George Galloway visited the Exmouth Estate this week to meet the leaders of leaseholder and residents associations on the estate. This is an estate in the heart of Stepney which New Labour successfully encouraged the residents to transfer to Swan Housing in 2006.
He was given a tour by the residents and told of their multiple grievances. He issued the following statement following the visit.
“I am shocked and horrified by what I have seen and been told by residents’ leaders on the Exmouth Estate. There are blocks which have had scaffolding up for months, but where no refurbishment work has taken place. Most security doors are still not working and have not been replaced. There is evidence of widespread vandalism which has not been properly repaired including 250 broken windows.
“I also heard about elderly and ill residents having to put up with appalling damp in their flats and a general failure by Swan Housing, who are the landlords, to provide adequate support.
“Not only does there seem to have been mismanagement and negligence, the plans that Swan Housing now has for the estate promise to swallow up the existing green spaces which make this estate so potentially attractive to live in.
“Swan and the council will argue the proposed developments will provide much needed social housing. But this is a con. Those on the waiting list desperate to escape their overcrowding are receiving only the crumbs of new development whilst Tower Hamlets is being turned into an urban jungle. If these developments were 100% for social housing you could get twice as many homes for those in need covering half the space.
“And as for the fatuous argument that this would be against building for home ownership, no-one on an average Tower Hamlets income could possibly afford to buy a home here with still absurdly elevated house prices, even if they could find someone to give them a mortgage which they can’t.
“There are two Labour cabinet members representing this ward in the council and a third, Marc Francis, who claims to have been in regular contact with Swan Housing management. All they have managed to do is extract promises which Swan Housing then promptly breaks.
“This is a situation entirely of New Labour and the council’s making. They encouraged the tenants to vote for transfer. We warned this would be a disaster and almost everyone on the estate, after three years of mismanagement and neglect, now agrees.
“It’s about time these New Labour cabinet members got hold of Gordon Brown and told him that we need emergency legislation to give councils the power to take these estates back into public ownership and control. At least then, the landlords would be more accountable. Swan Housing are clearly unaccountable and out of control. Give the residents a vote on whether they want to return to the council – I bet 99% will vote for it. “