Man behind Citizens UK starts 2016 with CBE in New Years Honours
- Credit: Archant
The man who started the nationwide Citizens UK network of action groups from modest offices in London’s East End in 1989 has been awarded a CBE for in the New Year Honours for “services to communities and organising social justice”.
Neil Jameson’s organisation began in 1994 as The East London Communities Organisation, in an office at Cavell Street in Whitechapel, now known as Citizens UK which now co-ordinates groups up and down the country.
It cut its teeth with campaigns for a London Living Wage, more council house repairs and ‘city safe’ zones for youngsters, while on its home turf it set the stage to create Britain’s first urban community land trust at the six-acre former St Clement’s Hospital site in Mile End.
Its biggest national success to date has been the ‘Living Wage’ started when the Royal London, Mile End and Homerton hospitals signed a pledge in 2003 to give low-pay workers a decent income.
The big banks at Canary Wharf followed, then Tower Hamlets Council, before it went “vital” with 2,000 companies up and down the country signing up as Living Wage employers.
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Today, Citizens UK is the engine driving community organisations across the country.
“We are democrats organising for a better world with Civil Society at its centre,” Neil says proudly.
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“We are set to be at the heart of negotiations with politicians and business to secure a successful future for all our institutions in the months ahead.”
Neil, who was made an Honorary Fellow of Queen Mary University in 2012, has spent 20 years building a diverse alliance of civil society organisations fighting on social issues without having to start from scratch every time.
“It dawned on me in 1996 that you need a running organisation first, then campaigns follow once everything is in place,” he once told the Advertiser.
“I used to react to stuff, rather than bring together an alliance. Now we have stacks of issues—so we built the infrastructure of power first, then start ideas and mobilise campaigns.”
The soft-spoken Geordie, a working-class lad brought up on a council estate in North Shields, now a family man living in Stepney, organised the ‘peace parade’ from Whitechapel to Hackney with 1,000 supporters to “reclaim the streets” after the summer riots of 2011. It ended in a candlelight rally and a fiery speech by the new Bishop of Stepney, the rhetoric to inspire this amorphous citizens’ movement to spread across Britain with civic society alliances now in all major cities.
But the ‘Living Wage’ is perhaps his biggest achievement, putting £100 million-a-year more in people’s pockets and taking thousands of families off the poverty line.