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School caretaker in eviction battle barricades himself inside house

Education cuts blamed for loss of caretakers at some schools

31 May, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Ed Lopes watches as the bailiffs arrive

A CARETAKER barricaded himself inside the primary school cottage he has lived in for 10 years after bailiffs came knocking to evict him.

Ed Lopes has been made homeless after his post was axed in a cost-cutting restructuring at Richard Cobden Primary School in Camden Town – a measure which at least three schools in the borough have taken.

Eviction teams bashed the door down yesterday (Wednesday), watched by police officers. “I don’t have anywhere else to go,” Mr Lopes said while leaning out of a window. In a tense exchange, his trade union rep, ­Dennis McNulty, pleaded with bailiffs from a window above the front door not to follow “immoral” orders.

Mr Lopes has two children at the school who were growing up in the property before their parents separated and they moved to Kentish Town with their mother. The GMB union had erected several flags outside the entrance to the caretaker’s lodge in a bid to stop the eviction.

Mr McNulty told bailiffs: “The school knew the restructure would mean he did not have a job. Then the council decided to evict him. Is that moral? No it is not moral.”

He added: “When he took the job 10 years ago he was asked to give up his home in social housing in Warren Street. All we are asking for is that the council find him somewhere to go – then he walks out of here, no problem.”

The bailiffs, from south London, said they did not have the authority to sort out Mr Lopes’s housing situation. One was heard suggesting it was “as likely as me winning a rollover lottery”.

Two police officers arrived and a council locksmith attended the eviction. Mr Lopes, who has also had to send his dog to Battersea dogs home, left the property with a suitcase.

He later continued to protest at Camden’s housing department offices at 5 Pancras Square yesterday (Wednesday). The school has blamed “government cuts” for the restructuring, which it added had forced the redundancies of “several other staff … at all levels”.

Richard Cobden had decided that the caretaker’s cottage should be brought back into the school as “a much-needed additional teaching and learning space”. It is believed the space will be turned into a music room that can be rented out to raise funds for the school.

The New Journal has reported on the extreme measures schools say they are having to resort to as a result of “funding challenges”. Mr Lopes’s case is being closely watched by at least three other live-in caretakers in Camden who have also been told to leave. Camden Council, which obtained a court order in February, said in a statement: “Depending on their circumstances, council employees who are provided with accommodation as part of their job can be offered alternative accommodation by the council if they are made redundant.”

Councillor Meric Apak, Cabinet Member for Better Homes at Camden Council, said: “Mr Lopes came to see us this afternoon [Wednesday] and agreed to discuss his housing needs with us. It’s a step forward that we’ve now had this conversation and we are working with him to assess his housing circumstances and the housing options available to him.”

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