Deputation re: “Shortlife”, 27th March, 2012 – Check against delivery
This deputation seeks to question the so-called policy of “Shortlife recall.”
Lambeth Council wants to be a “Co-operative Council” at the same time as destroying a 40 year-old framework of Housing Co-ops and Communities in the borough.
We support policies that are community-led, but statements about putting residents at the heart of housing decisions directly contradict the recall’s purge of established communities.
Costly legal action has proceeded using coercion and intimidation and the threat of it is highly stressful; causing some of us to seek support in the healthcare system.
To evict and then offer re-housing under the uncertain and oversubscribed Choice Based Lettings scheme adds insult to injury. Families are being offered properties of questionable standard – or which are withdrawn at short notice, without explanation.
Those raising concerns over “recall” have included Kate Hoey, John Pilger, Val Shawcross, and Cllr O’Malley – meanwhile local businesses readily signed our deputation form.
Housing Co-ops were praised for sheltering vulnerable people – yet the permanency many were encouraged to work towards was denied. The subsequent attempt to rationalise so-called “shortlife” started with words that ought to haunt the current administration.
In 1997 Labour housing spokesman, Tom Franklin wrote: “We are totally opposed to the Liberal Democrats’ and Tories decision to order mass evictions, which will cause distress to many people.”
Tom Franklin’s consequent deals, as Secretary for Housing, to make Shortlife housing into permanent housing were then scuppered when the council withdrew from them.
Council policy continued to flail but similar messages of support kept coming – including from councillors Haselden, Wellbelove and O’Malley:
One leaflet says: “We support keeping families in their homes. It would be senseless as well as expensive to evict people only to have to re-house them again.”
Another leaflet reads:
“We recognise the valuable contribution that many residents have made to the community over the years…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.”
These statements went unheeded – the council promised consultation with residents but none came – meanwhile offers made by other social housing groups to take over “shortlife” with residents in-situ were rebuffed.
Sale By Auction is now the Council’s means of disposal while recall destroys stable communities, properties are being left empty or squatted by those who are involved in serious anti-social behaviour – other houses have been damaged by the council or vacant property managers in order to secure them.
This toxic state of affairs could have been avoided if the council had supported local co-operative housing—a model praised by everyone from management consultants to social housing campaigners.
Housing Co-op communities were stifled by policy but they flourished anyway – so there’s still a wealth of local expertise and there remains an opportunity for the council to prove its commitment to the co-operative model.
We urge Lambeth Council to halt the evictions and work with “shortlife” residents to create a borough-wide “Super Co-op” in which individuals and families could stay in their homes they have cared for decades – and not be in a situation that was, at a previous Scrutiny meeting, was compared to the Highland Clearances!