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ACORN leaders emerge from landlord licensing campaign

Local community members Kiera and Elgan were inspired to become active with ACORN community union and Social Action Hub in Newcastle after attending the Introduction to Community Organising training offered by ACORN.

After taking part in the course, they went door-knocking around their local area, Arthur’s Hill, after some initial training and support from ACORN community organiser Ellen, to listen to people about local issues and get people interested in forming a group to organise around these issues.

Shortly after Kiera and Elgan got involved with ACORN, members in Newcastle began a campaign to support the council’s proposal to expand landlord licensing to 80% of Newcastle’s rented properties. Community organiser Tom explained why ACORN members had voted to back the proposal:

A significant reason for us to support this, that’s very hard to argue with, is that the licensing allows the council to inspect a property without the tenant having made a complaint, and this protects tenants who may feel too scared of their landlord to ring the council about it

Keira and Elgan became heavily involved in ACORN’s effort to ensure tenants’ voices were heard throughout the council’s consultation on the licensing proposal.

ACORN members attended all four of the council’s public events and consultations about the proposal, and often provided the only tenant voice in the room. They even arranged for an additional consultation event with the council and private renters, held in an accessible location in central Newcastle. Kiera co-ordinated attendance at the consultations, getting people to attend, helping people to prep what they wanted to say beforehand and reflecting with everyone after.

Elgan ran the digital side of the campaign, creating memes and other digital content encouraging people to fill in the online consultation on the council’s website. Both Elgan and Kiera helped to run a stall in the town centre to get more people’s views and support members of the public to complete the online consultation there and then on the high street. 

The consultation closed in the January, and then in June, Newcastle City Council announced that they had approved a licensing programme for a limited area of the city, covering some of the properties in the original proposal, marking a partial victory for ACORN, who are continuing to fight for the licensing programme to be expanded back to the number of properties included in the council’s first proposal.

Tom reflected on the impact ACORN members were able to make on local tenants’ experience of the consultation process:

“Without the work we’ve done supported by Community Organisers, I think it’s fair to say there might not have been any tenant perspective at these events. Many renters didn’t hear about them and many feel that consultations are just “tick-box” exercises. So it helped a lot that we’d worked on this issue elsewhere in the country, and are grounded in the communities affected so we could mobilise people to attend.”

This particular action taken by ACORN is part of a much longer term power building process, building the confidence, knowledge and skills in newly trained members such as Kiera and Elgan. Following on from this experience, Kiera was elected as the branch secretary and Elgan as branch communications officer of ACORN Newcastle.

Tom, explained how working with ACORN enables people to take up leadership positions in the union:

“I strongly believe that the combination of formal training and informal practice and coaching gives participants a breadth of understanding and experience that means they are able to take on new roles confidently and effectively.”

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