Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/473/2047
Tales from the council chamber
Coventry - a victory for determination
DISABLED TENANTS in Hillfields in Coventry have won important concessions thanks to a campaign involving them, their Socialist Party councillors and the local community.
Rob Windsor Coventry Socialist Party councillor
Phil and Andrea Jones were among those trying to preserve their ten-year-old purpose-built disabled flats against demolition under Coventry city council's 'Swanswell regeneration scheme.' This proposed demolishing their flats to make way for a re-sited college building. Socialist Party members and councillors exposed this plan in 2005 and have fought alongside the tenants ever since.
A Planning Committee public inquiry last July threw out fall-back proposals by Socialist councillors that wanted to make sure new purpose-built housing was constructed before tenants had to move. The developers wanted the site earlier and whinged that the tenants' desire to keep their homes was costing them dearly.
Instead, tenants were offered inadequate bungalows three miles from the community they were part of. Phil Jones would have been unable to get his wheelchair into his bedroom. He would have to leave it outside the door and crawl and be lifted into his bed. His wife Andrea is also disabled.
Coventry East Socialist Party organised a 60-strong public meeting in defence of the tenants. Local people agreed to support them including blockading their homes against bailiffs. In December we found out that most of the tenants' homes were to be used as a "disabled parking court" and a bike shed.
We objected at the council meeting where the Tory cabinet member accused us of using disabled people as a "human shield". But this councillor also said that, in response to one of the tenants' wishes, a terraced home in the local area would be adapted.
After Socialist Party group leader Dave Nellist, myself and others asked questions, it became clear that not all that could be done, had been done to help the tenants. Weeks before a local election, faced with a possible scenario of wheelchair users being dragged out of their homes plus a local residents' blockade with local councillors like me, Dave Nellist and Karen McKay possibly being dragged out as well, the council rethought its strategy!
Now the council has found Phil and Andrea Jones a property in Hillfields where they wanted to be. It will be adapted to their needs and the council will now preside over more special disabled housing. I welcomed these efforts but said that achieving them was like trying to extract wisdom teeth with rubber tweezers.
They would not have been achieved without the determination of tenants prepared to face eviction warrants, supported by the community and Socialist Party. Throughout Britain, developers aim to take advantage of cheap but lucrative inner-city land and are happy to destroy communities to appease big business interest in such land.
Phil and Andrea showed what can be achieved if local people fight uncompromisingly against developers. Hopefully we taught the developers a lesson in manners.
In The Socialist 7 February 2007:
Civil servants' strike
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party Marxist analysis