Labour NEC takes unusual step of telling Labour-run council to halt major housing development scheme

Haringey Council asked to ditch plans for controversial partnership with private property developer

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 23 January 2018 21:35 GMT
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn are expected to take control of Haringey Council after May's local elections
Allies of Jeremy Corbyn are expected to take control of Haringey Council after May's local elections (PA)

Labour’s governing body has taken the highly unusual step of asking a Labour-led council to halt its flagship housing redevelopment scheme.

The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) requested Haringey Council put a stop to the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a major regeneration plan that will see £2bn of public assets transferred to a private fund partly managed by a major property developer.

Concerns about the controversial plan were raised at the first Labour NEC meeting following the election to the committee of three left-wing candidates. The new members were all backed by the Momentum campaign group and include Jon Lansman, the organisation’s chairman.

During the meeting, a motion tabled by Jim Kennedy from the Unite trade union was toned down until a version was agreed and, sources told The Independent, unanimously passed by the committee’s members.

The original motion was amended to turn it from an instruction into a request, and to apply only if mediation talks on the HDV fail, a Labour source said.

The move increases pressure on the Labour leadership of Haringey Council to rethink its development plans. The area’s two MPs, David Lammy and Catherine West, have previously expressed their opposition to the HDV.

The highly contentious scheme has also been widely criticised by local Labour councillors and party members, who say there are major risks associated with the partnership and suggest existing social housing tenants will lose out.

There are also concerns that residents have not been properly consulted, and that only 40 per cent of the new homes due to be built will be classed as affordable.

The collapse of construction firm Carillion earlier in January prompted new fears about the public-private partnership at the core of the HDV.

Haringey Council insists the programme is the only way to build new homes, create jobs and regenerate deprived estates.

In a move widely seen as relevant to Haringey, Jeremy Corbyn used his party conference speech last September to call on councils to ballot residents before redeveloping housing estates. Haringey Council dismissed the idea.

The NEC decision comes after 22 Haringey Labour councillors wrote to the NEC asking them to act to oppose the HDV.

It follows months of bitter infighting in Haringey that has centred around the regeneration plans. Ahead of May’s local elections, nine Labour councillors who backed the HDV were deselected by left-wing activists in the borough, while several others stepped down before they were removed.

As a result, the council is widely expected to be taken over by Momentum supporters and the current leader, Claire Kober, ousted and replaced by a supporter of Mr Corbyn.

Labour sources in the north London borough told The Independent that Ms Kober, who has led the council since 2008, has “literally no chance” of keeping her job when new councillors are elected in May.

One Haringey source familiar with the process said: “All her allies have gone…ultimately she has alienated everyone.”

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Commenting on what is likely to happen, another senior Haringey Labour official said: “There will be an AGM where they have to elect a new leader, and she ain’t going to win it.”

Asked if there was a chance Ms Kober could win re-election, they said: “Absolutely none. No chance whatsoever.”

Allies of Ms Kober suggested the opposition to the HDV is a way of ousting councillors who are on the right of the party.

“You have to be really naïve to believe this is not a purge by Momentum”, said Ali Demirci, a Haringey cabinet member who was deselected, late last year.

Speaking to The Independent, he added: “People have been targeted because of their politics. It’s goes a lot deeper than just the HDV issue.

“This is about narrow, factional ideology. We haven’t paid homage to their ideology so they are purging people. This has not nothing to do with the HDV. It has everything to do with factional politics. It’s nothing but an ideological purge.”

Another elected official in the local party, who is not sympathetic to those who were deselected, said: “Their support for the HDV is symbolic of their broader politics and all of their other decisions.”

Ms Kober declined to comment when contacted by The Independent.

The situation in Haringey is being closely monitored by other council leaders and Labour MPs, who fear it will be the first of many councils to be taken over by the left as Mr Corbyn’s allies strengthen their grip on the party.

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