Democracy in Barnet

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Not even Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council was allowed into the AGM!

Tonight was an absolute disgrace at Hendon Town Hall! Barnet Council refused to let any of us from Sweets Way Resists or Our West Hendon into a *public* meeting where decisions about our lives were being made, even though we had 200,000 combined signatures on our petitions to present to them!

But that didn’t stop us from shouting loud enough that we could be heard in the meetings over the Mayor of Barnet, who was busy lying to the Council, telling them that residents were being let inside, when Barnet Council staff had told us in no uncertain terms that none of us would be allowed into the Town Hall tonight!

In truth, the line of cops and private security did occasionally part and make way for people to enter… As long as they were in formal attire! The rest of us proles were pushed and shoved by privately hired heavies for trying to take part in our local democratic process!

We stuck it out though! And we were there at the end when people in formal wear began to trickle-out from the post-AGM reception. We made sure they knew we were weren’t going away!

Tonight made the sorry-state of democracy in Barnet clear for all to see: even with the strength of 200,000 petition signatures, privatised security guards, backed by the force of the Met, kept families from taking part in a discussion with the council that sold off or approved the demolition of our homes.

But democracy isn’t really about what a bunch of posh folks in suits get up to behind police lines. It is about what we do to shape our lives, in the places we live. So we’ll get on with democracy at Sweets Way and West Hendon. If Barnet Council don’t want to let us into their meetings, we will just get on with our own and make the decisions together that will allow us to live the lives we deserve. We’ll see how long it takes before they come knocking at our doors…

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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A visit to the great leader of Barnet

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Young former residents of Sweets Way brought to tears by the lack of support from Barnet Council.

Saturday morning involved a visit to the monthly surgery of local councilor and leader of Barnet Council, Richard Cornelius. A month ago, we’d paid him a visit and he’d taken everyone’s details and promised to follow-up with all the individual cases. But he didn’t. And so everyone was a little less patient with him this time round, some having been moved out of borough since, others living in extreme precarity, with no sense what kind of support they will be able to receive from the council, after having been repeatedly rejected by countless private landlords. Several mothers powerfully told the stories of dispersal and inadequate accommodation that the council had forced them into, while teenagers and children were brought to tears during the confrontation.

When asked why there wasn’t any truly affordable housing (as in social or council housing) in Annington’s planning application, approved by Cornelius’ council, he was clear: it wouldn’t have been profitable enough to have any. And that’s what this comes down to: if a home isn’t profitable, it should be knocked down to make way for one that is.

Barnet Homes’ website makes perfectly clear where they stand in regards to those who can’t afford highly-profitable homes:

“There is very little affordable housing to rent in Barnet. If you have a low income you will need to consider looking for a home in areas outside of Barnet and even outside of London which are more affordable.”

But we won’t have it. So we will continue to fight against the demolition of the place we call home.

If you’re around Barnet on Monday morning, come join us as the Sweets Way social centre goes to court with Annington to fight their attempts at social cleansing, 9:30am at Barnet County Court: https://www.facebook.com/events/916567795031609/918777254810663/

We’re also at nearly 50,000 signatures on our Change.org petition! Please sign and share if you haven’t already!