VIDEO: '˜Get off your hiney and do something about it!' Anger and tears as St Michael's Gate residents plan next move
An hour of anger, tears and rallying speeches - passions in Parnwell remain incredibly high six weeks after it was revealed that 74 residents were being evicted from their homes at St Michael's Gate.
It may feel like a lonely battle for the residents but the fight is still there, and soon their voices will be heard in Parliament whether through protest or a petition.
But that is in the future. For now the community is still shouting from its corner, wondering how Peterborough City Council could pay nearly £3 million over three years to Stef & Philips - one of two firms which is evicting the tenants - to use the properties as temporary accommodation for homeless people.
That anger manifested itself again last night (Tuesday, November 8) at a Parnwell Residents’ Association meeting, and the man to feel the brunt of it was Tory ward councillor Marcus Sims.
Criticised for what the audience perceived as a lack of enthusiasm on his part to stand up for them, he was told to “fight” for his constituents.
Cllr Sims was confronted by Cllr Julia Davidson, a Liberal Democrat member for Gunthorpe, She yelled: “Stop sitting there as a councillor saying ‘there’s not a lot we can do.’ If it really bothered you as much as it bothers me, you’d get off your hiney and do something about it.”
Cllr Davidson then walked out, telling the audience of about 20: “Excuse me, I’ve got to go as I’m so upset with this.”
Jelana Stevic has been a vocal representative for her fellow residents in St Michael’s Gate,
She, too, aired her feelings at Cllr Sims, telling him: “You can’t keep saying it’s Stef & Philips. The council have gone to bed with the company. They used tactics which I thought are quite vile saying, ‘if we don’t do this, another council will come in’.
“We have felt that we are in the way of a business proposition and it’s just not right.
“There are people that are scared, that aren’t sleeping, that have children. It’s coming up to Christmas, where are these people supposed to go?
“We’re being made homeless so that the council can put in homeless people. It beggars belief it really does.”
“We get on in harmony. I have people come over for coffee at Christmas, at Easter. We look out for each other - that is a community and you are ripping the heart out of it.
“And the distress on people’s faces. And you know what the worst part is? It’s the children and the men. When I speak to the men, these men that are hard working, and they look completely defeated.
“And the fear of what is going to happen to their families. They are left to feel they aren’t providing for them.”
Cllr Sims agreed with the council that if it did not use the properties for temporary accommodation, another council would use them instead.
This was met with groans.
He added: “This has just happened to my goddaughter. But there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It needs a change in Parliament.
“What I have been doing is pouring over the internet trying to find loopholes, trying to find ways to stop it, but I can’t.”
Cllr Sims asked the residents what they wanted him to do?
The answer, according to Jelana, was: “Fight for us. We voted for you, we want to hear your voice. Go against these people, you know in your heart it’s wrong.”
Chairing the meeting was the residents’ association chair Dot Haynes. She said of one woman: “She had to get rid of every one of her six cats because she’s got to leave by Sunday. It’s disgusting.
“She’s going to live with her mother-in-law in Grantham.”
Dot added: “I got in contact with Gillian Beasley, [the council’s] chief executive. I got told she’s busy. Her secretary said she would ring me today. I’ve waited in, I’ve got an answering machine, but nothing. Wait until tomorrow, I will be on the phone.”
That was not good enough for Bernadetta Omondi, who demanded: “Let us hear from them.”
The council said Mrs Beasley will be meeting residents at their meeting on January 10, 2017.
Cllr Davidson demanded: “Why isn’t someone here from this Tory administration to take questions and give you answers?”
The meeting also included the latest update on what is happening at St Michael’s Gate, where the 74 properties are being converted into 98 properties.
The Liberal Democrat councillor said: “I’ve seen several unoccupied houses, and inside those houses partition walls were going up. A man saw me looking into one of these properties and put up a piece of board in front of the window to stop me from seeing what’s going on.
“What they are doing is turning the houses into HMOs.”
The next step, beyond the anger, is how to stop the evictions from going ahead.
A protest outside the Town Hall, and then Parliament, is on the agenda. A government ePetition will also be started to try and force a House of Commons debate.
Jelana added: “We are taking this nationwide because this will affect everyone. We have to show the Government that this is not acceptable, that we will take a stand, as this is wrong.
“We need to change the law, and trust me I will address that if it’s the last thing I do while I’m breathing.”
The residents were expecting their story to be featured on The One Show last week, but have now been told they should be on this Thursday instead.