approx 95 people present; meeting started at 19:30
Literature distributed during the course of the meeting included:
Flash Point Nos 1,2,3
Jay Mews News No 3
Community News No 2
Meeting & Pickets mentioned included:
7 Jan 8.30pm - meeting re Circle 33 Housing Trust -
Irish Centre, Murray St
8 Jan 10.30am - picket re Shrewsbury Building Workers - T&GW Offices, Clapham Common
8 Jan 8.00pm - meeting re North London Council of Action - Loyola House, Stamford Hill
11 Jan 10.00am - picket re Shrewsbury Building Workers Appeal - Royal Courts of Justice
11 Jan - lobby re Local Government Act 1972 by Camden Tenants Association - Camden Council
11 Jan 2.00pm - picket of LEB office - Queensway Station
12 Jan - meeting to discuss Walterton Rd Electricity court case
13 Jan 8.00pm - meeting to coordinate policies re Local Government Act 1972 - 220 Camden High Street
14 Jan - meeting re Walterton Court vs LEB court case
15 Jan 1.00pm - picket by All London Trades Council re Shrewsbury Building Workers - Tower Hill
A: Is there anyone here from St John's Wood? Is there anyone here from Shepherds Bush? Who knows anything about the Willow Vale Evictions?
Where? / I was told No 32. Two squatters living in the house told me that a couple of policemen got stabbed in the throat, but I don't know any details.
A: Did everyone get a copy of the condensed minutes?
Maida Hill didn't get any notification.
A: I didn't do the mailing. There are some spare copies of extracts of the last meeting's minutes here.
The first item on the agenda is Electricity, but I've been asked to put it later.
There are some more people from Paddington coming. / Leave it for the moment.
London Boroughs Association
It's not in the phone book. We've been told that they're getting together to do something about squatting - to knock down properties. / I hate to introduce chaos, but we can't hear well. / What? / We need to raise our voices or change the seating. (the seating is modified, and people shuffle their seats around so as to form a circle)
(there is brief recap of info discussed at the previous ALS meeting of 9 Dec 73) / We found out originally from a council source, and then we got hold of an internal letter. / How do we find out about things like this? / It is a matter of getting informal information by becoming friendly with people working in the council. / In some councils there are independent councillors who want to be trendy. / "Coordination Report No 15" from Tower Hamlets Council said that houses were to be demolished as soon as possible, so that the sites could be cleared. There would be no squatting situation left.
In Camden, squatters took a discussion paper on "Self-Help" to the council. This has been partially adopted for property with an eighteen months life. This will allow people to live in the property, and also they will be given grants. / We need information like this, so squatters can use what other councils are doing as an example to their own councils.
Charrington Squatters were offered Bingfield Street, which was due to be demolished in May. There were discussions with Gladys Dimson ["Dimpson"?] [from the Greater London Council] who said she was sympathetic to squatters. She said that if we formed an organisation we would be offered houses with an eighteen months life. / On what conditions? / These we are working out. We don't want to be responsible for evictions. Since people are coming to us, we will be able to fill the houses, for which we will have alternative accommodation offered to us at the end of their lives.
Tower Hamlets is a right wing council. / Richmond Council had an arrangement whereby Bovis [property developers] were supposed to knock down any property they acquired for redevelopment in Twickenham straight away. / We are in GLC [Greater London Council] housing and they said that we had to get out. They were just going to leave an open space. We have tried to negotiate, and form a housing body, but it's very slow, working through the FSAS. / There is only one person running it at present. / Well we were in contact with one of the field workers. / The electricity thing at Paddington is an underhand way of getting us out.
On Radio London, last thursday 12.45pm on "Capital City", a program which deals with a housing topics, there was a news item that one of the boroughs had hired a man in a new role, to be responsible for the security of [empty] property. / Is it Havering? / I don't know. / Because that's not a London Borough. / There's a man employed by Camden to find out where all the empty properties are; he's most helpful.
The FSAS is negotiating with the GLC to look at their files to find empty houses in any specific areas. / It might be worth contacting the FSAS. / There are four categories of GLC houses, [two of which are] under eighteen months life, and eighteen months to five years life. / Couldn't the FSAS try and find out about the London Boroughs Association? / If it is secret, no. / Shouldn't you try? / Well yes; it will be taken up in discussions on homelessness, but we don't have any specific contacts who could find out about it for us.
B: At Walterton Road, the GLC refused the LEB access to the squatted properties to reconnect the electricity supplies. This could be a precedent, and be followed up by refusals to allow the Water Board and the Gas Board access. (there is a recap of the situation as discussed at the previous ALS meeting of 9 Dec) What else can we do?
C: In Bristol the same thing happened to squatters, but there it was the South West Elecricity Board. The Squatters Organisation decided to fight any possible attempt by the Electricity Board to cut us off, because it could set a precedent. We thought it was discrimination. We didn't realise that Bristol Corporation had told the SWEB not to reconnect. It was decided that fifty people would accompany a squatter who had been denied electricity down to the SWEB offices and then demonstrate. There was a lot of organisation. We all went down, and the guy went in and filled in a form. He was denied electricity so we started an occupation of the building. We said we wouldn't go until we got satisfaction. We took a vote on what to do if the police arrived. We occupied the place six hours before it was due to close, which was a mistake, because it meant we were there too long. We started bargaining with the manager, and said we wouldn't move until he said "yes". The police arrived and we got carried out. There was quite a lot of disruption of their business, but nobody got arrested - we were quite surprised. But the guy still didn't get electricity. However the deposits of people who were already supplied were lowered, and not only for squatters. We repeated the occupation, but this time we decided to occupy the building two hours before it was closed. The police came; there was one arrest; this time they were heavy. After this, we found out from the minutes of a council meeting that the council had told the Electricity Bopard to forget about their previous denial of access for reconnection of supplies. All this wasn't really followed up, as we were connecting up our own electricity supplies, and also the squatters in Bristol were getting disorganised. There were minor gains. We were criticised for not occupying the council offices, but it is a big building, and we had got the council to go back on their original decision.
Was there any sympathetic media coverage?
C: We only had small press coverage as we had the occupation on a saturday. This was a mistake.
In Latimer Road, we first paid a £15 deposit to the LEB, who then said it would cost £45. I paid. Then we had the same aforementioned hustles. I took it to the Law Centre, who got a letter from the LEB [saying] that they would enter and reconnect.
B: But in Walterton Road, we have taken out a summons against the LEB, who are now prepared, having been pressurised by the GLC, to contest the case in court. They have said to the Law Centre that if they lose they will appeal to the High Court, which could take years and a lot of money; and the LEB and the GLC know this. We'll ask you to decide what we should do by sending delegates from the different groups here, to act as representatives. It must be done by the squatting movement as a whole. We don't want to take responsibility for everybody. On thursday at Hilldrop Road, we intend to have a meeting of the selected representatives. The court case is on monday week. We also want to take independent action, regardless of the court case - occupying an office or something in London, and get lots of publicity etc. Can we discuss this? We are having a meeting on thursday 10th of January at 7.00pm to talk about (i) a planned action, such as a demonstration or occupation for possibly the next day, friday 11th, and (ii) what we should do about the court case.
What have you done about going to see the GLC? / We have contacted Hogden[?]. / If you go to the top and see Gladys Dimson, it is better. The GLC councillors are scared about their public image. Labour are still not sure of themselves, and therefore they are willing to meet us and discuss things. The GLC backed down in the case of Charrington Street. / We are going to go ahead at all levels, but we must start immediately. / In East London, workmen employed by the council have refused to disconnect supplies. This was unionised labour. / In every area this should be taken to the local Trades Council. We should try to get their support via a delegate, and if we can bring this up in the court case. / At a meeting arising from the Islington Squatters meeting, it was decided that two of us would go to the EEPTU offica and see the union area organiser, about possible union support. / Which union is that? / I don't know. / On what basis can we get a delegate to the Trade Unions? / We have one already. If you could get a resolution from them, it would help in the court case. / It is important, but it is not enough to appeal to the workmen when they come along. A boss comes along to oversee it. One said to us, "What are you going to do, sue us?". There needs to be substantial union support for it to be of use. / We need to try. / We need to do both. / Of course we are trying to do everything we can to help ourselves, but we are in imminent danger of being cut off, and therefore we need direct action. / Why bother with the LEB, and [why not] instead go direct to the GLC? / The LEB have the statutory order to supply us with electricity, and therefore it is up to the LEB and the GLC to sort it out amongst themselves. / To stop them digging up the road, you can either (i) get the workmen's sympathy, or (ii) get the jobbed blacked by the union. / Union support is a long term thing. If the electricity is about to be cut off then a different policy is needed. There have been meetings in North Paddington and Islington. We must fight it as much as possible. We want to present our suggestions. / It would be a good idea if we as a group tried to get Trade Union support at a higher level; that's if someone could get it together. / Could the windows be opened to prevent people becoming unconscious? (the room by this time is becoming filled with people, cigarette smoke etc) / Is it better to go to the head of the ETU [Electricians Trade Union?] or is it better to get a resolution through the local branch? / Find the stewards, and they can push it through.
Did you have a meeting with the barrister?
B: Getting meetings with barristers takes a long time. He still isn't available. We'll see him on January 12th, two days before the case. I have heard from someone else that he thinks we've got a 50-50 chance. But the law will be changed when it comes to the crunch.
In Mercers Road, the supply was cut off, and the workers had the police with them to stop us interfering. The police said they were there because there were vandals in the houses. / The workers said that they had to do the job, otherwise they would get the sack. / We need a contact system so that we can fill the road up fast. / This is missing the point. My aim in squatting is to get a home. I don't like hustles with the LEB or the bailiffs. Charrington Street is secure. The whole point of squatting is to eradicate it. Can you imagine us squatting in thirty years time? (resounding cries of "Yes") I can't see any hippies here; or drug addicts. (Cries of "Look over here" etc) We are labelled. we need to have an image of being responsible people. We need a publicity machine. / No, that's wrong. You can't stop squatting within the system. / But I agree. / But you're colluding with the councils, and the councils are part of the class system. We need an offensive and a defensive position. They have power. They want to smash squatting. Bargains that are made are not usually valid.
B: Homelessness will increase in the next few years; but we are going to be cut off now. We therefore want delegates from the squatting groups. We've been through the bureaucracy because the councils are sensitive about this.
Homeless people demand houses, and not just electricity. We're a segregated minority. / The working class and the squatters don't control the media. Therefore they do isolate us. We can't combat it directly, therefore we rely upon ourselves rather than the press or councils etc. / I agree; I just wanted to bear in mind the overall problem. / Could people rearrange themselves within the room as it is getting crowded at the back.
B: There is bound to be a policeman here so I don't want to go into specific details. We propose a demonstration plus the occupation of a GLC or LEB-type place. We know the office and have looked it over. We could get transport laid on to go there after meeting up with all the demonstrators. We would like thirty or forty people to go inside, and have about a hundred or so outside picketing. We plan to occupy it for two hours, and not leave till we get what we want.
We can be done for conspiracy, talking about this here.
B: There is nothing we can do about that. We can be done practically any time as squatters. We will all meet friday afternoon at 2.00pm. There is some urgency in this. My house is cut off. Lots of places are being cut off. We need something done now.
Why are the occupations going to be effective? Why should they think public opinion is on our side? We should demonstrate on behalf of all the people whose electricity is being cut off. / This means that any tenant could be cut off at the instigation of the landlord. We should vote on it. / Why vote? They only want support.
B: We are paranoid about conspiracy. Therefore there should be another meeting attended by selected delegates of squatting groups, so as to eliminate policemen. The leaflets should be discussed and decided on only by the people in occupation, so that there should be no conspiracy.
There will be an occupation of the building as well as a demonstration outside. Not everybody has to occupy the building. Of the two, occupation will be the tougher. / Could you use the word "picket", as demonstrators are under police control. They can send everybody home when a demonstration has finished etc. / I meant the word "picket", of course. / I was on picket duty in the centre of London, and the police stopped us delivering leaflets because of some by-law. / On friday there is the Shrewsbury Building Workers picket. / That is in the morning; we can do both.
B: Do people generally support us? (cries of "Yes") We want our leaflet to state our demands - that everybody has the right to electricity, and that it is the statutory duty of the LEB to supply it; and that they should specifically reconnect houses in Mercers Road and Walterton Road. Can we get delegates for each area?
The group that has taken the initiative in this should get on with it - it is impossible to have a safe delegates meeting. / But we need a meeting about the court case on January 14th. We need an open meeting. / We need to have full legal advice first. We need a discussion, say on saturday afternoon, after the picket and occupation. We need a special meeting on behalf of the ALS to decide what to do. / You can't instruct people what to do at the demonstration in the middle of Hyde Park. Therefore we need a delegates meeting. / We have friday carefully planned. It would take about ten minutes to explain everything. I am in favour of a delegates meeting. / The ALS can't delegate people in a mechanistic manner. But saturday's meeting about the court case is a good idea.
B: The meeting place will be at Hyde Park 2.00pm near the railings outside Queensway Station.
Is it the feeling that thursday's meeting should go ahead? / I don't know. / We want people from other groups to help decide what we are going to do. The occupation needs to be a policy decision. / The meeting can be held without saying where the occupation is going to be. / Can people please indicate whether they are going?
There is a risk of conspiracy. I think we should trust the group. I propose that the group should not hold a delegate's meeting on thursday, but should organise it on their own, and then tell everybody what has been decided on friday... Can we have order? We are going to vote. (there is a vote which appears to be carried, probably unanimously) The motion is carried. Therefore people should meet, not in Hyde Park, it's Kensington Gardens actually; and if it is raining, people should wait in the station.
When will saturday's meeting be? / How many here will be at the picket? (lots of hands are raised) / Do people want the ETU to be approached? / This should be left to be discussed on saturday. Anyone wanting information can either find out on friday at the picket, or phone Maida Hill Squatters, tel 286-2186, or Islington Squatters, tel 607-8981. / Leaflets will be on behalf of the ALS.
(there is a brief chaotic period in which various literature is passed round, and a collection made for the hire of the room; a sheet is passed round for people to put their names and addresses on, and there's an invitation for someone to volunteer to hold the next meeting)
I would like to complain because it is possible for people to be identified by the mailing-list, and from the extracts of the minutes which are circulated.
North London Council of Action
D: You need Trade Union support. This is a group which is composed of all Socialist parties - they all take part in discussing policies. We meet at Loyola House, Stamford Hill.
What is its specific policy?
D: The organisation of the working class - all sections: tenants associations, unions, trade councils, pensioners etc. We think that squatters organisations will be a welcome party there. We need to combine in our fight against the Tory Government, and thrash out our ideas. The Councils of Action were designed to take over the functions of organisation in each local area if there was a general strike. It is a very useful way to forge links with trade unions. In the General Strike in the twenties, the Councils of Action took over the job of ensuring supplies etc. There needs to be a supportive structure.
Have you invited squatters to your meetings?
D: That's what we're doing now. With the three day week, and the Tory Government prepared to use troops. Now is the time for the Councils of Action to function properly. It was called initially by the AUEW [Amalgamated Union of Electrical Workers?]. About 120 people turned up at the last meeting. We want to prepare for when the working class takes power.
Who are you asking to come along [from here]?
D: Delegates principally, but anyone who is interested can come.
Should the Council have a global policy or what?
D: This can be decided by a democratic vote. We want to get everyone to pool their abilities. Would you like to delegate someone?
Not really; anyone who wants to,can go. We can't delegate anyone.
D: Is anyone interested in coming to our next meeting? (a score or so of people raise their hands) The meeting is at Loyola House, Stamford Hill. This is opposite St John's Road, on tuesday 8th of January at 8.00pm. The nearest tube is Manor House.
Relationships with Tenants Associations
Do squatters have relationships with tennants associations? Sometimes there seems to be conflict. At Camden, squatters moved into CPO'd houses [houses with Compulsory Purchase Orders placed on them by the local council] and the local tenants were upset, so I wondered how much contact there was between the two groups, and how to avoid conflict. / At Lissendon Mansions, the Tennants Association is very different. Most tenants associations back squatters up, but in this case there was a split between the right wing and and the left wing. Both became alienated to the squatters' cause. The right wing thought of the squatters as messing up the [council] Waiting-List situation. Generally in Camden, relationships with tenants associations are quite good. / At Lissendon Mansions, squatters moved in before the houses were CPO'd. There were a large number of flats empty there. There are not many squatters in Camden in private property. Normally squatters are struggling against borough councils or the GLC. From the former we want no evictions without alternative accommodation being offered; whilst from the latter, we already have this. The GLC squatters have good relationships with local residents etc. Camden Tenants Association has actually squatted a shop [220 Camden High Street].
And in Paddington we have good relationships and we have initiated meetings to discuss common housing problems. / In Lambeth, we have concentrated on squatting in private property which the council are having to CPO. We have good relationships with the local tenants.
At Tolmers Square, the squatters set up a tenants association in order to try and organise against the property developers who are trying to develop the whole area. Therefore the squatters are part of the Tenants Association. / The houses at Tolmers Square had the gas electricity and water disconnected in the road. There is a £15 deposit on the electricity. We are having the gas reconnected. / The electricity got turned on there without a problem.
In Islington, there is no organising unlike Lambeth. People get evicted quickly from private houses. The fight against property developers in Islington is at a different stage. The property developers already have a footing. Is it more important to fight councils, or should we be taking over private housing? / There are a lot of people thinking of squatting politically, as in Lambeth. It needs a group of people to take the initiative. / Are you referring to the take-over of the police flats? / Yes. / We are not together enough in Islington to get a political squat together. / In Finsbury Park, there was a house with central heating installations which weren't working. We conned the Gas Board when they came round to switch the central heating on for us. We have had no hustles with the police. / But this isn't generally true in Islington.
There is private property being squatted in Camden, but people get evicted from it quickly; and people need to be committed to stay there, and to fight off police, bailiffs, and evictions etc. / At Tolmers Square, the developer doesn't want any publicity at all. / Usually private property is in better nick. / Homeless people are not choosy. Nevertheless homeless people are not responsible for homelessness; they are prepared to squat anyhere. In Maida Hill we have been trying to get a joint statement out from tenants and squatters. We hope that 35 Shirland Road will be used as place for tenants and squatters meetings; though there is an eviction order on it from the Church Commissioners, which we are appealing against. / Who should we really fight? / We have to fight everybody.
All London Squatters Newspaper
We have turned out a sophisticated newspaper in Stepney; and I think we need an ALS newspaper. But does anyone else? / It would be a good idea if we collated all the news from different squatters newspapers. There are only a few people who are in contact with what's going on in different areas, and at the legal levels, etc. / Who does it? / It should be rotated. / Wouldn't an information sheet be better? / Things happen quickly. Wouldn't a weekly newspaper be a hastle? / Are people aware of the People's News Service? It might function quite well. / The PNS only covers major events. / Parfett Street has a communication network. A central paper could duplicate the local ones. It could be mailed free. / It must be funded. / Has anyone seen "Time Out", about CLAP [a community funding project]? Could we put in for a grant for an ALS newspaper? It will be a good idea to apply now at the beginning, before lots of other organisations apply.
(the money for the hire of the hall, having been collected in empty beer-mugs, is counted, and it is decided to put the extra money towards the costs of the struggles of Walterton Road against the LEB, and towards any costs that might be incurred re the ALS picket of 11th January)
Who is calling the next meeting? / Railton Road are calling the next meeting. And if people send stuff to us by a certain date we will duplicate it and send it out. If you can get the mail in before the 20th of January, then we can have the next meeting before the 27th of January. / We want the sunday nearest the end of January, if the room is available. / Can somebody go and see the landlord now? / ...Yes, it's confirmed for January 27th then. / So if you write to Railton Road, and send them anything you want included in the stuff being sent out through the mailing-list, they'll do it. The address is The Women's Centre, 207 Railton Road SE24.
Legislation about Homelessness
E: There is an FSAS campaign being launched very soon now against the changing of the 1948 National Assistance Act on April 1st . Presumably the ALS would support this campaign. It's against the government. There is a secret circular going round about short-life leased properties, and there is emphasis on using FSAS type groups to solve the homeless problem in the London area. In the FSAS there is the problem of the eviction of their own tenants. Also squatters are being played off against the FSAS. Therefore the ALS should support this campaign. There are also other groups involved - the Camden Tenants Association are lobbying their local council this Friday.
They now have the power but not the obligation to house homeless people. / This means that the council can evict people without rehousing them. / Some councils might rehouse people; some might not. This is altering the balance between the State's responsibility and that of the individual's on the question of housing. / Is anyone else doing anything? / Case Con are actively involved in these activities. / Pickets and big demos should be held on the same day that the legislation comes into force. / It will be too late then. / It's already been passed as Law- the Local Government Act 1972. / It's too late to stop it now. We must totally ignore this law. / When people are weakly organised, the local councils will get away with not rehousing them. This campaign must be linked up with the campaign against the Tory Government.
Could we do posters or something? - to let people know what this law is about. / Can we elect individuals to call a public meeting; and to organise meetings with other organisations to formulate policies about it? / Would anybody like to do this? (a few "Yes"s; eight names and addresses are taken down, of people who want to organise activities against this change in the law) / The Council of Action is an ideal platform for something like this. / Yes, we'll invite them along to the meeting. / It is important to coordinate it with tenants movements such as the Camden Tenants Association. / We should get lots of other small groups and individuals involved. / Case Con and all the other groups in Camden got together a broadsheet called "Housing For All" for 220 Camden High Street. / We could meet at 220 next sunday, and we could get representatives of the FSAS and the Camden Tenants Association there by then. / We need dissemination of information about things like this. / We have the mailing-list. / But it costs money. / Then the meeting is fixed for next sunday at 220 Camden High Street. The nearest tube is Camden Town. / Try and bring anyone you can from tenants associations, local trade councils etc.
Defence of the Shrewsbury Building Workers
Old conspiracy laws are being made use off again. Three Shrewsbury building workers have been sent to prison for picketing. On the 15th of January at Tower Hill at 1.00pm there will be an All London Trades Council demo, and it would be good if we had a banner there. And it would be good if as many people as possible from the ALS were there. / They have been jailed for picketing, and organising pickets. This stops a basic Trades Union activity - working class people organising themselves. There's another eighteen of them coming to trial. In Liverpool two people have been done under the Conspiracy Law for having a rent strike against the Fair Rents Act. / Can we have an ALS banner? / We have one. / Where is it? / At Camden. / Has it got "Federation" on it? / We should use it anyway. / It is important for squatters to declare which side they're on in the struggle between the workers and the Tory Government. / On Tuesday the 8th of January there is another picket, meeting at the Transport & General Workers Offices, by Clapham Common tube. There will also be one outside the Royal Court of "Injustice" on Friday the 11th of January at 10.00am, when the three building workers are coming up on appeal. The main picket will be at Tower Hill on January 15th. / As well as the ALS banner, local organisers should have their own banners. / (a resolution is passed that the ALS supports the building workers in their own struggles)
Any Other Business
The "Squatters Handbook" needs reprinting. We will be changing it as well as updating it. We need technical as well as other useful advice. Could you please send it to 51 Hilldrop Road, tel 607-8981.
We are squatting in Hungerford Road Islington in a house owned by Circle 33 Housing Trust. They have a genuine desire to help solve the housing problem, but they have got a paternalistic approach and have got mixed up with the property speculators. They have also accumulated a large amount of assets. We are having a public meeting about it on January 7th at the Irish Centre, Murray Street, off Camden Road. We want support from the Camden Tenants Association etc. Jay Mews needs the support of the ALS. It is a students' squat - Imperial College, & the Royal College of Art.
(the meeting finishes about 10:30pm with a last request for people to take
their glasses down with them)