Croydon’s Communist Party Reacts to Scandal of Empty Homes in the Borough

Press Release

Croydon Council has reported that it knows of 1,044 homes which have been empty for more than six months as of March 31 2014, compared to 1,000 in September last year. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 families have been put in temporary accommodation.

Ben Stevenson, Communist Party local election candidate for Bensham Manor, said, “I think this is a scandal given the extent of the housing shortage in Croydon and is symptomatic of the council’s refusal to tackle Croydon’s housing crisis. Britain has the seventh largest economy in the world. We should be building decent homes for all who need them. Instead, we are failing those least able to defend themselves, forcing them to squeeze in to B&Bs. Not only are the conditions often cramped and squalid, but children suffer as they have no place to play or do their homework. These are modern day slums; and this is a massive waste of taxpayers’ money.”

House prices in London are continuing to spiral out of control. Prices have risen overall by around 18% over the last year, as a shortage of housing in the capital, the activities of ‘buy to let’ landlords and the Government’s fundamentally misconceived Funding for Lending scheme fuels another speculative bubble. In Croydon itself, prices have risen by 14% over the last year, with reports of local buyers paying up to £50,000 above asking prices.

To make matters worse, house prices in London are now less affordable, compared to earnings, than ever before. It’s usually considered that a reasonable level for house prices is about three times that of earnings. But, for the first time, we are seeing average London house price which are eight times the average first-time buyer’s salary. People are being forced to take on absurd levels of debt to buy a home.

Mr Stevenson said, “Clearly, this isn’t sustainable. At some point the bubble will burst. Local politicians are failing to meet the housing needs of those least able to defend themselves: the poor, the vulnerable and the socially excluded. Meanwhile the number of new houses being built is falling to an all-time low. The only significant building projects that get the green light are those that promise yet more luxury apartments in an attempt to lure high earners away from Central London. The supply of social housing in Croydon is of course, woefully inadequate. Years of neglect by the local Tory council, along with central New Labour and Tory Government housing policies, has left Croydon with a smaller housing stock then almost any other London boroughs. Even the Council’s own Housing Strategy admits that Croydon is ill-equipped to meet housing need. An entire generation of people in Croydon are being systematically denied their right to decent affordable housing. We need, as a matter of urgency, to campaign for a significant council house building programme, an end to the bedroom tax, an end to council house sales, compulsory requisitioning of long term empty properties and rent controls in the private sector. Only the Communist Party offers these and other progressive policies which matter to ordinary working people.”

Communists in Croydon recently published a pamphlet on the growing housing crisis in the borough, Decent Homes For All: End Croydon’s Housing Crisis Now! This publication seeks to explain the why and how of Croydon’s housing crisis. Copies are available on the website or by contacting us direct.

Notes to editors:
1. For enquiries phone 0208 686 1659 or e-mail croydon@communist-party.org.uk
2. Ben Stevenson is 29 years old and National Secretary of the Communist Party. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee. He stood as a Communist Party candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election.
3. John Eden is the Communist Party local election candidate for Selhurst. He is 64 years old and a carpenter and joiner. He is a member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee and has lived in Selhurst for 27 years.
4. Dr Peter Latham is the Communist Party local election candidate for Broad Green. A former lecturer, he has lived in the area for many years. He is the author of ‘The State and Local Government: Towards a new basis for local democracy and the defeat of big business control’ and a longstanding member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee.
5. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.

A message for Mr Cable

Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, likes to appear mildly progressive in his public utterances, no doubt in the vain hope that we will forget that he and his party will have kept the most rabid Tory government in living memory in power for five years. It was therefore somewhat surprising when, in response to a question from Labour in parliament last week, Mr Cable was largely dismissive of the mildly progressive idea put to him that publicly listed companies should be required to disclose in their accounts the number of employees who are paid less than the living wage. He said he would think about it but added that he was against “coercive measures because these would simply add to unemployment”. Massaging downward the headline figure for unemployment and disregarding the consequential increase in welfare costs – or better, capping them and making the recipients pay – is, of course, a key strategy for the Tories: a strategy that the Lib Dems have gone along with.

The living wage rate is currently £8.80 per hour in London, including Croydon, and £7.65 per hour elsewhere, compared with the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour for those aged 21 and over.

As I mentioned last week, Croydon TUC was calling on candidates in the forthcoming local government elections to commit to ten key policies if elected. One of these policies is that Croydon Council should pay the London Living wage to its staff and insist on its sub-contractors doing the same. While candidates from other parties appear to have ignored the call, Communist Party candidates in Croydon warmly took up this commitment. As communists hoping to be councillors, they recognise that the powers available to elected councils are limited, but a start can be made in the Council Chamber towards building a fairer society. Paying the London Living Wage for council employees, both direct and indirect, and removing such restrictions on employment terms under local government services as not paying carers for their travelling time, represent such a start. As communists, however, these candidates appreciate that tinkering with capitalism cannot bring about the fundamental change they seek. Fair pay for all is the objective, and it cannot, unfortunately, be achieved in the forthcoming local government elections on 22 May, whatever the results. Fair pay for all cannot be achieved without the “coercive measures” feared by Mr Cable, but it does not involve unemployment. It’s a system called socialism, Mr Cable. Try thinking about that!

Martin Graham

Croydon Communists’ Rallying Cry for the Local Elections: Let’s Fight for a People’s Britain Not a Bankers’ Britain!

Press Release

Croydon Communists stepped up their campaign in the May 2014 local elections. Members were out yesterday leafleting in the three wards where we are standing candidates in the May 2014 local elections: Bensham Manor, Selhurst and Broad Green.

Ben Stevenson, Croydon Communist candidate for Bensham Manor, said, “This is the real start of our campaign. We will be using all available media channels as well as traditional campaigning methods to get out message across to local residents that we offer a genuine alternative to the relentless austerity, public service cuts and total lack of accountability offered by the Tories. They also need more than the vague platitudes presented by Labour about more transparency and cleaning up dog mess! We all deserve better than this government or the lacklustre ‘Tory-lite’ response being offered by the Milliband-Balls ‘purple’ Labour plan of exactly the same policies dragged out over a couple of years.”

Croydon Communists see the election as a real opportunity to take the fight to the Con-Dem Government and explain to local people that there is a future worth fighting for based on a genuine socialist political and economic strategy. The Government continues to try to con people into thinking that they offer the only way out of the economic crisis. But ordinary people know when they are being sold a pup. Real wages remain significantly lower than they were before the recession hit; pensioners and benefit claimants have seen a significant reduction in disposable income; and the NHS, education, social housing and other public services are under a sustained assault by a government determined to turn the clock back to the social conditions of the 19th Century. It’s time we put people before profit – and fought for a people’s Britain rather than a bankers’ Britain.

Dr Peter Latham, Croydon Communist candidate for Broad Green, said, “Labour’s talk of ‘difficult choices’ and providing public services ‘differently’ utterly misses the point. The experience in Lambeth and other councils are well known – residents are faced with an impossible choice. Either support the provision of vital local services staffed by volunteers, with all the impact that has on the quality of service delivery and the jobs of the staff themselves, or see them disappear. This is no choice at all!”

Croydon’s communists support more democracy at street and community level, with real involvement by residents in local projects. Communist policies for Croydon are based on a realistic and objective assessment of what’s deliverable at local level in current political circumstances and include:

• More affordable public sector housing and a cap on private housing at affordable rents
• Compulsory take-over of empty office space
• Defend the freedom pass and fight for more investment inpublic transport
• Council-led drive for investment in clean technology and an increase in recycling
• Higher council tax rates for top-band properties
• A council-led drive for jobs and facilities for disabled workers
• No more outsourcing or privatisation of council services
• A tight cap on councillors’ allowances and expenses.

John Eden, Croydon Communist candidate for Selhurst, said, “I’m standing up for ordinary people in the ward. Croydon Labour Party’s manifesto for the May 2014 elections provides a clear illustration of their failure to offer a vision for Croydon which presents a genuine alternative. Our community faces job losses, inadequate housing and all-out assault on local services. I look forward to the challenge presented by this election, taking the fight to the Tories and explaining to local people that there’s a future worth fighting for based on a socialist vision that empowers them and offers hope of a better future.”

Notes to editors:
1. For enquiries phone 0208 686 1659 or e-mail croydon@communist-party.org.uk
2. Ben Stevenson is 29 years old and National Secretary of the Communist Party. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee. He stood as a Communist Party candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election.
3. John Eden is the Communist Party candidate for Selhurst. He is 64 years old and a carpenter and joiner. He is a member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee and has lived in Selhurst for 27 years.
4. Dr Peter Latham is the Communist Party candidate for Broad Green. A former lecturer, he has lived in the area for many years. He is the author of ‘The State and Local Government: Towards a new basis for local democracy and the defeat of big business control’ and a longstanding member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee.
5. Croydon Communists recently published a well-received pamphlet on housing issues in the borough, ‘Decent Homes for All – End Croydon’s Housing Crisis Now’, which is available on the website or by contacting us direct.
6. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.

OPERATION TROJAN HORSE: WHO ARE THE REAL VILLIANS?

Operation Trojan Horse refers to a leaked anonymous letter – which some say is a hoax – claiming to be sent between Muslim extremists seeking to take over Birmingham schools. Among the claims by whistle blowers are that sex education is banned and boys and girls are segregated in the classroom. Responding to these revelations, Education Secretary Michael Gove has ordered Ofsted inspectors into 15 schools in Birmingham to investigate them and there are now four inquiries underway overseen by a former counter-terrorism chief.

Over-reaction? The idea that our schools are being penetrated by religious groups can hardly come as a surprise to Mr Gove. Impervious to the consequences of religious segregation in Northern Ireland’s schools, he has encouraged the destruction of our predominately secular education system under local government control and is handing it over to a motley band of religious and business interests including, in Croydon, quite literally, carpet salesmen. Our once democratically accountable schools are disappearing – in Croydon this process is largely complete at the secondary level – to be replaced by academies and so called free schools outside the control of the local authority. As part of this programme, pay in what remains of the local authority sector is being held down, Ofsted is employed to keep teachers in this sector focused on the narrowest possible definition of educational attainment and the unions representing the staff in these schools are undermined and attacked.

Croydon TUC has published a list of ten policies which it asks candidates in the forthcoming local government elections in Croydon to endorse. Number 9 is to support our local schools still under democratic, local government control and to oppose the introduction of any more academies and free schools in Croydon. This call has so far been ignored by candidates standing in these elections except for the Communist Party candidates in Bensham Manor, Broad Green and Selhurst. This should not come as a great surprise. The Tories and Lib-Dems are complicit in this strategy and Labour started the whole thing off by starving Local Education Authorities of resources and initiating the academy programme.

Trojan Horses are for hiding in but also, it appears, for hiding behind.

Martin Graham

Lib Dem candidate’s ‘lunatic fringe’ comment politically illiterate

Posted by John Eden
From: Dr. Peter Latham

Sent: Monday, April 07, 2014 5:12 AM

To: newsdesk@croydonadvertiser.co.uk

Subject: Lib Dem candidate’s ‘lunatic fringe’ comment politically illiterate

Dear Editor,

Please consider my letter below for publication in next Friday’s issue of the paper.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Latham

Lib Dem candidate’s ‘lunatic fringe’ comment politically illiterate

Lib Dem local election candidate John Jenkins, according to your report on 4 April, was furious that he would be speaking at Croydon Radio’s hustings programme on 6 April alongside Communist and National Front candidates he describes as the “lunatic fringe”.

In fact Ben Stevenson, Croydon Communist candidate for Bensham Manor ward, dropped out of the show immediately we learnt that a National Front candidate would be appearing. This follows our ‘no platform to racists or fascists’ policy, which is a matter of principle held not only by communists but also by trade unions and vast sections of the labour and progressive movement. We therefore applaud the decision by Andrew Pelling – who is also a Labour local election candidate – to resign from Croydon Radio because the NF were given a platform at the station’s hustings programme on 6 April.

John Jenkins is also politically illiterate when he equates communists with fascists because fascism is the last resort of a capitalist state in crisis. Moreover, the very first people Hitler sent to the gas chambers were the German communists as shown by Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous poem: ‘First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist… Then they came for the Socialists…the trade unionists…the Jews… Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me’.

Capitalism is again in crisis today and this is why the Communist Party of Britain is part of the No2EU alliance (set up by the late Bob Crow) whose manifesto will go to all households urging voters on 22 May to support a non-racist socialist exit from the European Union with its austerity policies.

Similarly, Ben Stevenson, John Eden in Selhurst and Peter Latham in Broad Green are standing as Communist candidates in the local elections to show that there is an alternative to the austerity policies of the three main parties both nationally and locally. For, as noted in my forthcoming book on The imminent demise of local government, all of the cuts in welfare, health, education, housing and local authority services can be reversed and services massively increased by:

· a two per cent wealth tax on the richest 10 per cent of households who own an estimated 44 per cent of Britain’s wealth (revenue £90 billion a year)

· a 10 per cent ‘Robin Hood’ tax on City transac­tions (revenue £112 billion a year)

· ending tax dodging by the super-rich and big business (revenue £70 billion a year).

(Dr.) Peter Latham, Flat 8 Scoresdale, 13 Beulah Hill, London SE19 3LH

Lord Myners, the banks and the Co-op

It is reported this week that if the Co-op Board does not accept the proposals from Lord Myners to ‘reform’ their structure to make it look more acceptable to ‘the City’, the Co-op’s principal lenders, Barclays, Lloyds Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland will flex their muscles and insist on the ‘reforms’ or call in their debts.

Hang on a moment. Barclays? Lloyds? RBS? Lord Myners??? Has the world gone completely mad?

The capitalist world is, of course, full of such contradictions, but in this case the lunatics appear to have taken over the asylum! Lord Myners originally attracted modest public attention as a financial journalist on the Daily Torygraph before rising to prominence as the Chairman of Marks and Spencer, where his ‘reforms’ clearly failed to reverse the painful, protracted decline of this once dominant and celebrated high street retailer. In 2008, he was appointed by Gordon Brown Financial Secretary to the Treasury where he oversaw the shawing up of …Barclays, Lloyds and RBS. The consequences of these bailouts resulted in the recession and the coalition government’s continuing efforts, with Labour’s endorsement, to make ordinary working people pay for the resulting economic crisis. The once in a lifetime opportunity to rein in the banks and make them serve the interests of their customers (rather than fleecing them) and the nation (by financing real businesses, not speculators) was thrown away. In the specific case of RBS, Myner’s judgment has proved particularly deficient. The parliamentary Treasury Committee reported in 2009 that “The RBS Board had shown itself to be incompetent in the management of the bank, steering it towards catastrophe… We suspect that Lord Myners’ City background, and naiveté as to the public perception of these matters, may have led him to place too much trust in an RBS Board that he himself described to us as “distinguished”.

Such are the individuals and businesses that now seek to dilute the democratic structures of the Co-op. The Communist Party in Croydon wishes the Co-op well in its struggle to keep its independence and we give our full support to our elected representatives from Croydon in this fight.

Martin Graham

May 2014 Local Elections – No Platform for Racists and Fascists

Press Release

There have been reports that Ben Stevenson, Croydon Communist candidate for Bensham Manor in the May 2014 local elections would be appearing on today’s Croydon Radio ‘In The Loop’ Election Special.

We were pleased to accept the original invitation but dropped out of the show immediately we learnt that a National Front (NF) candidate would be appearing. This follows our ‘no platform to racists or fascists’ policy, which is a matter of principle held not only by communists but also by trade unions and vast sections of the labour and progressive movement. In Croydon and the rest of the country we have and will continue to work with legitimate political parties, groups and individuals on any issue of common concern – including anti-racist work- but groups like the NF, BNP, the EDL and other offshoots have nothing to offer the people of Croydon other than hatred, vitriol and bile. Their goal is to divide people and communities to such an extent that they can incite a race war.

Mr Stevenson said, “Providing a platform for racists and fascists does nothing but further legitimise them. You can’t drown them in the oxygen of publicity. The only reason why these groups have not been consigned to the dustbin of history, where they belong, is the daily dose of anti-immigration hysteria presented in right wing tabloid newspaper and tacitly encouraged by mainstream political parties as an easy vote winner in the short term.”

We understand the NF was subsequently removed from the show but received confirmation of the position too late to change our decision.

Croydon Communists continue to look forward to the election campaign, where we are fielding three candidates. Mr Stevenson said, “Croydon residents need a genuine alternative to the relentless austerity, public service cuts and total lack of accountability offered by the Tories. They also need more than the platitudes presented by Labour about more transparency in council meetings, more effective working with the voluntary sector and cleaner streets in Croydon. This election is an opportunity to take the fight to the Tories and explain to local people that there is a future worth fighting for based on a socialist political and economic strategy.”

Notes to editors:
1. For enquiries phone 0208 686 1659 or e-mail croydon@communist-party.org.uk
2. Ben Stevenson is 29 years old and National Secretary of the Communist Party. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee. He stood as a Communist Party candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election.
3. John Eden is the Communist Party candidate for Selhurst. He is 64 years old and a carpenter and joiner. He is a member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee and has lived in Selhurst for 27 years.
4. Dr Peter Latham is the Communist Party candidate for Broad Green. A former lecturer, he has lived in the area for many years. He is the author of ‘The State and Local Government: Towards a new basis for local democracy and the defeat of big business control’ and a longstanding member of Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee.
5. The Communist Party’s longstanding No Platform policy asserts that no person or organisation holding racist or fascist beliefs should be given a platform to speak at a party-organised event, nor should an officer of the party share a platform with them. Reflecting the development of web-based communications and social media and the significant shift in the way information is promoted or made accessible, No Platform also means that we deny fascists and racists the freedom to spread their poison within communities unchallenged.
6. Croydon Communists recently published a well-received pamphlet on housing issues in the borough, ‘Decent Homes for All – End Croydon’s Housing Crisis Now’, which is available on the website or by contacting us direct.
7. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.

END THE ASSULT ON WELFARE

The government’s cruel and unnecessary cap on social security spending sailed through Parliament towards the end of last month.

Croydon Communists set out five reasons why the cap is wrong.
• It subjects vulnerable people’s needs to an arbitrary spending limit
• It perpetuates the myth that social security spending has got “out of control”
• It does nothing to address key underlying reasons for the welfare budget
• It will fuel the demonization of people on benefits
• It will do nothing to help those in real need

Only 13 Labour MPs voted against it. A few more would have done, but were legitimately absent.

Nevertheless, the vote was disappointing. It shows that the Labour Party leadership, the only ones who for all practical purposes, can form an alternative government to the hated con/dems after the general election in 2015 have little concern for the most vulnerable.

The vote came on the day HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said it is shedding 17% of jobs from its specialist tax division – the staff who deal with higher rate taxpayers and more
complex cases.

The reason, cited by a senior manager, was that they “are being challenged to deliver more with less” and is part of a wider plan by HMRC to axe thousands more posts in the coming months and years.

Just one week ago, chancellor George Osborne claimed in his budget speech: “I am increasing HMRC’s budget to tackle non-compliance.”

What complete tosh!

Mark Serwotka General Secretary of the mighty PCS civil service union, who organise both social security and tax office staff said: “The welfare cap is not a solution to anything, it is a gimmick, and a very nasty and dangerous one that will cruelly punish vulnerable people whose lives depend on the support benefits and tax credits provide.

“With tens of billions of pounds lost every year through corporate tax avoidance, MPs should hang their heads in shame that they are voting for a cap that risks driving more people into poverty and putting more families on the streets.”

How true. All the more reason for Croydonians to vote Communist if possible at the local elections on 22 May. Croydon’s Communists oppose and will continue to oppose, every assault on Britain’s welfare state, which came about under a Labour government in 1945.

Nigel Green

ELECTIONS AND THE FUTURE OF THE LABOUR PARTY

Two developments concerning the future of the Labour Party and its relationship with progressive forces outside that party, including the Communist Party, have been reported this week. First, at the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) AGM there was a motion, remitted to the EC, calling for the establishment of a new party affiliated to the Labour Party, much as is the Co-operative Party, to represent the left within the party. The second development was that Len McCluskey, General Secretary of the Unite union, speaking to parliamentary journalists this week, suggested that if Labour lost the next general election on a programme of cuts, a new workers party might gain his union’s support.

The CLPD pretty well represents the last vestige of socialist organisation within the Labour Party. There are, of course, still a few individual socialists in the Labour Party and there exists the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) which aims to build support across the left inside and outside the Labour Party. The effectiveness of these efforts is, however, hampered by Labour’s prohibition on organising a party within the party and on members who are also members of a party that stands candidates against Labour. The Communist Party has always taken a principled stand on this. We stand in elections, where we can, not because we have any realistic prospect of being elected under first past the post elections dominated by a capitalist mass media, but because we think a truly democratic party, which we are, should be prepared to put its views before the electorate where it can. We also recognise that Labour’s prohibition on membership of parties that stand against it was and is directly targeted at the Communist Party. Unlike many other parties on the left, we refuse to bow our knee over this. Entryism may appeal to some on the left but it is not our style of working.

It is difficult to see how we might gain from the CPLD’s idea for a new, tame party affiliated to Labour even if the Labour Party were to approve such an affiliation, which seems most unlikely.
Whether there might be an opportunity for the Communist Party in the new workers party envisaged by Mr McCluskey remains to be seen.

Elections are expensive. That is why the Communist Party does not currently stand in as many as we would like. We will, however, by standing in three wards in Croydon at the local government elections on 22 May: Broad Green, Selhurst and Bensham Manor. Support, financial and physical, would be very welcome.

Martin Graham
Election Agent for the Communist Party in Croydon