By Liam McNulty
Community and local labour movement activists in the North London borough of Haringey have been active in recent months to oppose Haringey Council’s proposals to establish a Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) to redevelop huge swathes of the borough.
The community campaign has united activists in both local Constituency Labour Parties (Tottenham and Hornseya dn Wood Green), Haringey Momentum, local housing campaigns, Unite Community and local residents. It has combined pressure through Labour Party channels, with marches and rallies outside the Haringey Civic Centre, widespread leafleting, and local public meetings on the estates affected by the wide-ranging redevelopment proposals.
The HDV means that £2 billion of public assets will be placed in a body half-owned by the council and half by a private developer. The proposed scheme, the largest of its kind ever attempted by a local authority, will see homes, schools, libraries and land handed over to the new HDV.
A report by the council’s own housing and regeneration scrutiny panel outlined serious concerns over the size, scale and governance arrangements for the proposed development scheme, including a lack of democratic oversight and the financial risks involved. The report, recommending a delay in the plan, was supported by Haringey Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on 17 January.
In the January CLP meeting passed a motion echoing the concerns of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, and calling for the HDV to be halted. Unfortunately, the Council ignored the local Labour Party (both Hornsey and Wood Green CLP and Tottenham CLP oppose the plans) and has pushed ahead regardless.
In February, a UNITE motion was passed at Hornsey and Wood Green CLP condemning the council for choosing as its preferred bidder the multinational construction firm Lend Lease, a known blacklister. The UNITE motion expressed outrage that a Labour council would take such a cavalier attitude to blacklisting, workers’ rights and trade union issues.
Nevertheless, the Council leadership continues to press on in the face of growing opposition and resistance.
In the debate which has followed, Professor Michael Edwards, a local resident who is based at the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London (UCL), outlined several more potential risks with the scheme:
- The risks of debt exposure of the HDV when the scheme borrows money to fund its development plans.
- The danger that higher interest rates “could indefinitely postpone the moment when Haringey begins to receive 50% of the profits from the venture” because the Council will only receive profits after all debts are repaid.
- Concerns about how much the provider (Lend Lease) will charge the HDV for the work of managing the property portfolio handed to the scheme by the Council.
- The threat of Right to Buy being imposed by the Government on dwellings produced by the HDV
- A reduction of Council cash flow as rental income flows instead in to the HDV
- The danger that if Lend Lease sells it 50% share, the Council’s assets may fall in to the hands of hedge funds or private-equity funds, leading to aggressive pressure to evict those falling behind on rents.
As the Council leadership continues to lose the public argument, the latest step is that the Whips are initiating disciplinary action against ten Labour councillors who have been critical of the HDV for demanding that the decision be referred back to the full meeting of the Council.
A motion of solidarity with the ten councillors has been circulated by activists in both local CLPs and affiliated trade unions, who believe that the councillors are simply performing a public duty by ensuring that the monumental proposals envisaged as part of the HDV are subject to the most rigorous scrutiny and oversight.
The leadership of Hornsey and Wood Green CLP is threatening to rule the motion out of order but there will be pressure from members for it to be heard at the April GC meeting.
On 25 April a public meeting will be held for Tottenham residents at North London Community House, 22 Moorefield Road, N17 6PY, N17 6PY London, United Kingdom.
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