Campaigners are using an empty bookies window as an infopoint
Public meeting between tenants and council
Nearby luxury flats are empty
Around 40 people attended the Save Little London Community Day yesterday afternoon (5 March) in Leeds. Held at Space@ community building next to the local primary school, the successful event showcased independent films about council tenants fighting New Labour's disastrous PFI housing schemes on two estates, Chalcot in Camden (London) and Little London in Leeds. Local tenants and campaigners then enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion about what is happening on the estate, in Leeds and across the UK, whilst gobbling down tea, coffee and vegan cakes provided by friends from the Common Place social centre in Leeds town centre.
Tenants understand exactly what is happening to them as part of a city-wide gentrification strategy by the Council. They know full well that the proposed £85m PFI scheme is designed as a basic 'land grab' to bring Little London within the boundaries of the city centre, make developers a lot of money and kick hundreds of council tenants of their own community to make way for more affluent students and city workers. After this meeting, they also now know the following facts:
* 500, 800, possibly over 1000 people could be forced to leave Little London if the Comprehensive Regeneration goes ahead
* 425 homes will be demolished or sold off
* only 125 new council homes will be rebuilt
* some land will be sold off to private developers to build luxury flats and houses
* the council's promises of building 'affordable housing' are bogus: council homes are currently affordable (as little as £6000 under 'right to buy') but new homes could cost well in excess of £100,000 - how many people on housing benefit can afford this?
* the PFI regeneration could take another 5 years to get the go-ahead: the people of nearby Swarcliffe had to wait 6 years for a contract to be signed - and they didn't even get a ballot
* PFI is far more expensive than government borrowing the money itself and is notorious for being overdue and over-budget
Understandably, some tenants did not believe that they can defeat the council. Others, however, were confident that with a clever campaign and some hard work, the PFI can be defeated and the Council and government can be made to rethink the entire council housing renewal policy. Those present brainstormed ideas about where next in the campaign. It was agreed to try to hold weekly meetings in an open community space and not a pub - hopefully this will happen soon. Ideas put forward included: standing candidates for the forthcoming council elections; exploring tenant management alternatives; organise a city-wide meeting of residents and campaigners; get a petition; examine a legal challenge; use the press more.
The most immediate outcome of the meeting was to mobilise to get local residents to lobby the council at Leeds Civic Hall on Thursday 9 March between 2.30pm and 5pm. This is when a meeting of 'stakeholders' of the area - housing officers, Leeds North West Homes (the arms length company which manages the estate), Tenants and Residents Association, community workers - will meet to discuss the results of the recent council 'consultation' of the estate.
Campaigners want as many people as possible to come down - bring banners, musical instruments, v clever chants and slogans to shout at the council.
There will be a meeting to plan this and other aspects of the campaign at 7pm, Tuesday 7 March in The Rifleman pub on Little London estate.
All are welcome.
If anyone from the Council would like to anonymously explain why, please add a comment below.