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Islington tenants sleep rough in latest Housing Bill protest

PUBLISHED: 09:36 16 April 2016 | UPDATED: 09:42 16 April 2016

Protesters against the government's Housing Bill gather outside Islington Town Hall last night. Picture: Polly Hancock

Protesters against the government's Housing Bill gather outside Islington Town Hall last night. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Islington council tenants made another powerful stand against the Housing Bill last night – by sleeping outside the town hall.

Protesters against the government's Housing Bill warmed up with a brazier-type fire outside Islington Town Hall last night. Picture: Polly HancockProtesters against the government's Housing Bill warmed up with a brazier-type fire outside Islington Town Hall last night. Picture: Polly Hancock

They believe the government Bill will increase homelessness, and a few hardy souls braved the cold and wet evening to highlight this.

In full view of Friday night revellers in Upper Street, Angela Keating told the Gazette from her tent: “This is the potential reality.”

Dozens more had gathered from 8pm to reaffirm their support for the cause, following last month’s huge march on Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The government claims the Bill, currently going through Parliament, will boost home ownership, but Islington tenants are angry at its “pay to stay” policy. This would force councils to charge households earning more than £40,000 a year at the same rates as the private sector. Many tenants fear they will be pushed out of their homes - and out of the borough. Others, like 39-year-old Angela, believe the reality will be even more extreme.

Some demonstrators against the Housing Bill, like Angela Keating, braved the cold weather as they spent the night sleeping outside Islington Town Hall. Picture: Polly HancockSome demonstrators against the Housing Bill, like Angela Keating, braved the cold weather as they spent the night sleeping outside Islington Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

“I’m sleeping out here tonight because this is one of the options tenants will face under the bill.

“I’m determined to defeat it, though. I’m a lifelong Islington council tenant. I grew up in the Andover Estate, moved to the St Luke’s Estate and now live in the Pleydell Estate.

“I was born in this borough, I have lived in this borough, and I will die in this borough.”

Among the protesters last night was Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry, who stood on a bench to shout from a megaphone: “This is attacking Islington, the heart of Islington.

Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry at the Housing Bill protest outside Islington Town Hall last night. Picture: Polly HancockIslington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry at the Housing Bill protest outside Islington Town Hall last night. Picture: Polly Hancock

“This is a mixed community – people from all over the world, from every type of background and income. We like that. It’s what keeps us warm.

“This Bill affects Islington more than anywhere else, forcing the council to sell off high value flats and social housing.”

Glyn Robbins, who manages the Quaker Court Estate in Clerkenwell, has been helping organise the national “kill the housing bill” campaign.

He told the Gazette: “Out of all the local campaigns, Islington is definitely leading the way – just look at the turnout on a [wet] evening like this.”

Protesters against the government's Housing Bill gathered outside Islington Town Hall last night and listened to speaker Pete Gilman. Picture: Polly HancockProtesters against the government's Housing Bill gathered outside Islington Town Hall last night and listened to speaker Pete Gilman. Picture: Polly Hancock

He added: “We are winning. The Housing Bill has been defeated three times in the Lords but we are going to keep protesting until we can’t protest any more.

“I have never seen anything as dangerous or destructive as this bill. We have a severe housing crisis and this bill can only make that worse.

“My estate is exactly the kind of place that is under threat. It is in a so-called high value area near the City and houses face being sold off.”

The biggest cheer of the night went to nine-year-old Molly Gledhill, who addressed the 70-strong crowd by saying “I am the future and we can stop what they are doing”, before she led chants of: “Whose homes? Our homes!”

Molly Gledhill, aged nine, got the biggest cheer of the night during her speech against the government's Hosuing Bill outside Islington Town Hall. Picture: Polly HancockMolly Gledhill, aged nine, got the biggest cheer of the night during her speech against the government's Hosuing Bill outside Islington Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

On Tuesday, there will be a public meeting in the town hall to discuss ways of pushing for affordable homes once the Holloway Prison site is demolished. It starts at 7pm.

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