Open Letter to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party

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Open Letter to the Labour Party NEC

Labour Party members: please add your full name and CLP in the form at the end of this post to have your signature added to the letter. The list will be updated daily.

Dear members of the NEC,

As members of the Labour Party, we, the undersigned, call on the party’s National Executive Committee to resist calls to adopt all eleven examples accompanying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism into the party’s code of conduct on antisemitism.

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party and as such must stand up for justice and equality and speak up against oppression. We are gravely concerned that two of the currently omitted examples in particular will be used to silence free speech on Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights and freedom.

The IHRA states that instances of antisemitism may include “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not…

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I Deplore All Forms Of Racism

I was suspended yesterday by the Labour Party for a post I put up on social media. I can see now that the post can be seen as offensive and anti Semitic and I wholeheartedly apologise for the offensive I have caused.

I condemn all forms of racism and discrimination.

As a gay man who has been victim  to two incidents of homophobic hate crime this year, I know full well the challenges people from minority groups face.

I would never take part in any form of racism. I know I have made a mistake and I will do my best to try and make amends. I have written to the Jewish Labour Movement and asked for guidance and to attend any courses they have particularly on issues relating to anti semittism in the hope that I will never make the same senseless mistake again.

I have also written the Synagogues here in Brighton and apologised to them and the jewish community for all offence I have undoubtedly caused.

I have made a mistake, I know I have caused offence but I want learn from this and ensure that never again will I make such a stupid errror in the future.

Brighton & Hove Homelessness: The Shame Of Europe

Ive been speaking to some non UK nationals about homelessness in Brighton and Hove.

Last year I met a student from Holland who was staying in Brighton and Hove for the winter to study, he was studying homelessness and rough sleepers. He spent so much time with rough sleepers observing and learning. He went back to Holland with his results which painted a realistic gloomy view of the homelessness issues in Brighton and Hove.

We know that we have 144 official rough sleepers but what about the extended community within the homeless sub-culture? these are people living in hostels, people who are now homed and left without support and therapy to fully recover.

We know that we have a very visible issue on the streets of Brighton right now, as I am writing this blog I am tucked up in bed with a horrid chest infection, warm under my duvet and only a few feet away from the kettle to make some honey and lemon hot water.

I was speaking to a rough sleeper last night, he is 19 years old. He also has a chest infection, but does not have to comforts we are privileged to have today.

He will be walking the streets all day to get warm.

He will be begging or doing criminal activities to survive.

He is slowly dying inside and at risk of assault or sexual abuse. How can this be right?

The homeless are five times more lively to attend A&E than the average Brighton and Hove resident, most die in their forties.

Check out this post worried about another young lad.

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Non UK Citizens in Shock Horror at Brighton and Hove Homelessness Issue

So back to this guy, who is quite cute, he has recently arrived from Spain with an open mind as to what he will find in the the city and has taken up full time work in a restaurant working 40 hours a week. He works in the city centre and can see first hand the homelessness crisis bringing doom and gloom to the streets of Brighton.

He said “In my whole life I’ve never seen this, people sleeping on the streets, we do not have this where I am from”.

Which is something I am hearing more and more often, many of the volunteers we see helping out with grassroots groups are people from other countries in Europe, this number is increasing which is great.

He then said “There no help by the government?”

I laughed out loud and coughed everywhere with this stinking cold, as if! Since the Conservatives came into power rough sleeping has doubled.

These people who come to live in the UK from Europe, they come to learn English, they work hard, long hours and see the carnage on the streets as totally unbelievable and unnessessary.  Why? because they don’t have this, yet they have much higher unemployment levels than the UK.

It doesn’t make sense, that is until you factor in the freeze in wages, the increase in living costs and most importantly the high rents and lack of new council housing being build. We have different societies, they have cheaper food, cheaper rent and a system in Spain which helps those who have fallen to hard times.

How do we clean up the streets?

Id certainly recommend people check out the Sussex Partnership, headed up by Jim Deans and a community or volunteers those of you from across Europe or local who want to help tackle the homelessness crisis should start with him.

The Sussex Partnership feed the most homeless in the city, they can be found at the clock tower in Churchill square every Sunday, to get involved and help feed and get to know the real people behind the stigma, drop by! Check out a recent Argus article about the work done by the Sussex Partnership here.

We also have OPSafe – who do some wonderful things in the city including the Rucksack Project which provides the homeless with life saving footwear and suitable clothing to help rough sleepers warm and dry. Sometimes the people who make up the rucksacks leave little messages of inspiration for the homeless or give them creative items to keep their minds active. One of the organisers said:

“its the little things that make a real difference, the human touch”.


Their are many initiatives in Brighton and Hove designed to help the homeless, I would recommend looking for those organisations and groups who have volunteers with lived experience of homelessness. Do this as a start before, even considering some of the larger charities who get huge amounts of funding.

Homeless people have their own culture, a sub-culture within our society which is marginalised. Rough sleepers are often abused or ridiculed by those in our society who clearly demonstrate that they have no sense of compassion, but for so many people within in minority culture being left behind to die.

As recently reported the Brighton Centre to be used as homeless night shelter this winter 30 new places will make a very small difference, but the idea come from the local community originally. Brighton and Hove News reported this:

“The places at the shelter will be allocated from referrals by outreach workers from St Mungo’s and BHT (Brighton Housing Trust). The outreach workers will also offer support to those staying at the shelter, linking them to services and sources of support across Brighton and Hove.”

Talk about taking over from the little people, the establishment keeping their funding options closed to a small number of charities, who by the way have an invite only selection process if you want to get involved in their Galvanise Project. A tick box exercise designed to keep the tills ringing.

No worries the grassroots community are staying away from this project and setting up there own emergency pop up shelter, which will help 60 people sleeping with. They have no help from the council, they don’t get one of the empty buildings or funding from the council, its being entirely funded and crowdsourced by locals for all homeless.

They want to save lives, not use those lives!

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Dont Moan Take Action

Speaking to my sister today got me thinking and I actually said this to her

Stop moaning about your housing situation and take action, do something about it?

Granted she is a mother of two girls under the age of 2. My sister who was up until 2014 was living in a flat in Brighton and Hove, sadly a knock came to the door one day and it was a council officer, my sister answered and they said this is a council property you are illegally subletting.

For months my sister was getting letters for the landlord and were left unopened as the landlord move away to live with a partner, never did my sister think she was actually sub-letting a council property.

Anyway my sister assisted with the councils investigation to take action against the so called dodgy landlord, who not only has taken advantage of my sister, but also lied to the council and state and profited from council property.

To my sisters amazement she was then told she had to move out by Brighton and Hove city Council, leaving her homeless.

My sister ended up moving into a family members spare room and was on the council waiting list. She then after 10 years and no success found out she was pregnant, up until this point she was working.

The council placed her in private rented accommodation with a long term tenancy agreement, I think 10 years. She was in Band D, she as told me today she is spending £5 per day on electric, as her flat doesn’t have central heating. She told me its full of damp and on top of that her second baby girl arrived this year.

The council then remove her from the council housing waiting list, after evicting her from her previous place, through no thought of her own.

Ive learned that you need to take action

Its hard to know where to start with taking on the council or ensuring your rights are being met, I discovered this first hand. Being homeless myself had its challenges, but from day one I know I had to speak out and take action.

We have choices on where we go or how we go about it, but I soon discovered that I wasn’t alone in my crisis and struggle, I discovered that their were many like me living in a temporary and emergency accommodation nightmare.

The press in the city are kind to those who have been marginalised but they only publish a few stories, to get a real voice I set up this blog and started writing and evidencing the issues people and myself faced.

I believe this continued partnership will eventually lead to better prospects for locals in terms of secure and affordable accommodation. The Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition which launched their website this week, is an organisation bringing thousands in the city together, collaborating for all our futures.

In conclusion I’ve seen many people speak out and help to change the futures of others and themselves, they’ve been brave and often been persecuted for this bravery by the establishment. I’ve come to see that, we need to have a no fear attitude and follow through until we are happy with the outcome.

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When Will The Homelessness Establishment Wake Up

Andy Winter Needs A Reality Check

Following the recent report that a 21 year old rough sleeper in Brighton and Hove has sadly been found dead, the housing and homelessness establishment have responded. Andy Winter the Chief Exec at the Brighton Housing Trust wrote today:

We don’t need new initiatives, or new groups, or ways to make life a bit more bearable for those on the streets. We need to help them off the streets. Some worthy and well-motivated initiatives can hinder that process.

With 5 million a year being spend on homelessness services in the city and each year the number is rising, with now over 150 people sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove, I note this quote from Andy:

In reality, a lot is happening. We provide, for example, through First Base Day Centre, the basics for survival and basic dignity – hot drinks and meals, showers, toilet facilities, clean and dry clothes and critically, with our partner organisations, we help several hundred people off the streets and into housing.

I have to say why is Andy defending BHT? why is he not talking about the huge misuse of funds which are not delivering a service which saves lives? Why is Andy essentially using this horrid death to promote the activities of BHT?

The Young Rough Sleepers Mate Who Found Him

I have been informed by grassroots homelessness activists and front line volunteers that the young lads friend who found him dead at the weekend, actually spent the evening sleeping rough himself.

Imagine finding your friend dead, what affect would that have on you? I would be messed up, but then to have to sleep rough that night, this is not how we should be treating anyone in our society, especially young people.

What Can Be Done

Those groups Andy Winter is putting down are actually changing things, the Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition, which now has 30 organisations signed up is the largest in the city and Andy is starting to see that things are changing.

For example The Community Night shelter team are crowdfunding for a huge marque which will be erected this winter and set to put a roof over the heads of 60 rough sleepers. This can be achieved for a fraction of the money the establishment get, for just £20,000 we can provide sanctuary and warmth for up to 60 people at risk of death.

If you want to find out more information on the crowd funder check out the just giving page here.

Candlelit Vigil In Solidarity With The Fallen This Thursday

Come and pay your respects for those we have already this on the streets of Brighton and Hove this Thursday. The community will be meeting at Brighton Town Hall from 4pm, just before the Full Council Meeting, where elected councillors will be debating rough sleeping.

RSPV on the Facebook Event page here.

Brighton and Hove City Council: Crackdown On The Vulnerable

ETHRAG Press Release 27th November

Brighton and Hove City Council residents living in temporary accommodation confirm they’re being made homeless and forced to decide whether to sleep rough or move into the private sector.


ethrag-logo-brighton-hove-temporary-accommodationDistressed residents have contacted ETHRAG claiming that Brighton and Hove City Council are breaking the law and removing there housing duty, which councils are required to provide accepted homeless households.

For sometime now the Labour Group have been warning things need to change in Temporary Accommodation, which they blame on government cuts. ETHRAG have been contacted by concerned residents who claim they are victims of lies from bad landlords and the council and are being forced to choose between living on the streets, or being moved into the ever increasingly insecure private housing sector. 


One resident who wishes to remain anonymous has said

I’ve been to the Council and they are not helping me, I’ve been told I’ve got a be out of my accommodation in matter of weeks. I have nowhere to go, the council aren’t helping me,  I ‘am 23 and have depression and anxiety, I’ve got a try find somewhere and fast they say.

The concerned resident also explained:

Brighton Council placed me in long term temporary in 2015 but now I have been told I am being evicted. They have discharged duty of care for me they told me I’ve got a find private.

The minority Labour council led by Warren Morgan recently reported a 1 million pound overspend in temporary accommodation budgets, which is the plausible reason as to why this is happening, but is this right?


Another young mother confirmed:

Brighton Council housing department passed my details to social services because I have two children and they simply said they cant help, and that I need to go private

With rents in Brighton and Hove well above the Local Housing Allowance maximum payment rate, our residents feel like they are being socially cleansed from the city they were born.


Finally another resident contacted us today to confirm:

I’m not sure if you can help me but I’m in temporary accommodation. I received a call from the Housing Acquisitions Team yesterday.

They had called to arrange a meeting between the landlord, a council rep and myself this morning. The call was very vague but basically the council are attempting to make my contract a private one between the landlord and myself. I don’t want this.

I’m now terrified that I’ll become a private tenant and removed from the housing register. I’ve got an appointment at my local MP’s surgery on Monday and I’ve made my mental health team aware. I’ve managed to put the council meeting on hold. Do you know of anyone else who has been in this situation?

ETHRAG have referred residents to the newly Elected Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle for help. We urge Lloyd and other MPs to stand up for vulnerable constituents and speak out in parliament against these draconian policies, which are leaving our residents at breaking point.


Have You Been Affected By This Issue?

If so we want to hear from you! Right now we know the council are doing this in phases, gradually removing their legal duty to house you, this is potentially putting your household through more upset as the number one reason for homelessness applications is because of private landlords evicting tenants.

We urge you to take a stand and speak out; this is your future and the council are messing with it.


 

Who are ETHRAG?

ETHRAG (The Emergency And Temporary Accommodation Residents Action Group) represents 4,000 people living in emergency and temporary accommodation in Brighton and Hove.

Formed in 2016 to fight back against cuts, bad landlords and a council-housing department, which is not fit for purpose, we are the UK’s first residents association for people living in Emergency and Temporary Accommodation.

We provide a voice for the vulnerable.


 

Iain McNicol Pay Labour Party Conference Workers Real Living Wage

Iain McNicol Pay Labour Conference Staff The Real Living Wage

Howdy Comrades

As you know it’s the Labour Party Conference next week I’m Brighton and Hove.

We are saddened that conference staff will not be paid the £10 per hour as Labour Party Policy / Manifesto.

THIS IS A DISGRACE AND WE URGE Iain McNicol to resolve this and pay the conference staff what they deserve.

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CASH STRAPPED AND TRAPPED: Growing Concern for Brighton Residents

Brighton and Hove have a housing crisis and its about to get exposed, last year I was the first campaigner locally to highlight the fact that 10,000 people locally were culled from the council housing waiting list, and just last weekend a senior council executive admitted the council are at a loose end with the cities Emergency and Temporary Accommodation.

I’ve recently been contacted by concerned residents living in temporary accommodation in the city, it turns out there are hundreds of vulnerable people currently in arrears due to the high cost to sub-contract out temporary accommodation to private companies.

One concerned mother has reported being told she would need to find an extra £175 per week toward her rent, not only was she forced to move out of the city, she is today in debt of over £1500.


Residents are at breaking point, not only with threat of eviction but they are also reporting being ‘overlooked’ for council housing due to the arrears. One mother described “being trapped” with high rents, often unaffordable.

This is a growing concern because under the Housing Act Part 7: Homelessness Councils have a duty to provide accommodation to families which are suitable for there needs, however if they are unaffordable they are certainly unsuitable.


Emergency and Temporary Accommodation: FACTS

  • MORE than a third of the city’s 2,200 temporary accommodation residents are in rent arrears with debts of up to £22,000, as revealed in the Argus earlier this year.
  • Almost 900 families and individuals housed by Brighton and Hove City Council in bedsits, hostels, flats and BnBs had rent arrears totalling £1.4 million in March.
  • 64% Rise in the number of Children in Brighton and Hove without a home. Now almost 2000 children are living in emergency and temporary accommodation, second only to London. (For Sussex it is 2700, a rise of 33%.)
  • There were 24,000 people on the council housing waiting list until Band D was removed, I believe 12k people have been removed, with no hope of a secure home for themselves.
  • For every 100 people who present as homeless to the council, just 35 or 35% are accepted with a priority need housing duty. The national average is 52%.

Join ETHRAG: Emergency and Temporary Housing Residents Action Group


Have you been affected by arrears?

If you have contact me below with details.