Haringey Council has presented residents with a plan to demolish homes they have lived in all their lives, sign away their land to private developers, and provide barely any genuinely affordable housing for future residents. While there have been dramatised stories about council deselections, this is the real story, and it is about much more than Labour factions.
The Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) is the root of this dispute. The 50:50 partnership between the council and Lendlease involves a massive transfer of land and power to a structure involving a developer motivated by delivering profits to shareholders, not creating a better place to live for residents. The £2bn value of assets involved – our borough’s houses, shops, community venues and shared spaces – represents the biggest transfer of public assets in council history. While elected councillors and the developer would nominally “share power” on the HDV’s board, the governance structure is murky enough to suggest that there is a risk of little accountability. All decisions would be made by a Limited Liability Partnership and its governing Board meetings would not be open to the public or councillors.
We are for investment and renewal, but not on the terms offered. Public consultation on the issue has been minimal, we have had no information about financial risks and the issue was not presented to full council meetings for a vote. It took a scrutiny committee investigation and FOIs to drag details of the deal into the light. A local retired social services chief has even started a bid to challenge the HDV in the High Court. That’s why residents from all backgrounds in our mixed, diverse and broad community have protested this carve-up of our area from day one. The Stop HDV campaign is supported across the borough – by local community and faith groups from mosques to an elderly vicar, by people of different political parties gathering at meetings of more than 150, and has been active for nearly a year.
The local Labour leadership has argued that the HDV is the only way to deliver new homes under a Conservative Government. But the amount of affordable new homes provided is small and in doubt, and nearby Labour-run Camden has rejected a similar development vehicle. Local MPs David Lammy and Catherine West, neither of them diehard Corbynites, have come out against the HDV on similar grounds to the ones we have raised. Pioneering Labour-run councils from Hackney to Salford are finding different ways to meet the challenge of creating decent new homes in the context of a Conservative Government failing to invest and holding back local government from tackling our housing crisis.
As a resident and a Labour activist I was faced with three choices. I could accept the current situation and have to look my neighbours in the eye when I knocked on their doors and told them to vote for councillors that are planning to knock down their estates. I could refuse to campaign for Labour – in spite of Jeremy Corbyn having committed the party to a policy of balloting local residents on changes made to their homes and communities. Or I could use the party’s existing democratic structures to select councillors who are committed to protecting our homes.
We took the last option. We campaigned in the 2017 election on a platform of bringing wealth and power to people and communities, not handing it to developers. While Momentum members have every right to contest council seats like any other Labour member, this selection contest is about ensuring a pro-social housing majority not a pro-Momentum majority. Labour councillors serving in the previous administration, councillors who have called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign, and even the former council chief whip, have been reselected because they agree with residents that the HDV would be catastrophic.
On the estates and in the parks, in our cafes and our pubs, people are talking about politics again and about what we can do together to improve the places we live in. These conversations have the potential to make real change. For now, these conversations are ensuring that politicians cannot draw up destructive schemes in backrooms and railroad them through with no real process. Londoners have had enough of soaring rents, poor doors, luxury flats replacing social housing, and resident voices being ignored; and now we’re doing something about it.
Phil Jackson is a Haringey resident and Stop HDV campaigner.
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