Stop council give-away

Submitted by Matthew on 15 February, 2017 - 10:59 Author: Michael Johnson

Local community and Labour Party resistance is growing to Labour-led Haringey Council’s plans to put £2 billion of public assets in a Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) — a body half-owned by the council and half by a private developer. The proposed scheme, the largest of its kind ever attempted by a local authority, will see homes, schools, libraries and land handed over to the new HDV.

Previous similar schemes were on a smaller scale but did not end well. Croydon Council pulled out after a dispute with the developer, and Tory-controlled Tunbridge Wells paid substantial initial outlays to set up a development vehicle, only to end up paying a quarter of a million pounds to extract the local authority from the contract and set up a council-run development vehicle instead. With whole estates such as Northumberland Park set for demolition (the “decanting” of residents, as the Council puts it), there has been unclear and conflicting information about re-housing and guarantees over tenants’ rights to return to properties on existing terms. Added to this are concerns over lack of provision of social housing and about the affordability of the “affordable housing”envisaged by the scheme.

The short-list for bidders for the proposed development vehicle includes Lendlease, the parent company of Abigroup, which in 2012 brought 54 separate court charges and a civil case against Brisbane-based trade unionist and Workers’ Liberty Australia member, Bob Carnegie. This was in connection for Bob’s role in supporting a eight-week dispute at the Queensland Children’s Hospital construction site over workers’ wages and conditions. Bob beat the charges after an international solidarity campaign, and walkouts of construction workers in Queensland and across Australia. That such a rapacious profiteering and union-busting firm could soon be working in “partnership” with Haringey Council should be a concern for every local resident and worker.

A report by the council’s own housing and regeneration scrutiny panel outlined serious concerns over the size, scale and governance arrangements for the proposed development scheme, including a lack of democratic oversight and the financial risks involved. The report, recommending a delay in the plan, was supported by Haringey Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on 17 January.

Soon afterwards, both Tottenham CLP and Hornsey and Wood Green CLP voted on motions backing the call for the plans to be halted. Nevertheless, the Labour group on the council, spearheaded by Claire Kober and Alan Strickland, steamrolled the concerns of the local Labour Party, and many of their own backbench councillors, to push on with their pet project. Local activists from both CLPs, Haringey Momentum, trades unions and community campaigners from organisations such as Defend Council Housing, have been working together to leaflet local residents and build the demonstration on 14 February outside the Haringey Civic Centre.

As we go to press, Haringey’s Cabinet meets to consider the future of the HDV. If it presses ahead, opposition and resistance will only continue to grow across the borough.