Author Archives: johnny void

It’s Time To Take Our Cities Back From Property Developing Parasites Like Westbrook’s Mark Donnor

new-eraMark Donner probably barely batted an eyelid as he casually threatened 93 families on the New Era Estate in Hackney with eviction in the run up to Christmas.

It’s unlikely that Donner, who it was revealed this week lives in a £4 million pound mansion, has ever had to worry about paying the rent.  He has led a life dripping with privilege from his days at the exclusive private Leys School in Cambridge right up until his current role as Managing Principal of the shadowy property investment firm Westbrook Partners.  At the weekend Donnor spends his life racing classic sports cars, a world away from his tenants who are currently facing the stark terror of upcoming homelessness.

When Donnor’s company bought the New Era Estate they immediately hiked rents on the properties which had remained affordable housing for decades.  Then they announced they planned to almost quadruple rents in some cases, a move which they knew all too well would make almost all of the current tenants homeless.  But Mark Donnor didn’t care about.  Despite his vast wealth he wants more money.  Our money.

Because people like Donnor don’t create anything of value.  His company couldn’t even be bothered to maintain many of the properties that they rented out in New York.  Every penny they get comes from us, the people who actually live in the cities they are happily ransacking in the name of greed.  They are nothing more than leeches, sucking the money and the life out of communities to maintain their own gilded existence.  According to The Guardian, one of Westbrook’s first moves after buying the New Era properties was to transfer ownership of the estate offshore.  This means they can dodge the corporation tax they might have had to pay on the vast profits they hope to make.  These parasites do not even want to make a contribution to the society that has allowed them to live such a pampered lifestyle at the expense of everyone else. Ebenezer Scrooge would fucking blush at the antics of these sharks.

The latest news is that Westbrook have said they will not evict the tenants before the end of the year, as if this means they no longer have the morals of sewer rats.  They were presumably just fucking with the New Era families when this possibility was raised little over a week ago.  What a jolly jape it must be to be a property investor in London.

An increasing number of people are saying to Westbrook you will not evict these tenants at all.  Dozens of people have pledged to peacefully but physically resist any eviction attempt by the company and more are signing up every day.   You can join the growing list at: http://ipledgetodefendneweraestate.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/we-the-undersigned-pledge-to-defend-new-era-estate-and-its-tenants-from-evictions-using-non-violent-resistance/

The New Era tenants are also holding a protest march on Monday 1st December which will gather outside Westbrook’s plush Mayfair offices and march to Downing Street to hand in a petition signed by over 250,000 people.  Meet at Berkeley Square, W1 at 12.30pm to join them, and please help spread the word by sharing the facebook event.

Class War have also announced a protest outside Westbrook Partners on the 13th December at noon.  The re-energised working class action group have recently had a major success and forced the new owners of the notorious ‘poor doors’ building in East London to the negotiating table.  Whilst that battle is not yet over, it shows what can be achieved by getting out on the streets and in their faces.

The people like Donnor trying to steal our cities are nasty pieces of work.  They will not give in without a fight.  But all they care about is money.  They will already be adding up the costs of these protests and any potential resistence to their planned evictions.  Let’s make sure it costs them dearly, not just for the New Era families, but to send a message to every other vulture out there that we are taking our city back and will not give up our homes without the fight of our lives.

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Jobcentre Busy-Bodies To Outrank Healthcare Professionals In Treatment For Addictions

Iain_Duncan_Smith_pissedJobcentre busy-bodies could soon have the power to force people in treatment for drug or alcohol problems to take up full time ‘work related activity’ if they are unable to beat their addictions quickly enough.

The DWP has published guidance on the support (stop laughing) that will be offered to people claiming Universal Credit who have a dependency on drugs or alcohol.  Claimants will be given six months to undergo what the Jobcentre calls ‘structured treatment’ during which period they may not be required to look or prepare for work.  After this has elapsed however it will be a very diferent story.

The guidance warns that any further treatment will only be taken into account in a Claimant Comitment if Jobcentre advisors agree this if the best way for a claimant to achieve their ‘employment goals’.  This truly chilling move means that the newly named ‘work coaches’ will be able to demand someone attends workfare raher than continue with treatment for their condition.  Jobcentre staff have no adequate training to make these decisions but they will now have more power over patients than the medical professionals treating them.  It is not hard to imagine some jumped up sanction happy Jobcenre twat deciding someone who has relapsed needs a short sharp shock of forced work which they will possibly fail to attend and end up being sanctioned for.

Of course the Jobcentre cannot actually stop anyone attending treatment.  But if a counselling or support sessions happens to clash with what they’ve decided you should do that day then you may face benefits being stopped for choosing getting better over ‘work related activity’.

The good news is that Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to force people into treatment seems to have been quietly abandoned, at least officially.  The document states that: “You will not be forced by your work coach into receiving treatment.”

It does not say what will happen if you refuse treatment.  It all sounds a bit like so-called voluntary unpaid work schemes.  There is a danger that if someone doesn’t agree to go into treatment then they may end up being sent on workfare instead.

Whilst some people with dependencies can lead functional lives the stark fact is that the most chaotic drug and alcohol users are not fit for work.  And they won’t get fit for work within six months.  Some people have to wait that long to get into rehab.  Whilst the pampered rich may be able to check into a plush private clinic and then go back to their warm homes and affluent lifestyles, the poorest face long waiting lists, shit housing, and now, the likelihood of benefit sanctions.

If there were any grown ups at the DWP then they would understand that addiction is a serious and complex health problem which cannot always simply be fixed in six months.  An adequate social security system needs to accept this and not drive people into the ground if they are unable to work.  Employers are hardly rushing out to hire people with current drug and alcohol problems anyway.  There are two million people without these problems desperately looking for work after all.

But a realistic approach to how society handles addiction would not get Iain Duncan Smith any pats on the head from the Daily Mail.  So instead the Government is adopting policies based on lazy tabloid stereotypes which will do more harm than good.  And cost more money in the long run.  It’s enough to drive you to fucking drink.

You can read the guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-support-if-you-are-dependent-on-drugs-or-alcohol

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Whilst The Rich Get Richer The Poor Freeze: No More Deaths From Fuel Poverty

nomoredeathsfromfuelpoverty-980x778

Every Winter, in one of the richest countries in the world, people die because they can’t afford to put the heating on.  Yet still fuel prices soar with the poorest expected to pay the most through thieving pre-payment meters.

Every last penny made in profit by the big energy companies is paid in blood.  They know if they put prices up then people will die –  often older people or those with serious health conditions.  They put prices up anyway.  As Fuel Poverty Action say on their website:

“In 2012/2013 10,000 people died from fuel poverty, including thousands of people in London, and we are likely to learn that thousands more died last winter. At the same time the Big Six energy companies made £3.7bn in profit – this is equal to £370,000 profit for every person who died.

Much of that profit comes from pensioners, people living on meagre benefits or those earning paltry wages.  After landlords have had their slice of the UK’s social security budget, much of the rest ends up in the pockets of energy companies.  Yet it is benefit claimants themselves who are called scroungers, not the vultures rinsng them from all sides. with soaring rent, bills and food prices.  Staying alive in the UK – not being happy – just being alive, is becoming a daily struggle for those on the lowest incomes.  The fat cat rich scoff at this, or pretend it isn’t happening.  But nobody can deny the mounting body count.  This wonderful fucking free market we are all supposed to worship is killing people.  We have to stop that, because they won’t.  They are getting richer and don’t care.

A day of action against fuel poverty is taking place this Friday 28th November.
Meet at 11.30am outside the Institute of Directors, 116 Pall Mall before marching to Energy UK Regents Street (facebook page).  A Pensioner’s Block is meeting at 11am at the main entrance of Charing Cross station, join the facebook event here.

Please help spread the word, more info at: http://www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/uncategorized/join-the-day-of-action-against-winter-deaths-on-28th-november/

Follow @FuelPovAction on twitter for latest updates.

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Student Movement Sparks Back To Life In Fight For #FreeEducation

copper-paint

A copper gets a paint job in response to the violent police attack

In a further sign that resistance to austerity is sparking back to life, students from across the UK marched in central London yesterday demanding the right to free education.  This was the biggest student protest since the spiky demonstrations in 2010 when students smashed their way into the Tory Party headquarters.

As on previous protests, many students were not content to obediently march from A to B and then listen to politicians making boring and insincere speeches.  Instead, when the march arrived at Parliament Square many protesters tore down the fences surrounding the square.  These were erected after the recent Occupy protests and are intended to prevent any unofficial dissent against government policies outside the Houses of Parliament.  So far they havent worked very well.

As hundreds of people occupied the Square, a large group broke away heading towards the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills where they were viciously attacked by police.  This didn’t stop the Department, a local Starbucks and several coppers from being given an impromptu paint job as some demonstrators hurled makeshift paintbombs in resistance to the assault.  Further sit down protests, and minor scuffles continued outside Scotland Yard and the Tory HQ as small groups headed off in different directions occupying roads and bringing traffic chaos to the capital.

11 people were arrested, although all were released without charge*.  Many of those detained suffered injuries.  According to event organisers, the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (NCFAC) one person who had been refused medical treatment in custody had to be taken to hospital immediately after being released.  This is how the state now responds to even the most trivial civil disobedience.

There is no doubt that yesterday set the scene for the resurgence of a combative student movement in the run up to the next general election. And it’s not just students who should be pissed off.  Young people now face a terrifying future of shit wages or workfare, inadequate and insecure housing and the healthcare and pensions they will need as they grow older being stripped away.  Not one of the main political parties gives a fuck as an entire generation’s futures are demolished.  So when you hear media commentators complaining about violence at these protests because a copper got his hat kncked off or someone threw a bit of paint at a government building then remember who the real criminals are.

The NUS were also targetted on the morning of the demonstrations, with graffiti accusing them of being scabs for not supporting the march.  The unions pathetic excuse for this decision was concerns about health and safety as if some risk assessment is going to make a difference to a copper who’s decided to kick someone’s head in for not respecting their authority.

The last national student protest was organised by the NUS and featured a dispiriting march through the back streets of South London to a nondescript park in the pouring rain.  It was probably the most depressing political non-event in history.  The students who took action yesterday are better off without them.

More resistance is planned with a day of walk outs, occupations, protests and direct action called for on Wednesday December 3rd.  On the following Saturday 6th December local marches will take place throughout the UK.  Please help spread the word.

*Those arrested have been bailed to re-appear at police stations meaning they are not out of the woods yet.  Activist support group Green and Black Cross have called on anyone who witnessed an arrest, or police violence, to contact them at: gbclegal@riseup.net.

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The Bastards Want Our Homes: Join The New Era Estate Tenants And Let’s Show Them We Intend To Fight

new-eraTenants on the New Era Estate in Hackney have been threatened with the ultimate revenge eviction by shadowy property developers and investment firm  Westbrook Partners.

The New Era estate has provided homes at affordable rents to local people since the 1930s – although current rents of around £600 a month are hardly cheap for someone on a low income.  When the properties were bought by Westbrook earlier in the year rents were immediately hiked by 10%.  Then residents were informed that the company planned to bring rents up to the same levels as the local private sector, where even small flats can fetch well over £2000 a month.

Alongside Westbrook in this nasty attempt at social cleansing were Benyon Estates who also bought a small stake in the properties.  This company is owned by Tory Richard Benyon, believed to be the UK’s richest MP.  A series of bold and well supported protests recently led this company to sell their stake in the estate.  The response from Westbrook was immediate, with residents receiving notice from the local council that the company would no longer honour an agreement to freeze rents until 2016 and even suggested that the tenants could be evicted before Christmas.

The tenants have vowed to continue their fight, beginning with a twitterstorm tomorrow to help bring attention to the vile Westbrook Partners. This is a fight that needs to be won.  A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned that millions more people are set to face poverty due to soaring rents.  In truth it’s happening already.  As wages and benefits shrink, rents continue to soar in many parts of the country.  That money ends up in the pockets of faceless greedy bastards like Westbrook Managing Principal Mark Donner.  It’s time to show the world who they are and hold them to account for their destruction of our homes and communities.

For the latest news follow the New Era campaign @newera4all

Please sign and share the petition calling for the residents to be able to stay in their homes: https://www.change.org/p/new-era-should-not-become-the-end-of-an-era

Join the twitterstorm tomorrow (Weds 19th Nov between 1 and 6pm) which will target those involved in the estate’s current management – namely: @RealDonnor  @knightfrank  @onlywillneale  @KF_JRPhillips  @StephenJClifton @Nick_Braybrook  @KFResDev

Please help spread the word.  You can also find the tenants on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/neweraestatetenants

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Court Cases, Chaos and Soaring Debt As Council Tax Reform Unravels

cant-pay wont payThe shambolic postcode lottery which has emerged after reforms to Council Tax Benefit is creating chaos for Local Authorities and driving some people into desperate poverty.

Prior to the non-election of this government most people on out of work benefits were not required to pay council tax.  This was because they didn’t have any money.  This system functioned reasonably well and ensured that sick, disabled or unemployed people were not simply paying back half of their meagre benefits to local government.

Despite this the Tories decided to tear up the rulebook and hand over the powers for helping the poorest pay their council tax to local authorities giving them free reign to charge whatever they chose.  And to ensure maximum carnage, the amount of money made available for the new Council Tax Suppot scheme was cut by 10%.

Sadly many councils approached this chance to attack their most marginalised residents with barely disguised glee.  Some, like Tendring Borough Council, launched a ludicrous local people only scheme, with those new to the area facing full council tax bills even if they didn’t have a penny to their name.  Others, like Leeds City Council, are flirting with the idea of some form of forced workfare or jobsearch sessions for people struggling to pay their council tax.  This would presumably be in addition to the 35 hours a week mandated ‘work related activity’ that unemployed people must now carry out as a condition of their main benefits.

Elsewhere local councils dithered, often with such badly explained changes that many people only found out they were now eligible to pay some of their Council Tax when a court summons arrived.  Ths has led to mass court hearings with hundreds of people in some areas facing costly legal action often over just a couple of pounds a week.  Citizens Advice reported in May this year that council tax arrears are now the most common debt problem reported to them.  Unsuprisingly the cost of taking all these people to court has soared with the latest statistics showing a record £233 million was spent chasing council tax debt in 2013/14 – a rise of over £20 million in just one year.

These have not been the only court casess that some local authorities have found themselves emroiled in.  An important court judgement against Sandwell Council earlier in the year ruled that their policy that people should have lived in the area for two years before receiving a council tax reduction was illegal on six seperate grounds.  This has forced the previously mentioned Tendring Council to also change their local people only rule – and already they are attempting to shift the cost onto their poorest residents by slashing Council Tax Support even further.

Last month Haringey Council were also hit with a court ruling that they had failed to consult properly on reforms to Council Tax Benefit.  The council were found to have misled residents by claiming that they had no choice but to force people on beneifts to pay some council tax.   They weren’t the only ones who attempted this devious approach either.  Many more local authorities could now find that their Council Tax Support policies are unlawful due to bungled, or more correctly biased consultations.

Like so many of this Government’s policies, changes to council tax benefit have only hit the poorest and most voiceless people in the country.  If this was being happening to the latte-slurping middle classes we would never fucking hear about anything else.  Millionaire comedians would be crying in the newspapers about how hard done by they are.  Yet whilst the well off are promised income tax cuts, people living on just a few pounds a week are being plunged into council tax debt.  Arrears have risen by 20% since the reforms were introduced.  The massive growth in benefit sanctions have meant that many unemployed people now have no income at all – but they are still eligible to pay council tax.  Nobody even really knows how many thousands of people are currently being dragged through the courts for non-payment and who could even face prison as a punishment for their poverty.

It is not just those on out of work benefits who have been hit hard by the changes.  Many of the lowest paid are now also eligible to pay some, or more council tax than they were previously.  The poorer you are, the more of your money this Government wants.  And they do not care how much chaos they inflict to get it.

Apologies for the dead link that was wrongly sent out to email subscibers about this post yesterday.

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Here We Fucking Go! A String Of Victories Shows That When We Fight Back We Can Win

we-are-winningThe bastards are dropping like flies.  A string of victories have been won this week as people at the sharp end of austerity have shown that we don’t need giant trade unions or insincere political parties to do politics for us.

In East London, property developers Redrow have announced they are selling their £46.75m stake in 1 Commercial Street, the luxury tower block in East London.  This building has been the target of an 18 week campaign against the ‘poor doors’ which force people in the so-called affordable properties to use a different entrance to those living in the posh flats.  Rowdy weekly demonstrations have brought chaos to this busy part of London and enjoyed huge local support.  The protests are set to continue with a victory celebration next Wednesday 19th November from 6pm.

Meanwhile in Hackney the tenants on the New Era estate have driven the vile Benyon family to sell their investment in the estate where residents have been threatened with huge rent hikes.  This decision followed a lively protest when hundreds of people marched on the Benyon Estate offices and served a mock eviction on the company which is co-owned by Tory MP Richard Benyon – believed to be Britain’s richest elected politician.  Suddenly London’s property market is not looking like such a lucrative investment as everywhere people are starting to organise against soaring rents, gentrification, social segregation and evictions.*

A stunning triumph against workfare has also taken place in Liverpool where the city’s branch of the IWW Union had called a demonstration against the use of workfare by council sub-contractors Bulky Bobs.  Not only did the threat of this protest cause the organisation to pull out of unpaid work and agree to sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement, but they have also issued one of the strongest statements yet against Jobcentre workfare schemes.  Quoted on the Liverpool IWW website, Bulky Bobs say: “We are happy to support Liverpool IWW in their efforts to persuade the DWP to scrap Workfare and would urge any other business involved in the scheme to withdraw at once.”

Resistance to forced work has been strong in Liverpool, with regular protests being held and volunteer agencies in the city condemning workfare. Liverpool Council have also pledged to boycott George Osborne’s Help To Work scheme which forces claimants to work for six months without pay or face losing meagre benefits.  Liverpool could soon become the first workfare free city, which would be pretty fucking funny given that Merseyside contains the constituency of Employment Minister Esther McVey.

There was a further victory against workfare in Motherwell after LAMH Recycling also announced they would be ending their involvement with the scheme.  This social enterprise hit the headlines after local unemployed man John McArthur had his benefits stopped for refusing to work without pay at the organisation where he had previously been a paid employee.  John had held weekly protests outside the company leading to them finally withdrawing from forced labour.  Following the announcment McArthur took to twitter to thank the “extraordinary kindness of people whom I have never met but who have contacted me offering assistance. They keep alive the true spirit of charity, i.e caritas (love), and giving without seeking a fee (or free labour)”.

Finally a resurgent Class War, who also instigated the Poor Doors protests, chased Iain Duncan Smith across his leafy Chingford constituency yesterday.  Unfortunately they didn’t manage to catch the bastard but they did discover that the only way he could get people to attend his self-publicising jobs fair was to threaten to take their benefits away if they didn’t show up.  Pitiful.

At times it feels like the onslaught of shit is relentless.  But these events show that when we fight back we can win.  Don’t wait for political parties, the TUC or the growing band of celebrity lefties to tell you what to do.  Find a weak spot, organise, and kick it till it fucking breaks.

*UPDATE: 16/11/14 The tenants are reporting on twitter that Westbrook Partners who now control the estate are now threatening them with eviction.  Follow the campaign @newera4all for the latest news.

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