Acorn protesters storm Leeds Council meeting and blast siren over issue of empty homes

A group of housing protesters were escorted out of Leeds City Council’s annual general meeting after loudly interrupting proceedings.
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Members of Acorn Leeds, a social justice campaign group, caused a disturbance in the public gallery in Civic Hall’s council chamber on Wednesday, as councillors met to appoint a new Lord Mayor. Around an hour into the meeting, a loud and screeching siren suddenly went off in the public gallery, two banners were unfurled and protesters began shouting.

One of the banners read ‘land for people not profit’, while the other said ‘Leeds Council take action on empty homes’. A female member of the group, wearing a baseball cap, announced that they were from Acorn and called on senior councillors to meet with them to discuss the issue of empty homes in the city.

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Security personnel were then seen escorting the group out of the public gallery. The interruption lasted around a minute and the meeting’s business was quickly resumed.

Protesters from Acorn Leeds interrupted the Leeds City Council meetingProtesters from Acorn Leeds interrupted the Leeds City Council meeting
Protesters from Acorn Leeds interrupted the Leeds City Council meeting

Acorn Leeds describes itself online as a “community based union of working class people”, comprising “tenants, workers and residents”. The group raised the issue of sub-standard housing in the city at a full council meeting earlier this year, after being formally invited to make a speech to councillors.

In a tweet earlier this month, Acorn called for action on the issue and referenced calls for owners of second homes and Airbnbs in the city to pay more council tax.

The tweet read: “We’re sick of our homes being treated like assets and holiday destinations, whilst 26,000 families are stuck on the council house waitlist. We are calling on the council exec to implement second homes tax now!”

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The council’s Labour administration voted against a motion before the local elections to introduce a premium on second home owners. The measure had been suggested by the authority’s Liberal Democrats, who said it would bring in £3m in public money. Labour councillors argued, however, that such a move would be unlawful without Government legislation.