Tory housing minister Gavin Barwell is worried. He fears “political resistance at a local level” could thwart his plans to hand land over to rich property developers.
The Tories’ housing plans to implement business-friendly policies mean cuts and threats to peoples’ homes.
But rather than leading resistance to these attacks, some Labour councils are enthusiastically adopting them.
Ordinary people are fighting back—such as council tenants in Haringey, north London.
The Labour-led council is trying to force through a massive £2 billion gentrifcation project.
It wants to demolish seven estates and turf out the people who live there, all in the name of “redevelopment.”
Campaigners say the council’s plan is to build posh new flats in place of the estates—so that richer people can move in, pay more council tax, and make less use of council services.
If this is true, it is a disgraceful response by a Labour council to Tory funding cuts.
The council has admitted that people will not be able to move back to the estates affected after the redevelopment. But they have waved away the concerns.
At a council committee meeting Paul Burnham from Haringey Defend Council Housing (DCH) pointed to a £100 million shortfall in the council’s plans. Shockingly, councillors claimed they were unaware of it.
Residents, campaigners and trade unionists are organising against the proposals. The fight is at a crucial stage with a key vote scheduled for a 14 February council cabinet meeting.
Nick Rogers from Haringey Labour left group Momentum spoke to Socialist Worker, arguing that the campaign has forced council leaders to retreat.
He described how the regeneration proposals were voted down at two Labour Party constituency meetings.
At these, council leader Clare Kober claimed that council tenants would be allowed to return to the Northumberland Park estate on council rents and with secure tenancies.
This is a climbdown from her previous position, but it’s not enough. It applies to only some of those affected, and accepts demolition will go ahead.
Paul told Socialist Worker, “The Labour councillors are under pressure. But local MP Catherine West has fallen short of criticising the council.
“She’s got the revolver, she needs to pull the trigger on this.”
Some Labour councillors are rebelling openly against the right wing’s demolition scheme.
At a recent Labour group meeting 17 Labour councillors voted to accept a report that called for the plans to be postponed.
But a majority toed the leadership’s line.
The Haringey Momentum group has thrown its doors open to campaigners and tenants and taken a firm position against the redevelopment.
“We’re building a campaign that totally opposes the redevelopment no matter what,” said Nick.
“We’ll be protesting outside the cabinet meeting on 14 February. The fact that we’ve had a campaign has forced movement from the council.”
If Haringey council is setting a precedent for others to follow, Haringey’s tenants are showing how to fight back.
Millwall beat council plan
On the other side of London from Haringey, campaigners celebrated a victory last Wednesday.
Lewisham council in south east London dropped plans to redevelop Millwall football club’s land around its stadium.
The council had issued a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), which would have forced the club to sell.
But after a sustained campaign from activists, fans and the club, the council has backed down.
Out of 54 Labour councillors in the borough, 45 have backed calls for an independent inquiry into the deal which would have handed the site to property developer Renewal.
The firm said that it “supports” the inquiry.
This is unlikely—any inquiry could unearth the real links that existed between former Lewisham mayor Dave Sullivan, Renewal and the council.
These links were first unearthed by the Millwall football club’s supporters group AMS.
Tory bill will boost the bosses
The local plan being implemented by Haringey is the result of Tory policy from 2012.
All local authorities have been tasked with producing one and they invariably mean making cuts.
The Haringey redevelopment project is part of the council’s local plan and is one of the most extreme examples of councils scrambling to pass on Tory cuts to ordinary people.
On top of this process, the long-awaited but dreaded Housing White Paper is due to be released next month.
It is expected to drive the market even further into the supply of housing. It’s not clear if this is simply a thinly-veiled attack on activists and Labour councils or Tory MPs with constituencies in the green belt who oppose to housebuilding in their areas.
Minister Gavin Barwell is caught between the pressure to be seen to find a solution to the housing crisis and generating profits for building firms.
What is clear is that the Tories will come down on the side of the corporations unless they feel a wave of pressure from below.