Last Monday the Sweets Way occupiers and protesters got another week from a pleasant County Court judge in which further to prepare their arguments as to why they should not be evicted from their homes on Sweets Way in the London borough of Barnet. The judge heard arguments from Annington Homes as to why the remaining occupiers should be evicted speedily and from Miss Ella Harris,a non lawyer and activist representing the occupiers, as to why they needed more time. The judge ruled that in order that the process whereby Annington Homes has gone to court to get permission to evict, should be proportionate, just and reasonable the occupiers should have another week.
The Sweets Way occupation is in fact a handful of tenants and supporters protesting Annington Homes’ decision to evict all the 150 households from the former military estate of Sweets Way in order to build a better class of housing for sale. I wrote last week about responsibility for this awful situation whereby some hundreds of poor people have been moved out of a decent community into temporary accommodation across Barnet and into other boroughs. Many of them are children.
This Monday the parties will return to court and since Annington have acted legally it’s difficult to see how the occupiers can win a stay of execution. However I’m still interested in the morality of all this. Annington group- who bought 57,000 military homes from the MoD in 1996 ( at a price which is now seen as too low) – is strongly in profit. It paid its highest paid executive £1,223,000 in 2013.
It is chaired by Elizabeth Filkin, the former Commissioner for Parliamentary Standardswho fell foul of MPs when she tried to get them to clear up their financial practices. She has both shares in Annington and a share of directors’ emoluments of some £2 million quid. I asked what Ms Filkin’s share of this large sum was and was directed by Annington’s PR Company, PPS, to the Annington Accounts, where so far I haven’t had any success. But am still trying.
I have asked PPS group- ‘specialising on the toughest communication challenges’ -for a comment from Elizabeth Filkin on the ethics of putting poor people out of their homes but she will not be commenting, according to PPS.
Annington is a private equity company. It therefore has no obligation to explain itself publicly. But here are some facts garnered from trying to work out their incomprehensible financial accounts( in which the word ‘Guernsey’ pops up from time to time). Annington Homes made an operating profit of £149 million in 2014 but, oh dear, interest payments of £246 million wiped that out. So its, momentarily, ‘loaded with debt’ in the old private equity phrase.
Chief executive James Hopkins seems to have taken home upwards of £17m in pay over the last few years. And it would be worth looking at the splendidly named Arrse website where Army types have been less than complimentary about Annington Homes.
So on Monday as the County Court in Barnet gives its verdict on where the occupiers can be speedily evicted, lets ponder the justice of this situation, where extremely poor people are being heaved out of their homes in order to make a rich company quite a lot richer.