The Peterborough Telegraph is today launching a campaign to stop the shocking evictions at St Michael’s Gate from ever happening again.
Three months after we broke the story that 74 people and their families were losing their homes to be replaced by homeless people, we are calling for the Government to change the law.
The PT is adamant that local authorities should not be able to move homeless people into other parts of the country without permission of the host council, thus encouraging businesses to evict hard-working residents from their homes and offer them out to councils desperate for new temporary accommodation.
As we have highlighted in our continuing coverage, this practice is not unique to Peterborough, where the city council has agreed a deal to move homeless people into the vacated St Michael’s Gate properties in Parnwell. But the outrage here has brought the issue to wider attention with the BBC, ITV and national newspapers all following up our story.
Now, we are starting a government ePetition which, if it receives 100,000 signatures, will force a parliamentary debate.
But more importantly, it will project this issue much more firmly into the national conversation.
Only 48 ePetitions have ever reached 100,000 signatures, so if ours is successful it would further pressurise ministers to review the current law. MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson. He said: “I wholeheartedly support the PT and the campaign to close these legal loopholes which allow unscrupulous and unaccountable business people to exploit the misery of homelessness to fill their own pockets.”
Campaigner Jelana Stevic is one of several St Michael’s Gate residents whose stories we have featured. She said: “It’s very sad while walking around the estate where once there would be Christmas trees, lights and decorations and now there are none to be seen - just closed curtains with scared, sad people behind them.
“The residents of St Michael’s Gate are about to have their last Christmases in their homes. The difficulty of this year is overcast with despair, stress and worry of the impending court possession orders they are starting to receive and where their future will be.
“We the residents would all like to thank the Peterborough Telegraph for all its support and great articles. It has been an extremely difficult time for us but the Peterborough Telegraph has helped us and our plight feel heard.
“Our city’s newspaper has and is loyally standing by the people of its city. We the residents can not thank you enough. Loyalty to its people can not be said of our council.
“I would also like to thank the people of Peterborough for their support.”
Peterborough City Council has been heavily criticised for its actions over St Michael’s Gate. Offered the 74 properties as temporary accommodation for its large number of homeless families, with the knowledge that the tenants would be removed, it agreed to pay housing firm Stef & Philips nearly £1 million a year over three years to lease the homes.
Senior officers and Conservative cabinet members repeatedly insisted that if it had not signed up with Stef & Philips then the firm would have offered the properties to London boroughs for them to house their homeless instead.
The council, which has relied on Travelodges for temporary accommodation, says it would cost it £2 million a year not to do the deal. However, the ruling Conservatives have recently joined Mr Jackson in calling for a law change to prevent a repeat of St Michael’s Gate.
Council leader Councillor John Holdich said he will back our campaign, adding: “Anything to stop it happening again to us or anyone else.”
Our campaign begins just before Christmas when many of those hard-working St Michael’s Gate residents will be leaving their home through no fault of their own.
One of those is former serviceman Shane Boyer (53) who served in Northern Ireland.
He plans to move to his new one bedroom home on December 28. He said: “Christmas is cancelled this year because of Stef & Philips. Instead of picking up Christmas presents I’m picking up boxes to leave. I can’t put up a Christmas tree or do anything. People are not even sending me Christmas cards because they didn’t know where my address would be.”
SIGN OUR EPETITION
The Peterborough Telegraph’s government ePetition states: ‘Prevent councils from moving homeless people into other areas without permission.’
To sign the ePetition, visit: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/175681.