Suspension of Eviction re: Charmain Lodge, raises serious questions

by More Street Cleaning and less Social Cleansing, please

It’s great news that Charmain Lodge is no longer going to be evicted on Thursday morning.

After weeks of frantic action by Charmain and her friends, neighbours and supporters, she will be now be allowed to remain in her long-term home for a while longer, and will be offered SUITABLE rehousing.

However, despite this good news, the content of Lib Peck’s email raises serious questions about the murky processes that ferment in the bowels of Lambeth council…

1.  “…I have done so because on listening to you yesterday I was struck by…”

So, it takes a personal audience with Lib Peck (in public), complete with a baring of one’s soul,  to ensure that a vulnerable person, with supporting documentation from medical professionals, is treated fairly by Lambeth council. That begs the question, what happens to all those other vulnerable people that Lambeth is evicting, those people who don’t have the support of activists with political savvy, who don’t have the support of neighbours and friends, who are unable to bare their souls, who are simply too ill to fight?

2.  Lib Peck appreciates “…that the properties you have been offered to date did not seem appropriate to you at that stage…”

So why has it been impossible to get any council officers or Labour councillors (apart from Councillor O’Malley) to similarly accept this rather important fact?

The Judge at Charmain’s eviction hearing a few weeks ago, acknowledged that Lambeth hadn’t offered suitable rehousing to Charmain, and recognised that Lambeth council, in fact, chose not to do this, although it was asked to… unfortunately, the Judge didn’t have the power to make Lambeth offer suitable rehousing, which is why the eviction was finally granted.

The lesson from this is – Lambeth will not necessarily offer suitable rehousing unless it’s poked with a very sharp stick.  In this instance, the sharp stick has been public opinion and pressure from grass-roots activists.

I’ll say that again, quite loudly…

public opinion and pressure from grass-roots activists has forced Lambeth council to suspend the eviction of, and to actively offer suitable rehousing to, a vulnerable resident

Of course, this doesn’t alter the fact that Lambeth council is still pursuing the eviction of many other vulnerable Housing Co-op residents, simply because the homes they’ve lived in, and personally maintained, for 30+ years are now worth some money (rather than being designated part of a slum clearance programme, as was the case when Lambeth originally allowed us to move into them).

3.  “…I believe you and have taken this in good faith….”

Does this mean that, had Lib Peck not believed her, Charmain would still be facing eviction on Thursday?  Sorry?!  If this one, single individual (intentional tautology there) had not subjectively felt some kid of empathy, or sympathy, for Charmain, then Charmain’d be out on her ear in a couple of days time?  Really?!!!!

Is Lambeth’s housing system simply dependent on the personal opinion of whichever council officer deals with a case? Cross your fingers you don’t get someone who hates poor people or Black people or White people or Asian people or gay people or people with red hair or people with big feet or women or men or cat owners or people who wear their knickers over their tights (insert any stereotypical description of yourself).

Procedures are supposed to be in place that stop exactly this kind of personal opinion from interfering with a housing policy that is supposedly based on need. Except, in Lambeth council, the Housing department is in chaos and the housing system is wide open to mismanagement and manipulation.

Lambeth council is bending over backwards to sell council housing as quickly as possible – the forced evictions of residents (based on the council’s drive for money and it’s unstated policy of disposing of all social housing)  is part of this process.

Lambeth council is, simultaneously, bending over backwards to provide land and buildings for property developers to exploit – the forced eviction of  residents is also part of this process.

Lambeth’s (highly paid) council officers tell councilors what to do. Our council representatives in Lambeth do not seem to have the power to act on our behalf. That means, our lives are presided over, and being dumped upon, by a bunch of jumped-up admin workers (err, I like admin work – it’s the OCD in me – that’s not what I’m criticising).

4.  “…Politically, we remain committed to recalling short life properties…” That actually means:

Lambeth Labour remains committed to selling council housing.

Lambeth Labour remains committed to evicting vulnerable residents. 

Lambeth Labour remains committed to a policy of decimating Housing Co-ops.

Here’s exactly what Lib wrote to Charmain:

“Charmaine,

I have asked the lawyers to call off the eviction for Thursday.

I have done so because on listening to you yesterday I was struck by your personal battle against depression and by your determination to stay in recovery; and could appreciate that the properties you have been offered to date did not seem appropriate to you at that stage.

You stated yesterday that you were not challenging the decision that meant you had to move but rather wanted more time to find a suitable home. I believe you and have taken this in good faith.

However we can not indefinitely delay the process. Politically, we remain committed to recalling short life properties. So I have asked officers to work with you closely to find somewhere for you to live permanently or we will have to return to court. You will need to work with them to secure a new home and we do expect this to be concluded by 1st November.

I have put this in writing rather than phoning you because I understand from various bits of correspondence you did not receive my text last night. I can assure you it was sent. I have double checked and it was sent to the number you gave me so I am not sure what happened.

Best wishes

Lib”

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