Eviction of Mr Green & Lambeth’s record on ‘shortlife’

To: sharriss@lambeth.gov.uk
CC: helen.hayes.mp@parliament.uk; chuka.umunna.mp@parliament.uk; hoeyk@parliament.uk
Subject: Update on Mr Green’s eviction & Lambeth Council’s record on ‘shortlife’
Date: Thu, 28 May 2015 23:37:51 +0000

Mr Harriss,

It’s disappointing that you think an eviction notice is the best way to encourage an elderly resident of 74 years to move from their longterm home, and that a request for a two-week postponement is unreasonable. Sadly such intransigence has come to characterise Lambeth Council and it’s a shame your reign as chief executive is not signalling any change to that.

Mr Green has consented to move, but he has found the process of sorting through belongings to be very difficult and he’s not only had to deal with his own ailments but also looking after a poorly friend. Meanwhile, he’s had to fix his roof, which is what the scaffolding was there for. I believe he mentioned this in his note to you, but it has clearly not been considered. Mr Green is not asking you to move the scaffolding as you intimate, but if, as you say, the council is willing to move other items then please confirm when this happening – presumably before the eviction on Monday 1 June at 10.00am?

I have spoken to Mr Green every day this week and he has been making efforts to move as much as he can. He would have liked to have more time to sort through his belongings and he has found the process of moving bewildering.

Each time I speak to Mr Green I find out more about his predicament. He told me this evening that he was recently visited by ‘shortlife’ officers and another officer who performed a psychological assessment of him – this was done without prior appointment and Mr Green felt unable to prevent them from entering his home, such was their manner. Mr Green found this humiliating. Meanwhile, the reported attitude of the ‘shortlife’ officers towards Mr Green seems to me to have been quite unpleasant at times, with another officer has describing Mr Green’s belongings as “clutter”.

So, it’s insulting, then, that your response to a request for extra time for Mr Green to move his belongings is to simply parrot what your officers tell you, including their value judgements on people’s homes.

It concerns me that the head of the ‘shortlife’ department was a Hackney councillor in a regime that was widely discredited and he himself was to be disciplined over a housing matter. The reason why he was going to be disciplined is documented, the reason why he wasn’t investigated is not. Personally speaking this does not inspire me with confidence, and some of the tactics employed by this officer have been questioned on numerous occasions – including a number of reported incidences where his actions potentially prejudiced legal cases and settlements.

Lambeth’s attitude and conduct during the ‘shortlife’ housing co-op evictions has been more than questionable. Perhaps you are unaware but this social cleansing exercise that spurned a social housing solution in favour of auctioning off housing stock to the highest bidder (encouraging buyers to ‘flip’ houses, charge alarmingly high rents to their new private residents or achieve a 100% re-sale profit) has built up a picture of Lambeth as a nasty, petty and unaccountable borough ruled by a self-interested party unwilling to consult and engage an established community.

For example:

– despite pledging ‘Labour councillors will fight for your right to remain in your home’ Cllr Haselden and Cllr Wellbelove turned on their constituents suddenly telling them they had no right to remain in their homes.

– the only remaining supportive ward councillor, Helen O’Malley (who described the evictions policy as ‘savage’) was deselected by her local Labour Party.

– an attempted Councillor Call for Action was blocked by the council with no explanation.

– attempts to call an ‘emergency meeting’ about the eviction by the opposition, pre-2014, were denied on the grounds that there were no evictions pending, despite the fact there were!

– attempts to implement a social housing solution were met by the denial of meeting minutes, hijacked agendas and unanswered correspondence.

– officers claimed they couldn’t legally leave ‘shortlifers’ in their homes and yet would not reply to legal evidence brought by campaigners to the contrary.

– Lambeth carried out a woefully inadequate Equality Impact Assessment

– Lambeth refused to answer various Freedom of Information requests about money spent on evictions by the council and where the money raised was going, I was deemed ‘vexatious’ for asking questions on behalf of people who didn’t have access to internet, meanwhile Kate Hoey MP was also refused answers to FOIs.

– campaigners were followed by a Twitter troll who initially only had three followers (now eight) who were Cllr Haselden, Cllr Wellbelove and former Lambeth leader Steve Reed MP – the sole purpose of the troll was to cheerlead evictions with no regard to the welfare people being moved on. One of their last tweets was: “I think @SteveReedMP should be next Labour leader”, further suggesting a partisan account and linking it to Reed.

– Lambeth United Housing Co-op had its email account banned so that we could not contact councillors, this was done after we raised the attempted eviction of a 56-year-old disabled woman.

– I was banned from contacting Cllr Lib Peck on any subject after I asked her to substantiate a media story about a ‘shortlife’ house released in December last year.

– Cllr Matthew Bennett told a recent BBC programme that a ‘shortlife’ house ‘recovered’ last year was being rented out and that the council knew nothing about it. In actual fact no rent was being exchanged when the house was ‘recovered’ and the previous misdemeanour had been reported to the council some 7 years earlier, as evidenced in disclosed legal documents. Meanwhile, Cllr Bennett had to be told to withdraw an erroneous allegation that this was a co-op house. He withdrew a tweet alleging this but saw fit to repeat it at a meeting some months later.

As for the human costs in all this:

– one man I worked very closely with during the campaign collapsed 4 days before his trial, slipped into a coma and eventually died. In my opinion the eviction process had a major role in his passing.

– Lambeth issued an eviction notice against a 64-year-old cancer sufferer who had already agreed to move.

– a woman with mental health problems was threatened with eviction and only able to continue to look for rehousing after activists occupied the town hall.

– one man was told that he would not be evicted when he failed to find suitable rehousing, but returned home one day to find bailiffs present. Only a big splash in the local press saved him from running out of rehousing options.

– one family asked not to be moved while one of their children was doing exams, with the school contacting Lambeth to ask for postponement – this was denied.

The behaviour of Lambeth Council has been pitiful over this issue and perhaps you would like to bear this in mind before you simply parrot what officers are telling you.

Given the litany described above, I will be looking in to a legal case against Lambeth for community harrassment. All we did was to question what was happening to us and what we got back was hostility.


Chuka Ummuna – I know that you told a constituent affected by this process that they were treated badly by Lambeth Council, so I hope that you will make that point publicly otherwise no lessons will be learned.

Helen Hayes – Tessa Jowell offered no effective help for her housing co-op constituent who has been taken to court four times, despite Lambeth losing every time. They continue to be harrassed by Lambeth. I will be encouraging this person to contact you despite their understandable loss of faith in her local politicians.

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