Labour councillors in Haringey, north London, have squandered the chance to bury a high-profile redevelopment deal and to strike a blow against social cleansing.
A grassroots campaign has pushed the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) to the brink of defeat. This deal with private developer Lendlease would have seen seven estates demolished—with an uncertain future for thousands of residents.
It has also forced Labour council leader Claire Kober to say she will step down after May’s local elections.
But on Wednesday night councillors voted 46 votes to eight against a motion that would have scrapped the HDV.
It does not mean the HDV will go through. But it remains on life support.
Labour councillors opposed to the HDV voted with the right wing council leadership for an amendment that postponed a final decision on the scheme until after the May local elections.
It’s expected the left will dominate Labour after the elections, and will then have the chance to stop the HDV.
The Labour right argued that a full meeting of the council could not undo a decision by the council cabinet to back the HDV. The Labour left put unity with the right before destroying this toxic housing plan now.
The Stop HDV campaign which has focused the fightback on the estates and streets said, “[Cabinet member for housing regeneration] Strickland told Haringey full council meeting it cannot overturn a Council Cabinet decision.
“This shows the lack of basic democracy in local government. Most councillors oppose the HDV but the whip system and this lack of democracy will allow it to limp on until May!”
Earlier hundreds of people marched through Haringey to put pressure on Labour councillors to vote for the motion. This was despite attempts by some on the Labour left to say a march was not necessary.
Women led Wednesday night’s march—a response to Kober’s unfounded claims that sexism played a part in her decision to quit.
“Let’s not forget that Kober presides over a council that has made 75 percent cuts to women’s refuges,” said Stop HDV activist Jenny Sutton outside the council meeting. “Kober has presided over cuts to children’s services, cuts to disabled people and cuts to the elderly.
“And who is it that bears the brunt of those cuts? It is women every time.”
Inside the council meeting there was robust heckling from the public gallery.
One councillor had the nerve to tell a Northumberland Park estate resident called Sam who was giving testimony to the meeting that she had been consulted.
Sam said, “The term consultation is a little misleading. I remember going to a fun day and we were invited to put leaves on a tree and write on them what we would like to see in the area.
“As far as I remember not one of those leaves on the tree said I would like to see my home knocked down.”
The council has never offered tenants a vote on what happens to their homes. This is something Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promised at Labour Party conference last year.
And it has now belatedly been supported by London mayor Sadiq Khan.
It was wrong for Labour councillors to vote to postpone a decision on the HDV. Its immediate defeat would have boosted anti-austerity campaigners everywhere.
The left councillors had a choice between manoeuvres inside Labour and loyalty to the movement that has broken the HDV. They turned their back on the movement.
The campaigning which has so successfully shattered support for the HDV must go on. Stop HDV tweeted, “Haringey Labour Group has united behind an amendment removing all criticism of the HDV but putting it 'on ice' until after the May elections. #StopHDV will continue campaigning until the HDV is dead and buried.”
Today a judicial review into the HDV is set to return a decision on whether the plan is legal because of the process by which it was agreed and the lack of consultation and democracy.
Whatever the outcome, and despite last night’s vote, the fight on the streets must continue
‘You are demolishing our lives’
Speech by Sam Leggatt to Haringey council, 7 February
My name is Sam Leggatt and I have lived on the Northumberland Park estate for 36 years. This is my friend Franklin Thomas. He has lived on the Northumberland Park estate since 1973.
We live within the red line area, and I am here to tell you that we don’t want our homes knocked down.
This area has been systematically run down over the last few years, while councillors have taken expensive trips to the south of France to sell Northumberland Park to the highest bidders.
When they look at our estate they see minus values, when we look at the same estate we see the huge value in the community that the HDV plan intends to rip apart and throw away.
Developers see profit, we see the loss and devastation this will have caused in our community.
There's been much talk about consultation, door-knocking and positive, even eager responses to the plan. In reality, these shiny plans of a shiny new area where the sun is always shining, and people are always smiling, was never meant for us.
1,009 homes at social rent will be demolished. We have yet to receive a definitive answer to the question of how many will be built, and on what terms. Similarly, the issue of right to return.
Haringey council continues to assure us that we have the guaranteed right, on the same terms. However, they have apparently promised Lendlease the exact opposite, with a one-move policy being prioritised. Also, we would question how our tenancy would be on the same terms, given we would have a shared landlord at best.
Many leaseholders are concerned about their future, given the development at Love Lane where leaseholders have waited three years so far for a promised swap, with many being put under pressure to sell with what is still a voluntary process, with the council appearing to target the most vulnerable, with the council referring to them as “low-hanging fruit”.
We recognise there are problems in the area, but this plan is not the answer.
This plan is more than the demolition of our homes. It’s about the demolition of our lives. The real answer is investment. Millions have been poured into the area, in the last 15 years or more. Where has it gone, and what tangible improvements do we have to show for it?
What is really needed is investment in desperately needed council homes at rents that are really-affordable to working families, plus the renovation and renewal of existing stock we have paid for.
Please, stop peddling the length of the waiting list as some sort of selling point, and really address it.
We also need a ballot. Stop treating us as if we are too stupid to see the big picture.
Please include us, consult with us, listen to us. A yes/no ballot on all and any demolition proposals is what we deserve.
We would like to thank the councillors for giving us this time, and listening.
This is your chance to speak up for the people who have elected you. These estates do not belong to the big developers who want to turn them into money making properties. The people of Tottenham need homes.
We respectfully recommend the original resolution should be strengthened to ensure No HDV, No demolition of our estates.