Hundreds of Islington residents joined national demo against Housing Bill

Residents rallied to the cries of ‘kill, kill the Housing Bill’ as they marched on Parliament on Sunday to protest legislation which could force locals from their homes.

Over a hundred locals marched from Mount Pleasant to Lincoln’s Inn Fields to join thousands of protesters from around the country to oppose a bill some have dubbed ‘worse than the Poll Tax’.

Leading the march to Westminster was Islington South and Finsbury MP, Emily Thornberry.

Emily Thornberry led the Islington cohort into Lincoln's Inn Fields
Emily Thornberry led the Islington cohort into Lincoln’s Inn Fields

The Shadow Defence Secretary told Islington Now: “Year on year the Tories have attacked social housing and it has always affected Islington worst. It’s the worst thing they could have dreamt up. They are going about this the wrong way, it’s just awful.”

The Bill, scheduled to go through Parliament in April, will introduce “pay to stay”, a measure that will mean council tenants in London earning more than £40,000 per household will see their rents increase to market or near market rates if successful.

It will also enforce short term lets of two to five years for new tenants, ending fixed term ‘tenancies for life’. High-value council homes will also be sold off when current tenants move out, leaving councils with fewer properties to house new residents.

Islington resident, Anna, told the crowd how the proposed Bill would affect her: “I’m paying £150 a week and if the bill goes through, it will go to £675. This means our family will have to give up working. We will be living out of food banks. I’m paying my way. This is so wrong, it’s ethnic cleansing.”

Morag Gillie, member of Islington Hands Off Our Property (IHOOPS) explained why the demonstration was so important: “Islington residents are angry but also very determined. The Tories are dismantling the welfare state. We will not comply. They are using the EU as a smokescreen. They have pushed it through the back door over Christmas.”

The march comes days after a public meeting held by Islington Council saw residents pack an overcrowded Assembly Room to voice their thoughts on the controversial bill, calling on the council to not implement it if it became law.

Councillor James Murray, Executive Member for Housing and Development, was clear he ‘would not be forced into making promises’ he couldn’t keep, much to the disappointment of disgruntled residents who attended. But he made it clear that the council would do ‘everything in their power’ to try and stop the Bill before it became legislation.

Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, also attended the march, said: “This Housing Bill brought forward by the Tories will rip apart communities in Islington. It’s a massive attack on decent, ordinary working people so we have to do everything we can to kill it.”

Councillor Gary Heather, from Finsbury Park Ward, added: “They are trying to dismantle people who have lived in Islington for generations. They are not going to get away with that. Jeremy is 100% against the bill.”

Jeremy Corbyn, who had been scheduled to led the protest march, was unable to make the event as he had “pulled a muscle in his leg”, according to Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP, Diane Abbott.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has been contacted for comment and this article will be updated.

Islington Now also spoke to concerned local residents and asked why they decided to march:

Anne Daley: “This is social cleansing and we’re not going to allow it.”

Bindy Cowley, who was there with her family, said: “ I live in a council flat. I don’t want to be the last generation to have a council flat. If our rents are hiked we won’t be able to stay in the borough near my parents and I want my children to carry on living in the borough. If you lose tenure, you lose community, and community benefits the borough as a whole.”

Her husband, Rich Cowley, 51, added: “I’m marching to tell the government to piss off. The Bill is another attack on the community.”

June Bates: “The Bill is ridiculous and I’ll be forced to move out of an area where my family have lived for generations.”

Lorraine, Carly and Freddie: “ It’s disgusting. We’re homeowners and the fourth generation of our families to live in Islington. Even though we’re not affected by the BIll, if it does go go through, lots of our family members will be forced to move.”

Morag Gillie, member of IHOOPS (Islington Hands Off Our Property): “I’m involved in a local anti cuts group and the trade union. We have primarily working class participants and people have been saying that it is quite reminiscent of the poll tax. People didn’t know what was going on, so we held a public meeting. We expected nearly 600 people to attend, but 1000 people turned up. Islington residents are angry but also very determined. The Tories are dismantling the welfare state. We will not comply. We want the Tories out. They are using the EU as a smokescreen. They have pushed it through the back door over Christmas.”

Councillor Gary Heather, Finsbury Park Ward: “They are trying to dismantle people who have lived in Islington for generations. They are not going to get away with that. Jeremy is 100% against the bill. We had a meeting in Finsbury Park Labour and they’re all against it. We would like to build social housing back up. Sadiq wants people to be able to live in London and he wants 50 per cent of all developments to be social housing. We want to defend affordable housing.

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Julie Hunt: “I’m being told I’m some sort of scrounger. Boris is telling me I have no right to live in my street.”

Mrs G Warby: “I think Cameron is nothing but a carpet bagger. He is stealing our homes and making a lot of people homeless in the future. He is campaigning to make sure that our children and our grandchildren won’t be able to live in London.

Margaret Walsh: “He put it under the radar and now he is trying to put it under the EU.”

Protester at Kill the Bill protest
Margaret Walsh at the Islington march against the Housing Bill

Mrs Watkins: “I’m trying to save my flat. I have three children and the conservative party wants to block my right to a house.”