Wandsworth Council Backs Down Over Rioter Eviction

By Cllr Tony Belton

Wandsworth Council decided not to evict the mother and 8 year old sister of the rioter convicted last week (see my blog entry of 12 January). This marks a victory for sanity against the knee-jerk threats of eviction made by both David Cameron and the Council in August.

It is great news for the tenant and an enormous weight off her shoulders, following what Judge Darling had called the biggest tragedy of the many sentences he had imposed as a consequence of the riots. The Council was forced to recognise just how much the family was a pillar of the local community and to backdown from the gung-ho rhetoric used by the Tory party in last September’s Council Meeting.

From my point of view, opposing the evictions policy as self-defeating and deeply malicious, this family could not have been a better test case. As the judge said last week, the family are “Christian with both a capital and a small c” and an integral part of the community. There will be tougher cases coming forward, no doubt, where the convicted rioters will be more culpable than Daniel and the innocent other members of the family less vulnerable than a single mother and 8 year old. But that will not stop those other members of the family being as innocent as Maite.

I will try and defend them as much as I have done Maite.

PS This WBC decision followed an interview between tenant and local housing manager, where essentially the tenant was being interviewed for her general status as a tenant and very unsurprisingly the local housing manager could see nothing wrong with the tenant’s record as a tenant or any reason why the Council should evict her. The idea that the Council backdown was as a result of pressure from various outside fringe groups is simply farcical. Whether it was partly as a result of the pressure Labour councillors put on the Tories in Wandsworth, only senior officers and senior councillors can really say.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2089057/So-strong-action-Council-abandons-attempt-evict-family-involved-summer-riots.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Tony Belton on evictions:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQukL9XxxYk&context=C3522e34ADOEgsToPDskJMaifsA6ERZIj5WDSrJrUd

Cllr. Leonie Cooper on evictions:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/01/20/how-a-local-council-went-after-the-family-of-a-convicted-rioter/

Social housing and the myth of ‘inherited’ tenancies

by Cllr Leonie Cooper

The past few months have seen an upsurge of interest in social housing- but for all the wrong reasons.

One example that has had the Tories and right-wing media frothing at the mouth is the need to get rid of ‘lifetime’ tenancies, so that Councils can re-allocate properties on a regular basis, moving on tenants who are ‘under-occupying’.

Another new policy has been serving notice of eviction on whole households, including small children, when (usually) a teenager has been accused of being involved in the August riots.

In Wandsworth, we now have 3 such cases – but the local Tories proudest moment was being the first Council to serve an eviction notice. 8-year old Jessica, Daniel’s little sister may not see it as quite such a triumph, though.

But another area that has attracted recent attention are the 90,000 people who have inherited tenancies. “More than 90,000 live in ‘inherited’ council homes” screamed the Telegraph in October.

Rent subsidy for these ‘dreadful people’ could be as much as £300 million. Ministers are looking at closing this appalling loophole, we are told.

But nowhere is there an explanation as to why anyone might be allowed to inherit a Council or Housing Association tenancy in the first place.

So who are these people? They are joint tenants whose husband or wife has died, or someone in a civil partnership whose partner has died.

As one half of the joint tenancy has passed away, the remaining person succeeds to the tenancy as an individual. Sometimes, much more rarely, the inheritor is a son or daughter, usually living at the family home to care for an elderly parent. Councils and Housing Associations conduct very full checks before allowing anyone to inherit a tenancy – obviously.

But in the brave new world ushered in since the arrival of the coalition, we see the government promoting the eviction of the bereaved. It may be a Big Society, but it certainly isn’t a caring one.

Threat to Evict Jobless a ‘Gimmick’ Says Labour

Labour has criticised Wandsworth Tories’ proposals to put new council tenants on contracts which mean they could lose their home if they don’t find a job or enrol on a training course.

Labour’s Cllr. Mark Thomas said ‘Of course It’s really important that we do more to incentivise people into work. But we are concerned that those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own are not unfairly penalised.

What’s really needed is more Council action to build more homes and provide more jobs for local people. We are calling for a new council-led programme to build many more social rented homes, a proportion of which we have said should be earmarked for those in work. We all know the jobs market is very tough at the moment and the vast majority of people do want to work.

It is crucial that the council provides meaningful employment support for people who sign up to this new scheme with a real job at the end of it, otherwise these plans for new council tenants are just a hollow gimmick.’

Wandsworth Council press release here:

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/article/10812/refusal_to_work_could_cost_council_home

Liberty backs mother over riot threat

A mother facing eviction from her council flat after her teenage son was convicted of looting today enlisted the aid of human rights group Liberty to save her home from the bailiffs.

Daniel Sartain-Clarke, 18, yesterday admitted raiding Currys electrical store in Clapham Junction as unrest swept London in August. His guilty plea allows Wandsworth council to seek an eviction order against his mother, Maite de la Calva, 43, and her eight-year-old daughter, turfing them out of the two-bedroom flat where they have lived for five years.

But Liberty said the threat – announced in a blaze of headlines the immediate aftermath of the riots – was an act of “shameless self-promotion” by the council.

Read the rest of the story here:

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-24002954-liberty-backs-mother-over-riot-threat.do

Special Council Meeting on 21st September – Labour Forces Police Cuts Debate

Motion to be moved by Councillor Osborn and seconded by Councillor Mrs. L. Cooper

Police Numbers

 “This Council notes:-

 (a) the successful implementation of Safer Neighbourhood Teams across Wandsworth;

(b) that Police numbers have been the subject of much political debate, with both the majority party and the minority party supporting full strength Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and adequate Metropolitan Police being allocated to the Borough;

 (c) that recent proposals to cut the size of Safer Neighbourhood Teams, initially by reducing the number of Sergeants are not helpful in fighting crime and maintaining good community policing and law and order;

 (d) that further cuts totalling 1,800 Metropolitan Police officers will be implemented during 2012, which will lead to increases in crime and decreases in detection; and

 (e) that on the night of 8th August 2011 there were insufficient officers stationed in the Borough to maintain order, leading to uncontrolled crime and disorder for several hours in the Clapham Junction area, and further notes that any further reduction in police numbers will give comfort to criminals, and reduce local ability to cope with any further disturbances.

 This Council therefore:-

(i) calls on the Mayor of London to reverse all cuts to Safer Neighbourhood Team Sergeants;

 (ii) calls on the Mayor of London to re-think his proposals for cuts to the Metropolitan Police; and

(iii) calls for more local Police to receive training in dealing with riots and street disorder, to ensure the events of the 8th August are not repeated, and that law-abiding local citizens and businesses can remain safe.”

In addition we will be discussing the Council’s proposals to evict innocent families from Council houses, along with anyone who is convicted  of taking part in the recent civil unrest. Read the full papers here:

http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=3822&T=10

1,500 sign petition against riot-related council home evictions in Wandsworth

Re posted from Wandsworth Guardian

Hundreds of people are urging Wandsworth Council to rethink evicting families of suspected rioters.

More than 1,500 signed a petition against the authority’s stance after Maite de Calva, 43, became the first person to be handed an eviction notice from her council flat – a notice served in response to her son being charged with offences during the Battersea riots.

The petition reached the 1,500 mark today – the same day campaign group The Social Justice Collective arranged a 5pm to 8pm protest outside the Wandsworth home of council leader, Councillor Ravi Govindia. (The Petition has now over 2500 signatures – ed)

Ms de Calva, who lives in Battersea with her son Daniel Sartain-Clarke and her eight-year-old daughter, has received support from Latchmere ward councillor, Tony Belton, who branded the council’s actions “wrong, immoral, pointless and family destructive”.

Robert Davidson, a postgraduate student living in Wandsworth, launched the petition campaign this week on Change.org.

He said: “I’m as upset as anyone about the riots, but evicting vulnerable families from their homes will only deepen the social rift that led to the riots.

“I have friends that live in Clapham and Croydon and I heard the sirens screaming up and down Garratt Lane.

“I detest the rioting and looting that went on. Of course we need to punish criminals but I just don’t see why an eight-year-old child or a mum should be evicted from their home just because a young boy got caught up in some trouble.

“This kind of collective punishment is only going to make innocent people feel hated by society and is going to cause more problems in future.”

Read the whole article here:

http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/wandsworthnews/9204557.1_500_sign_petition_against_riot_related_council_home_evictions/

There is further comment from Tony Belton here:

http://www.labourlist.org/a-difficult-moral-dilemma

Councillor Calls For Justice In Riot Eviction Case

In response to Wandsworth Council’s eviction order of an alleged looter, his mother and eight year old sister local Battersea Councillor Tony Belton said: “I was appalled by the rioting in Clapham Junction, where I have lived for more than 30 years. Those found guilty should be jailed and will carry the shame with them for the rest of their lives.
 
“Yet the council leader has chosen to ignore the basic principles of justice in a rush for newspaper headlines. If Daniel Sartain-Clarke is guilty he should face the full force of the law. What is completely unfair is Cllr Govindia judging this young man guilty before he has faced any trial – and then vindictively threatening to make his mother and a blameless eight-year-old child homeless as extra punishment.
 
“Maite de la Calva, Daniel’s mother, works hard to support members of her community in the Shaftesbury Christian Centre. Throwing Maite and her eight-year-old daughter out of their home will weaken this neighbourhood, not make it stronger. This morning, before visiting Maite, I joined dozens of volunteers from across London in clearing out the community garden on the Doddington Estate. In the horrible aftermath of the riots it is important that we all work to repair the fabric of society and remain true to the basic safeguards of our legal system.”

Legal opinion is here:

http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/2011/08/evicting-rioters-a-brief-note/

More on the story here:

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/9197883.Mum_protests_son_s_innocence_after_eviction_notice/