Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Is Alice still in Wonderland in Little Britain? In a tale which could have been written by Lewis Carroll - or Franz Kafka - a Hounslow council has brought all the forces of the law into action to rip down a few solar panels because they "contravene planning regulations". The local Green Party has joined local residents in pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in the Council’s decision.

When James Skinner put the solar panels on the wall of his house just off the three lane A4 in London, right opposite the monster brick edifice of the Fullers brewery, he was proud of his achievement. "I was doing my bit for the survival of the human race”, he said.  He didn’t suspect that there would be any problems with this: the area is choked with traffic, and the brewer’s lorries making deliveries parked in his street add to the chaos. Hounslow council, sadly, disagreed. In a judgement worthy of the Mad Hatter, Hounslow disregarded the petition signed by nearly a nine hundred people*. They ignored the fact that out of all James' neighbours only two complained. Above all, Hounslow Council seemed to have totally forgotten their sustainability commitments: “…the council must take a lead role in reducing the borough’s carbon footprint… by ensuring… we put sustainability at the heart of everything we do”. (Source:

The result has been a storm of protest from environmental campaigners as well as local media. In an incredible exchange of letters, the Council asserted that their reason is that it is a “Conservation Area” despite the busy industrial complex on that road. The solar panels were labelled “an eyesore”, and as they were affixed to a wall, they had to go! Even the lovely ivy James had used to beautify his wall had no effect on the hard-hearted council.

Daniel Goldsmith, Green candidate for Brentford and Isleworth said: "The people elect a council to represent the views of their residents and the residents are clearly on the side of renewable energy. This is madness. Environment and climate change indicators for Hounslow are just mediocre compared to all London boroughs and instead of taking action they find time to recommend pay increases for themselves!”.

According to Baroness Jenny Jones, Green member of the Greater London Authority and the House of Lords: “The amount of generated solar electricity has almost doubled in the UK over the last year, yet London has the lowest uptake of solar panels of any region on mainland Britain. Solar could meet a fifth of Londoner’s electricity needs, so why are people in the North of England and Scotland installing more solar, when sunny Londoners are ignoring this golden future?”

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Councils' out-of-area placements breaking the law

Councils' out-of-area placements breaking the law

23 April 2015 | By Daniel Douglas

Councils in London have broken the law by placing more than 8,000 homeless families in other areas over two years without properly notifying the receiving local authority.

Exclusive research by Inside Housing reveals the extent to which London local authorities are failing to fulfil their duty to notify other councils about out-of-area placements.

The findings follow a landmark High Court last week which found Tower Hamlets Council broke the law by not notifying Havering Council it was sending a homeless family to its area. The family ended up street homeless as both councils refused to help them.

The ruling leaves councils at greater risk of High Court challenges if they continue failing to notify, legal experts have warned. ‘It is a clear shot across the bow from the High Court to say they’re not putting up with non-notification,’ said Jane Pritchard, head of housing at TV Edwards solicitors.

Data collected by Inside Housing under the Freedom of Information Act reveals 28 London boroughs sent 3,222 Section 208 notices between 1 January 2013 and 15 October 2014. However, according to government figures, 11,864 had been placed in temporary accommodation in London outside their local authority area over the two years to 31 December.

This suggests around 8,000 moves in which legal notices had not been sent.

The figures are likely to spark fears that over-stretched councils are struggling to cope with rising demand for homelessness services. Judge Justice Cobb, in the Tower Hamlets case, said the ‘financial implications’ on councils are a ‘significant deterrent to demonstrable good practice’ and that local authorities should ‘stop operating in silos’.

According to government figures, the number of homeless families in London placed in temporary accommodation outside their local authority areas has more than doubled over four years to 14,830 in December 2014.

Homelessness charity Shelter has warned that councils need notifications of moves so they can ensure families receive support and school places.

Bexley Council said it had not received any notices in 2013 or 2014. But Joanne Songer
, housing service manager at Bexley council, said: We are aware of a number of boroughs discharging into our area that are not notifying us.’

Within the capital London Councils operates a system called ‘Notify’ which allows councils to send information on homeless families to receiving authorities.

Lawyers are warning that the system is discretionary and does not replace statutory requirements to notify receiving councils.

A London Councils spokesperson said it is in the final stages of reviewing Notify and will take the High Court judgement into account.

Havering Council and Tower Hamlets Councils are both consulting lawyers following the judgement

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Why Benefit Sanctions need to be Stopped.

Guest blog from Andrea Carey
Benefit Sanctions have doubled since 2006.  The introduction of this degrading, poverty inducing, and unfair practice is contrary to the Over-riding duty the Government has to provide for the welfare of its (most vulnerable) people.  Benefit sanctions go against the will of our post-war Nation to provide for the Health, Happiness and Freedom of its people.   With measures such as these we, as a Nation are slipping back into the Pre-Welfare state of reckoning the country’s worth based purely on profits and not the welfare of its people.  

Between October 2012 and June 2014 49,000 lone parents & 182,000 disabled adults were subjected to Benefit Sanctions. (Government  Statistics).  Of these totals some 3,471 Lone Parents and 18,197 Disabled People were subjected to Higher Sanctions and had their benefits stopped for 3 months to 3 years!

What kind of society are we that we allow procedures like this that remove the income safety net from people who are struggling to bring up children alone and adults who have mental impairments (the highest category subject to Sanctions!) and physical impairments.

While benefits are being stopped, people are resorting (as they did in Victorian times) to charities and societies like the Trussell Trust food Banks across the UK to stop themselves from literally starving.  Between April 2013 - and March 2014 582,933 adults and 330,205 children  received food and assistance from the Trussell Trust.   We are in the 21st Century now and we should not have any children in the UK who have to resort to Food Banks for their survival.  

In the last 6 years food, transport  and rental costs have (according to the Rowntree Foundation) risen by over 25%, and fuel costs by 60%.  We all know that fuel poverty is an issue but the Trussell Trust figures show us just how desperate the situation is becoming.

The injustice of the Benefit Sanction system is beyond belief – arbitrary decisions are being made which are not open to appeal.  People have been ‘sanctioned’ for things like attending a family funeral,  and not being being able to attend a job centre appointment because of it clashing with a job interview!  When is common sense, humanity and fairness going to prevail?  How many people young, old, disabled have to suffer and starve before the Government finally changes this cruel practice.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Help Caroline Lucas' campaign without ever leaving London!

London Green Party is offering the opportunity to help Caroline Lucas' campaign without ever leaving London!

From Green Party Headquarters (Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4LT) there will be the opportunity to phone Brighton Voters and ask them to vote Green for much of next week. We are holding sessions on:

Wednesday 22nd April 18:15 - 21:00
Thursday 23rd April 18:15 - 21:00
Friday 24th April 18:15 - 21:00

This week is particularly important as it is our last chance to call up voters before the receive their postal vote.

There will be training provided, you're welcome to stay for as much of the session as you can, and it's an excellent way to support Caroline's campaign.
RSVP by emailing

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

One fine day in April 2019

It does all join up – One fine day in April 2019

You leave work at 5pm on the dot, and check the bus stop’s electronic display – your bus home is due in 3 minutes. It glides to a stop, electric motor whirring quietly, and you beep on with your smartcard. The buses are not-for-profit now, and cheaper than they were four years ago.

You grab a seat and dig out your phone to check your bank balance because today is pay day! You’re working as a cleaner at the hospital, so with the £9.60 minimum wage you get around £1500 a month before tax. The rent controls that were recently brought in mean you don’t pay too much to your landlord, and since your home was super-insulated through the Green Warm Deal, your gas bill’s not much either. With all that, you’re getting by pretty comfortably, and managing to save up a bit to buy a house.

The bus stops by your son’s nursery, where all the kids go free, and he comes tumbling out giggling. Together you walk round the corner to your gran’s new council house for a cup of tea. Her carer stays to chat for a few minutes before heading off to visit his next client. He says that since social care is free now, and much better funded, he’s finding the work a lot more rewarding and might make a career of it. Your gran is cheerful too, happy to be back on her feet after her recent stay in hospital, and glad the whole thing was noticed early and dealt with quickly so she can get on with her life.

Later, back at home, a child from down the road knocks on to ask if your daughter can play out at the park. They are friends from school, the only two kids out of the twenty in their class that have packed lunches now that school dinners are free. They head off to the park’s new play area, and promise to pick up some milk at the Post Office on their way back. 

You sit down at your laptop and start planning your next holiday, two weeks on the beach in Cornwall. It’s a long trek, but the train tickets cost less than you expected, and there’s a local line that gets you practically to the campsite gate.….