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Improve Not Remove: Anti-PFI campaigners picket Leeds City Council

Commoner | 23.01.2006 17:55 | Free Spaces | Social Struggles

The latest stage in what is starting to look like a powerful grassroots campaign to stop the Comprehensive Regeneration Option (the PFI project) to demolish, rebuild and gentrify their council estate.

This morning, from 11am onwards, several dozen Little London campaigners and their supporters gathered outside Leeds Civic Hall during a community regeneration stakeholder meeting to demonstrate their total opposition to council plans to demolish, rebuild and de facto privatise parts of their council estate. Unfurling a giant red and white banner 'Improve Not Remove: Yes to Decent Homes, No to Privatization' made by supporters at the Commonplace social centre, tenants, residents, trade unionists and university workers shouted 'Hands of Our Homes' up to the first floor of the Civil Hall where the stakeholder meeting was in full swing. Passers by voiced their support and took leaflets explaining the situation.

Steve Skinner, tenant from the Save Little London Campaign explained the cause: " We are here today as part of our ongoing campaign to stop the Comprehensive Regeneration Option, which is a renamed PFI project under which nearly 500 tenants stand to lose their homes. We should never have got to being in this situation. 4 years, tenants and residents voted 'no' to PFI. Then, at a moment's notice, the council turned out a rigged ballot with all of the 'voting no' areas cut out, securing a 'yes' vote. Now we are looking at 3 Lovell blocks being sold off to the private sector, Cartlon Tower will be demolished and in their place shiny new dwellings will be built but beyond the financial reach of ordinary people. That is why we are here - to defend our homes, to demand decent homes, decent investment but no to privatisation and demolition."

Support from the Little London estate is strong and growing. At a meeting held last week at the Little London Community Centre, some 70 local people turned out to express their anger and desire to stay put. "While everyone wants new fitted kitchens and double glazing, but not at the expense of losing their homes," Skinner explained.

Little London is right on the doorstep of Leeds' booming, expanding and gentrified city centre and is regarded by developers and residents alike as an absolute goldmine for private developers potential investors. The whole city centre is being encircled by yuppie blocks.

There is enough money in the council sector to pay for all the homes to be brought up to the Decent Homes standard quite qucikly, and certainly before the government's promise of 2010. The PFI scheme will not even start until 2008, yet tenants and residents have been waiting for years for refurbishment work to go ahead.

Tomorrow night will see a Little London tenants and residents campaign meeting taking place at 6pm in The Rifleman pub on the Little London Estate.

Pictures, video and latest updates to follow.