66 households are in emergency hotel accommodation.

On the night of the fire Joe left his home without any belongings other than his two dogs, after spending hours helping to raise the alarm and evacuate neighbours.

It took four days of fighting with the local authority for him to be offered emergency accommodation – during which time he and his neighbour, who has a toddler, were forced to stay with one of his friends.

He said: ‘People have no trust in Kensington Borough Council. The police recovery teams are still working next to my flat and the council still hasn’t shown evidence that the building is fire-safe, eight months on.

‘This safety issue is bigger than Grenfell though. This is a national issue – there are blocks across the country with unsafe cladding still on, and where it has been removed residents are freezing.

‘The protections for tenants in this country are appalling and no matter which party is in government, little seems to change. Safety should not be seen as an undue burden. How dare they!’

The event begins at 6.15pm on 14 February at the junction of Market Street and Cross Street in central Manchester, while the silent march in North Kensington begins at 5.30pm outside Kensington Town Hall, Hornton St, Kensington, London W8 7NX.

Reposted courtesy of Dear Kitty blog;

https://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/pro-grenfell-disaster-survivors-marches-london-manchester/

If you haven’t already done so please sign the Grenfell Inquiry Petition which was refused by the Prime Minister on 22nd December last year;

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/206722

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Residents of Grenfell Area To Pay Rent Again

Residents of the homes surrounding Grenfell Tower have been told they must pay rent, despite more than a fifth of them still living in hotels due to ongoing maintenance problems.

Hundreds of flats on the Lancaster West Estate that overlook the site of the tragedy were left without basic amenities after June’s fire destroyed centralised gas and water lines under the building.

Urgent repair work was undertaken on the Hurstway, Testerton, Barandon and Grenfell Walkways, but some residents have complained that they are living with intermittent hot water and central heating, eight months on from the fire that killed 71 people

At least 66 households have not moved back to the estate, while 248 residents are currently occupying flats.

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) officials said they recognised there had been “disruption to services” and outlined a “compensation” scheme for residents until April 2018.

The council noted problems with intercom systems, gas supplies and interruptions to heating and hot water.

An Executive Decision Report from the council also noted additional fire safety works had not yet been completed on the block and access to the estate remained limited.

“While residents are experiencing these levels of disruption, it is unreasonable to expect them to pay the full amount of rent and service charges without compensation of some kind,” it stated.

RBKC has proposed a 50 per cent reduction in rent and service charges for tenants of the walkways and a 50 per cent reduction in service charges for leaseholders.

Residents of nearby Bramley and Treadgold Houses and Verity Close will also receive a reduction of 15 per cent in rent and service charges for tenants and 15 per cent in service charges for leaseholders.

But Lancaster West Estate resident Joe Delaney, who is still living in a hotel eight months on from the fire, said the charges were not justified.

“RBKC are yet again demonstrating how out of touch they are,” he told The Independent.
In Pictures: Grenfell Tower after the fire

“People are still either living in a crime scene or stuck in hotels, yet RBKC believe that they can resume charges for services that residents are not benefiting from in buildings that are still unsafe and unfit for purpose.

“Perhaps if the heating, hot water and gas were working and, almost eight months since the Grenfell disaster, RBKC could prove to residents that the buildings were safe then some charge could be justified but the situation is the same today as it was the day after the fire.

“The tower hasn’t even been covered so people not only live in the shadow of a crime scene, they are also forced to view the charred remnants of a building in which their friends, family and neighbours horribly perished.”

Samia Badani, leader of Bramley House residents’ association, said a 15 per cent reduction did not reflect the ongoing “trauma” suffered by residents.

“It is clear we are not asking for rent to be withheld because of disrepair – the trauma we suffer compounded by the failure to be evacuated is not reflected in this 15 per cent,” she said. “We are asking for a gesture because we don’t have peaceful enjoyment of our homes.”

But deputy council leader Kim Taylor Smith said: “Following consultation, the 248 households living in their homes on the Lancaster West Estate will continue to receive compensation of up to 50 per cent on their rent and service charges in recognition of the disruption to some services.”

He added: “The reintroduction of rent and service charges for residents on the estate comes as the promised seven-month charge-free period comes to an end. Meanwhile, plans for a multimillion pound refurbishment plan, that is being decided by residents, is well underway.”

It comes after the organisation in charge of Grenfell Tower and its surrounding walkways was forced to hand back control of around 9,000 homes to RBKC after it admitted that it could “no longer guarantee that it can fulfil its obligations”.

Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation was stripped of its contract to maintain social housing following a vote of no confidence from all 25 residents’ associations earlier this year.

 

 

Lucy Pasha-Robinson @lucypasha
Wednesday 7 February 2018

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-residents-estate-pay-rent-hotels-live-no-gas-hot-water-kensington-council-a8197561.html

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Notting Hill Housing and Genesis: Two Weddings And A Funeral

On 16th January shareholders of Notting Hill Housing and Genesis Housing Association voted overwhelmingly in favour of the merger about which we recently blogged.

The voting figures for NHH were: 55 proxy votes (before the meeting) for the merger. At the meeting there were 20 votes for the merger and 12 against.

The voting figures for Genesis were: 49 votes for the merger, 1 against and 1 spoiled ballot.

THINK agree with many of their residents and believe this is a wrong decision on so many levels. We have very real concerns regarding both associations, their treatment of tenants and properties and their social cleansing “regeneration” activities.

Both the Listen NHH and the Genesis Residents fought and continue to fight a strong campaign for social housing and for residents’ rights. THINK salute these dedicated campaigners who put so much effort, passion and research into their excellent campaigns and have shared so much information with us.

Something that the Listen NHH campaigners informed THINK about some time ago was a Notting Hill Housing policy of selling off empty properties in higher priced areas like ours, rather than doing them up to re-let to their tenants.

The picture below is of an empty house owned by Notting Hill Housing at 69 Cornwall Crescent.  It is in North Kensington, less than five minutes from Grenfell Tower.

Perhaps Notting Hill Housing can explain just what they intend to do with this particular property?

When campaign group Listen NHH queried why this empty property was left in such a state NHH declared that it was being refurbished, but it remains empty to this day!

Maybe someone should check NHH’s friends at Savills or some other property auctions?

We thought that Notting Hill Housing (they dropped the “trust”) was a previously charitable and commendable organisation that bought properties at auction to refurbish them and give them to those in need – not do the reverse!

THINK joined the protests against the merger and we will continue to support further important campaigns to save our social housing.

The protests were well attended and even managed to be heard inside the meetings.

Notting Hill Housing are very good at blowing their own trumpet, so we thought they should listen to what some of their residents have to say. Here are just a few complaints we found posted online:

“Terrible at sorting repairs, the system is totally disorganised. They hardly ever return calls and have to be chased up constantly”

“Hold vendettas against tenants who fight for their rights. NHHT break tenure agreements and fail to repair homes”

“Really poor service. I have been trying to get in touch for the past 3 weeks and no one picks up the phone”

“Notting Hill Housing has made my family distressed for the past 7 years. They have treated us extremely badly, avoiding our needs. They show pure ignorance as well as Kensington and Chelsea. This Borough and this housing association are like the plague”

“They treat tenants like third class citizens”

“Sleep deprived since October 2015 due to neighbour above. I am a disabled tenant, deemed vulnerable. Two psychologists from two different hospitals wrote to my housing officer and her manager saying they were afraid for my mental wellbeing and suicidal thoughts. Notting Hill Housing Trust never replied to them. Yet they still win gold awards. I got in touch with CEO Kate Davies numerous times – NOTHING”

GOLD AWARDS? After these comments it appears NHH don’t even deserve a wooden spoon……

Housing, particularly in our part of London should be for all and we condemn those from some housing associations, local authorities and the Government whose intent appears to be to price people on low to average incomes out of London with schemes to replace social housing with “affordable”housing (80% of market rate) and simply cash in on property values.

We are proud to live in a mixed community that consists of people from all backgrounds, rich and poor, but we know that the wonderful diverse character of our area will change if social housing is continually pushed to the back of the agenda or even abandoned altogether.

(Reposted by kind permission of https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/ from their original post on January 17, 2018)

WE RECOMMEND ‘THISISNORTHKENSINGTON’ TO ALL OUR READERS

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GRENFELL PETITION – PLEASE SIGN & SHARE

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/206722

On Tuesday 12th December, bereaved relatives handed in a 16,600-strong petition to 10 Downing Street demanding that an impartial and independent decision-making panel sits alongside the government appointed inquiry chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, in leading the Grenfell inquiry. According to the rules that apply to petitions of government 10,000 signatures are enough to elicit a response from the Prime Minister. Unfortunately that response, deliverd on 22nd December, the very eve of christmas, was a resounding and implaccable no to the demands of the Grenfell community.

This leaves us now in a position where we must do it the hard way. We must find 100,000 signatures by 30th May 2018, at which point parliament will consider debating the petition.

Since the petition was submitted to Downing Street it has continued to attract signatures at a regular but slow pace and is now approaching 27,000 signatures. We need the pace to quicken, which means we need to extend our reach to communities bloggers and community activists countrywide who have not yet heard about the petition.

We strongly believe that there are at least 100,000 people in the  UK who believe in our cause and would gladly sign our petition if they knew about it, so we are asking any followers of this blog to contact other blogs or activist groups, wherever they are in the UK, to help spread the word as widely as possible.

The link to the petition is above. Below is a downloadable A4 flyer which can be printed and spread community-wide.

PLEASE HELP US.

Grenfell Petition poster A4

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Firefighters Anger At 40% Rise In London Fire Deaths

Firefighters Anger At 40% Rise In London Fire Deaths

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says its London members are deeply upset and angry to learn that the number of people killed in fires has risen sharply in the capital, according to the latest figures released by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) this week.

In 2016, the latest year for which figures have been made available, there were 46 deaths in London caused by fire, up from 33 the previous year – a 40% increase. The figures, published in the LFBs Fire Facts briefing, do not include the 71 victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Paul Embery, FBU executive council member for London, said: “We are deeply concerned at the correlation between the rise in deaths following the deepest cuts to the brigade in its history, which were pushed through by the former mayor. This disturbing increase has happened at a time when over a thousand frontline firefighter posts have been ditched, 10 fire stations closed, and specialist rescue equipment and fire engines have been removed from service.

“In recent years firefighters have had to work with one hand tied behind their backs. Station closures and fewer fire engines mean it is taking longer for fire crews to make it to the incident scene. This means they arrive after the fire has become more intense, when the possibility of rescuing victims becomes fainter and the work far more dangerous. Critically, overworked firefighters are now struggling to provide the preventative fire safety work which has historically driven down the number of fatal fires.

“Firefighters welcome mayor Sadiq Khan’s commitment not to make any further frontline cuts to the brigade. However, we need to look at adopting a strategy that gives the brigade the funding it desperately needs in order to drive down fatal fires.”

11 January 2018

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https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2018/01/11/firefighters-anger-40-rise-london-fire-deaths

 

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Notting Hill & Genesis Merger Legally Flawed

Residents Claim Notting Hill & Genesis Merger is legally flawed.

At two Special General Meetings on 16 January 2018, the Executive Boards of Notting Hill and Genesis Housing Associations will ask their shareholders to vote for a merger, first proposed on 20 July 2017.  This follows only a year after the collapse, at the last minute, of an earlier proposed merger between Genesis and Thames Valley Housing.

Residents have organized a briefing meeting for shareholders on 11 January 2018, (to which  MPs and the press are invited), where they will explain how the Boards have sent shareholders deliberately misleading information. Residents claim that the Boards’ plan to vote on one resolution to approve the merger on 16 January and drastically change the Rules of both organisations, is unlawful and in breach of their current Rules.  They are now considering legal action against both Boards and are sending a “letter before action”.

Residents are also about to make a formal complaint that the consultation with residents about the merger was in breach of the Homes and Communities Agency’s Tenant Involvement and Empowerment (TIE) standard, which was revised on 14 July 2017.

The proposed Rule changes delete the primary object of providing social housing, reduce the power of shareholders, reduce scrutiny and accountability of the Board and aim to give more powers to the Board.  Robin Sharp, current shareholder, and founder member and first Chair of the predecessor organization to Genesis, Paddington Churches Housing Association, notes that verbal assurances given by the Chair of Genesis, Dipesh Shah and Kate Davies, CEO of Notting Hill Housing Trust, have not materialised and there are no due diligence reports available, despite these having been promised.

One resident commented, “Despite the obvious lessons of the Grenfell tragedy, they are fast tracking the process of becoming a private property developer: evidence of this is in Notting Hill Housing’s five year pipeline, (August 2017), which proposes to build a mere 9.9% of social housing against a whopping 40.1% of private sales.  The disappearance of social housing is also clear from their brochure, ‘Presentation to investors on the proposed merger’ produced by the Boards on 19 July 2017.”

The briefing meeting is this Thursday 11 January 2018 at 6.30pm at Macmillan Suite, Portcullis House, 1 Parliament Street, London SW1A 2JR.  (Arrive early to clear security.)

The shareholder Special General Meetings are on Tuesday 16 January 2018 at 6pm

Notting Hill Shareholders at Notting Hill Housing, 1- 3 Sussex Place, London W6 9EA

Genesis Shareholders at Atelier House, 64 Pratt Street, London NW1 0DL.

Residents will be holding a peaceful protest outside the meetings on 16 January to protest against the proposed merger and support shareholders who are voting against the merger.

Housing association merger will lead to social cleansing, warn tenants;

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/11/housing-association-merger-will-lead-to-social-cleansing-warn-tenants

For further information contact:

Tim Baster at genesis.residents.action@gmail.com

Gemini Verney-Dyde at listennhh@gmail.com 07808 268 134

Natasha Sivanandan – briefing co-ordinator: 07432 600 230

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