The Glasgow Residents Network was launched in April 2006. It aims to involve as many residents organisations and ordinary citizens as possible from across the city in fighting for a more fair and just city and better communities for us all. The following is a collation of views taken from our latest meeting where we discussed how the network had been progressing. We present it here for the purposes of discussion among the Residents Movement. Hopefully 2007 will bring further victories for residents struggles everywhere.
Our network was launched following ‘The Tenants And Homeowners Networking Coference’ in April. Most agreed that it was good to see our early discussions around homeowners and tenants had progressed to discussing tenants and homeowners issues as just part of the picture facing our communities. All communities face problems and some of the problems faced by many of our communities were those of right-to-buy homeowners and tenants of the GHA.
Over the course of our set-up a number of right-to-buy homeowners had become involved in a struggle against mammoth bills. This has came on the back of increasing anger among homeowners and residents groups across the city about the issue, but an active city-wide campaign is now fully underway. There have been several, very visible, large city protests, huge public meetings, film screenings, discussions, and a homeowners handbook, as well as negotiation meetings. The Citywide committee now has over 60 members and the residents movement more generally is growing with the involvement of so many new faces who are fighting for a fairer deal. There is however still work to be done. Many potential residents groups might arise from the homeowners movement, to exist beyond any resolution on the issue of bills to RTB owners. We want to see that happen. However, fortunately a number have already been formed, or are in the process of formation and are active in their communities.
Some people felt however that the tenant involvement in the Residents Movement, which saw off attempts to do away with the concierge service last year, was at a low ebb, although a few majority-tenant residents groups were seen as being quite active. There was perceived also to be a real motivational problem for a number of tenant-led anti-demolition campaigns. The way landlord demolition schemes are being carried out makes it hard for tenants to stay active in fighting demolitions. Many would say that the protracted running down of communities was designed to achieve this. The phenomenon of ‘end loading of demolitions’[i], and of protracted neglect is designed to demoralise and encourage residents to leave. Anti-demolition campaigns have to fight for years and years in order to be successful. It is important to be able to support campaigns like this meaningfully to avoid their participants being simply ground down. This goes hand in hand with the work of supporting new associations. 2006 saw a number of new groups emerge in the North West, for example, only to disappear quickly because they lacked the support, advice and involvement of long-term residents campaigners, and were isolated from the rest of the movement. We need to get better at this as a movement if we are to become more of a force for change in this city.
We felt that there was a role for the network to play in the national tenants and residents movement. Many felt the network should be working closely with the Scottish Tenants Organisation. Others still felt that we could and should seek to play a role in the big discussions of a national tenants and residents movement; discussions like the role for tenant management co-operatives, or community land trusts, or about alternative housing strategies, or participatory budgeting. Some associations involved in the network are already active in looking for innovative solutions to problems and the new year offers us a real opportunity to build upon this. We are developing a strategy and policy of our own as a network, with our targeted protests of the worst LHOs, and our strategy for building the profile of residents concerns in the May elections. This kind of activity can continue to be built on in future as well.
We also discussed how we had been growing as a network, from the initial aim of establishing a federation. The network now has begun to enjoy the support of a number of active local residents associations, and has been able to mobilise increasing numbers of people for a variety of activities. It comprises a dozen associations at the moment and has seen participation from even more groups. There was a feeling that we needed to build on this initial success and bring many more associations into the network. As one person put it we can remain small voices nibbling away or get together and have one big voice for residents across the city. There are challenges too in adopting more secretarial arrangements to spread the workload but everyone agreed there is a lot of opportunity for growth. With rising bills, higher rents, a massive increase in evictions, decreased services, unwanted development on the increase and no real investment in housing stock a network to represent Glasgow’s communities is need now more than ever.
Join the Network Today! Telephone 07976718111, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and leave details of your Name; Address; Telephone Number; Email address and Organisation (if applicable)
[i] “End Loading” refers to the GHA’s operational practice of leaving untouched those tower blocks and other flats destined for demolition, until such time as a the organisation is to demolish these properties en masse, probably around ten years from now.