The cost of housing in Walthamstow is now the top issue residents raise with me as your local MP- whether the shortage of properties, rising rents, unsustainable prices, overcrowding or increasing homelessness. That’s why I’m delighted Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate for the next Mayor of London, has agreed to join us to hear first hand from residents about these problems and discuss how we can address these challenges. This event is our opportunity as a community to speak out about the housing crisis we face and call for the next Mayor of London to make tackling this a top priority.
This event is taking place on Saturday 20th February at 11am in Walthamstow. All Walthamstow residents are welcome to attend this free event, but to help us with logistics please RSVP for the full venue details and to confirm your place by emailing admin@workingforwalthamstow.
The cost of housing in Walthamstow has become one of the biggest challenges facing local residents. Many find themselves unable to afford to live in our community, whether due to a shortage of properties, rising rents or increasing house prices. Without action – either owning or renting an affordable home in our community will become a distant dream for too many – that’s why the Walthamstow Housing Campaign is helping our local community fight back.
In Waltham Forest house prices have doubled over the last eight years, as people have been priced out of other parts of London and so turned their attention to outer London boroughs. These problems in turn create shortages for social and affordable housing, as many within the private sector are encouraged to speculate on rents and house prices. In turn, concerns about the quality of housing continue to grow, with many local residents being charged extortionate rents for properties which require repairs to be habitable.
Residents individually can feel powerless to complain about these issues, for fear of being evicted or cut out of the market all together. Proposals to introduce longer tenancies, ban fees for tenants and control the cost of rent were rejected by the national Government – but campaigners in Walthamstow will not wait to act to protect residents getting into greater debt, from those who are profiting from it.
By bringing residents, local campaigners and the Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy together, we are shining a spotlight on the good and bad practice in our local housing market. These awards offer an effective way of using consumer power to challenge those who are ripping off local residents as well as celebrating those who are supporting our community. The categories in the scheme cover all aspects of housing in Walthamstow including the social, private rented and home buying sectors – as well as a special MP nomination for horror stories!
Last year our Awards were covered by BBC primetime documentary Rooms, Rogues and Renters and we brought an end to estate agents double charging by estate agents in the area as well as helping local residents avoid being ripped off by letting agents overcharging them. So too, following the awards scheme, many local letting and estate agents participated in meetings about the problems facing local residents, showing their commitment to work together with the community to address concerns about their industry. We are keen to make just as much of a splash this year and continue to press companies locally to treat residents fairly!
Voting has now opened for Walthamstow residents to choose their best and worst letting agents, estate agents and social housing providers in time for the award ceremony with special guest, Labour Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan on Saturday 20 February 2016 at 11.30am in Walthamstow. At this event we will also be seeking to persuade Sadiq to back our proposals for a landlord cooperative in London as well as ways of addressing the cost of housing as part of changing London’s housing market so that it works for the many, not the few. The ballot will close at 12pm on Friday 19th February 2016.
If you would like to attend the awards please register for your free place and to receive full details of the venue by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Please use the categories in the link to tell us who you think are the best and worst in our local letting and estate agencies, as well social housing providers, and why you are nominating them by sharing your horror story of Walthamstow’s housing market. The three estate agencies, letting agencies and social housing providers who receive the most nominations will be made public ahead of the awards event, and the ‘winners’ will be announced on Saturday 20 February 2016. The ballot will close at 12pm on Friday 19th February 2016.
Please note only Walthamstow residents are eligible to vote in this survey and each person is only allowed to vote once. No details of those who vote will be made public to maintain the anonymity of those residents who participate, but to vote in this process residents will need to provide an local Walthamstow address, or your ballot will be invalid.
On Saturday 6 February at 5pm as part of our Healthy E17 campaign, we are organising a healthcare policy seminar. In this session we will focus on three key local concerns- the impact of PFI on healthcare funding, changes to nursing training bursaries and what this will mean for recruitment of staff, and access to GP services in Walthamstow.
Barts Health Trust, which runs Whipps Cross hospital, has the largest UK PFI deal made at £1.1billion. By 2049 the amount paid back will total £7billion. Last year alone the Trust shelled out £148million – equivalent to the salaries for 6,000 nurses – on this loan, of which half paid for interest alone. When the hospital downgraded nursing posts to try to save money to pay such costs, staff morale plummeted. Now regulators have highlighted that frequently at Whipps Cross 66% of nursing cover was provided for by agency nurses, increasing the staff costs for the hospital. Whilst the quality of care at our local hospital suffers and its resources are stretched, its creditors thrive. Innisfree is the company that owns 50% of the Barts deal and expects to make £18billion from eighteen different PFI projects across Britain. It has just twenty five staff, one of whom earned £2million last year alone. Meanwhile, the Government has announced plans to cut the bursaries that enable students to study to become nurses and many residents tell me they cannot get appointments at our GP practices.
On Saturday 6th February, we will be working together to analyse the problems PFI loans cause, and develop our own proposals for renegotiating this debt with expert academics who specialise in public finance. So too, we’ll hear from nurses about the consequences of the Government’s decision to scrap bursaries for students and local campaigners involved in improving access to GP surgeries in Walthamstow. All participants will get a chance to contribute to each area of policy and we will be devising plans for how to campaign on all three.
This event is free and open to all residents of Walthamstow to attend, but to help us manage the organisation of this event please RSVP to Lindsay, one of the event organisers, to confirm your place with your name, address and details of any others who wish to attend with you. Those who RSVP will be sent full details of the venue and event. Please feel free to share this invitation with other local residents who you believe would like to participate in this discussion.
Ever had a dream about how to change the world? But not sure where to start? Well then this campaign training session is for you!
Groucho Marx once said politics was the art of making trouble. Our track record shows that when we channel the energy and enthusiasm we share for social justice we can achieve great things – whether creating the NHS, lifelong learning or the national minimum wage. Now we want to go even further. These training workshops help empower activists to directly plan and develop their own campaigns and projects. Led by Labour and Coop MP Stella Creasy and focused on the practical actions you can take, these events are your opportunity to work individually and collectively to secure progressive changes across our country.
During the course of the first half of the workshop, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about effective advocacy techniques and meet with other activists to learn from them whilst working together creating campaigns. Bring your own projects or help others with theirs – everyone has a role to play. Then in the second half of the session you’ll have the opportunity to pitch your ideas to some of the top political, social and community activists and leaders around the country in our campaigns ‘Dragons Den’. Can you and your team persuade them to help your project?
Training, engaging and mobilising Labour’s community leaders to help change the world– that’s what we’re about. Book now for the training session in Edinburgh – 30th January, 1030am to 12.30pm by emailing email@example.com to reserve your space and for full details of the venue.
These sessions are free and open to everyone who share our progressive values and supports the objectives of the Labour movement so please feel free to invite anyone who you think would benefit from the session. As Eleanor Roosevelt argued “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” So stop dreaming of changing the world, and start believing you can. Join in with this training session to learn how – because our nation’s future is there for the making.
Thursday 7 January 2016
7pm – 8.30pm
Or sign up via this form here for the event details:
Local MP Stella Creasy today attended the Winns Primary School assembly to surprise the winner of her annual festive greeting card competition. The winner, Matilda Barwell Bryce, is aged 6 and attends class 2AO and was delighted to have won. Stella said of her visit:
‘Every year we have hundreds of entries for the competition which makes judging it really difficult as there are so many talented children in Walthamstow. Everyone loved Matilda’s colourful design as soon as they saw it as it really stood out. Its very festive and it also celebrates Walthamstow itself – including our cake and pizza! I especially want to thank the amazing local businesses and organisations who have so generously sponsored this card including Sodo Pizza, Stow Brothers, Bates of London, Rineys, Your Move, The Mall Walthamstow and the LVE Charitable Foundation to enable so many local and national people to see Matilda’s message’
The card will go to 3,500 people and Matilda and her family have been invited to tea in parliament with Stella as a prize for her winning design.The competition was open to all children under 12 who live in the Walthamstow constituency and over and there were over 300 entries.
In 2014 the Government changed the rules for voter registration. This means unless you have personally registered to vote yourself, you may not be on the electoral register after December 1 2015. In Walthamstow nearly 5,000 households could be affected.
Over the course of the last year, hundreds of residents have been in touch with me regarding Waltham Forest Council’s ‘Mini Holland’ project. I’ve passed all of the concerns raised onto the Council so that they can directly respond, and I wanted to update residents on what action I have taken in the light of their feedback.
I appreciate that this scheme has aroused strong views, from both those who are delighted with it and those who are implacably opposed to it. Yet aside from letters or emails from those who are members of campaigning organisations seeking either to have this scheme abandoned or extended, it may interest you to know I have received a much larger volume of correspondence from residents about the details of the scheme e.g. particular road closures, routes or the consequences of such changes vs alternative formations as well as repeated concerns about the process of consultation.
Given this, I believe that all those interested in this scheme should welcome the opportunity of the proposed six month review to consider what is working and what is not. I note that even those who have written to me strongly in favour of this scheme have identified ‘snags’ in the current design that need to be addressed, and I believe the majority of those expressing concern about the project support the principles of the scheme, but see practical problems with how it has been set up. It would indeed be unusual for any large innovative public project of this nature to be perfectly implemented and executed, and I would encourage all those with ideas for improvements or information on unintended consequences that need to be addressed to raise these with the Council so that they can be investigated.
As there is now some confusion as to whether this review will take place you will see from my letter to the Council – reproduced below- that I have asked for this to be clarified. Furthermore, it is completely unacceptable that people have been subjected to threats, both on and offline, as well as vandalism and abuse as a result of the strength of feeling that this project has generated and I would urge all concerned to remain calm and constructive.
Please note that as the Walthamstow MP I have no formal authority over this scheme as it is managed by the Council and not parliament. If you have not updated your local councillors who are responsible for this project with your ideas and feedback and would like their contact details to do so please do let me know. As I don’t have any decision making powers on this matter myself I have not either ‘supported’ or ‘opposed’ the project (as I could not affect the outcome either way) but have instead been trying to ensure that all the concerns raised by residents are heard by the Council and that where possible solutions for the issues they raise are provided. So too I have sought to ensure residents are aware of the further elements of this scheme as it is rolled out across Walthamstow- although please note that the Council state only those residents who live on the roads directly affected by these changes are able to participate in the consultation.
With this in mind, please be aware that as well as the changes already introduced to the Walthamstow Village area and Lea Bridge area, there are now also consultation proposals out for response regarding changes to road layouts, closures and route directions for the Hoe Street/ Wood Street area (eg. between Forest Road and Church Hill Road) and also for the Blackhorse Road area (e.g. around Pretoria Ave, Palmerston Road, Forest Road etc) The Council is also beginning to develop plans for the Markhouse/Queens Road area of Walthamstow too. You can find out more about all these plans on the council’s dedicated ‘Mini Holland’ Website which is here:
If you live in either the Hoe St/Wood Street area or the Blackhorse Road area and have not received the formal consultation documents please let my office know and we will share these with you. You can also directly contact the Mini Holland team at the Council via their website. If as a local resident you would like copies of my Mini Holland updates please do email me directly and I will ensure you receive these as and when they are produced.
Text of Letter to Council below:
Dear Martin and Clyde,
I’m writing to you further to our previous conversations regarding the Mini Holland project to put on record my concerns and ask for clarification on a number of issues so that I may update those who have been in touch with me.
I want to start by stating how welcome it is that Waltham Forest is prepared to be innovative in this way and seek to support cycling as well as pedestrians in the Borough. Whilst I respect that this project has been developed by the local authority and as such is being managed by yourselves rather than Parliament, I hope you can appreciate that as the MP for the area in which it is being introduced I have received a substantial amount of correspondence about the project. As such my interest is in ensuring the views of my constituents on this matter are heard in the outcomes of this project and how it is implemented.
As we have discussed previously, I have had concerns for some time about the way in which the scheme was introduced – not its intentions- and the manner in which the initial consultation on this project was conducted. As this project has continued these have not abated. The majority of comments from residents I have had and continue to receive echo this distinction between supporting the general principles of the scheme and being concerned as to how decisions about road closures have been made and whether there may be alternative ways to achieve the outcomes intended.
Despite the project now being nearly a year old, I continue to receive almost daily requests from residents for information about this process and how the pattern of road closures for Walthamstow has been determined – as well as the contrast between this and the plans for other areas of the borough which involve different methods of achieving this objective. Aside from the pressure groups which have now been set up in favour and against the scheme entirely, many not involved in either of these groups persistently contact me to state they feel they have not had adequate information on the project or that their views and proposals have not been considered and so cannot understand the nature of decisions made. So too I have now sadly started to receive reports of abusive behaviour towards residents from others who support the scheme and oppose it, both on and offline.
At the start of this project I was informed that there would be a six month review of the Walthamstow Village scheme after its introduction. This would have provided the chance to see whether changes to the layout of roads were meeting the stated aims and to offer residents the chance to feedback on what was working and what could be amended. I have sought to encourage those concerned about this project as well as supporting it to feed in these ideas to such a review accordingly and to be constructive in approaching this review with their ideas. The existence of this proposal for a review was confirmed to me by Cllr Mark Rusling and in correspondence with local residents – as well as his report that this had been agreed by the Cabinet in February this year.
I note now that Cllr Loakes, in correspondence with some residents on 9 September, did not mention this, and indeed stated that there are no plans to review the scheme at all:
“I’m afraid therefore I see no reason to reconsider the detail of the scheme- some 10 months after it was extensively consulted on, some 9 months after the Council made its decision and just some 4 weeks or so since the closure actually went in.”
As you may appreciate this is causing confusion amongst those who had previously been told that there would be a six month review and I do not wish to give out the wrong information. Therefore, I should be grateful for a formal clarification as to whether this six month review proposal, which had previously been agreed by the Council Cabinet, is going ahead and if not why an explanation as to why this has been scrapped. So too, a number of residents repeatedly ask me about the logic behind road closures vs one way streets or dedicated cycle lanes etc. Having spoken with the Mini Holland team about this and seen the plans for the rest of the borough it would be very helpful to have a guide to these that I can share from the Council directly.
A number of concerns have also been raised with me about the safety of the ‘Copenhagen’ crossings, given that they can appear as a continuation of the pavement, so leaving pedestrians, cyclists and drivers unclear on the status of the road crossing. I would appreciate further background to these ‘Copenhagen’ street entrances, which I could circulate.
I would also welcome details of the emergency services’ responses to these proposals and a copy of their correspondence so I can go back to those who have raised access with me. I am concerned at reports that even patient transport ambulances are not allowed access to those roads that have been closed and I want to check whether this is your understanding. I would also encourage you to meet with the residents of some of our sheltered housing blocks who are now finding that taxi companies are charging them higher rates for their journeys to and from hospital due to the road closures in the village. I do not believe this matter is unresolveable but it is a great concern for those affected. It would be helpful to know if the local authority could broker a facility for making provision for such journeys for this group of residents given that some are now not attending appointments because of this increased cost.
I also remain concerned that you have explicitly chosen to consult only those on the roads directly affected about these changes, as though this was a scheme about their roads alone rather than travel or movement through the area as a whole – a topic that involves a larger group of local residents. Whilst I support the importance of primarily consulting those who live on roads where closures are proposed, I would encourage you to ensure all residents are aware of all the details of the plans proposed for the totality of Walthamstow. Whilst I appreciate there are some who are passionately opposed to the principle behind this scheme, for many more it is the lack of knowledge of the proposals and ‘knock on’ effects that are of concern and for whom understanding these would I’m sure would be welcome.
Any major change project would generate discussion and debate, and I acknowledge that you have sought to improve the way in which the scheme is publicised throughout the borough in recognition of this point. However, as part of showing how much you value building consensus around this project among the majority of residents I would encourage you to consider whether it would be appropriate to conduct this review of the implementation of the first phase of this project in the village area and report back to residents on this, ahead of any introducing further changes elsewhere. To do so would not be to reject the scheme but to learn from what has worked in this location, and what has not, before proceeding further. As such it could send a strong signal that the council wishes to work with local people to get this scheme right as the primary beneficiaries.
I look forward to your response and will be sharing this correspondence with all those who have been in touch so they are aware that I have formally raised these questions,
On Saturday 19th September 2015 Stella spoke to the Coop Party Annual Conference. Here is the transcript of her speech:
I want to start by thanking Gareth Thomas, who was a fantastic candidate for London Mayor and Karin Christiansen and her team for the amazing work they did on the Keep it Coop campaign.
Recently I’ve been taking inspiration from the Dickens classic Hard Times. And in particular Gradgrind. As I like a good fact. And facts are indeed a wonderful thing.
Liechtenstein, the world’s sixth smallest country, is the largest exporter of false teeth. I hadn’t any idea anyone was counting! Facts can tell us a lot about the modern world.
Every generation has faced change, but ours is the first to see in its lifetime such a pace and scale of multiple challenges, leading to a sense of powerlessness.
Traditional politics is struggling to keep up with modernity. In a world where both opportunity and insecurity can be transmitted by the touch of a trader’s button, lack of access to decision making is an inequality in itself.
Talk of ‘giving power away from the centre’ makes it sound as though it is a lump of plasticine held in Whitehall or Westminster to be bequeathed in small pieces to passengers, patients or parents at the benevolence of the Government of the day. Real change will not come from holding more meetings, but how we can all hold more power for ourselves.
That is why it is time to look to the Coop movement for a way forward. Ours is a movement that not only values people power, but applies it. From your spending habits to your social activism or political engagement, cooperativism taps into individual and collective energy for change.
We know the strength that comes not just from changing the law but changing the country. That when it came to beating the legal loan sharks, it was not just a law on the cost of credit that was needed but also credit unions and communities to come together to support those in financial difficulty so that they had an alternative.
So we of all understand when everything seems so uncertain, so fraught, it is people not institutions that should be our starting point- and that to unleash the power they have within them we should not be afraid to pioneer. An answer as old as our very movement itself.
Those men in Rochdale in 1844 wanting to sell honest food at honest prices recognised that in times of uncertainty and unfairness, we our each other’s greatest hope. 171 years later the principles they set out to define how to work together in practice are even more relevant than ever to our shared futures.
Self help, Self responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. They were concerned as much for the benefits to the individual, as to the community, of participation. To protect the vulnerable as well as to make a profit. They were both entrepreneurs and trade unionists. They used their collective might to take the means of production into their own hands- and make markets work on their terms.
But the world we face today is very different to the world the Rochdale pioneers faced. After all I have jumpers older than the internet.
So our task is how to put these values into practice now recognising all – equity, self help and solidarity- matter in unlocking the power to change the world.
When we do we see markets can be mastered by people if we work together. We are now living through a Marxist revolution thanks to the digital age. The means of production and innovation are in the hands of workers. It is not hyperbole to say that the pioneers prefigured it.
The pioneers were both entrepreneurs and trade unionists. They used their collective might to take the means of production into their own hands- and make the markets work on their terms. William Cooper. Sam Ashworth. Their weekly meetings to decide what to sell, held in a pub. Some coop things never really change.
What then can Coop thinking offer to today’s world? Within a few years there will be more self employed than working in the British public sector. Where this Government is stripping away employee rights, and markets are driving insecurity for many, Coops offer an exciting alternative. Freelancer coops for music tuition and careers advice are helping workers regain control over their careers. In the disruptive new sharing economy of Uber, kickstarter and Air b’nb, social enterprises like Room for Tea and Startsomegood offer contrasting models of how all involved in commerce get a better deal.
These principles are not just for small businesses. It is time we tackled legal loan sharking in the public sector, applying the lessons from credit unions to PFI debt management. We want to learn from the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund to give citizens more direct influence over national infrastructure investment. Mutualism can also protect and drive innovation for the greater good. Every citizen member of the Swiss Health Bank has retained direct control over their own valuable personal data to manage how is used for medical research, and not sold for private profit to third parties.
So too, for Britain’s deepening housing crisis, coops can offer a better deal for tenants, home buyers and landlords alike. With 20% of housing in Sweden in cooperative management we have a long way to go – schemes like the Oldham Housing Investment Partnership is showing the way forward.
Cooperators do not defend faceless bureaucracies that ignore people’s needs, whether in the public or private sector. But we know the ‘discipline of the market’ alone is not the answer. Instead it is to give the public the direct ability to shape services for themselves through mutualisation- whether of our railways, our NHS or our utilities. Coop councils are also the real radical future of devolution. I’m proud to have been a coop councillor before I was a coop MP. Whether Plymouth driving down electricity costs, Edinburgh promoting social enterprise or Milton Keynes community asset transfer schemes they are transforming their communities for the better.
Our principles guide too where we see when change isn’t happening quickly enough. We call out those companies whose women are only in their boardrooms as non-execs- there to make up numbers not make decisions. We seek equality and equity for all. With others in Europe and America acting, we know we cannot afford to be left behind by failing to introduce quotas for representation across all sectors. So I want to help the Women’s Cooperative Guild be a powerful force for these values.
These are the distinctive ways of thinking that our movement can offer –why we want to keep it coop. Because we know it is not a choice between the power you hold individually or we exercise politically- its about the combination of both.
That is why mutualism challenges the political status quo most of all- including some on the left. It recasts where the power to make things happen should lie. Not in the hands of the market or of a few in Westminster or even the town hall. But in strengthening the assets, networks and self responsibility of people themselves.
Over the course of this weekend you will hear many more exciting ideas for our future from people like Luke Pollard, Cllr Chris Penberthy and Gareth Thomas. But we must also recognise our movement needs to be more than a pamphlet. I’m proud to be part of the Labour party under Jeremy and Tom. I took part in the deputy leadership contest as a proud co-operator and campaigner as well as Labour MP. But that process taught me that it is a fact whilst some disagree our ideas in the coop movement, many more of those who share our values simply don’t know of us at all.
And that is one fact I definitely want to challenge. Because if we don’t speak up for and fight for our cooperative principles and the benefits of the cutting edge work our colleagues in places like Plymouth, Edinburgh and Milton Keynes are doing, there is no guarantee they will remain in office.
So I’m asking you today to help me in capturing that pioneering spirit for our generation. For those here and now living in this time with this government and these challenges. Not to leave it to someone else, but to be part of working across this country to develop cooperative campaigns that speak to the best of our values, reaching out to those who share our values but not our membership card – and to get those Labour and cooperative candidates re-elected and increased in 2016.
What I am calling the Cooperative Action Network is about working across the country to develop support and training for activists to show that coop difference. Tapping into the creative best of our movement and helping them campaign with their local coop members and supporters, as well as link up with their coop MPs and candidates. Using the latest online and offline techniques it is our ambition to put coop principles, policies and people at the front and centre of progressive politics and practise in this country.
But we can’t do it without you. So I’m asking you to join in. And I’m committing to helping run the training to help get this started. So what will you do to be the pioneer lead in your community- not just in the pub!
In Hard Times Dickens exhorts us
“Do the wise thing and the kind thing too, and make the best of us and not the worst.”
Let that be our maxim for the months and years ahead –social justice cannot be achieved when power is the plasticine plaything of the elite. Power is in our people. The time is now for us to unlock it – I look forward to working with you all to show the coop difference.