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Children in decaying houses whilst councillors drink champagne at property investor fair in Cannes…

MIPIM_Boris_1_london_model_credit_john_sturrockBy Kate Belgrave. Originally published at Kate Belgrave.

To Manor Park library yesterday and the “Meet Mayor Robin Wales” event yesterday, where there was a big turnout. Housing problems were on many minds.

I spoke to a woman who works as a cleaner and has been in temporary accommodation with her three children for four years. She earns £500 a month as a cleaner and her housing benefit does not meet her whole rent. I went round to her house to film the mould, missing floorboards, uncollected rubbish and peeling wallpaper later on in the day. Look at the mould growing here – the woman has to wipe it off regularly and it keeps coming back. There’s a two-month-old baby living in this place:

In this next video, I asked Wales why he attended a recent property investors’ fair in Cannes and what he did there. There has been a great deal of anger about councillors’ attendance at that fair, as you’ll read in this Guardian story:

“Protesters accuse local authorities at week-long MIPIM of being ‘in pockets of investors’ and ‘selling off’ Britain’s cities…Every year, for a week in March, this stretch of the French riviera is transformed into a global property trading zone, a souped-up real estate supermarket, where whole swathes of cities are put up for sale to the highest bidder.

“This year saw more than 20 UK local authorities taking part, the biggest presence since the 2008 peak.

“Public sector attendance at MIPIM has long been contentious, with budgets for local authorities’ presence at the fair often stretching up to £500,000. The symbolism of council chiefs on a champagne-soaked jamboree, as swingeing cuts bite back home, has not gone unnoticed, prompting most authorities to find private-sector funding and trumpet visible results from the week of networking.”

I’m always keen to hear Wales trumpet, so I asked Wales what he’d been up to in Cannes. Had to chase him round the corner with the “were you selling Newham?” questions… he wheeled round at that point and answered with an angry ‘No I Wasn’t’.

“It’s all paid for by our development partners,” Wales told the Guardian. I find that an even bigger worry if I’m honest. Time for some absolute transparency on all of this – who met with who, when, why, what was discussed, who will be “investing” in what and what sort of money will move between which organisations and people and why – and how the people who turned out to Saturday’s event to try and get their housing problems solved will benefit. I didn’t get a chance to ask about the council’s recent moves to slap Asbos on homeless people in the Stratford centre, or where homeless mothers and babies will go when the Focus E15 mother and baby unit closes down, which the East Thames Housing Association has confirmed it will.

The Focus E15 mothers will be at next Saturday’s 1000 mothers march for justice: 11am Saturday 29 March. Assemble at Bruce Castle Park, Lordship Lane, N17 8NU.

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