THE BLOG

Fighting For Democracy - With And For Vulnerable People In North London

16/03/2017 15:33 GMT | Updated 16/03/2017 15:33 GMT

A majority of Labour Councillors in the London Borough of Haringey decided on the 7th and 14th March to make Lend Lease, an Australian international property developer the preferred bidder for £2 billion of public land and other assets owned by Haringey Council. They were opposed by 10 Labour and 8 Liberal Democrat Councillors, but to no avail. Democratic principles are at stake. There was no mention in the Labour Party manifesto of any plans to hand over such a vast sum of public land and assets to any private company let alone one that has had to pay £56 million in the US to avoid prosecution for corruption and has a company registered in Jersey among the Channel Island tax havens.

Moseley v Haringey was the test case about Governmental consultations decided by the Supreme Court on the 29th October 2014. A case I am glad I initiated with a phone call to Ian Wise QC who saw it through with Alex Rook of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors. It was a very brave single mother Ms Stirling who made it all possible by applying for legal aid and another, Michelle Mosley, who took it on when needed. Haringey had decided to impose council tax on their residents who claim benefits before those residents were consulted. The council ought to have consulted before deciding so lost the case but the Supreme Court did not require the council to start again.

The rules laid down by the Supreme Court are essentially democratic. They endorsed the previous judgement of Judge Sedley which requires councils to consult before they decide.

  1. "Consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage.
  2. The proposer must give sufficient reasons for any proposal to permit of intelligent consideration and response.
  3. Adequate time must be given for consideration and response and, finally,
  4. The product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any statutory proposals".

It is hard to see how any of his four suggested requirements could be rejected or indeed improved" said the Supreme Court.

Not only was there no mention of handing £2bn land and assets to a private company in the Labour Party's 2014 manifesto but also the tenants of Northumberland Park have been refused a ballot in a letter from the Council's solicitor.

"The Council proposes to transfer the housing accommodation with vacant possession and so the right to a ballot will not be engaged, although statutory consultation with tenants will take place."

Consultation "will take place" after the decision to demolish their homes.

FIGHTING WITH AND FOR VULNERABLE PEOPLE

At the heart of the council proposals lies a deep unfairness; they will make land owning homeowners more wealthy while evicting landless and vulnerable council tenants into the disaster for renters which is the UK housing market.

Drawing on the 2011 census Haringey Council knows that Northumberland Park is the most deprived ward in Haringey; some areas are within the 5% most deprived in the UK. There is a high proportion of under-20s and an increased need for services aimed at mothers, children and young people. A higher than average proportion of residents are from ethnic backgrounds; most notably Black Caribbean, Black African and Other White groups. A high proportion of residents are employed in low level jobs or are receiving unemployment benefits. Male life expectancy is low compared to the Haringey average. There are high levels of deaths attributed to external causes and respiratory disease in the general population compared to Haringey. Cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality rates among the under 75s are high (19% and 35% above expected rates). There are higher proportions of people on disease registers in the north east of Haringey compared to other areas for the following conditions: heart failure, hypertension, diabetes, severe mental health, depression, chronic kidney disease and the highest proportions of smoking and obesity. The Birth rate is high in Northumberland Park and there are a high proportion of low birth weight babies. There are a limited number of GP practices actually in the ward and patients access primary care out of the ward. There is a high rate of A&E attendance.

All that has been made worse by cuts, caps and council tax. It can only be made even worse by a "regeneration" that moves residents out of council housing into the more expensive "affordable" housing. On top of that, for at least the next four years, their income after housing costs is expected to fall (see the Resolution Foundation graph below).

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There is no practical definition of affordable rents used by local or national government. Such a definition ought to leave a minimum income needed to pay for a healthy diet, the fuel to cook is and keep warm, clothes transport and other necessities after the rent and council tax have been paid - but it does not, hence food banks, unmanageable debt and ill health.

We have tried to help the marauding Councillors understand the depth of the problems they are creating for their tenants but they are set on allowing Lend Lease to plunder public land and profit from the tenants misfortune.