Tory leader sides with Jeremy Corbyn on housing
Lambeth’s Conservative group leader has found an unlikely ally in Jeremy Corbyn, in opposition to the council’s Homes for Lambeth plan.
At last month’s Cabinet meeting where councillors unanimously agreed to loan £300 million to the public-owned company to begin regeneration on three Lambeth estates, Cllr Tim Briggs declared, “Corbyn said that councils should ballot existing leaseholders before they carry out estate regeneration. I agree with him. There is no democracy in having only Labour councillors on the new panel.” He added that in 2015-16, Lambeth had destroyed 81 more social homes than it had built.
Cllr Briggs said that if his party found itself in power, “the first thing we’d do is see [which of these contracts] we could get out of”.
Briggs attacks the downgrading of tenancies on estates earmarked for regeneration from secure to assured and the sums spent on regeneration consultants while not giving leaseholders promised buy-backs. He also accuses the council of asking leading questions in consultations. The Conservatives are committed to “proper one-to-one consultation” on the model of Wandsworth, he says.
Estate residents contacted by Lambeth Life say they are concerned with a wide variety of issues around housing management and consultation including:
– Being charged 50% more than the original estimate for routine repairs
– Scaffolding left up for extended periods, with repair work never started
– Tenants offered a say only over minor design aspects of proposed housing redevelopments
– Consultations engaging 10% of residents or fewer being seen as adequate
Lambeth abolished its Tenant and Leaseholder Councils last summer and the area boards that replaced them have been criticised as undemocratic.
“The common theme in all this are residents are ignored, they’re imposed on” says Lambeth Homeowners Association chair Shemi Leira.
Mr Leira, who has lived in Lambeth for 20 years, said he only found out about plans to demolish his home on the Westbury Estate in early 2015 when he was surveyed by a PR company representative on the street outside.
In response to the tenants’ concerns, a spokesperson for the council said: “The changes to the resident engagement structures followed a consultation with residents, in which a majority supported the proposals to improve the process. The new Area Boards have been specifically designed to hold the Council and its contractors to account and, for the first time, to actively involve residents in reviewing services.”
In defence of the council’s housing policy, council leader Lib Peck said, “There are two issues: the quality of existing estates and the crisis in the quantity of genuinely affordable rents. Decent Homes funding was slashed by the Tory government. We would love to build more homes. We can’t do the most simple thing which is just that.
“In the absence of this we have set up Homes for Lambeth. It is very easy for political critics to criticise and not come up with anything constructive.”
Ferndale ward councillor and Lambeth Council Deputy Leader (investment and partnerships) Paul McGlone says, “Labour party policy on ballots would apply to future estate decisions under a Labour government, when councils would have access to the new powers, flexibility and funding to provide decent homes that are currently denied to them by this government.”