London Citizens charity launched

The Citizen Organisation Foundation is asking community groups, faith organisations, trade union branches and schools to come together in a radical new model of community activism.

The foundation plans to set up city-wide alliances of institutions in London and Birmingham to be "as powerful as the business community and government".

In the capital a new charity, London Citizens, has been formed and a recruitment drive has begun in six south London boroughs.

Neil Jameson, director of the Citizen Organisation Foundation and lead organiser of London Citizens, said the aim of the pan-London community body is "power".

"We will actively promote an agenda that comes from the people," he said.

"The issues could be housing, development, jobs or wages. Local mediating institutions of faith, labour and education have untapped potential and if they come together in a formal alliance, they could be as powerful as corporations."

London Citizens will be an expansion of the model of the East London Communities Organisation, an alliance of local mosques, churches, community groups, trade union branches and school communities, formed in 1996.

The organisation has since campaigned for a universal 'living wage' of £6.50, care and dignity of the elderly as well as neighbourhood issues such as litter collection and road improvements.

An organiser has been appointed to recruit institutions to a sister body, South London Citizens, and its first meeting is planned for Brixton in November. There are plans to develop similar groups in north and west London under the umbrella body London Citizens.

Jameson said the groups would not try to influence government through policy forums or local strategic partnerships.

"These partnerships are a complete waste of time. They are just about council issues whereas most people's issues have a much bigger agenda about business and its performance," he said.

London Citizens will follow the method of formal assemblies of around 1,000 representatives of local institutions used by the East London Communities Organisation. They will meet corporate heads or church and trade union leaders to raise their concerns.

However, the organisations will remain non-partisan and will not put up candidates for election.

A conference to discuss the involvement of major trade unions in London Citizens will take place in June involving Unison, Amicus, the GMB and the National Union of Teachers.

Membership is restricted to institutions, which pay a £1,000 subscription.

Other funding is from grant makers such as the Bridge House Estates Trust.

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