Haringey agrees to stick with Lendlease for £2bn privatisation plan as protesters attack ‘farce’
- Credit: Archant
Shouts of “Tory scum” echoed around Haringey Civic Centre last night as the council reaffirmed its commitment to a controversial deal to privatise public assets that could be worth up to £2billion.
The cabinet was called in to discuss six recommendations made by the overview and scrutiny committee after the council agreed to make multinational developers Lendlease the preferred bidder – including that the agreement guarantees the right of return for tenants, that 50 per cent of housing be affordable and that accusations of blacklisting by the developer be discussed with trade unions.
In a tense 20-minute meeting, housing regeneration and planning head Cllr Alan Strickland addressed the points in turn and cabinet agreed to proceed with Lendlease and the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) as planned.
On the most heated question – the right for tenants to return to developed sites on the same terms and conditions – he said the council had a “clear commitment” and would be working with tenants and leaseholders to achieve the best deal.
When pressed about there being no automatic right of return in existing council policy, he added: “We do not have a crystal ball – we cannot guarantee that on sites that will [be built] in 10, 15 years’ time exactly what the situation will be.
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“It’s also important to say that because the policy says that we can’t guarantee reprovision on every site does not mean the council does not want to do it – in fact our intention is the opposite.”
On the question of enshrining a commitment to 50pc affordable housing in the deal, Cllr Strickland said there was a “slight issue” with the recommendation.
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He explained: “The council’s policy is 40pc. That is based on significant work by external advisers on what is viable in the borough, so the cabinet can’t make a firm agreement on 50pc.
“I’m not sure that would be appropriate.”
He added, however, that the council’s policy is to “maximise” the amount of social housing in developments and said 40pc was a “minimum”.
Worries about allegations of blacklisting made against Lendlease were also addressed, with Cllr Strickland labelling the practice “completely unacceptable.”
“We would not allow somebody working for this borough with public money to practise that,” he added.
“If there were any evidence brought of any contractor working for the council of blacklisting we would take that incredibly seriously indeed.”
He said that the council had been assured that blacklisting allegations against Lendlease relate to a company they had bought and that they had since made a public apology and settled all claims.
A further commitment was made to focus on apprenticeships and training for Haringey residents.
As the meeting concluded, members of the public heckled the Labour cabinet with shouts of “shame” and “Tory scum”.
When leaving the civic centre, leader Cllr Claire Kober was overheard saying “it’s best if we go out the back” as she avoided dozens of protesters gathered at the front entrance.
A final decision on whether the HDV will go ahead is expected to be made in the summer.
Outside, council tenant Jacob Secker attacked the cabinet.
“That 19-minute meeting was a travesty,” the Haringey Defend Council Housing member said.
“If you don’t know what rents you are going to be paying, what are you doing signing the contract?”
He added that the “system is rigged”, that Haringey is a “rotten borough” and that it was necessary to “shake up politics” in the area.
Another protester, Phil Rose, said he felt especially frustrated because he is a member of the Labour Party.
“It’s a farce,” he said.
“The council has no respect for the community – they are going to risk losing this borough for Labour.”
He added: “It’s arrogance, incompetance, ego.
“They feel more comfortable with PR people in Cannes than they do with their own electorate.”