When Love Activists Met Brighton & Hove City Council
Love Activists Brighton recently delivered their petition in support of the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness to their local council. They were invited to speak at the full council meeting held in the chambers of Brighton Town Hall, Thursday 28th January, 2016.
The solution based proposals were developed in consultation with the local community, prioritising feedback from rough sleepers. You can read the proposals, the rationale for them and sign the petition here.
Over 800 people have signed the petition online, while over 1000 handwritten signatures were gathered by people living on the streets. The petition is still gathering signatures now.
For the purposes of this project, the Love Activists have suspended their righteous cynicism about the democratic deficit, in order to give the council the opportunity to prove them wrong.
Ree represented the group and in her allocated 3 minutes she addressed the council respectfully, but firmly. She gave voice to the grief and anger we are all feeling, without becoming upset or angry. The Love Activists are at pains to remain non-party political and non-combative. Their intention is to inspire the council to actually implement the proposals, not to play the blame game with them.
CROSS PARTY SUPPORT
Overall, the council’s response to the proposals was far warmer than could have been anticipated. Labour Councillor, Anne Meadows was the first to reply. Cllr Meadows expressed support for a full debate, which was encouraging. Her response seemed to comprise a defense of the current, failed homeless strategy, which was disappointing. She tried to respond to each of the 7 proposals but ran out of time. I will be looking forward to reading her thoughts in detail, as she said she would be forwarding her response in writing.
Labour Councillor, Anne Meadows
Conservative Councillor, Mary Mears’ response was possibly the biggest surprise. On the surface of it, she didn’t have a bad word to say about the Love Activists either. She welcomed the petition and supported the recommendation that it should go to the housing committee for a full debate.
Conservative Councillor, Mary Mears
Towards the end of her comments however, Cllr Mears praised Central Government’s “extra funding” of £14 million “to refurbish hostels and provide low cost shared accommodation for young people at risk of becoming homeless“. The Love Activists are keen to end the cycle of temporary housing which traps people in inhospitable and unsafe accommodation.
At least 71 of the Tory MPs who voted against an amendment to force landlords to ensure their properties are “fit for human habitation” are themselves private landlords.
As the Mirror has recently reported, some of the top landlords receiving housing benefit directly from councils for their tenants are Tory MPs and donors.
(Make of this what you will, I’m trying my best to be diplomatic and positive about it all…)
The public gallery voiced appreciation for Green Councillor David Gibson’s contribution to the debate with much cheering and applause. He was the most vociferous supporter of the proposals and laid out the most truthful and urgent analysis of the root causes of the problem.
Green Councillor, David Gibson
Cllr Gibson focused on the obvious point which the Love Activists had tactfully refrained from making explicit in their opening deputations; that the council’s power is limited. Reforming or repealing the LASPO act and imposing social rents on landlords are not “gifts” enjoyed by the council. Central government is where that power lies, therefore we should be making a call to them.
“The Housing crisis is a result of failed housing policies. It’s the result of a private rented sector which is out of control and as you rightly point out is completely unaffordable. It’s a result of an attack on social housing by successive Governments which has led to a reduction in the affordable social housing available for rent.
– We need to call on Government to tackle the root causes of the housing crisis.”
While it is a shame that this tragic issue is also a political football, it is encouraging that we have players like Cllr Gibson who are prepared to speak blunt truth in the corridors of power.
Councillor Clare Moonan, the lead member for homelessness (Labour) also seemed to be genuinely warm to working with the Love Activists. Cllr. Moonan kept her comments brief and added her support for a full debate. She said “we absolutely want to work with you, with your ideas, with your suggestions”.
Labour Councillor, Clare Moonan
After a little more political footballing from Cllr Meadows, the petition in support of the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness was referred to the Fairness Commission, “for information” and to the Housing and New Homes Committee on the 2nd March for consideration.
Despite the Love Activists’ best efforts not to participate in political football, that is unfortunately how the game is played in the arena of the corporatocracy. It is a shameful indictment of modern democracy that the housing and homelessness crisis, like every other significant issue of the age is belittled in this way.
Fighting each other over the party political trenches is unproductive and blinds us to the potential for genuine, radical innovation. Tribalism begets and re-enforces dogma, which shuts down meaningful discussion and prevents effective collaboration.
Love Activists are not interested in starting class war, they are interested in ending it. Let’s hope that they can influence an adult discussion at the Housing Committee, leading to meaningful and effective innovations to end homelessness.