“Everything is grey”, former Islington council-tenant talks of life after eviction
Mr Biggs was evicted after owing Islington Council £838.50
15 July, 2019 — By Emily Finch
Pete ‘Gas’ Biggs who was evicted from his of 20 years by Partners for Improvement in Islington
A COMPUTER engineer who now sofa-surfs after being evicted from his council-owned home of 20 years is making a film based on his “terrible” experiences.
Pete “Gas” Biggs, 60, who is a member of the LGBTI+ community, frequently sleeps in gardens after his eviction – managed by Islington’s Partners For Improvement PFI firm – from his “beautiful” Canonbury flat.
He had fallen into rent arrears totalling £838.50 and was evicted back in December 2015.
Islington Council is tied into a multimillion-pound Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract with Partners for Improvement, which is set to manage the borough’s council-owned street properties until 2033.
Partners have managed 49 evictions from their homes in the past five years, according to figures seen by the Tribune. All evictions must be approved by the county court.
Mr Biggs said: “I was a rags to nice rags story. They took a nice, funky, stable place and destroyed it. They obeyed the law for equal opportunity where they have the same contempt for everybody, regardless of name, age, sexuality.”
Mr Biggs was forced out of his flat with his cat, William Shamballa Stereocat, and could not afford to retrieve thousands of pounds’ worth of computer equipment from the storage company who held it after his eviction.
William Shamballa Stereocat who now sofa-surfs with Mr Biggs
He is looking to speak to others who have lived in homes managed by Partners for his film, called Partners in Crime – a reference to him and his cat, and not the PFI company based in Angel.
As previously reported in the Tribune, dozens of residents gathered to grill Partners’ chief executive Tom Irvine at a fiery Town Hall meeting in February.
One woman said she spent months waiting for repair work, which was then completed to an “appalling” standard.
Mr Biggs said he does not believe he was “given a chance” to pay off his rent arrears.
“I complained to the council but I feel Islington Council did not take any notice of my LGBT needs,” he said.
“Every day I am worried about being attacked without a stable place to live. I used to live in a really high stimulus environment and had my happiest memories there. Every day I’d wake up and there would be a new challenge or a new little project. I was always chewing up my hands a bit with my power-drills, working on my PCs.
“Now everything is grey. I’m only ever thinking about food and any crazy people who might want to attack me. I don’t want to be a pensioner on the streets.”
Mr Biggs is also making a “more satirical, fun film”.
He said: “It’s going to be a semi-fictionalised version of my own story, called Enemy of the Estate, with the tagline: ‘It takes a village to kill a man’.
“The other tagline is, ‘They killed my children but I kept the schematics’. It’s a fun version of I, Daniel Blake.”
Mr Biggs is now looking- ing for temporary accommodation at an LGBT+ shelter run by the Outside Project in the former Clerkenwell fire station.
A spokeswoman for Partners said: “Possession proceedings are very much a last resort and
will only be pursued when all reasonable support opportunities have been exhausted.
“Tenants are advised of their legal rights during possession proceedings and are always encouraged to seek legal advice.
“A possession order will only be granted, when the court is satisfied that it is reasonable and lawful to do so. For rent arrears possession proceedings, in practice, this means that the landlord has to demonstrate all reasonable steps have been taken to support the individual(s), in order to try to resolve the rent arrears by other means.”
An Islington Council spokesman said: “Partners for Improvement follows the council’s process for arrears, including in relation to eviction.
“They are required to satisfy the court on the council’s behalf that they have done everything they can to avoid eviction. This is a high threshold and often the court applies stays and suspensions to help tenants, when tenants engage.
“Overall the level of evictions across Islington Council homes, including those managed by Partners, is very low.”
Anyone who wants to contribute to Mr Biggs’ films can email him on firstname.lastname@example.org