Bringing Homelessness Home, Round Two: Tom Davey, Head of Social Cleansing

We paid a surprise visit to the home of Tom Davey this morning, Barnet’s ‘Head of Social Cleansing,’ coinciding with the Independent’s new report that 50,000 families have been socially cleansed from London in the last three years.

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The other day we pitched up a series of tents and umbrellas in the front garden of Richard Cornelius’ house, the leader of Barnet Council and ward councillor for Sweets Way. We wanted to bring homelessness home to one of the individuals most responsible for the decision to demolish 150 good family homes on our estate.

This morning, as the Independent leaked figures from London Councils that over the last three years, 50,000 homeless families had been forced-out of London by local authorities, we showed up at the home of Barnet councillor and Chair of Barnet’s Housing Committee, Tom Davey, to send a message about what his housing policy is doing to Sweets Way families. We delivered a full-sized grim reaper model, with Davey’s face on it, and the label ‘Head of Social Cleansing,’ placed amongst the same ‘temporary accommodation’ tents that we used to decorate his boss’ garden with last week.

Just days ago, one of the final Sweets Way families left on the estate was forced to move up to Luton, one of the cities that has received a significant number of homeless London families via Council social cleansing policies, according to the Independent.

Davey, described by a fellow councillor as ‘not fit for office’ over offensive comments made on Facebook about almost everyone you can imagine offending, is the latest public figure who we are throwing into the public spotlight for their role in kicking families out of the borough. Like with Cornelius, as long as their decisions rob us of our right to homes, we will go to theirs to make our voices heard.

However, we know that the problem isn’t limited to Barnet’s ‘ultra-Tory housing policy’ – London is cleansing its poor and working people at an unprecedented rate, as today’s Independent story makes crystal clear. In every London borough there is a Tom Davey, a Richard Cornelius and a fight that needs to be fought and won if London is going to avoid becoming one great big investment property for the rich. For now, we will keep bringing homelessness home to those who are making it happen in our neck of the woods and encourage others, around London to keep doing the same!

Bringing homelessness home… Round One

Photo by Jen Wilton (@GuerillaGrrl)

Photo by Jen Wilton (@GuerillaGrrl)

A week under threat of brutal eviction by high court bailiffs is bound to put most people into a pretty bad state… but it will take more than high court bailiffs to silence the Sweets Way community!

It was a week ago on Friday that Annington Properties had everyone left on the estate’s possession orders moved from County Court to High Court bailiffs. This meant that as of Monday morning, families were facing the prospect of goons kicking in their front doors, unannounced, at 6am, leaving them with ten or so minutes to empty all of their belongings into the street. Luckily, this didn’t transpire, though it did set-off a real panic amongst the remaining families at Sweets Way. In the panic, we all headed to Barnet Homes and demanded immediate rehousing. What families got varied considerably, and continued the pattern of people being moved into places that are simultaneously:

  • More expensive than Sweets Way,
  • Of worse quality than Sweets Way, and
  • Further away from the schools, jobs and health care needs of the residents of Sweets Way.

We continue to be disgusted by the social cleansing of our community, but we are no less committed to fighting it, even if the estate is almost empty.

With this shared resolution in mind, we decided to pay a visit to the home of Councillor Richard Cornelius, who is both our ward councillor, and the Leader of Barnet Council, who of course approved Annington’s development plans for Sweets Way, among many other scuzzy moves. (Check our friends at Barnet Housing Action or the Broken Barnet blog for more on the dodgy dealings of Barnet Council).

As it turned out, he wasn’t around, but that didn’t stop us from launching a ‘grassroots regeneration scheme’ in his front garden, with tents and brollies labelled ‘temporary’ and ‘emergency accommodation’ to highlight the precariousness that the families of Sweets Way have been forced to live with. Some families have moved FOUR times since February! Others have been without heating and hot water! Most have been moved so far away from the places they need to be to live their lives, as to have affected children’s schooling and parents’ work.

So as the children pitched tents and sang songs in front of the Cornelius’ family home, we took our first steps to bringing homelessness home to one of the people most responsible for creating it. Richard Cornelius has led on countless decisions that have made Barnet a far harder place to be poor and working class, yet has been able to return each day to his Totteridge home and sleep-easy without having to face the consequences of these decisions.

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We don’t have that luxury. As long as we aren’t able to live with dignity in our own borough, neither will those who have constructed this so-called housing crisis in a borough:

  • With 3,400 empty homes (2.14% of total properties in the Borough),
  • Which has approved the demolition or sell-off of thousands of council flats, and
  • Which has only built THREE new council homes in the last 22 years (zero from 2003 – 2013).

As long as Barnet Council makes social cleansing their official housing policy, those who have constructed these policies, and those who have benefited from them, will continue to hear from us…

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