Lambeth Council – unaccountable, undemocratic, uncooperative – and uncaring!
Lambeth’s destruction of 40-year-old housing co-operatives, that has seen social housing units flogged off at auction and OAPs thrown out of their houses and onto the waiting list, has also shown up a democratic black hole at Lambeth town hall.
Once London’s most notorious local authority, then more recently the self-styled ‘co-operative council’, Lambeth has now marked a new chapter in the annals of bad practice.
What Lambeth Council have done:
– blocked a Councillor Call for Action requested by the now deselected Labour councillor Helen O’Malley (O’Malley recently described the evictions policy as “savage”).
– denied minutes of the first meeting to discuss a social housing solution
– hijacked the subsequent meeting’s agenda so that negotiations stalled and were only brought back to the table, months later after persistent lobbying
– ultimately declined a social housing solution (one supported by the Co-operative Enterprise Hub and housing expert Jon Fitzmaurice OBE) and refuted savings identified by campaigners, while at the same time declining to respond to evidence for those savings!
– refused to answer questions about in-situ status of ‘shortlifers’ – councillors simply tell elderly constituents that they have no right to be in their homes despite once supporting this right and having no evidence for this new claim! [See what Labour politicians told us and what they did next: http://tinyurl.com/d3rsos4 ]
– blatantly lied about one of the ‘short life’ houses on a number of BBC current affairs programmes (when a LUHC member brought this up with the council leader, Lib Peck, she banned them from contacting her again)
– allowed ‘shortlife’ officers to overstep the mark in contacting residents, knocking on their doors, trying to engage them in ‘off the record’ discussions while their cases against Lambeth were still running
– involved social services in one case, despite being based on no credible threat/problem (the officer that did this, coincidentally, was a leading councillor in Hackney at a time when the borough was afflicted by a massive social services scandal. Coincidental, maybe. But hardly reassuring.)
– threatened an elderly resident with sectioning because was slow to move (his only crime was being a hoarder)
– ignored pleas to drop an eviction threat over another elderly and vulnerable long-term resident that was affecting their health, to the point that a section order had to be issued
– denied opposition requests for an urgent ‘special meeting’ on erroneous grounds, saying that no trials or evictions were imminent, but this was not the case
– banned campaigners from the Town Hall and banned campaign email accounts for no reason other than showing opposition to the council
– issued an eviction notice against a 64-year-old cancer sufferer even though he already agreed to move
– had their housing spokesman, Matthew Bennett, email all ruling group Labour councillors to tell them not to correspond with us
– carried out a woefully inadequate Equality Impact Assessment, with question marks over whether Lambeth is breaking the law on CRB checks for officers dealing with our co-ops
– refused to respond on improprieties surrounding sales of co-op homes
…and even refused to answer FOIs on the policy
There have been further FOI answers denied to others asking about the evictions, and a number of FOI answers were delayed until after the last local elections in May 2014.
Meanwhile, Lambeth’s attitude has also been exposed by a number of serious events:
– one man suffered a heart attack four days before his trial became critically ill, he sadly passed away two years ago
– a 78-year-old community leader in Brixton still lives under threat of eviction
– they threatened to evict Charmain Lodge, woman with mental health problems, until housing activists occupied the town hall
– a man with mental health problems left his house house before bailiffs were due to arrive and fled, Lambeth initially refused to rehouse him
– they promised one man, Andy Carstairs, that he would not be evicted but he returned home one day to find bailiffs in his house
– people have been rehoused in places with asbestos and no floor
– a mysterious act of vandalism that was never accounted for with no CCTV available
– a planning department order for an LUHC member to take down their satellite dish asap, only for it to remain a year after they moved out (clearly designed too harass them out)
– campaigners were followed by a troll who only had three followers, two local councillors, Nigel Haselden and Christopher Wellbelove and former council leader, Steve Reed MP!
– two of these councillors were the ones who lied to us about supporting our community: http://www.lambethunitedhousingco-op.org.uk/?page_id=937
– one of our members received an email from Val Shawcross in response to a general communication about the evictions that was insidious and inappropriate for a an elected representative to send. A complaint was raised to the Labour Party’s General Secretary, Iain McNicol, but no action was taken. Surprise, surprise.
Meanwhile, the formal complaint raised with the Co-op Party about the Labour and Co-operative councillors involved with the eviction decision is now over three year’s old! It is completely unacceptable that we have been ignored for so long, and another example of the Labour movement’s unaccountability on this issue.
Ed Miliband (remember him?) was contacted (October 2012 onwards) and was approached in person (August 2013) but never gave any reply.
Unaccountable and undemocratic, Labour and Lambeth are forcing people including OAPs and other vulnerable people out of their homes.
Not only do they lack the moral justification to do this they also have no political credibility, steamrolling over communities with no intention of letting them challenge an unjust decision.
Stop the evictions in Lambeth and the destruction of long-standing communities.