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East London

TELCO (The East London Citizens Organisation) is the founding Chapter of Citizens UK. We are a powerful alliance of over 80 civil society institutions comprised of trade unions, faith groups, charities, schools and universities, all working together to make East London a better place to live.

We organise communities to act together for social justice and the common good, developing the leadership capacity of our members so they can hold our cities' decision-makers to account on the issues that matter to them. TELCO has a proud 20-year history. We pioneered the Living Wage campaign; Community Land Trust Housing; Ethical Olympics; and Good Jobs for young people. In addition to these successful campaigns, we are currently working on new campaigns on hate crime; mental health; and energy poverty. If your institution is not yet in membership, we'd love to have a conversation with you. Involvement in a Citizens UK alliance is one of the best ways for you and your organisation to make a tangible difference in your borough and London wide, whilst developing the leadership skills and capacity of your membership.

To arrange a sit down with one of our organisers, contact: emmanuel.gotora@citizensuk.org

Sign up for updates from this chapter here.


How local campaigns reweave bonds of trust between communities

TELCO Co-Chair Fr Angus Ritchie of St George in the East and the Centre for Theology and Community has written for the Guardian about his experiences organising in Tower Hamlets to secure safe, affordable homes for local residents of all backgrounds - and how the tools and principles of Community Organising can offer a powerful antidote to the politics of division which pit us against one another. 

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Priced out of the Olympic Park

Yesterday, the housing element of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) Local Plan was subject to examination in public. Members of The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO), who campaigned for genuinely affordable homes as part of the original Olympics Bid, say that the LLDC need to raise the bar in their aspirations for affordable housing on the Park in order to ensure that that original commitment of ‘regenerating the area for the entire benefit of everyone that lives there’ becomes a reality. 

Fr Sean Connolly, a local priest with a large congregation of people experiencing housing challenges, said: “It is devastating to see so many of my parishioners living in over-crowded conditions or being forced out of the borough while new houses are being built all around them. While I welcome new housing being built on the Olympic Park, it needs to be affordable and this is a real problem.” The housing crisis in the legacy boroughs is felt across the spectrum ranging from young children living in temporary and overcrowded accommodation, to nurses sharing bedrooms. Local Authority homelessness research from 2018 indicates that whilst the Legacy boroughs constitute only an eighth of London boroughs, they account for a quarter of all households, (5,414 households) placed out of borough. The London Borough of Newham has the highest figures for families placed out of borough, away from their social networks, with local authorities struggling to meet the costs of keeping these families in insecure and overpriced temporary accommodation.

Last year many TELCO Citizens members visited LLDC to hear about plans for the site, but so far the affordable housing commitments have not met the communities expectations.

In response, local community representatives from TELCO are asking the LLDC to introduce a requirement that 50% of all housing in the Legacy area is genuinely affordable by being linked to median household incomes - currently £27,000 across the Legacy boroughs. Community Land Trust housing was a key commitment in the 2005 Olympic Charter and needs to be recognised as part of the intermediate housing offer. Community Land Trust housing remains affordable in perpetuity and is mapped against average local incomes, thus also meeting the Legacy promise of benefitting local communities. Additionally, research has demonstrated that there is a huge gulf between policy and practice.

Dr Penny Bernstock, from the University of West London, and co-chair of the TELCO Olympic strategy team, found that between October 2012 and July 2017, only 19.6% of the housing approved by the LLDC was affordable, falling substantially short of the 35% requirement. Therefore, TELCO are calling on the LLDC to adhere to the requirements of their plan, she said “The evidence is clear, we need to do much more on the former Olympic site to meet London’s affordable housing challenge. Let’s get the legacy back on track and ensure that families are not priced out of the Olympic Park.”


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News: The Olympics housing legacy is at risk say Newham Citizens

Take the housing survey:  it will be presented to the GLA and LLDC 


Newham Citizens have written to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to register their disappointment at the GLA’s approval of the Stratford Waterfront development despite the provision of ‘affordable’ housing on the development being entirely shared ownership homes which are out of the reach of local incomes. On April 30th, members of Newham Citizens, part of TELCO (The East London Citizens Organisation), attended the Planning Committee meeting at the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), to register their objection to 35% of the 600 homes expected to be built as part of the £1bn development. While the scheme gained the approval of the LLDC planning committee, elected local authority representatives from Newham, Hackney and Waltham Forest voted against the scheme because of the lack of genuinely affordable housing.
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Tower Hamlets school leads Air Pollution campaign

Pupils at St Paul’s School Whitechapel, a member of Tower Hamlets Citizens, have launched a video on air pollution. As part of a fantastic yearly project, run jointly by THAMES and Rich Mix Cinema, they have learnt and put into practice stop motion skills. 


The students are at the forefront of a Borough-wide campaign to raise awareness of the negative impact of air pollution and demand better air quality by learning about community organising, putting their learning in practice and striking collaborative relationships with Tower Hamlets Council.

Pupils and staff meet Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Rachel Blake.

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Radical housing pledges announced at Waltham Forest Citizens 2019 Assembly

  • Waltham Forest Council more than doubles their commitment to build social rent homes: from 1200 in 2018 by 2022, to 2800 in 2019by 2022
  • Cllr Miller, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and High Streets, agrees to work with Waltham Forest Citizens to find first 2 sites for permanently affordable Community Land Trust sites in the Borough in the next year.

  • School and College pupils take centre stage in drama to highlight the impact of youth violence on their friends and peers.


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Women100 Training in Tower Hamlets

Community organising training for women in our member organisations. The aim is to develop women leaders in each institution and increase women’s participation in the decision-making process in their local community.

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How community organising can help shape local health services

The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO) welcomed the invitation to work with Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to identify priority issues that the Newham CCG Board will be considering as part of its 2019/2020 budget. This presented an opportunity for TELCO's 86 multi-faith, multi-cultural member institutions - boasting of a reach of over 100,000 people across East London - to look at the role that anchor institutions and local community leadership can play in shaping the commissioning process for health services.

Read the full blog to access the full report on how TELCO's partnership with Newham CCG lead to the first ever participatory budgeting exercise in the NHS.

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Newham Civil Society Youth Commission publish report

Representatives from schools, universities and community groups across Newham came together to set up a Civil Society Youth Commission in response to the rise in youth violence in the Borough to investigate holistic solutions to the multi-faceted causes of youth violence.

Read the report to learn how Newham Citizens applied the method of community organising to identify solutions 'from the bottom up' that place communities at the heart of the response. The report also puts forward recommendations to Newham Council, Newham Police and the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group on issues ranging from street safety to education and the relationship between police and young people.

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How our school called on London City Airport to become a real Living Wage employer – and won!

Blog by Miss Yvonne Wade, Acting Deputy Head at St Antony’s Primary School, a member institution of Newham Citizens.

It’s not often that you hear of primary schools in “deprived” areas having the power to convince large employers, such as major transport hubs, to give their lowest paid staff a pay-rise. So how did we do it? 

St Antony’s pupils and staff meet with an Airport representative

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Waltham Forest Safety Commission calls for dedicated youth workers in schools to help reduce exclusions as one solution to rising violence on London’s streets

Waltham Forest Citizens Safety Commission has launched the findings of its 1,200 strong borough listening campaign. One of the main recommendations is a pilot scheme dedicated youth workers in Waltham Forest schools to stage early interventions with troubled children and help reverse cuts to youth and children’s services.

Read the report here.


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