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"We'll protect our homes"
COUNCIL LEASEHOLDERS (home owners) on the Sector J area of Honor Oak estate in Lewisham feel angry and conned by the Labour-controlled council.
They were sold asbestos-ridden council flats, without any warnings and now face council refurbishment charges of up to £20,000 that includes the disposal of asbestos. Many of those affected are elderly and have no access to anything like that kind of money.
The council have threatened legal action, including the threat of repossession against those who don't pay. But people from the estate are fighting back, setting up the 'Sector J Action Group.'
Maria Symes is a key part of the campaign - she sums up the mood. "The council just don't get it or don't care, that people on this estate can't find 20 grand at the drop of a hat. We are determined to carry on our fight and protect our homes from repossession."
The council estate refurbishment programme was won a few years ago by a campaign supported by Socialist Party councillor Ian Page. But leaseholders have been shocked by the threat of huge bills being imposed on them. The council claim they have only just discovered the asbestos.
Most flats were sold in the late 1980s and 90s. But a chartered survey in 1984 clearly identified widespread asbestos. This report also recommended that the maintenance, currently being carried out, should have been completed by 1991.
Leaseholders feel they've been deliberately kept in the dark. Not only have they been exposed to severe health risks but now they face what should have been largely council costs.
Recently elected Socialist Party councillor Chris Flood has now joined Ian in supporting this struggle. A public meeting has been organised and campaigners lobbied the Labour council and MP. They formally asked the council when they would be billed and for how much.
The council, arrogantly, won't give a definitive figure until the work has been completed. But if payment is not in full within ten months, interest will be charged.
The action group want an end to asbestos and other unreasonable charges. In fact, having sold the properties in such an underhand way, exposing people to asbestos, the council should be offering money in compensation rather than demanding it.
In The Socialist 28 February 2004:
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