Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 January 2018

Heating scandal on east London estate


.   (Click to enlarge)

Pete Mason, East London Socialist Party

The heating and hot water supply to up to 200 residents on the private Barking Riverside estate in east London was threatened by an asset management company in the middle of winter, after the residents suffered a loss of heating over a 40-day period in the run up to Christmas.

In a letter of protest which got the attention of the local press, the residents' association condemned the asset stripping and the free market capitalism philosophy which is plaguing the estate and playing with the lives of the residents.

We have now learned that the threat has been withdrawn in a big victory for the residents' association.

Barking Riverside's planned 11,000 houses are presently being developed by a joint enterprise of the Greater London Authority and the London and Quadrant housing association and will be one of the biggest housing developments in Europe.

But this huge experiment to show that private enterprise, run riot through the estate, can work better than local council control, has failed.

The private company which owned the communal heating to four blocks of flats went bankrupt. The heating equipment languished in administration until it was bought up by an asset management company, with no apparent prior knowledge of heating systems, which then formed a company called Zing Power to bill residents for the heating.

As soon as the severe winter weather hit in November, the heating failed. Zing and the landlord fought over responsibility for fixing the equipment, both refusing to carry out the repairs.

Up to 200 residents suffered through to 21 December, without heating or hot water.

The residents association called an emergency meeting on 9 December for the affected blocks, which brought the threat of legal action against Zing and a temporary fix over Christmas of the remaining block of flats affected.

Then, on 5 January, the director of Zing Power, Jamie Buchanan, wrote to the landlords, their agents Pinnacle, and the Barking Reach Residents' Association, declaring his intent to remove this equipment, which he values at 1.2 million, from the estate on 25 January, leaving residents with no heating and hot water.

As chair of the Barking Reach Residents' Association, I expressed the burning anger of the residents in an open letter to Buchanan, gaining the full support of the residents' association committee and collecting the signatures of the residents who spoke out, and the threat has now beeng withdrawn. Here are some excerpts.

Dear Mr Buchanan

I note your threat to asset strip the estate by removing roughly 1.2 million worth of heating equipment from four blocks of flats, affecting roughly 200 residents, on the 25th January of this year.

Your email does nothing to hide the appalling failure, moral, financial and indeed legal, in which you are wrapped up, which many would regard as greedy, selfish and corrupt.

You might have begun your email by expressing your distress that up to 200 residents on the Barking Riverside estate were left without heating for 40 days. You do not.

You assure the reader that Zing has "been involved in many, many acquisitions of 'problem companies'."

But this is not the assurance that the residents wish to hear. The residents association would have preferred that Zing could declare it was an experienced and time served heating company with the interests of the residents at heart. But it was nothing of the kind.

Winter deaths from cold

You might at least have declared that your action in taking over the heating equipment assets of the "problem company" (TGE) which had gone into administration was determined by the desire to supply heat to residents. You might have expressed some concern that while excess deaths attributable to the winter cold fell from a peak of over 100,000 a year in the winter 1950-51, that - seven decades later - it was still a shocking 34,300 in 2016-17, (final government figures), pitiful in a country that considers itself civilised. But you did not.

You might have stated how concerned you were that the government's five-year running average of excess deaths attributed to cold has started to rise for the first time since it fell with the health and housing social reforms of the Labour government of 1945, rising once more today precisely coincident with the banking collapse of 2007, as a result of ten years of austerity and the privatisation of housing and energy, which has forced more people, particularly the elderly, to suffer and die in the cold. But you did not.

But you rescue bankrupt companies. Let's hope you don't sink to the level of those companies whose aim is simply to leech off the public services, a profession not quite the oldest, but over 100 years old, a profession which developed not long after local government was forced through public outcry to establish public works in order to bring clean water, sanitation and other essentials to residents that capitalism had failed to provide.


Such leeches even today attach themselves to some public provision such as health or housing, and suck the blood from it to fatten their shareholders, perhaps by providing what, in parliamentary circles is termed the "one-for-two" Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals - construct one hospital, get paid for two. And all the time these leeches are proclaiming in the press how pale and bloodless the public service is compared to the nice fat capitalist leech, showing, you might say, just how much more successful blood-gorged capitalism is than that pale enemy, social welfare, which merely shares out its meagre provisions.

But it appears the public have seen through this trick, because support for the renationalisation of the nation's privatised assets remains where it always was since Thatcher - at 78% - as a rather shocked Legatum Institute reported recently. ( , water (83%), electricity (77%), gas (77%) and railway (76%))

Perhaps Zing was taken for a ride as you suggest. After all this is free market capitalism, on a private estate in a privatizing borough, not some pale and blood-sucked but honest socialism. Any fool can be taken for a sucker under capitalism, that's the nature of the game. And who looks the greater fool, Mr Buchanan?

It is certainly not surprising to learn that it is "not commercially viable for Zing" to continue to patch up the heating system. No indeed. So it appears more likely that Zing does have "the power", but that it does not wish to spend the cash. What is required is a company with experience certainly, but also one dedicated to need rather than profit. But that is a contradiction in terms, or more precisely, a contradiction of the needs of the shareholders. In fact what is needed is the municipalisation (local public ownership) of the estate so it can be run in the interests of the residents rather than of profit.

It is mere good fortune that subzero temperatures did not take someone's life during those 40 days. It's not for nothing that I stated the government statistics above.

Asset stripping

"Unless anybody can come up with any constructive suggestions then Zing Power has decided to withdraw its equipment from this and all of its other buildings with effect from 25th January 2018."

Zing has declared it will strip the assets and leave 'unless' - unless what?

Unless someone else pays to fix the heating system permanently because "our significant investment is not providing any return". Or any heat. Capitalism will not pay. Ultimately it must once again be bailed out by the public purse. But in that case, what use is capitalism, at least in meddling in the provision of essential services? iPhones, fine. But housing, health, transport, energy, water, banking, building, the major levers of the economy and the rest of the privatised utilities and services, should be a no go area for spivs and speculators. And, as mentioned above, the Legatum Institute has discovered that people overwhelmingly agree with this. The majority of the population, Mr Buchanan, "Hold an unfavourable view of 'capitalism' as a concept, viewing it as 'greedy', 'selfish' and 'corrupt'" and they are correct, based on vast experience, and Zing is a prime example. The leeches must go.

Your email is utterly without pity for the plight of residents caught up in this latest scandal on the estate. If it is true that "Zing have done everything possible to resolve the situation including offering the equipment to Pinnacle (or the landlord) at no charge" you should fulfil that promise and pass ownership over to BRL without charge. Otherwise the council, or else the GLA, and ultimately the government, should find the necessary powers to seize those assets and restore them to the residents on the estate.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 17 January 2018:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Carillion crisis: demand action to save jobs and services

NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

Victory! Trump's UK visit cancelled by fear of protests

What we think

Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

International socialist news and analysis

Tunisia: explosion of protests against government austerity

Stop repression in Hong Kong and China

Workplace news and analysis

RMT strikes against driver-only operation continue

Mini-strike wave continues and intensifies

Hackney school cleaners strike

PCS union 2018 elections - nominate the left slate for a continued fighting leadership

Home care workers to strike

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

We must fight all council cuts!

No to the Woolwich monster block

Undercover policing legal challenge

Heating scandal on east London estate

Lobby pushes Liverpool council to oppose privatisation

Packed Newham meeting against academies

Socialist Party women's meeting brings together members to share experiences

Southern Socialist Party conference


Opinion: foster care is work - carers deserve workers' rights

Opinion: British imperialism can take no credit in fight against Isis

Theatre: 'Young Marx' shows growth in great platform for his ideas


Home   |   The Socialist 17 January 2018   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleBarking: protest brings pledge to remove dangerous decking

triangleTV: The Accident - Will capitalism be exposed in upsetting, true-to-life drama?

triangleBurnt-out Barking residents picket builders' sales day

triangleAnother London block of flats destroyed by fire - remove unsafe cladding now!

triangleBarking: campaigning over housing safety


triangleJared Wood overwhelmingly elected to RMT executive

triangleUnite against terrorism, racism, war and austerity

triangleKeep the National Poetry Library free

triangleEast London Socialist Party: After the general election - what now?

East London:

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Low pay and the winter strike wave

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Election 2019 - fighting for housing for all

triangleSouth East London Socialist Party: Rebellion around the world - Is it coming to Britain?


triangleClimate change election debate - Corbyn offers best green solutions but needs to go further

triangleUnite housing branch supports stand of Enfield councillor

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns


Socialist Party

Fight for your future - join the socialists



Strikes: more determined than ever


Socialist Students

Students and workers united in struggle


South Western Railway

It's a strike to ensure the safety of the travelling public



Surrey firefighters to ballot on Christmas industrial action



Social workers lobby Hull City Council


Climate change

Climate strikes: Students and trade unionists protest together


Socialist Party

Why I joined: "Proud to be a socialist"



Carlisle election meeting: Education - time to make the mega-rich and corporations pay



Workplace news in brief


West Midlands

Solid support for guards on West Midlands Trains


Climate change

Climate change election debate - Corbyn offers best green solutions but needs to go further


The Socialist

Selling the Socialist


Royal Mail

Royal Mail court ruling - national reps meeting and solidarity action essential



Jared Wood overwhelmingly elected to RMT executive

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019