Sent 14th October:
Lambeth’s social cleansing exercise known as ‘shortlife recall’ has now cost over £1.3m in legal fees. Lambeth have even taken a case to court again after losing it on numerous previous occasions, thereby ensuring that money spent on legal fees continues to increase.
This money has been spent on evicting long-term housing co-op residents, some of whom have been in their homes since 1974.
Meanwhile, Lambeth has refused a social housing settlement that could have saved up to £13m.
Aside from the costs of the legal action against us, and rehousing people who have homes, there is also the cost of surveyors, auctioneers, vacant property managers, and employing ‘shortlife’ officers.
Then there are the costs that will be created by moving vulnerable people outside of supportive communities – this means that they will have to rely on social services to pick up the pieces for them after their lives are profoundly disturbed by their eviction.
You’ve already been told about one man who collapsed four days before his trial with a heart attack and about an elderly cancer sufferer who had to undergo one eviction and who – we believe – may face another eviction. Then there are cases of mentally vulnerable people whose conditions have worsened because of this vindictive policy. You don’t seem to care much – and if you do you’re not speaking loudly enough to help.
Meanwhile, the destination of the monies raised by booting out some of the borough’s longest-term residents has been consistently hidden, with FOIs on the matter deemed ‘vexatious’. When Lambeth don’t like the questions it moves the goalposts. How democratic.
We think you need reminding of the clear statements made by Lambeth Labour councillors in support of us – support that has now disappeared in a flash of self-interest, careerism and short-termism:
“We have reminded colleagues and officers that some of these homes would not be standing if it was not for the work of the people living in them.”
“It would be senseless as well as expensive to evict people only to have to re-house them again.”
“Labour will continue to fight for your right to stay in your home.”
Now Lambeth Labour support evictions. You are liars, pure and simple.
We will never vote for you again, we will never trust you again – but you might at least earn some respect if those remaining in homes they’ve maintained are able to continue living in them and pay their rent for their homes directly to the council – something that you have never allowed and yet – in an example of gross hypocrisy – you come after us for spurious ‘use and occupation charges’ as a means of legal coercion.
The housing co-op evictions have exposed this authority as lacking on every possible level. Most councillors are completely unaware of the community break-up tactics employed by your officers – aka ‘the henchmen from Hackney’ – and their lack of curiosity or moral response does them no credit.
You might sit there thinking that a national swing gives you some kind of unassailable local mandate, but what’s the use of all that power if you can’t exercise it with honour?
You can be assured that this email has been copied as widely as possible to again raise the issue and keep it in the public domain.
We would happily let the public know about an honourable resolution as much as keep them informed about your dishonourable actions so far – but that’s down to you…
Sent 16th October:
Today an FOI revealed that another £431,820.89 has been spent on the housing co-op evictions – for staffing.
The total spent on the evictions so far is £1,837,706.52 incl. VAT and that is without fees to vacant property managers, surveyors and auctioneers.
And remember, that is just the total so far…
Email from Matt Bennett sent to Labour councillors:
Thought it would be helpful to update you on the current position of the shortlife programme since the last email update in June. I’d be grateful if members of group didn’t respond to the email from the shortlife campaign which was sent on Tuesday evening.
There’s been excellent progress over the summer, a number of legal successes in the court and a number of long-term holdouts have dropped their court cases and asked the council to provide them with social housing instead.
There are 37 households remaining who the council are working with. Of those 37, 22 have accepted re-housing and are waiting for a suitable property and one is in the process of buying their property. The remainder are in various stages of the legal process or in negotiation with the council about the terms of signing a possession order.
I fully expect the shortlife programme to conclude before the summer next year. So far the programme has raised over £58 million to support our priorities, including going towards meeting our manifesto pledge for 1000 new homes for council rent.
As ever, if you have any questions about the shortlife programme or would like to discuss any particular cases then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Cllr Matthew Bennett
Labour, Gipsy Hill
Cabinet Member for Housing
London Borough of Lambeth
Latest email to councillors:
Dear Labour Councillors,
We recently contacted you to inform you that the eviction of housing co-ops has cost Lambeth Council nearly £2m so far. This amount is for legal fees and for staffing costs, it does not include costs such as employing vacant property managers, contractors, surveyors and auctioneers.
We are aware that, after our email, Cllr Matthew Bennett subsequently wrote to you to dissuade you from contacting us and then later claimed on Twitter that he was undertaking to write to us on your behalf. Both these instances seem to infer that you are not trusted to have minds of your own!
In response to the points made in Cllr Bennett’s email, we would like to add:
– Cllr Bennett highlights the council’s legal ‘successes’, but neglects notable setbacks including one case in which the judge described Lambeth’s approach as “woefully inadequate” – in fact many judges ruling in Lambeth’s favour have done so while still being highly critical of the authority.
– The council refuses to negotiate with residents on a whole raft of matters, and, fundamentally, refuses residents opportunities to remain in-situ despite offers of rent (an opportunity denied by Lambeth) or of management by another housing co-operative.
– Residents Cllr Bennett mentions as accepting rehousing have been coerced into leaving their homes through heavy-handed tactics from Lambeth’s legal representatives and council officers.
– Councillors voted for the co-op ‘recall’ (in 2011) on the basis that at least 20% (some 35+ households) would be kept as social housing. Lambeth officers then promptly shut down any negotiations with RSLs because of a sale to one particular social landlord that never happened. Officers and lead councillors are pulling the wool over other councillors’ eyes.
– On the £58m figure cited:
We believe this figure includes Rushcroft Road which was not part of the ‘shortlife’ list, despite similar origins.
– no one has shown exactly where this money is going
– FOIs on this have been denied
– Lambeth now ‘suggest’ the money will go towards their target of 1000 new council homes (a paltry amount in the scheme of things) but will it?
Where’s the evidence of new builds?
How many of these homes will come from s106/developer deals like the kind discussed at MIPIM?
How many might come from Right to Buy ‘buy backs’? The cost of buying back per unit is cited around an average of £440k – which is also the average price of the housing co-op homes sold off – i.e. losing units to buy the same number of units and putting people on the waiting list to do that!
As our elected representatives, you must be allowed to listen to our concerns and to be informed enough to be able to make decisions free from bias or political pressure.
Again, we would like to encourage you to contact us and hope that the dictats of your cabinet colleagues do not stand in the way of an open discussion of the evictions and ways to do right by long-term residents.
Lambeth United Housing Co-operative