Lambeth’s Litany of Failure on ‘Shortlife’
Recently Stoke Council’s social housing initiative of selling off rundown homes for a £1, and issuing grants to repair them, was in the news – and deservedly so.
It’s a different story in Lambeth though…
Here the council is evicting people who have maintained (through their own funds) housing that the borough abandoned for 40 years.
Many of these properties are listed buildings, but the council ignored their statutory duty of care as owners. Repairs and maintenance have been undertaken by registered housing co-ops, and not by the council.
Now councillors – some of whom have been alive for less time than these housing co-ops have existed – are selling off these houses at auction.
This means that social housing units are being lost and people are being pushed on to an already over-subscribed waiting list.
As if this wasn’t bad enough the way that Lambeth and their legal attack dogs, Devonshires, have behaved is worthy of contempt…
· The council promised to consult the residents of these homes about their future use – this never happened.
· Decisions about ‘shortlife’ housing co-ops, affecting some of the boroughs longest-serving residents, took place behind closed doors.
· An attempt to question the policy with a ‘Councillor Call for Action’ has been buried under mysterious circumstances.
· Despite promising that “Labour councillors will continue to fight for your right to stay in your home” these councillors now duck responding to questions, too afraid to go against their party whip or up against officers who keep them in the dark.
· Councillors who have previously said that our communities “have given a permanence and continuity to the area” have now turned their back on their constituents and voted for evictions.
· Meanwhile the officers decline to answer key questions.
· The council say that they can’t keep ‘shortlifers’ in their homes (despite precedents for this) because of legal reasons, and yet when we ask them what these legal reasons are their response is that they can’t tell us for legal reasons!
Eat your heart out Kafka. This is Lambeth.
Despite having an abysmal record on collecting council tax (failing to collect nearly £50m), Lambeth, currently sitting on healthy reserves and planning to spend £30m on new council offices, seem to think it is ok to budget on the basis of removing people from their homes, some of whom have lived in them since as far back as 1974, and who are now of a pensionable age.
These ‘shortlife’ homes are houses that the council CPO’d for demolition in the 1970s/80 and in the words of their own councillors: “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’s a pity that most of the councillors who said this have since turned their back on us and have sat on their hands as these houses get sold off and communities break down.
Lambeth say they need money for repairs one minute and then education the next. Like the reasons for ‘shortlife recall’ across the years, the ‘rationale’ behind their financial arguments changes all the time.
Permanency was an option that was offered to ‘Shortlife’ Co-ops right back at the start. However, after co-ops completed the council’s requirements re: training etc, the option was suddenly retracted. Meanwhile, permanency deals attempted in the 1990s went by the wayside when the council pulled out of them.
“It would be senseless as well as expensive to evict people only to have to re-house them again.” Lambeth Labour councillors
Offers of rehousing have been subject to various shifting deadlines and used as coercion. The council would like to portray ‘shortlifers’ as having amicably accepted rehousing, but, in reality, many were not able to mount a defence to the legal action and are unhappy about moving.
People have been shown properties of a poorer standard that the ones they are leaving and unsuitable in many ways in terms of cleanliness, location and health and safety (asbestos, no flooring etc).
Some people have found themselves homeless after receiving no suitable rehousing.
Meanwhile whole communities are being purged.
Lambeth council destroyed working class communities in the 1970s, now in the 2010s they’re destroying co-operative communities.
The Money Pit & The Climate of Fear
The eviction process means that Lambeth are spending money on contractors, vacant property mangers, lawyers, bailiffs and auctioneers.
Developers strut up and down the streets of previously established and stable communities and talk about houses as if they are not homes we are still living in.
Council officers have visited and insulted some ‘short lifers’ within earshot.
Contractors have smashed up facilities in vacated houses and then refurbished them for the ‘tenants’ of vacant property managers.
Meanwhile the legality of using vacant property mangers (who incidentally, receive money both from their ‘tenants’ and from the council) has been questioned by top lawyers.
Speaking of lawyers…
We have heard anecdotal evidence that Devonshires – Lambeth’s legal attack dogs – have intimidated people in court in private rooms.
They are charging costs to us of 5 times the amount that our own solicitors are.
Add to that inflated ‘use and occupation charges’ of tens of thousands of pounds that they are implementing on behalf of a council who never sought any relationship with our co-ops, financial or otherwise.
Suddenly ‘shortlifers’ are tenants when it suits Lambeth to bleed money out of them!
Trying to negotiate with Lambeth
Despite Lambeth United Housing Co-operative drawing together a coalition of co-operative and social housing professionals, Lambeth has shown no interest in a social housing solution.
In order to distance itself from doing so, the council have hijacked the agenda of a key meeting about the ‘Super Co-op’ solution, denied meeting minutes and declined a meeting brokered by a local social housing provider.
Demand the eviction of Lambeth’s Labour Councillors
If a council can behave so badly on one issue why would you trust them with anything else?
The ‘co-operative council’ is a sham.
The ‘shortlife saga’ has found this borough wanting in every level.
Don’t talk to us about a renaissance in local government when such a prominent borough behaves in such a jackboot manner!
AND don’t wait for the local elections next year to make your opposition to this felt, DEMAND the ‘eviction’ of Lambeth’s Labour councillors by sending them the below email and continue to lobby them in any way that you can.
Email title: Eviction Notice
Dear [Insert name of Labour councillor here]
[list of councillors belonging to each party is here: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/moderngov/mgMemberIndex.aspx?FN=PARTY&VW=LIST&PIC=0 ]
[Meanwhile, emails for the Labour group are here: http://www.lambethunitedhousingco-op.org.uk/?page_id=485]
As you have failed to keep your promise to protect the long-standing housing co-op communities in your borough, you are hereby given notice of eviction from your duties.
Please resign your seat with immediate effect.
Council leader: Lib Peck
Council chief executive: Derrick Anderson