Manchester City Council: Act to Alleviate the Housing Crisis

PETITION – PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE – THANK YOU!  Help the homeless and the ever increasing number living in fear of homelessness.

We the people of Manchester ask our representatives, Manchester City Council (MCC), to take the following measures with the aim of alleviating the housing crisis in Manchester and the Greater Manchester region:

1. Reverse the 2015 funding cuts, totalling £2,013,188, to Housing Related Support and the Homelessness Prevention Grant in Manchester.

2. Allocate Fifty percent of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) £300 million housing fund, and its investment returns for the building of social rented housing, either by the council or housing associations. If this is beyond the power of MCC, then as a member of the GMCA they must lobby central government to devolve said power to the GMCA.

3. Implement rent controls to prevent exorbitant rent rises in the private rented sector. If this is beyond the power of MCC, then as a member of the GMCA they must lobby central government to devolve said power to the GMCA.


Why is this important?

1. Homelessness

Housing Related Support (HRS) is used to prevent a crisis such as homelessness occurring. It provides advice to people on how to manage money and pay bills, and how to adhere to tenancy agreements. HRS covers permanent accommodation based services and floating support services that are utilised when needed. During a MCC executive council meeting on the 13th of February 2015 it was agreed to reduce Housing Related Support by £1,814,000 from an initial amount of £5,722,000.

During the same meeting it was decided the Homelessness Prevention Grant would be reduced by £199,188, from an initial amount of £729,188. This vital fund prevents people from becoming homeless by providing services such as debt advice, landlord mediation and help with finding a home.

The latest count of rough sleepers in Manchester City centre in 2015 was 70, which is a 63% rise on the 47 counted in 2014. The actual figures are likely to be much worse than this as the way the count is carried out (on one night of the year with in specific city centre locations) is generally regarded to under count the problem. The size of the discrepancy is indicated in a statement by Jenny Osborne  Senior Strategy Manager of Public Health Manchester. “Last year the headcount for rough sleepers was 47; we know that from the severe weather protocol we operated last year that 234 separate individuals accessed that provision during the cold weather period.”

Across England homelessness is increasing due to the incompetent housing policies and austerity agenda of the current Tory government. In 2014/15 there were 102,200 decisions taken by local authorities declaring households as being Statutory Homeless, a 10% increase from 2010/11. In the second quarter of 2015 the number of households in temporary accommodation was 66,980, a 33% increase on the second quarter of 2010. When levels of homelessness are increasing it is unacceptable to cut services aimed at preventing homelessness.


2. Social rented housing

The devolution deal has given the Greater Manchester Combined Authority control of a £300 million housing fund to promote house building. A large proportion of the housing fund has already been loaned to private property developers to build private housing with no provision for social rented housing. There is a severe shortage of social rented housing (council or housing association properties) in England. The total number of social rented properties built in England stands at 9,590 in 2014/15, which is a 75% drop from the figure of 38,950 built in 2010/11. The loss of social rented housing has resulted in huge waiting lists where people have little hope of receiving an offer of accommodation in a reasonable time. At least 50% of the housing fund should be allocated to housing associations or local authorities to allow building of much needed social rented housing.

3. Private rented housing

Tenants in the UK not only pay the highest average monthly rents in Europe (902 Euro/month), we also pay the largest percentage of our income (39.1%) to pay the rent. Between 2008-09 and 2012-13 average weekly rents in the private rented sector increased by 7% from £153 to £163, according to the English Housing Survey. The MEN reported in October 2015 that the average rental price of private properties in Greater Manchester has increased by 22.4% over 12 months. The increase in rents is compounded by a drop in real wages of almost 10% for the typical UK worker since 2008.

Manchester City Council must take action to alleviate the suffering caused by the housing crisis in Manchester and the wider Greater Manchester Region. This petition offers MCC the opportunity to tackle the housing crisis in the three major areas of homelessness, social rented housing provision and control of private rents; we sincerely hope that upon receiving this petition MCC will seriously consider implementing all proposals suggested.


Conrad Bower (38 Degrees Manchester & Unite the Union Grt. Man. Community Branch)
John Clegg (Branch Secretary, Unite the Union Grt. Man. Community Branch)

‘Manchester City Council: Act to Alleviate the Housing Crisis’ petition sponsored by:
Unite the Union Greater Manchester Community Branch

38 Degrees Manchester

Manchester & Salford Housing Action – next event Friends Meeting House 25/01/15

Equality Northwest


Seeds of resistance sown at housing crisis event in Salford

A Manchester Housing Action event took place in Salford on Sunday, aiming to bring together local people and groups working to find solutions to the housing crisis. The free public event included contributions from Generation Rent, The Radical Housing Network and Focus E15.

Speakers from Focus E15 shared their victories in preventing evictions and disrupting housing conferences in London, offering advice on how similar victories could be attained in Greater Manchester.

The housing crisis is showing no signs of abating. In Greater Manchester, 3,971 tenants were evicted for rent arrears (Apr 2013 to Mar 2015), the highest two year level recorded over the last ten years, according to a report in the Manchester Evening News.

Manchester City Council’s annual count of rough sleepers in Manchester during a night in November 2014 came to 43; it was 7 in 2010. Local charities estimate that the real number is double that of the annual official count.

The event at Islington Mill in Salford was well attended by residents of Salford and Manchester, who had much to contribute during the discussion sessions. Steve North, a Unison Union member spoke of his experience of private renting. He had been in 13 properties in 13 years and now fears he will never get a permanent home for his family.

“Our rights are non-existent,” said North, who expressed that he did not feel able to challenge housing issues as he would issues at work.

Along with North, John Clegg from Unite in the Community Greater Manchester Branch also pledged union support for campaigns fighting for tenants rights.

Members of Focus E15, a London based grass roots campaign for decent housing for all, travelled to Salford to speak at the event. Emer Mary Morris has been a Focus E15 member since 2014, when the group occupied flats on the Carpenter Council Estate in East London, which had been left boarded up and empty for years. Morris also spoke of Focus E15 actions in disrupting the MIPIM UK international property fair last year:

Emer Mary Morris of Focus E15

Emer Mary Morris of Focus E15

“We dressed up as delegates going to the conference and actually rushed the doors and got the conference closed down for a couple of hours, while Boris Johnson was meant to be the next speaker.

“It was a really playful celebratory attitude that particularly Focus E15 bring to the protest. It’s not about being violent or anything, we are actually being very celebratory.”

This year’s MIPIM conference, which began yesterday, is taking place at Olympia in London. Both Salford City Council and Manchester City Council will have stands there, with the cost of the stands being up to £505 per square metre according to a report in the Salford Star, which describes the conference as ‘the largest property orgy in the country’.

Pollyanna Steiner is a community organiser for Generation Rent, a national campaign for tenants rights, and one of the organisers for the event along with Kate Hardy and Tom Gillespie. Steiner was happy with progress made during the meeting.

“It was a forum for freedom of expression about housing issues people are experiencing, and a safe place for sharing that. It was a space for progressing and exchanging ideas about how to organise against the kind of issues we are seeing in the housing crisis; for example, resistance to eviction and how to collaborate and share resources when you have so much taken away at a community level.”

Kate Hardy, a member of Feminist Fightback, was involved with the Focus E15 campaign in London. When she met Pollyanna they had the idea of inviting Focus E15 members up to talk about their work in London. Hardy said:

“There is a serious housing crisis in Manchester, which I think has been relatively hidden up to now.

“You can obviously see that there is the Ark and there is visible street homelessness, but what hasn’t been quite talked about is the kind of things we heard today, about tenants having their leases changed, very poor conditions and lots of attacks on people with disabilities. It has really made visible all the different strands of the housing crisis that are happening in Manchester.”

When asked what advice she would give to the people of Greater Manchester struggling with housing issues, Morris answered simply: “talk to each other.”

“The strongest power they have against us is that they isolate us and try to make people feel alone. The more that you talk to each other, the more you realise other people are going through exactly the same thing that you are. The more you gather together and start organising and talking, the more you can build a consistent movement and fight back.”

Conrad Bower

First published in the Manchester MULE, October 21st 2015

Further Information:
Generation Rent –
Focus E15 –
The Radical Housing Network –
The campaign established as a result of the event is, Manchester & Salford Housing Action –

Live: Scuffles break out as homeless evicted from The Ark camp in city centre – Manchester Evening News


Scuffles broke out as rough sleepers were evicted from their camp under the Mancunian Way.

The homeless clashed with university security guards as they were being removed from a ‘self-serving community’ – known as The Ark – on Friday morning.

The Ark was created for people sleeping rough in the city but Manchester Metropolitan University own the site and their staff began removing the vagrants at around 7am.

Officers from Greater Manchester Police were also at the scene.

via Live: Scuffles break out as homeless evicted from The Ark camp in city centre – Manchester Evening News.

Again they try to brush the problem under the carpet rather than coming up with a solution. There are many alternative solutions to dealing with homelessness, its about time Manchester City Council started trying some of them.

This is the fourth eviction this year for homeless camps in Manchester. Albert Einstein is often attributed to saying this quote “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” It is time to end this insanity and come up with a solution to the increasing levels of homelessness within Manchester  and the UK.

The right to work: undermined by technological advancements? | 38 Degrees Manchester


“I read the news today oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade…” which recently tends to be a entrepreneur who has made billions from a tech start-up employing a handful of people. These success stories are usually accompanied by reports of a company downsizing, rationalizing, restructuring, consolidating, streamlining or one of many ingenious euphemisms used to soften the news of job losses. The workers are always the first to feel the slice of the austerity cleaver. The business is butchered to provide maximum profit for its shareholders with its employees consigned to the offal pile; leaving a lean, mean, money making machine.

Often automation is a cause of the job losses or the positions get outsourced abroad, where unions and workers rights are scarce and they can be exploited with criminally poor pay and working conditions. The human right to work is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 23.1 ‘Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment’. It is a human right under threat and governments across the world need to pay more attention to it.

via The right to work: undermined by technological advancements? | 38 Degrees Manchester.

This is the intro to an article I had published on Contributoria which is getting a fresh airing on the 38 Degrees Manchester website.

I added a new link that takes you to an online tool that tells you how at risk your job is to automation, based on a study from Oxford University.





Homeless people living in The Ark camp on Oxford Road were refused an adjournment to appeal for legal aid today, as a judge at Manchester Civil Justice Centre granted Manchester Metropolitan University and Manchester City Council a possession order over the occupied land.

The judge also refused an appeal against his decision but granted a six day stay of execution while an appeal application is made to a higher circuit judge. Later, top poet Lemn Sissay, Chancellor of Manchester University, visited the camp to show support.


The Ark, Oxford Rd, under Mancunian Way

The Ark, Oxford Rd, under Mancunian Way

Homeless camp in court facing 4th eviction this year

The residents of the homeless camp once again appeared at the Civil Justice Courts on Monday facing eviction from the camps now situated on Oxford Road and King Street. The eviction order for the Oxford Rd site was sought by Manchester City Council (MCC) and Manchester Metropolitan University. Jen Wu a supporter of the camp in Oxford Rd, also called the Ark, spoke in defence of the homeless camp in court saying that “They have been refused the right to exist on private land or public highways, where does that leave them?”. She told the court that she believed the homeless people of Manchester were being denied their human rights.

The Ark has been established on unused land under the Mancunian Way on Oxford Rd by homeless people with public support. According to a petition in support of the camp, that has achieved over 1800 signatures, the camp “provides a safe and caring refuge — protecting the city’s most vulnerable and unprotected from violence, danger and abuse“. Signs up at the Ark site say that the site is their to “provide homes and a shelter and that it is not a protest” to avoid falling foul of the recently authorised city wide injunction against homeless people demonstrating against MCCs homelessness policy in Manchester.

Due to the case being against “persons unknown” the supporters speaking in defence of the homeless did not have any legal aid, which led to a disorderly hearing and unfair one according to Wesley Hall who was speaking for the King St camp “ We have no legal representation, it is unfair. There are seven of them against two of us”. Both Hall and Wu said in court that they considered the two days notice given to them to prepare for the case was unfair. Passions flared and emotions overflowed in court leading to the Judge clearing the court till everyone had calmed down.

Its David and Goliath ain’t it? Its absolutely insane, there’s no justice there at all

During the break Liz, from Whalley Range, spoke of her support for the homeless people in the camp and the growing nature of the problem due to the sanctions and cuts enforced due to the austerity policies of government. Liz was not happy about the legal aid situation “The council have their barristers and everything, and then you have the people who are living on the streets, their lives are in chaos, you don’t know whether they have slept the night before, whether they have been attacked the night before, they are meant to represent themselves in court, how is that fair? Its David and Goliath ain’t it? Its absolutely insane, there’s no justice there at all.”

The Ark, Oxford Rd, under Mancunian Way

The Ark, Oxford Rd, under Mancunian Way

After the court reconvened the Judge adjourned the hearing till Thursday 10th June, and indicated that if one of the supporters of the camps added their name to the proceedings they could then apply for legal aid. The judge also recommended that any further documents in support of the homeless camps case should be submitted before 4pm on Wednesday. The brief for MCC objected to the case for both camps being adjourned, but the judge was adamant that the fate of both camps would be determined on Thursday.

Outside the court a drained and despondent Wu described how shocked she was by the lack of compassion shown by the court, and MCC, to the homeless people in the camp, and described the hearing as “completely unjust”. Wu had hoped to communicate her arguments to the court more effectively but felt thwarted by the Judge repeatedly brushing her arguments aside, “they wouldn’t even let me read my statement to refute the reasons for calling the possession order. I was crossing them all of the list [the judge said} ‘I don’t have time’ well you know lives are at stake here”

On the 30th September Wu is again in court accused of breaching the city wide injunction and could face a fine of up to five thousand pounds or a sentence of up to two years in prison. This is in spite of the fact that Wu told the authorities that the Ark camp was not a demonstration. Ben Taylor, the solicitor who represented the homeless (pro bono) in the injunction case, raised concerns about the limits of the injunction and asked whether the injunction would be used against other camps that were not involved with the homeless protest camps in St Ann’s Square and Castlefield. It appears that Manchester City Council have now answered that question.

Article originally published in Manchester Mule, Sept 9th, 2015

Conrad Bower

First they came …

An adapted version of the poem, First they came … by Martin Niemoller.

First they came … (Remix)

First they came for the unemployed, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not unemployed.

Then they came for the disabled, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not disabled.

Then they came for the immigrants, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an immigrant.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Anniversary demonstration outside Ashton Under Lyne job centre

Tameside Against The Cuts has been protesting outside Ashton Under Lyne Job centre for the last twelve months. Supporters of the campaign gathered outside Ashton job centre to mark a year of continuous campaigning against the policies of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Charlotte Hughes an Ashton resident and founding member of the campaign said they were there because of “the evil sanctioning system, the way the people in the job centre are treated, actually the whole DWP regime.”

On a wet Thursday (6th August) afternoon around 25 people gathered outside the job centre to protest against austerity driven DWP policies such as sanctioning , workfare and universal credit. Hughes has been demonstrating outside the Ashton job centre every Thursday, and is pleased with its success in highlighting the plight of the unemployed and low paid people in our society ,who are bearing the brunt of the austerity policies of the Tory party. Blogging is a strategy Hughes has adopted to record and publicise the campaign, The Poor Side of Life documents the struggles of individuals harshly treated by sanctions and other policies ,which often go unreported in the mainstream press.

Sanction of benefits, which can last up to three years, are the subject of much controversy and their use by the DWP has been on the increase. In 2013-14 there were 900,000 people sanctioned who were claiming job seekers allowance (JSA), and that figure was only released by the DWP due to a freedom of information request.
The DWP has been criticised over its lack of transparency in its data and that the monthly statisitics on sanctions (usually around 5%) are misleading and that annual figures (Guardian estimate is around 17%) should be published; the UK statistics watchdog has warned the DWP to ensure their statistics are “objective and impartial”. Another freedom of information request by Disabled People Against Cuts revealed that 1 in 5 benefit related deaths concerned sanctions; the DWP, after employing extensive delaying tactics, have promised to release the full statistics on deaths/suicides linked to sanctions in the Autumn.

Charlotte Hughes

Charlotte Hughes

Hughes was particularly worried about new policies affecting social security claimants “they [DWP] are trying to get disabled people, and carers, back to work illegaly…They are bringing them in and telling them they have to go back to work, when they don’t ”. Hughes is adamant that the DWP are giving carers and disabled people incorrect information about returning to work due to background research she has done on the subject which is published on her blog.

Members of Unite in the Community Greater Manchester branch (UCGM) were also present, with flags and banners supporting the campaign. Norma Turner is the chair person of UCGM and spoke of her reasons for being there “as a branch we are supporting the poorest members of society who are having to pay for the excesses of the rich. Whats happening is that people receiving social security are being treated really badly, being sanctioned and driven more and more into poverty and homelessness”. Turner described the benefits to unemployed people of joining the union, such as legal advice, education and debt/financial advice. She also spoke of how being in the union helped people to support each other in times of need and that “in solidarity there is strength”.

The importance of educating the public on the policies of the DWP and there effects on people was an important issue to Turner “people need to be aware that the government are really demonising anyone that is signing on and sending people to workfare. These workfare places are not real job opportunities, they are just stacking shelves or sorting out clothing in charity shops.”

The campaign is set to continue as the DWP has shown no let up in pursuit of its policies. Hughes is determined to keep up the pressure and has vowed to keep the protest going when the Job Centre moves to its new location in Ashton town centre even though “they have told us we can’t demonstrate outside there…they say its private land but it isn’t, that part isn’t private land; so bring it on that’s what I say.”

City wide injunction against Manchester homeless protest camps granted by judge

An unequal battle occurred in court on July 30th, resulting in a city wide injunction being ordered against homeless protest camps. Manchester City Council (MCC) were represented by their usual counsel, barrister Arron Walthall , the homeless protest camps were represented, without counsel, by solicitor Ben Taylor working pro bono as repeated appeals for legal aid had been turned down by the legal aid board. Due to the two named defendants in the case (Wesley Dove and Elizabeth Hodgkinson) being repeatedly denied legal aid Taylor planned to launch “a judicial review of the legal aid agency, and that is what I am going to be seeking to do if we adjourn this today”

The judgement of district judge Ranji Matheru is the culmination of a long running battle between MCC and the homeless protest camps (reported in the Manchester Mule here). The injunction bans the use of any tents or temporary and removable forms of accommodation within the defined limits of Manchester city centre (limits reported in the Mule here). The injunction initially sought by MCC was against “persons unknown” would apply to not only homeless protestors but to anyone using a temporary shelter; hence Taylor describing it in court as “an injunction against the whole world”. The criminal sanction of up to 2 years in jail is possible for anyone breaking the injunction. The judge ordered the terms of the injunction to be tightened up to aid clarity, possibly by a list of excluded structures and named defendants rather than persons unknown. The Injunction is to run for a set time limit, which could be up to two years, yet to be determined.

A solidarity sleep over protest was started on the previous day to the court case, with a small group of tents pitched in front of Manchester Civil Justice Courts. In the morning before the court case a number of people spoke to the gathered protestors in support of the homeless protest camps, including Rhetta Moran (RAPAR) and John Clegg (Unite Community Branch Grt Man.).

John Clegg (Unite Community Branch Grt. Man.) speaking at solidarity demo outside court.

John Clegg (Unite Community Branch Grt. Man.) speaking at solidarity demo outside court.

Scott Russell took part in the sleep over protest, and was a former member of the homeless protest camp, who was rehoused. He said he was there ‘supporting the homeless like I always have done, because it is so easy to slip into it, and its really hard to get out of it.’

the Exceptional Case Funding merit test is wholly unsatisfactory

Russell had also been part of the group (which included homeless people, activists and Unite Union members) in talks with the forward planning committee for homelessness of MCC. The aim of these fortnightly talks, which started on the 5 of June (reported here), was to come up with a new improved plan for the homelessness services of MCC. Scott said of the meetings “They ceased all talks with us last week and they were supposed to be making an appointment but they said ‘oh we’ve cancelled it’, they cancelled the meeting apparently three days before but no one told us about it.” A spokesperson from MCC said “It was felt that the Council needed to focus its efforts on direct discussion with homeless people, both those within the camp and also other rough sleepers who  wanted to share their experiences and views”

The “belt and braces” legal strategy adopted by MCCs counsel to acquire the city wide injunction, was to cite the Local Government act of 1972 section 222, trespass laws and planning laws. Walfall said, during the trial, that the injunction would not include “sleeping bags, benches or cardboard boxes”. He also informed the court that MCC had spent “in excess of £100k” in their dealings with the protest camps.

The defendants tents were their homes, they had no other.

Initially Taylor asked for another adjournment to the case for the reason that legal aid had been refused to the defendant by the legal aid board after repeated appeals to them; because they did not pass the merit tests for Exceptional Case Funding (ECF). Taylor cited a report a recent report by Lord Chancellor J. Collins, which stated that “the Exceptional Case Funding merit test is wholly unsatisfactory” and that it was “apparent the ECF fund is to complex”. Taylor wished to launch a judicial review on the ECF funding criteria. The judge refused the adjournment, stating the decision to go ahead with case whether funding was available or not in the last court appearance(reported in the Mule here).

Defending the homeless Taylor raised there Article 8 rights of the ECHR which states ‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’. He told the court that “The defendants tents were their homes, they had no other.”

The judge ordered the eviction of the camps in Castlefield and St Ann’s square on the grounds of trespass. She granted the injunction sought by MCC under the Local Government act of 1972, section 222. Summing up her decision she said the Article 8 rights of the defendants were not engaged in this case and highlighted the costs already incurred and the prospect of further costs if the protest camps continue.

I mean how many people die on the streets, you know its so dangerous

Nicola Moore is a voluntary worker who helps the homeless people of Manchester. Moore has been a long time supporter of the protest camps and came today “because what Manchester Council is doing is absolutely criminal. I mean how many people die on the streets, you know its so dangerous. We have had people who have been gang raped on the streets.” After the decision of the court had been reached Moore was further outraged “ it was absolutely disgusting, I cant believe just how disgusting it was.” and added “They didn’t get legal aid after three attempts at it. He [Taylor] didn’t have counsel, there was no one to help him research.”

Nicola Moore outside court after case

Nicola Moore outside court after case

The courtroom was packed with supporters of the homeless protest camps when the Judge announced her decision, many supporters left the courtroom visibly and audibly upset and angry at the decision made. A sombre Taylor said after the case “I am disappointed with the outcome and will now consider whether there are any prospects on appeal”

Cllr Nigel Murphy, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods for Manchester City Council, on the 31st July said: “We are pleased that the courts have granted the exclusion order we asked for, which is specifically designed to prevent the recurrence of camps and not targeted at individual rough sleepers.” He went on to add “”We will now be working with Greater Manchester Police and court bailiffs to regain possession of the site as soon as possible. Our homeless team will also be visiting the camps … to offer support, guidance and accommodation to anyone who requires it.”

The finalised injunction order was reported on by RAPAR on the 5th of August. It was an ameliorated version of the injunction initially sought by MCC. No longer “an injunction against the whole world” instead it was only serviceable against people “erecting and/or occupying tents or other moveable temporary forms of accommodation for the purposes of or in connection with protests or similar events arising from or connected with the Claimant’s [Manchester City Council’s] homeless policy on land”. The order also provides a list of what is not considered temporary forms of accomodation:

a. Sleeping bags / blankets
b. Cardboard boxes
c. Benches
d. Doorways
e. Bus shelters
f. Hostel accommodation
g. Overnight charity accommodation

The injunction order issued is much weaker than the one MCC inititally sought, in the words of Taylor “It would be for the Claimant [MCC] to prove that the contemnor [person in contempt of injunction] is in breach, NOT for the individual to prove that he/she has not breached. This is a very high hurdle for Manchester City Council to get over. In particular, how could Manchester City Council prove that someone is protesting about its Homeless Policy short of the individual holding a placard stating as much?”

The homeless protest camps have not yet been served with orders for eviction from their current sites in St Ann’s Square and Castlefield. If they move to another site after being evicted MCC will find it very hard to serve the injunction on them and make it stick. Could this be a turning point leading to MCC changing their strategy? Maybe council officials are wondering if they could actually prevent homlessness occuring in the first place and improve homelessness services within the city, rather than chasing homeless people through the courts?


Solidarity demo protestors outside court before case