Claire Kober quits: The ‘final nail in the coffin’ for HDV housing scheme?
- Credit: Archant
Multi-million pound plans to regenerate Haringey are in doubt after leader Claire Kober said she will quit the council.
Kober announced earlier today she is to step down after 10 years at the helm in May following weeks of Labour Party infighting over the plan, known as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV).
In her resignation letter Kober stated: “This is the right point at which to move on to new challenges.”
The move comes after Kober blasted the National Executive Committee (NEC), complaining its unprecendented move to intervene before homes and business premises were transferred to the HDV was “disappointing”, “discourteous” and “unbecoming” of a government-in-waiting’s ruling body.
In a letter to MP Andrew Gwynne, set to lead the intervention, Kober called into question the leadership of the NEC, which includes Jeremy Corbyn, saying its move against an independent council was “legally dubious” and “democratically unsound”.
Corbyn made his objections to schemes such as the HDV clear at Labour’s party conference last September when he called for tenants to be given votes on whether or not their homes should be redeveloped. Something Haringey dismissed.
She defended the regen plan, described by critics as a £2billion sell off, saying the extent of the housing crisis meant “ambitiuous solutions” were needed before adding “febrile” politics, a judge-led review and “misinformation” had led her to balk at making a decision to press ahead with the HDV.
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Mr Gwynne, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for local government said: “I am sorry Claire Kober is standing down, she has led Haringey through a very difficult time for local government, with councils battling to provide vital services in the face of brutal 40 per cent cuts from Tory ministers.
“The housing crisis is a national scandal caused in 10 Downing Street. However there are issues specific to Haringey that have caused concern for many residents and local politicians, which is why I have been asked to mediate.
“I am committed to working with Haringey, its residents and local MPs, to tackle the housing crisis in the borough and take the fight to this Conservative government whose cuts are devastating communities across the country,” he added.
Kober now joins 22 sitting HDV supporting Labour councillors who won’t be running in May’s local elections. They were deselected or pulled out of selection races after failing to be appointed during the first round of Labour member voting.
A secret local party vote saw 24 councillors vote to push on with the HDV even though they will not stand in May whilst more than 35 Labour candidates wrote to Kober to voice opposition.
Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr Gail Engert seized on reports Kober was leaving after becoming disillusioned by sexism, bullying and personal attacks from Momentum activists inside Labour, saying: “Residents deserve better than a divided, disunited party that has become complacent after almost half a century in power. A party that has now been accused of bullying and sexism by it’s outgoing leader.
“I am glad Labour have finally started to wake up to the failures in the HDV scheme. The chain of events that have unfolded since the Haringey Lib Dems called for an extraordinary full council meeting to vote to stop the HDV, has now all but led to the final nail in the coffin for this flawed venture, that the Lib Dems have long opposed.
“Whilst Liberal Democrats have disagreed with much of what Cllr Kober has stood for over her tenure, her service to the borough should not be unrecognised and we wish her and her family all the best for the future,” she added.
Community activist Gordon Peters, who brought the High Court action, said: “The HDV was a cheap sell off and sell out of assets, places, and people in Haringey to a largely unaccountable corporate undertaking. Ms Kober admits the issue was still under challenge in the High Court.
“What she does not admit is that the opposition goes far wider than Momentum or indeed the Labour leader, and includes the hundreds of folk from different parties, and from none, who contributed to the legal case, and came to events. It is about basic democracy.
And I assume Council officers must be aware of that too.
A letter sent to Kober by the chairmen of Haringey’s two Labour constituencies Russell Dove and Celia Dignan said it was “regrettable” the HDV had been such a divisive issue within Labour and the community.
“We think it is the right decision to allow the Labour Group elected in May to make a decision about the future of the HDV, taking into consideration the report from Haringey’s scrutiny panel and the collapse of Carillion. This allows us to go into the local elections with clarity and in unity,” they added.
A Momentum spokeswoman said: “It’s brilliant that it looks like the HDV is dead in the water, particularly for the ordinary residents who feared being kicked out of their homes. This is a momentous victory for housing campaigners, from which other community campaigns both inside and outside of London can take heart.”
Lendlease, the developer which teamed up with Haringey over the scheme, said it respected Kober’s decision.
“Lendlease remains committed to the people of Haringey and helping deliver the new homes, infrastructure and community facilities that everyone agrees are much needed. We stand ready to discuss further the best potential way to do this,” a Lendlease spokeswoman said.
“Meanwhile our work on the High Road West scheme in north Tottenham continues, which will deliver more than 2,500 new homes for local people,” she added.