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Update on Roman House occupation; Teach out: the City’s secret finances & lobbying activities


Having yesterday occupied Roman House, owned by Berkeley Homes –  in turn part-owned by Lloyds TSB and the Egerton Capital hedge fund – Occupy London was contacted by individual workers employed by Berkeley Homes who were concerned for their job security as it transpired they were recently employed to help renovate the building. [1]

In light of these discussions, yesterday evening it was decided to leave the building.

We trust that Berkeley Homes will ensure that their redevelopment of the site will make adequate provision for affordable housing. According to Shelter, the City only provides 6% of the affordable housing it needs, leaving it near the bottom of theLondonleague table. [2]

In the past 24 hours, the occupation of Roman House in the Barbican in the City of London focused attention, once again, on the refusal of the City ofLondonCorporation to open its accounts to full public scrutiny, a basic duty accepted by every other public authority in the country.

Response from local residents was tremendous with some coming up to occupiers to wish them support and find out more.

This Monday – Teach out examining the City’s secret finances and lobbying activities

As such, we have decided to hold our promised teach out at 11am on Monday in the open areas of the Barbican centre itself, reinvigorating that public space and enabling residents – who are outvoted by corporations in their own local council – to join in the debate about how they are governed.

The City of London Corporation maintains that its City Cash account is private so we aren’t entitled to know much about it. This assertion sits oddly with the Corporation’s public duties as as local authority – not to mention the explicit wishes of some of those who bequested some of those funds to City in the first place. [3]

This part public, part private nature of the City of London Corporation is not a harmless anachronism. It is symptomatic of a fundamental conflict of interest combined with a lack of democratic accountability.

We look forwards to exploring these, and related, issues on Monday at 11am. We will be announcing our teach-out panel shortly.


[1] Major shareholders Berkeley Group – http://www.berkeleygroup.co.uk/investor-information/major-shareholders

[2] Shelter Housing League Table 2010 – Greater London – http://localhousingwatch.org.uk/all_the_housing_data.php?r=L

[3] Hackney Preacher – Epiphany – http://hackneypreacher.com/2012/01/epiphany/



43 Responses to “Update on Roman House occupation; Teach out: the City’s secret finances & lobbying activities”

  1. You have no idea what you are doing. You are an embarrassment to us genuine, peaceful lefties.

    And you won’t even publish this comment, such is your commitment to “freedom”. Wimps.

    • Why this unsubstantiated accusation ? Just an insult with no substance or merit. Shame.

    • David, if you are not brave enough or concerned enough to stand up for something don’t knock those that are. It is easy to be an armchair winger.

      • @Simon Typical response of an Occupy ‘thought-Nazi’. Just because David doesn’t agree with your tactics according to you he does not stand up for something or is not brave! Occupy should grow up and realise they don’t ‘represent’ 99% of people they only represent themselves which is a minute proportion of the whole of society. BTW there’s nothing brave about breaking into an unguarded building!

        • Occupy certainly do only *represent* themselves. However, the case they present – that the economic situation is a clusterfuck of a tiny wealthy minority’s making, but for which the vast majority of us (the totemic 99%) are paying – is not denied by anyone with an ounce of credibility.

          Now, there might be questions about Occupy’s tactics, but there have been far fewer about its basic objection to the status quo. And in fact, whether you like the tactics or not, questions are being asked as a result of their impact.

          So whether they are brave or not (though I would say risking confrontation with violent police and possible detention is more than you or I do every day to stand up for what we want, whether you agree with them or not), they have been effective to a degree. Hopefully this is just the start.

        • Your statement that Occupy only represent themselves would imply that those who can be bothered to go out and protest, is also the entire number of people who hold our view. Clearly that’s not the case. The argument that the banks caused the recession with poor lending practices combined with things such as “credit default swaps”, and as such we need financial reform, is watertight – the only reason not to support the protest is if you are a selfish member of the 1%, or (most commonly) if you think there is no point in any form of protest, ever (disproved easily through examples of protests that have worked).

          It is a brave act in the sense they are opening themselves up to criminal prosecution, and they’re doing it on principle, not personal gain. I would like to add though that under these circumstances, I’m glad the Roman House Occupation was abandoned.

    • David you say we have no idea what we are doing, fair enough I haven’t been to occupy for the last month or so but I feel that we are raising awareness of how business is done at a higher level and how the normal person, i.e. you or I, gets the bad end of the deal. For some reason the occupy movement is infuriating when in actual fact they ate actually fighting for a better future or you and me. So what are you, as a genuine peaceful lefty, doing to bring about the city of London being more accountable?

    • David, can you explain your point? I am interested in why you are embarassed and what you are involved in to improve our society.

      Wimp : A cowardly or unadventurous individual (Dictionary definition), how can you use this term against people who are obviously not cowardly and unadventurous?

      Please respond.

    • Not an embarassment to me, a Socialist, who has been betrayed by some pseudo-lefties for my lifetime. I am 65.

    • “You have no idea what you are doing. You are an embarrassment to us genuine, peaceful lefties.”

      I’m embarrassed by someone who calles themselves genuine and peaceful as if to suggest the rest of us in Occupy are neither. Like Simon said, If your not brave enough to do the action then you shouldn’t be insulting those who are brave enough.

      “And you won’t even publish this comment, such is your commitment to “freedom”. Wimps.”

      Another assumption about the occupy movement that has been proven wrong. Have you never been to an Occupy camp?

  2. Seems as though CoLC now means City of London Corruptocracy.
    Happy fishing folks. Hope you catch some BIG ones.

  3. Couldn’t you have done some basic research before you took action? How long would it have taken? A day?

  4. So do you think that the 11,500 people living in the City of London, should hold more sway than the 328,000 working in the City of London.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t seem very fair!

    Amusingly, I wonder where the money comes from to build affordable housing?
    I’m fairly sure that most development projects are bank financed. Also, I’m fairly sure that the upkeep and maintenance of social housing is paid for by either RSLs or the government who are funded by taxes, paid by? OH YES….companies and the people working for these companies.

    Yet you think the 11,500 should have more voting power than the 328,000. That seems very, very unfair.

    • @bored etc

      328,000 workers do not get individual votes. The COMPANIES vote.

      What this means is that these companies have more say over local services, and more sway over our “local council” than we residents do. I am not aware of any other council in the UK where this is true.

      I welcome the attention the Occupy protesters are bringing to an otherwise obscure and inherently unfair local government anomaly.

      • You number a large village, and have your own police force. Most villages get a little fete, you get a Lord Mayor’s Show. I think the residents aren’t doing too badly. Also, you live in property that is entirely unaffordable by the common man, right in the heart of London. So to be fair if you’re that aggrieved, I’m sure you could find someone outside the City to swap. Hell, I would! You have a library, an amazing museum on your doorstep. You have gardens and lakes in the heart of the city. You have a leisure centre with tennis courts and a swimming pool. The more I go on, the more serious I am about that swap.

        On another note, if you have had a drop in service, it has probably come from the City having to clean up after, and fight court cases against Occupy. Just think what that money could have got you.

      • Oxford City Council works a lot like this, the University owns so much land and has so much influence that the city almost has a system of dual-power.

  5. >We trust that Berkeley Homes will ensure that their redevelopment of the site will make adequate provision for affordable housing. According to Shelter, the City only provides 6% of the affordable housing it needs, leaving it near the bottom of theLondonleague table. [2]

    And the already started project in the ‘abandoned office block’ would have taken that figure to nearer 60%.


  6. We, for one, support your cause.

    Thanks for your beautiful photos of the Barbican (and our flat) from Roman House, really stunning and the Barbican Library should display these and sell them on your behalf. Always wondered what our gaff looked like from that building.

    The only negative was the written in red sign of yours ‘Occupy Everywhere’. When you open your curtains and see it, it was a bit of an eyesore but I was going to visit you tomorrow and offer to make a printed version for you.

    And more importantly, I hope you didn’t encounter any asbestos there.

    Stay safe 🙂

  7. @David Potterton, Is a genuine peaceful lefty someone who sits around doing nothing??? These guys have worked incredibly hard for months, they have brought the issues of corruption, greed and inequality to the attention of the the mainstream and the public in a way no other movement of our time has managed to do. Unlike the corporation of London they are also willing to admit when their actions may adversely affect people and gracefully change course. They are not an embarrassment, they are an inspiration.

  8. I respect that decision guys – I was failry neutral about your occupation, thinking it was becoming a bit if a mass epidemic, but fair play, you listened and did the sensible thing. Well done. Now, i think its time to clear St Paul;s and find alternative ways of getting your point across. I would not want your message to be lost in the debate about the St Paul’s occupation.

  9. If Occupy had bothered to research Roman House on the City of London’s website then you would have realised that not only was it far from being abandoned, but when the City’s Planning and Transportation Committee met, in public, on 13 Dec 2011 to grant planning permission for change of use to residential it was on condition that Berkeley Homes paid an affordable housing contribution of £3,960,000. See: http://j.mp/wqnW2W paras 39-48.

  10. As a Barbican resident, I would not be interested in joining any teach out and would suggest that you kindly move out of our residentail area and keep all disruption to a minimum.

  11. I am a Barbican resident and am certainly not supportive of them using the Barbican area for meetings. Its a family area, with a school on site as well & the increased crime occuring as a result of the protest (whether by occupants or visitors to the site) are well reported.
    My council taxes are being wasted on cleaning up after OccupyLsx and additional police presence required – probably similar to the cost of social housing.

    • Will you calm the hell down, it’s just for a lecture and a discussion!

      Oh the irony, though, of objecting to the “increased crime” rate outside St Pauls when you live in one of the biggest tax havens on earth… Hope the view’s nice up from your nice flat.

  12. There is nothing about the Barbican that needs “reinvigorating” – it is an arts centre and, like St Pauls, should be left alone by Occupy. If you really want to make a statement then go to Broadgate Circus or Canary Wharf instead of “soft” locations where you’re only going to lose support rather than increase it – the arts and the church have been doing good for the dispossessed for EVER – get your priorities and your targets right!

    • Dave – it’s really not a question of the church or the Barbican being targeted. The steps of St Pauls, serendipitously – and appropriately, bearing in mind, as you say, the traditional role played by the broader church (albeit not best exhibited by St Pauls) in tackling injustice – proved a quite fitting place for Occupy to make its initial points. Now Occupy is proposing, for a few moments on a quiet Monday morning, to meet at the Barbican and share ideas. Seems to me exactly the kind of thing that an arts centre would encourage. It’s not targeting the Barbican centre. I do hope its landlords remain blacklisted, mind you.

    • PS the Occupy message has been taken to Canary Wharf plenty of times, care of the fabulous Occupied Tours – maybe you could come and check it out: http://occupylsx.org/?p=3098

      • Thanks for your responses. The way that I see it is that, as long as Occupy’s tactics and language are ones of “occupation”, megaphones, billposting historic sites and of, at times, patronising (“reinvigorating that public space” (above) and “you might learn something” (a website for Barbican Residents)) rhetoric, their “hosts” will, of course, feel “targetted”. Were Occupy invited to hold their debate at the Barbican? Did they do anything to put the people who run the place (as a registered charity that depends on the support of paying visitors as well as, indeed, the Corporation for its existence and it’s ongoing efforts to give a voice to the world, through art rather than megaphones) the peace of mind that they weren’t necessarily planning on staying for 100 days? Have Occupy sought and reached consensus (a word that they’re very fond of) with their hosts at St Pauls on how the debate (the subject of which they broadly agree on) should be conducted? Until there’s true dialogue that hears all available voices (and, I would argue, that Occupy’s tactics do not make this possible) then they will continue to lose support. Until they find a platform and, indeed, a location that makes people really sit up and take notice then they will continue to lose support. It would have been much better to work out how to get the church’s congregation and a bunch of left-leaning art lovers behind your cause than alienate them in one feel swoop.

  13. Dear Barbican Resident

    Before we started loosing “social housing”, i.e. pre Thatcher, there was justice in housing. Affordable rents and affordable private purchases. It was the deliberate erosion of social housing stock that removed the much vaunted choice and started the crazy obsession with house buying. Result, rocketing rents = higher rent benefit required – and – sub prime mortgages = CDO’s and CDW’s = banking collapse = bailout of over 1 trillion pounds here in the UK and over 14 trillion dollars in the States and financial turmoil worldwide. But your worried about a miniscule amount of council tax that might have been spent on a cleaning job over people trying to highlight the gross injustice of all this??????? ….. straining out gnats while swallowing camels comes to mind.

  14. I can’t imagine who would welcome you on this residential estate. Your reason for protest is valid, but your method of protesting is not. It’s time to pack up and move out from all your sites. You have already caused employees from Paternoster Square businesses to lose their jobs.

    • Source?

      • The source was the employees themselves, on the day before Pasha closed down, thanks to your presence and the impossibility of anyone getting to their shop for the first weeks of your so-called ‘occupation’ – i.e trespassing and fouling a beautiful part of my home City.

  15. The Occupy London guys & gals are heroes they have brought a new awareness to the masses , and if the masses are too stupid not to see what these heroes are pointing out , about the inequality and all the other evils that this greed consumer society which spawned from Thatcher ism ideology , then the masses deserve what they get , everyone thinks they”re OK until they loose the job , the roof over their head , the car , the gym membership , WAKE UP ! we”re not islands we depend on another , stand together , lets do business in a different way , where everyone gets a fair chance and a fair share !

  16. Maybe Barbican residents, opposed to Occupy, should seek consensus between ALL Barbican residents to denounce Occupy… I invite Barbican residents to start that discussion, and see where it leads. That’s what Occupy is doing, developing a new politics by consensus, aimed against social and financial inequality and I support them. … Who wouldn’t?

    • Bob – i similarly invite you to seek consensus across all uk residents as opposed to just the c200 residents who temporarily decide to be in the city of london & a few twitter followers…I struggle to see how you can claim to be creating consensus politics given you represent such a small percentage of the population – its hardly a representative group…

  17. I know the Barbican complex very well having lived near the area all my life and I have to say that a couple of public debates hosted by Occupy would inject a bit of colour into what is normally a pretty soulless place. What I see on this page are quite a few nimby comments from (non-average wage earning) Barbican residents too keen to remain safely inside their fantasy gated “community” and dismiss out of hand all the selfless visionary people who are keen to expose the secrets behind the vast wealth inequalities created by a fraudulent system with cheap Daily Mail-type shots talking about crime/uncleanliness levels going up etc.. It’s about time some of that concrete was turned into urban allotments 🙂

  18. nice piece and we steamrolled the trolls in the comments…

  19. Don’t get distracted by ‘tittle tattle’. It is important that we challenge the authorities who are abusing their power and keeping secrets whilst proclaiming ‘transparency’. The treasury when selling the Gold, The RBS bonuses when we are ‘Shareholders’ the exploitation of the workers … Action does make small differences, intelligent words can change people.

  20. The people of Occupy certainly represent ME. When I look at what my local council, county council and national government do, I see that NONE of it is for me or my fellow citizens. It is always for the benefit of a large company of some sort. When we have a plan in place for self-build housing on ex-government land, then I MIGHT have time for our ‘leaders’. Until then, the only people with any real vision of a better quality of life is the Occupy movement. Telling them to ‘get a job’ serves no purpose whatsoever. They have jobs – informing us, the blinkered public 99%.

  21. It’s too easy to simply ‘blame the banks’. The cause of the recession was massive and unsustainable private debt, which brought the creditors down – i.e. the banks – and which governments decided to underwrite.

    Nobody forced people to take out multiple credit cards, or to buy houses costing several hundred thousand (in your currency of choice) with 120% mortgages on interest only despite barely earning above minimum wage. Banks made this very easy for people, but the blame must be shared among all.

    • Finally someone talks some sense! I’m not a fan of vehment hatred for capitalism, it wasn’t capitalism that got us into this mess, it was cronyism and there is a huge difference.

  22. This article is very interesting.

    I fully understand the concerns of local residents abhorrence to the presence of the Occupy protesters.

    The thought of having these people roaming around the Barbican concerns me, there are children who regurlary visit the Centre, there is a school. Who would want their children to walk through a protest, or experience conflict between the Police and protesters. Have a thought for the teachers supervising 30 children in the midst of a protest. The truth here is, schools will not visit the Centre due to schools concerns with the safety of their pupils.

    The departure of protesters from Roman House is welcomed, but I feel the real reasons for the departure is a deception from the truth.

    The movement claim :-
    “Occupy London was contacted by individual workers employed by Berkeley Homes who were concerned for their job security as it transpired they were recently employed to help renovate the building.”

    Berkley Home statement was :-
    “It is not safe for public use, there are holes in the floors and we are in the early stages of asbestos removal”

    The thought of day to day exposure to asbestos would drive anyone out.

    One other observation, the Barbican residents comments on this forum are a stark contrast to the Occupy statement:-
    “Response from local residents was tremendous with some coming up to occupiers to wish them support and find out more.”


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