The Lewisham Town Hall Winter Warm-up

February 3, 2012

The Lewisham Town Hall Winter Warm-up

30-40 activists and residents from Lewisham occupied and Warmed-up inside Lewisham Town Hall. They staged a peoples’ forum inside, where people shared their experiences of unaffordable energy bills and expressed their anger at the profiteering energy companies and complicit government. People discussed the many examples of community controlled renewable energy projects across the country and how we might transition Lewisham and, more broadly, the UK, to a democratic energy system that works for people’s needs, not for corporate greed.

After the peoples’ forum, people moved outside and got even more toasty around a bonfire of burning energy bills!

Lewisham campaigners turn up the heat on fuel poverty

January 20, 2012

For immediate release:
Wednesday January 25th 2012
Lewisham campaigners turn up the heat on fuel poverty
Photocall: Fire-eaters, bill burning, a Peoples Forum on fuel poverty, and mass warm-up
Friday January 27th 2012
Lewisham Town Hall,Catford, London SE6 4RU 6pm
Lewisham joins protests across the UK as part of the Fuel Poverty Action Winter Warm-Up Weekend of Friday 27th – Monday 30th January [1]

Locals angry at having to make the choice between ‘heating and eating’ will be ‘warming up’ in and outside offices of energy companies, local government, and housing providers. Protestors will gather at Lewisham Town Hall to demand democratically controlled and accountable energy, decent fuel-efficient housing, and an end to deaths caused by fuel poverty. There will be a Peoples’ Forum, a burning of bills to keep warm , and a sharing of tea and information on how to bring down the cost of heating.

Local campaigner Alice Miller said, “We’ve chosen to hold our protest at Lewisham Town Hall because it is a tax-payer heated building and if we get too cold outside, we should be able to go inside to keep warm”. Community Action Lewisham [2], who have organised the event, want people to know that: “There are things we can do ourselves right now to keep warm for less and make sure councils and other landlords do what they should”, says CAL activist Alex Hardy, going on to say, “However, only a democratic public energy system can permanently lift people out of fuel poverty and enable us to make the rapid transition thats needed, to green and sustainable energy”

James Holland 07905 685 906 or Ewa Jasiewicz 07749 421 576 Community Action Lewisham and Fuel Poverty Action

Why: the facts
According to the government-commissioned Hills Poverty Review, 2,700 people – a conservative estimate – will die this winter as a direct result of being ‘fuel poor’. As of April 2011, nearly 1 in 4 households (6.3million homes) in the UK were in fuel poverty. While between 2005 and 2009 the number of UK people in fuel poverty doubled, the profits of the UK’s ‘Big Six’ energy companies – EDF, Centrica, Eon, RWE Npower, Scottish Power and Southern & Scottish Energy – have soared to a record five-year high. The 5% price decreases announced by EDF and British Gas go back only a short way against the 14.2% overall price rise this year. The government is making matters worse by delaying compulsory landlord-installed insulation, undermining the solar power feed-in tariff, and cutting the Winter Fuel Allowance.
Failing to make a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy will have huge environmental, human and economic costs. The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue, annual global economic damages could reach US$20 trillion by 2100, or 6-8% of global economic output at that time.

[1] Fuel Poverty Action ( Twitter @ FuelPovAction) Protests are plabbed for Hackney, Harringey, Cambridge, and Leeds. FPA was set up in 2011 as part of Climate Justice Collective. It aims to support and give a voice to people who can’t afford to pay mammoth fuel bills, and to take action against the energy companies, private and social landlords, and corrupt governments, national and local, that are leaving people in the cold. In November 2011, Fuel Poverty Action held a ‘die-in’ protest at EDF offices in London to mark the thousands of deaths due to fuel poverty in the UK annually (video and photos).
[2] Community Action Lewisham

why britain’s ‘conservatives’ are the revolutionary force we need to tap into

May 2, 2011

In a previous article I wrote that a general strike would be a disaster because Britain is a conservative country where a huge majority would choose the devil they know if it was a straight choice. But i’m not talking about just a middle class, home counties type of conservatism (that’s actually a very small part of it) it’s also many others who have given up thinking that things can change, some that aspire to ‘get ahead’ in the current system, some that are just too busy and under pressure even to have room in their minds to hope. Many of these people are angry, pissed off and know that the system doesn’t really work for them but have come to terms with it and decided to get on and make the best of bad job. These are the people that pass by the leafletting activist surrounded by a headphone comfort blanket, react to a student fee increases by starting to save or a library closure by offering to run it themselves.

These people need something that will work straight away, that will feel good and doesn’t make great claims. They need something that they can do without embarrassment, that feels familiar and is part of something that is almost universally agreed to be a good thing – i think that thing could be real local democracy. Democracy is incredibly powerful because almost everyone thinks its a good thing but yet no one really agrees on what it is, but, given that most people think that politicians don’t do a very good job and that they probably know better themselves what’s good for them then any paid bureaucrats it shouldn’t be too difficult to persuade people that democracy means everyone in a local area discussing issues face to face and then making decisions.
And even conservatives want democracy, even those that are proper tories, and others we totally disagree with, but it’s fine, because we are confident that our ideas are better, and our arguments stronger, aren’t we?

And when people do this political labels lose their meaning and revolutionary ideas can be discussed on their merits, without the baggage they are often packaged with. This kind of self organising also becomes addictive and with communications technology the simple idea could spread very quickly. I fully expect better lives in more supportive communities to mean less need need to work for wages outside of them – gradually reducing our reliance on and withdrawing from the capitalist system.

Why all SE london activists should be involved in social centre plus (old deptford job centre)

April 3, 2011

Social Centre Plus is a social centre in the old Deptford job centre. It’s explicitly a space for a anti-cuts organising but it’s also a place for people from the area to come to, or put on, events as well as a really nice place to hang out and chat.

But I think in many ways this description doesn’t do it justice. If we are to succeed beyond fighting the current round of cuts into the long term then we need to build strong communities and have free, democratically controlled spaces where all the things that people need can happen. In the short term as well a space like SCP is somewhere activists can mix and talk with people who are going to be affected by the cuts (IE everyone!) and over time break down the barrier between ‘activists’ and ‘ordinary people’ which still exists. This is very difficult to do through sporadic encounters while canvassing, handing out a flyer or the other brief conversations where the activist has a specific goal to persuade or recruit. A space like SCP means that people can spend extended periods of time doing all the things a community needs to do – cooking, meetings, watching films, learning etc building up not just resources of skills and ideas but a pool of solidarity that we are going to rely on if things continue the way they are.

Watching a film or chatting over a cup of tea may not seem particularly important, but it may just be among the most radical and effective actions you can take right now.

SCP general meetings are sundays 5- 6.30 and thursday 7-8.30 and everyone is always welcome.

Democracy as the alternative. Time for the self-organising revolution

March 17, 2011

On march 26th many thousands of people are ‘marching for an alternative’, but to my mind very few, if any, are expressing a truly convincing or appealing alternative to short term cuts and the long term privatisation, degradation of public services and dominance of profit seeking business that has been happening without interruption for at least 30 years.

The closest thing to an alternative in the anti cuts movement is summed up by the slogan ‘tax the bankers’, and while this is fine as far as it goes, if we taxed bankers enough to pay back the bailout we might be able to stop the cuts and get back to where we were in 2007, but correct me if I’m wrong, but that was no golden age worthy of nostalgia!

However, no politician of any colour is even going to go this far because among all the other crises old and new there is a serious crisis of democracy. The cuts have made the lack of democracy more obvious than ever before – when all three main parties and the media agree that ‘cuts need to be made’ ignoring all the evidence and opposition outside of that cosy club something is seriously wrong, and when Nick Clegg U turns on student fees the emptiness of the rhetoric of ‘the democratic process’ is plain to see way beyond the usual critics.

I think we need to bypass all politicians and their institutions and come together face to face on a local level to do the open, democratic discussion and planning that politicians aren’t interested in. We need to follow this up by making plans and putting them into action ourselves. We need to do this everywhere and build horizontal solidarity between communities.

In my local area we have had a very diverse and often exciting period of campaigning against the cuts, but the particular cut that I am fighting has been agreed and is due to enacted in 2 months – New Cross Library is due to be closed on 28th May. In addition the local childrens centre and family learning centre both face a similar fate, not to mention many other services that are to be downgraded, cuts we don’t know about yet and changes to benefits, housing and the NHS which affect everyone.

In response we’ve set up ‘The Future of New Cross’ – a series of public meetings, conversations online, on the doorstep and in the street to get everyone talking to everyone else and working together on an alternative that we can build into something which looks much more like real democracy. We might decide to occupy or even more formally take over services that the council wants to close but we simply wont accept the funding cuts – in the first instance we’ll continue to fight to get the money from the council and the government (who are still wasting most of the money they do manage to get hold of) but also, instead of relying on the government to tax big business and the council to distribute it, we will demand money directly from the corporations (and not just those that are on the current list of tax dodgers – NONE of them pay a far share).

Some people might worry that this is the big society but I’d say that it’s the complete opposite. It’s self organising – not the tory idea of people with time on their hands doing good things for the poor unfortunates, this is us taking control over our own lives and communities. It’s time for the self organising revolution.

People of New Cross occupy their threatened public library.

February 5, 2011

At 5 pm today, sat 5th feb, a group of about 30-50 local people from New Cross, South East London, who were taking part in a ‘read in’, decided that they wanted to continue the protest against council plans to stop funding the library by staying overnight.

James Holland of The Save New Cross Library Campaign, said “Local people made it absolutely clear that they want the library to stay open in council organised consultation meetings and with over 5000 signatures on a petition, in response the council has simply delayed and re-packaged their plan, so we are taking action that we hope it will be impossible to ignore.”

He continued, “The mayor’s new PR strategy is to claim to have ‘saved the library’ by transferring it to the community, but we are not fooled. Even if they satisfy huge concerns over who they might transfer it to, they must also give us the money we need to run it properly. The library costs only slightly more than the mayors salary (and significantly less than any of the executive directors), yet any transfer that doesn’t continue this funding will be no better than a cynical exercise to shift the blame for the eventual closure. ”

Earlier in the day the ‘read in’ featured music from Sly and Reggie, readings, discussions, poetry and The University of Strategic Optimism. Read ins were also happening at all the threatened libraries in Lewisham and many others across the country.
it was during discussions on the future of the library and what people could do to prevent the planned huge reduction in funding that the idea of occupying came up, after a lively discussion most people decided that they supported the idea (although some said that they were not able to stay themselves). People are currently discussing practicalities with staff.

Contact 07905 685 906

notes to editors

New Cross Library is at 283-285 New Cross Rd, London SE14 6AS

Sly and Reggie –


See here for more about what the idea of the ‘read in ‘

Save New Cross Library facebook group

5 Lewisham Libraries to close

July 4, 2010

The Blackheath Bugle reports that the council plans to close 5 of the smaller libraries in the borough (Sydenham, Blackheath, Crofton Park, Grove Park and New Cross)

Brockley PFI criticised by NAO

July 1, 2010

Lewisham Council has been criticised in a report by the National Audit Office for allowing the cost of the Brockley PFI scheme to improve the area’s Council-owned housing stock to spiral out of control.

Original articles on Brockley Central and the Evening Standard

Lack of primary school places

June 24, 2010

“In the London Borough of Lewisham, the equivalent of an extra 17 reception classes will have to be added for the autumn”
Full story on BBC News

LEWISHAM: Council outlines £60m cuts over three years

June 24, 2010

The council estimates it will need to make the savings in the light of the government’s plans to wipe out the national deficit.

In a report approved at a council Mayor and Cabinet meeting officers warn London councils will have to reduce their spending by around 25 per cent. Full story on