As regular readers will know, a few weeks ago, I blogged about the Cally Cows. The Cally Cows are essentially a twitter feed, giving advice and raising issues for local tenants in the Caledonian Road area, formed largely in response to a BBC documentary in which the landlord who owns the vast majority of the Cally Rd, described the street as a cow to be milked. In the same documentary he openly admitted to ignoring planning permission, and proudly took the cameras round tiny, unsanitary flats built beneath shops on the Cally Rd against local council regulations and without permission. All this is on camera for the public to see – I make no radical statement in saying it.
I follow the Cally Cows, not only because I know the Cally Rd well and have a great deal of fondness for it, but because the essential argument they’ve come to embody – that tenants should not live in fear of their landlord, that one man should not hold a monopoly of power and that affordable housing is not the same as unsanitary housing built to exploit the poor – are good and important ideas. The fact that a friend of mine has now been evicted by this same landlord, for what appears to be no more and no less than following the Cally Cows on twitter, arguably only proves the point. Without even speaking out, without doing anything more and anything less than taking an interest in the views of the Cally Cows, my friend has received two months notice to clear out of the flat where she has lived for four years. If this is not power without reason, without consequences, then I don’t know what is. It is obscene, in this day and age, for people to live in fear of their landlords, in fear of speaking out and being evicted for it, and possibly the worst part of all this is that there is no recourse in law for her to appeal, nor does the local council appear to do anything to protect its tenants from this. What is the point of our government, if not to help us? What is the point of the local council, if not to act on behalf of its citizens? This isn’t just a local issue either – it is the problem faced by anyone who rents cheap property from any landlord who does not care for his tenants, in any place where the council cannot be bothered to act.
For anyone local to the Cally Rd, reading this – there is a meeting on the evening of the 26th of July, 7 p.m. at Jean Stokes’ Hall. If you care about the Cally Rd and want it restored, come. If you care about tenant’s rights, and the role of the council, then come. Perhaps I’ll see you there.