A fortnight on from placing in the Top 20 of the Local Government Chronicle’s annual ‘LGC100’ list, Claire Kober has said that she will resign as the leader of Haringey Council at the London borough elections on 3 May and pass on the final decision on the borough’s development vehicle to her successor.
We are also hearing of movement in City Hall on the increasingly sensitive issue of estate regeneration policy and strongly suspect Sadiq will be making a relevant announcement very soon - possibly even before the end of this week. It is worth noting that the London Assembly recently passed a motion asking for estate tenants to be given more opportunities to voice their concerns and shape regeneration plans. The Mayor, it should also be reminded, has yet to publish his updated Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration. Watch this space in future editions for a fuller report.
Tonic Housing CIC, which LCA is proud to support in a pro-bono capacity, is currently recruiting a CEO to drive an exciting and first-of-its kind specialist housing project for the benefit of older LGBT+ people in London. If you are keen to know more about this ground-breaking project and the role, scroll down to Our Week at LCA.
Follow us on Twitter @LDNComms for further updates on all this and more!
KOBER TO STEP DOWN
Claire Kober has announced via a letter her intention to stand down from the London Borough of Haringey at May’s elections – also confirming in another letter that she will leave a final decision on the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) to the next council leader. Kober’s decision comes after much infighting in the council over the project which led to many councillors sympathetic to the HDV either being de-selected or stepping down during the Labour selection meetings across the borough last year. Kober’s resignation follows a joint letter ($) from Labour council leaders across the country, responding to the Labour National Executive Committee’s (NEC) decision to ask Haringey to pause its progression of the HDV. The letter claimed that the NEC’s actions were ‘an affront to the basic principles of democracy’, having ‘no right or justification to interfere in or influence the legitimate actions of locally elected representatives’ and setting a ‘dangerous and alarming precedent’ in the process. 71 council leaders signed the round-robin email by the time of its publication on Sunday morning including 15 of Labour’s 21 London councils. It is remains largely unclear why the others – in Croydon, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Newham (Haringey not included) – did not sign in the letter. Whether politically-influenced or in order to re-assert the need to keep local and national politics separate, this could now stir political waters in the Labour Party, particularly by those who could view the signatures as an endorsement of ‘centrist’ policies irreconcilable with Labour’s current leadership. Meanwhile, it now appears highly likely that a newly elected Labour administration would vote down the HDV.
LONDON BOROUGHS PUSHING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Amidst research showing that more than half of 1,900 ‘ultra-luxury’ apartments built in the capital last year failed to sell, some London boroughs have shown a proactive attitude to delivering more genuinely affordable housing in their areas. Hackney Council will not be building council housing directly but will be letting out homes at ‘living rent’ level through a new housing company. Meanwhile Lambeth Council’s new housing company, Homes for Lambeth (HfL), will move into development and is in the process of becoming a housing association registered with Homes England whilst Wandsworth has been on the front foot in approving proposed affordable houses – at least this past week. A tweet from Will Sweet, chair of the borough’s Planning Applications Committee at Wandsworth Council, noted that last Thursday 1,198 new homes had been approved across three schemes with affordable housing figures of 53%, 37% and 35%.
Conservative and Labour campaigners in London had reason to wince over the past few days while reading their newspapers. Speaking to the Independent, pollster Sir John Curtice said that the Tories could lose more than half of their nine London boroughs after the 3 May local elections because the party’s ‘young population and pro-European views leave it vulnerable to Labour’. Elsewhere, the results of the latest British Election Study's face-to-face survey indicate that, contrary to popular belief, Labour’s better than expected 2017 general election was not the result of a ‘youthquake’ triggered by Jeremy Corbyn. The study’s authors called the ‘youthquake’ a ‘myth’ and said that ‘there was no surge in youth turnout at the 2017 election’. As all parties have historically had a harder time drawing out young voters at local elections, perhaps a Labour victory in London will require a tad more effort than previously thought.
GUESS WHO’S BACK
Tower Hamlets’ former Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, could be attempting a comeback. Many political commentators would have thought the 2015 High Court trial, which found him guilty of electoral fraud and mishandling public money, would also be his political demise. But earlier this month, the Electoral Commission officially recognised a new party, Aspire, just in time for the local elections in May. This group is led by prominent individuals closely affiliated to the ex-Mayor and uses a logo eerily reminiscent of those displayed by organisations previously under his control – leading many local media outlets to surmise that Rahman is actually pulling the strings. His former group, Tower Hamlets First, was disbanded in 2015 and his councillors have since congregated around other local political figures. But the new party could serve to rally both his old flock and undecideds, allowing Rahman’s allies to gain a foothold in the council. For the moment, Rahman himself is formally relegated to the sidelines, as he is subject to a five-year ban from holding public office – which expires in 2020.
Local party politics in London has seen a considerable amount of churn in recent days. In Newham, Councillor Rokhsana Fiaz has announced she is prepared to challenge Sir Robin Wales as Labour’s candidate in the Council’s Mayoral election this May – assuming party members agree to an open selection. Three senior Cabinet Members in Southwark’s Labour administration - Councillor Fiona Colley, Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation and Performance, Councillor Maisie Anderson, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Social Regeneration, and Councillor Mark Williams, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and New Homes - have all suddenly decided to stand down at the local elections. Meanwhile, Councillor Claire-Louise Leyland has decided to stand down as leader of the Camden Council Conservative group and will not be standing for re-election in May, with Councillor Gio Spinella nominated to lead the group in her place.
TO BUILD OR NOT TO BUILD
Southwark Council’s Planning Committee has this week accepted a request by Delancey to further defer a final decision on its plans to redevelop the Elephant and Castle shopping centre. The developer hopes to address concerns about its proposals expressed by the Council, local residents and businesses – which almost led to the scheme’s rejection at the Committee’s session this Tuesday - in order to ‘reach an acceptable and positive conclusion.’ If Delancey succeeds in winning over the Council with an amended proposal – something which councillors now seem amendable to - Southwark will gain almost a thousand new homes. According to current plans, 36% of these would be affordable. But the main issue at play appears to be whether Delancey can offer more social housing in its affordable mix, as well as improved terms for local traders and an existing bingo hall.
HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
MPs are today expected to vote on proposals to vacate the Houses of Parliament, in order to move forward with their long-overdue refurbishment. As of the writing of this edition, the relevant debate continues in the Commons. The state of the historic complex of buildings has been steadily deteriorating over the past few years, as officials grapple with the costs and complex logistics entailed in the comprehensive repairs. Apparently, falling masonry, plumbing failures and the constant risk of fires are these days part and parcel of life as a Parliamentary civil servant, MP, or peer. A ‘full decant’ would require both Commons and Lords to find temporary accommodation elsewhere while Parliament is wholly refurbished over six years at an estimated cost of £3.5bn. Alternative options such as a ‘partial decant’ or shifting employees and sessions around within the Parliamentary complex while repairs take place could cost anywhere between £4.4bn and £5.7bn and last between 10 and 35 years.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has rejected the idea of matching the proceeds of trust land sales with Treasury money, as recommended in Sir Robert Naylor's review of NHS property, published last March. Instead the government has said in its response that it will implement the idea, which they accept in principle, ‘in a more nuanced way.’ NHS Trusts that sell surplus land will be allowed to ‘bank’ the receipt, scrapping the rule that half of the proceeds go to the secretary of state. The DHSC also said that NHS Property Services will not become an arm’s length body – another recommendation from Sir Robert. Of 17 recommendations, 15 have been accepted in full. These include the release of surplus NHS land to develop homes for NHS staff where there is a need, and for urgent action to be taken to accelerate the delivery of small scale and low risk developments to deliver housing.
SADIQ HOSTS SOUTH EAST SUMMIT
Only two days after Centre for London and Southern Policy Centre’s joint report on closer integration across the Wider South East was published, Mayor Sadiq Khan met with council leaders from the region and hosted the Fourth Wider South East Summit at City Hall last Thursday. According to a press release it is understood that Khan spoke on the importance of uniting in order to lobby for the delivery of infrastructure projects across the South East, such as Crossrail 2. Khan’s own apparent emphasis on the stalled project at the summit could be read as him trying to cajole other cash-rich local authorities beyond the M25 into funding a more convincing business case, which can be sent to government to reconsider.
ED JOINS NEW SHELTER COMMISSION
Former leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband has joined Shelter’s new social housing commission, launched by the charity to address issues highlighted by the Grenfell Tower Fire. Other key appointments to the commission include Conservative Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Lord Jim O’Neill and Grenfell Tower survivor Edward Daffarn. An independent report carrying recommendations will be presented to party leaders in October.
TONIC CEO - EXCITING JOB IN THE HOUSING SECTOR
LCA is proud to be helping Tonic Housing, in a pro bono capacity, to establish the first best practice mixed-tenure LGBT+ older people’s extra care residential scheme in London. It may be surprising to many readers that there is currently no LGBT+ majority housing for older people in the UK, let alone in the capital. Evidence has shown that the consequences of this can mean some older people experience prejudice and disadvantage at different stages of their lives. Tonic Housing CIC was established in 2014, supported by five major trusts and foundations, with the purpose of reducing the social isolation and discrimination feared and often experienced by older LGBT+ people, most particularly by those with the greatest social needs and from the poorest backgrounds. Tonic has teamed up with Igloo and is currently assessing a number of potential locations for the first exemplar scheme and is recruiting a CEO to drive the project forward toward selecting a site, achieving planning permission and, with the Directors, continue to raising the necessary finance. The job description can be found here and CVs with cover letters can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The closing date for applications is Friday 9 February.
HALL SCHOOL APPROVAL
LCA client, The Hall School, has been given a resolution to grant planning permission by the London Borough of Camden for the proposed redevelopment of their senior school site at Crossfield Road in Hampstead. The decision will allow The Hall, which is one of London’s leading preparatory schools and has been based in Camden for over 100 years, to build modern teaching facilities – including new classroom and play spaces – fit for the 21st Century. The decision is LCA’s tenth consecutive planning approval in Camden in the last five years.
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