Back in mid June, Mike Lane wrote that 'It was only a matter of time before council officers started to abuse the ASBO and harassment laws to oppress and silence working class tenants.' For which he then received a heap of childish abuse.
Mike Lane raised a very important issue.
So are Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) being inappropriately used? Even worse, are they being used to silence dissent? The answer to both questions, is a very definite yes.
In the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, an ASBO has recently been served on Transco. What loutish behaviour have they been up to, what crime has been committed? In the case of Transco, it was that one of their buildings had been spray-painted with graffiti, and they had been ordered to clean up the building.
Now correct me if I am wrong, but was not the victim here Transco? If an ASBO was to be served, it was on the yobs carrying out the spray-painting. Although if we redefine the yobs as urban artists, then the criminals become the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor for destroying urban art.
If we are to serve ASBOs on corporate yobs, then let us start with KPI, a Kuwaiti-financed property company for destroying Farnborough town centre. A gang of yobs rioting for a week could not begin to wreak the havoc on the town that KPI and their friends in the council have done.
A local yob has been terrorising people on his estate and doing the same in Farnborough town centre. Eventually an ASBO was served, with a defined area in which the yob had to remain. He regularly breaks the order, even going so far as into Farnborough town centre and sticking two fingers up at the CCTV. Back before the magistrates, who should have automatically imposed a prison sentence, he got off. Sending the wrong message to other yobs.
In Aldershot, yobs are terrorising the sink estates. No action by the council, no action by the police, no action by the housing association that owns the estates. At night, Aldershot town centre becomes a no-go area.
A community warden is employed by the housing association. He does his best, but gets no back up by his employers, none from the police, none from the Council. He has had his face punched in, his car trashed. His employers have even refused to cover the cost of the damage to his car.
Peter Sandy is a community activist based in Aldershot. He has done much to make the streets safer, to force Pavilion Housing Association to carry out repairs. The response of Pavilion has been to call him a bully-boy (they later claimed they were mis-quoted by the press), have threatened him with eviction, threatened him with an ASBO (comparing him with a racist thug in Manchester), demanded that he appear before a tenants consultative committee for alleged breach of conduct.
None of these threats have materialised into action. He is not in breach of his tenancy agreement, Pavilion have no powers to issue ASBOs, the tenants consultative group has no jurisdiction over him.
In the recent local elections, Peter Sandy, standing as a LibDem, took a safe Labour seat. He took the LibDems from third place and forced a disgraced Tory councillor (deselected by the Tories from a safe Tory seat) into a humiliating third place.
The day after the election, Peter Sandy received another letter, demanding once again that he appear before the tenants consultative group. He called Pavilion. Oh a mistake they said, now that you are a councillor, and by the way, what are the repairs you would like us to carry out?
A week after the election, Peter Sandy received a threatening letter from Pavilion. Now that he was a councillor, they could of course use the Code of Conduct for Councillors, and seek to have him disqualified. They also wanted to see his tenants action group disbanded.
Peter Sandy has made it very clear he will not be intimidated, he will not be silenced, he will continue to act for the people who elected him. He has the full backing of the people who elected him.
He has called upon the Council chief executive and his party leader to give him their full backing. We eagerly await their response.
The additional comments by Mike Lane of dossiers being kept, false allegations being made etc, also ring true. Exactly the same has happened to Peter Sandy. Pavilion have made all sorts of malicious allegations, and yet everyone who deals with Peter Sandy, who seeks his help, have found him to be very courteous and fair minded. All he is asking, on behalf of people who seek his help, is that repairs are carried out.
January of this year, we had a meeting with Pavilion chief executive and one of their directors. We had been trying to arrange this meeting since last summer. We also invited along a couple of councillors from different parties. At first Pavilion huffed and puffed, that they could not have meeting without someone in the chair, that the meeting would get out of hand etc etc. Are you going to get out of hand, I asked, because we will not? Pavilion then sat down to discuss the issues we wished to raise on repairs, treatment of tenants etc. To their obvious surprise, we were able to have an amicable and constructive meeting. We got no straight answers, but that was to be expected, the repairs we raised have in the main not been carried out nor has their repair record or response time improved (they claim in their Annual Reports that repairs are carried out within ten days), and we are still waiting for a follow up meeting.
Mike and others have raised the treatment of people on benefits by low grade staff employed by housing associations and benefit offices. If people claiming benefits are routinely humiliated by staff employed to service their needs, we should not be surprised if they occasionally hit back.
These issues are regularly covered by Blackwater Valley Environmental Justice who produce a monthly, of late irregular, newsletter.