Our friends from ACORN Canada, who have all arrived home from Bristol now, have a campaign against the so-called "digital divide" i.e. lack of internet access for low income communities. There's lots to say on the issue, but here in Bristol we've had our own "digital divide"...
In other words our online petition against letting agent fees and insecure renting had a glitch! BIG THANKS to all of you who let us know. Despite the glitch, 200 local people have already pledged their support for our campaign to force local letting agents to drop their rip-off fees and make renting locally more secure and family friendly.
We're not asking for anything unreasonable. Did you know that across Europe private renting is a whole different ball game? In Germany for example, normal tenancies are unlimited which shows our normal 6 months of security up for what it is - outrageous. Sure, some of us want flexibility, and the chase for hard-to-find stable jobs is a big part of that, but increasingly families are being forced into permanent renting - and moving the kids out of school every 6 months is not fun!
As for tenancy fees; one local person has told us they are "outrageous and unjustifiable". And no, that wasn't a tenant. That was the one local letting agent who doesnt charge tenants fees! A friend of one of our members just got charged £900 to move into a new house. £900 up front, in one go, to pay a letting agent to sign a piece of paper is outrageous and unjustifiable. Let's put an end to it.
Apart from that, last week we spoke to more of you about local issues, as well as speaking to our friends from ACORN groups around the world about theirs.
Quite a number of you on Chelsea Road, Easton Road and Devon Road have told us about the need to calm the traffic down. We wholeheartedly agree - you can see from Council data that Chelsea Road especially is dangerous for pedestrians, particularly children. If you want to join us to make our streets safer then please contact us here and we'll get to it! While you're at it, please support our friends at the Single Parents Action Network and Silai Centre to get a safe crossing for their users and kids. Sign their petition here.
Last week, we were not only visited by people from ACORN community groups in Canada, USA, Italy, Czech Republic and Scotland, but we also heard reports from our ACORN members in Honduras, India and Argentina. Members in a low income slum community in Honduras have made some great progress forcing the local authority to clean up the polluted stream that runs past their homes.
Meanwhile, in India, ACORN members have organised almost 10,000 small traders, taxi drivers and dock workers into unions which are defending their livlihood and keeping the big supermarkets at bay (they have big trouble with Tesco!).
This is what ACORN is all about. Individuals coming together in community groups to fix the local things that matter, and community groups coming together nationally and globally to fix the bigger things too.
As I mentioned earlier, ACORN Canada members are running a big campaign to secure fast, low cost internet for their members in low income communities. Theyre up against three big powerful corporations but are making good progress. There is a "digital divide" in the UK too, see some information here. Maybe we need to include internet in our demands for high quality, low cost utilities like water, gas, electric and transport...