Archive for June, 2014

Devastated families face eviction after Britain’s richest MP buys housing estate and hikes up rent

June 30, 2014

Richard Benyon’s estate has told his tenants in East London there are more rises to come – one resident, Debra Cox, described it as ‘social cleansing’

Richard Benyon and a community furious over rent hikes

Richard Benyon and a community furious over rent hikes

Devastated families are facing being evicted after the inherited estate of Britain’s richest MP bought a stake in their homes.

Tory Richard Benyon’s £110million family firm is part of a consortium that snapped up the housing estate and announced plans for a massive rent hike.

Up to 90 households in East London fear the Benyons’ plan to charge “market rents” will treble their bills.

The New Era Estate, in Hoxton, has a long history of providing affordable housing and has been home to some people for 70 years.

Distraught Debra Cox, 49, who has lived there for 18 years, said: “This is social cleansing – this has always been a form of social housing and they just want rid of us.

“I have been to the council and was told we don’t have a chance of being rehoused.”

Soaring house prices have driven o­rdinary families out of vast swathes of the UK – particularly the capital where the average price of a home rocketed by 18.5% last year.

Britain’s housing crisis is worsened by weak legal protection for private tenants, who can be forced out of homes they have lived in for years at a few weeks’ notice.

At a heated meeting on Thursday, teaching assistant Debra told the new landlord: “You do realise that as soon as you put them on at market value, whenever that may be, myself, my husband and my 18-year-old daughter will be homeless?”

Her husband Gary, 50, fumed: “My wife had a seizure during the night brought on by the stress.

“My wife is ill and I am going to lose my fucking flat because of you and your mates.”

New Era Estate Hoxton

New Era Estate Hoxton

Berkshire MP Benyon is a director of his family’s 300-year-old Englefield Estate, which owns 20,000 acres of land from Hampshire to Scotland.

Its portfolio includes the 250-property Benyon Estate in East London which is now a “minority shareholder” in the flats on the New Era Estate.

His brother Edward Benyon confirmed the family was part of the consortium during the meeting.

He also announced plans to ­refurbish the 1930s homes and build more flats on the roof.

Edward added: “The goal, which is something I have had to say to all of you, is the fact that the rents will be going to market value.”

He refused to confirm future rents but the Benyons have already hiked them by 10% this year.

Edward said: “Bearing in mind the rents were so far below market value we ­considered a 10% rise to be fair.”

One resident said: “When Edward Benyon came up to my flat he actually said that next year would be a lot more.”

Edward replied: “I’m not going to sit here now and tell you it’s going to be double, quadruple, whatever it’s going to be.”

He caused uproar when he was asked about eviction and said: “We’ve never evicted anybody because when people haven’t been able to afford to pay the rent they’ve moved out.”

One resident said: “What if they’ve got nowhere to go?”

And a second added: “You really don’t give a shit do you?”

New developments have led to the gentrification of Hoxton

New developments have led to the gentrification of Hoxton

Edward promised “we are not going to keep anything hidden” and claimed “there are a number of people who wanted to buy this block of flats who wanted to knock it down”.

Local Labour MP Meg Hillier said the loss of affordable housing was “hollowing out the community”.

She said: “Any landlord with any moral fibre would consider that these are people’s homes not just properties.

“The Government seems to think that the market can deliver for people on low incomes and it can’t.

“The toffs on the front bench don’t have a clue how people are living.”

When the Benyon Estate discovered the Mirror was investigating, it demanded “details of any named contributors” to this story.

Despite this, dozens of residents wanted to talk to us.

Single mum Lindsey Garrett has lived on the estate with her parents all her life.

She works as a care co-ordinator for the local NHS trust.

But the market rent on a two-bed flat in Hoxton is now more than her take-home wage.

Lindsey said: “It has been terrifying, horrific. We are completely devastated.

“I haven’t been able to sleep with the thought of being homeless. My dad’s disabled and I don’t know where we are all going to end up.”

Since she moved in, the Benyon Estate has raised Lindsay’s rent from £668 a month to £796.

The average cost of a similar two-bedroom flat on Rightmove.com is nearly £2,000 a month.

Other residents include Ruth Jacobs, 84, who has lived on the estate for 70 years.

She said: “It is terrible. I got a letter two weeks ago. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Gaye Studman, 56, who lives with Malcolm Ryan, 58, and her daughter Angel Studman, 10, said: “They just want people with money in here.

“We’ve been told we have to be evicted by a bailiff together with our children before the council will help us.”

A Mirror investigation with the GMB union earlier this year revealed Benyon’s £110million estate has received hundreds of thousands of pounds of housing benefit – despite the MP attacking the “something for nothing” welfare state.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said of the latest revelation: “This is an absolute scandal.

“Affordable housing being destroyed and it’s coming from the very top of the Tory party who have no hesitation in dipping into taxpayers’ funds as they do it.

“Cameron should disown this fatcat profiteering MP. GMB will help the tenants in any way we can.”

On top of Mr Benyon’s haul from tenants and the taxpayer, his family farms received more than £2million in EU subsidies since 2000.

Residents of the New Era Estate demonstrate

Residents of the New Era Estate demonstrate

Edward Benyon said last night that New Era estate’s previous owners put it up for sale two years ago and sold it at “commercial market value for a substantial profit”.

He went on: “The Benyon Estate manages the property and undertook detailed independent reporting from surveyors on the state of the building, which showed several deficiencies consistent with its age including poor provision of heating and badly damaged windows.

“Any purchaser of the property would need to charge market rates of rent, however we have given tenants new contracts so they have another year to decide what they want to do.

“We have met each tenant personally to explain the situation and meetings are now taking place to help them in the future.”

He went on: “Richard is a firm supporter of the welfare state and the safety net it provides for people.

“On the advice of solicitors I requested the names of named contributors.

“Each individual is different and knowing the circumstances of persons who are speaking to you may have allowed us the opportunity to address to you specific points in relation to those individuals.”

Accounts of the New Era Estate’s previous owner, First LBS Holdings Limited, show it made a £306,865 profit and its shareholders received a £300,000 dividend last year.

Reposted from Daily Mirror.

This is the face of greed in modern Britain, and why we need rent reform and protection for private tenants from Rachman landlords.

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BBC: Tories not the Nasty Party

June 30, 2014
Nasty Party

Nasty Party

I have just listened to the most sickening biased programme from the BBC, a half hour programme trying to justify the Tory Party not the Nasty Party.

Try telling that to all those ‘assessed’ by Atos who had their disability allowances quashed.

Try telling that to all the victims of the Bedroom Tax who are at risk of eviction from their homes.

Try telling that to all those who are seeing cuts thanks to slash and burn of public services under the guise of austerity.

Try telling that to all who are now dependent on food banks, not as one stupid Tory councillor claimed because it was a lifestyle choice, but because they are desperate.

Tories have attracted the name the Nasty Party, as that is what they are.

Transition Community Cafe

June 29, 2014
food preparation at Transition Community Cafe

food preparation at Transition Community Cafe

It was whilst out scavenging for vegetables for her hens, and seeing the amount of food going to waste, the idea of Transition Community Cafe came to Ann Bushell. Why not set up a community business that turns waste into a resource, and in doing so supplies delicious meals to the local community at a reasonable price?

The local Coop provided an unused building, volunteers and local businesses helped get it kitted out and up and running.

For a householder, waste is something you put in your wheelie bin, and think no more about it. For a local business, there is a cost incurred in disposal. Anything that helps cut that waste, or will take it off your hands for free, is a cost saving, and is therefore welcome.

  • an empty shop put back into use
  • food waste turned into a resource
  • healthy meals at low cost
  • revitalisation of a town centre
  • meeting place
  • recycling money within the local economy

Due to the variable nature of the ingredients, there is no fixed menu at Transition Community Cafe, it depends on what is available that day.

I have seen the amount of waste generated by food businesses, they seem to be happy to throw it away, and incur a cost in doing so, rather than take steps to reduce the waste.

I have suggested to Harris + Hoole Guildford, that left over food that would otherwise be thrown away, goes to a needy charity. This now happens, but that with a very short shelf life, still gets thrown away. Need to have offers at the end of the day. Buy a coffee and get a free savoury.

A bakery, sadly no longer in Guildford High Street, used to have a queue last half hour. Why, loaves of bread were half price.

Baker in Godalming, does buy one get one free. Far better, half price.

I do not know if they still do, Food For Thought in Covent Garden, used to give their scones and flapjacks to late customers to take away.

A deprived area like Aldershot, empty boarded-up units and fast food joints, poor diet, obesity. It cries out for a community venture like Transition Community Cafe, which also recycles money within the local community.

There is a cost to local councils in waste. It is therefore in their interest to support community ventures such as Transition Community Cafe.

Transition Community Cafe opened June 2013. Between the beginning of June and the end of September 2013 the project achieved the following:

  • Surplus food acquired and kept from landfill – approx 100 kilos/week
  • Food cooked and sold in the cafe – approx 50 kilos/week
  • Food sent for composting, or to a bio-digester or to animal feed (when it has not entered the cafe nor come into contact with animal by-products) – approx 50 kilos/week

Transition Community Cafe is located in Fishguard in Wales. It was a Transition Bro Gwaun community initiative.

Transition Community Cafe is an excellent example of collaborative commons, sharing economy in action.

Right of Recall

June 29, 2014

Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.– Leo Tolstoy

Right of Recall, was included in the Queen’s Speech, the right of the electorate to fire their member of Parliament, but it was so watered down, a committee of MPs in the first instance would decide, that if enacted, it would be worse than useless. It also only covers Members of Parliament, it does not include local councillors.

In response to that put forward by the government, 38 Degrees, with the help of other organisations, Members of Parliament, and several other bodies, have drawn up a much tighter draft bill. This they have put out for consultation.

The main difference, it will be for the local electorate to decide to recall their elected representatives, not for a committee of MPs.

My main concern, it only covers Members of Parliament. It should also cover local councillors.

My other concern, 20% of electorate voting yes to recall an MP is far too high, and in practice would be difficult to achieve. 10% would be a reasonable figure. It strikes the right balance between impossible to achieve and frivolous challenges.

We now need as many people as possible to lend their support.

When we have local councillors at the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor voting to destroy four local businesses at Firgrove Parade, destroy green space at Firgrove Green, destroy the c 1720s Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s, we have to have the means to target those councillors and kick them out of office.

When we have county councillors at Lincolnshire County Council voting for mass closure of libraries, we have to have the means to target those councillors and kick them out of office.

El Tango de Roxanne

June 29, 2014

Sting/Police classic Roxanne as tango.

Spine chilling.

Scene from the excellent film Moulin Rouge.

Captures the real tango, as evolved in rough working class districts of Buenos Aires, rough, violent, macho, sensual.

Thanks to Georgia.

Traffic free Farnham

June 29, 2014
Downing Street free of traffic

Downing Street free of traffic

Today, following the carnival procession, people were able to experience traffic free Farnham.

I always thought Downing Street was narrow. Free of cars, free of pollution, I found it to be wide.

Jeremy Hunt MP, has proposed Farnham be traffic free. It should have been done decades ago.

As minimum, Downing Street, Castle Street, The Borough, traffic free.

Farnham Carnival (almost) rained off

June 28, 2014
Farnham Carnival

Farnham Carnival

Yesterday, the forecast was cool, heavy rain. It did not rain, it was hot, but it did rain today.

I had intended to arrive at the Farnham Carnival early afternoon, but midday it started to rain, only light, then two violent thunderstorms hit, very heavy rain, and with the rain, the temperature dropped.

I arrived late afternoon, not a lot of people, all the stalls were there.

I thought Gostrey Meadow would be muddy, surprisingly not.

Curries from Home

Curries from Home

My friends from the garden party Curries from Home were there, so I treated myself to chickpea curry, plus an onion bhaji.

Last week, I had suggested they get a stall at Staycation Live in Godalming, contact Godalming Town Hall. I do not know when it will be, but I suggested possibly last weekend in July or first weekend in August.

Today, I suggested Godalming Food Festival, Sat 5 July ie next weekend, contact Godalming Town Hall, or Cafe Mila.

I also suggested they have a stall during the summer at Guildford farmers market, first Tuesday of the month, to contact Sue at Guildford Council.

Curries from Home, were one of several local food producers who had a stall. Also the local butcher from Downing Street had a barbecue (a hog roast would have been even better), Italian and Thai.

The beer tent had the usual rubbish from Big Business chemical plants. No excuse for this, a community event should be inviting local breweries to sell their beer.

No polystyrene burger boxes floating down the river as last year. Indeed, no stainless steel burger vans. There was though a tacky donut van and a ice cream van and a franchise coffee van. Again no excuse. Invite Dylan to do the ice cream and Hobo Co for the coffee.

Unbelievable, someone had parked a van across the entrance from Gostrey Meadow leading into Downing Street, on the pavement, on double yellow lines, on a blind corner. Yes, they had a flat tire, but still no excuse.

Music on the big stage was pretty awful. A duo on guitar and vocals, a rock group with far more noise than talent, but luckily last act, The Miller Family were great.

carnival procession

carnival procession

I had not intended to stay for the carnival procession, but as I was there, I did. Please can we not have the guy commentating, and please, not a long advertising spiel for Vale Furnishing.

Downing Street free of traffic

Downing Street free of traffic

Wandering through the town after the procession was great to find the town centre car free. I always thought Downing Street was narrow but free of cars it was quite wide. This is how Farnham could be car free. Jeremy Hunt has proposed this. It should have been done decades ago.

No buses. They must have been avoiding the town centre. I walked back through Gostrey Meadow to Farnham Station and caught the train.

The Miller Family

The Miller Family

As I walked back through Gostrey Meadow, it was packed. The Miller Family were were playing on the main stage, and they were great. A pity not bands of this calibre playing through the afternoon.

Farnham Carnival is an annual event on the last Saturday in June.

Today, was Army Day in Aldershot. The event was washed out, no stalls, no people, no nothing. Carnival goers in Farnham are obviously made of sterner stuff than the British Army.

One hundred years ago today, the shot was fired that started World War One.

  • Tuesday 1 July 2014 — Guildford farmers market
  • Saturday 5 July 2014 — Godalming Food Festival
  • Sunday 6 July 2014 — Picnic in the Park, Gostrey Meadow, food, music
  • last Saturday July 2014 (?) — Staycation Live, Godalming

My Sweet and Tender Beast

June 28, 2014

My Sweet and Tender Beast, a waltz by Eugen Doga.

Wonderful visual imagery.

The music sound like a film score, because it is a film score. It is from the Russian film A Hunting Accident (Мой ласковый и нежный зверь), based on the Anton Chekhov novel The Shooting Party (Драма на охоте).

Eugen Doga

Eugen Doga

Eugen Doga (1937- ) is a Romanian-Moldovan composer. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, he has lived in Moscow.

Thanks to Cristina.

Nature and Architecture

June 27, 2014
Nature and Architecture

Nature and Architecture

Nature and Architecture

Nature and Architecture

Nature and Architecture

Nature and Architecture

A series of watercolours by Susie Lidstone.

The floral watercolours I was not impressed by. Yes, the intricate detail was there, or was when not obscured by reflections, but would have been better, the classic still life, a flower in a vase or in the garden.

The paintings of buildings, well worth a visit for. Though could as much be the subject matter.

She does not say where they are, most I was able to suss out.

A group of three were Farnham, Castle Street, and the passage leading to and from the Parish Church.

In another group, the alms houses in Castle Street in Farnham.

On a leaflet, the greengrocer in Downing Street in Farnham, though not on display.

The artist paints what they see. It is for us to then see what they see. Somewhat difficult when glass is put in front of the painting, and all you see are reflections.

Presentation one would have thought goes with the job description. Why therefore are artists so lacking in presentation skills? Maybe that is why they need galleries.

The summer art exhibition at Café Mila in Godalming is well worth a visit (the food is pretty good too).

Lunch at Guildford Institute

June 27, 2014
chickpea bake and salad

chickpea bake and salad

banoffee pie

banoffee pie

As it was a lovely day, I was tempted to eat outside at The Keystone, but as will be closed soon for summer holidays, it was lunch at the Guildford Institute.

Chickpea bake with salad.

Followed by banoffee pie, plus a pot of tea.

As always on a Friday, the food excellent.

An art exhibition of watercolours of flowers and buildings, Nature and Architecture. Sadly spoilt by framed with glass.