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Councillors tell Corbyn to back off and let them make cuts

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Issue 2590
Labour councils such as Haringey have faced resistance
Labour councils such as Haringey have faced resistance (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Right wing Labour Party councillors are trying to lead a fightback against Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s left wing leadership.

Corbyn got a hostile reception from Labour councillors at the party’s local government conference in Nottingham on Saturday.

Corbyn defended Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) for asking Haringey council to pause its plans to hand thousands of council homes over to private developers.

But Andrew Gwynne, shadow secretary for local government, pointedly told the conference, “Labour groups are sovereign, and it’s not my place to intervene.”

Nick Forbes is leader of Newcastle council and leader of Labour’s Local Government Association group.

He said that councillors respected Corbyn, “But we also have rights.

“Our right to be protected and supported in the difficult leadership roles we undertake, not undermined by some on the fringes of the party.

“Our right to determine policy in our democratically elected Labour groups, not to have interference based on supposition and poorly informed opinion.”

Many right wing Labour councillors are hostile to Labour’s new membership.

They are outraged that Labour Party members have challenged their right to continue sitting as Labour councillors only to act little different to Tories.

And earlier this month the leaders of more than 70 Labour-led councils wrote an open letter criticising the NEC for “interference” in Haringey.

It described the NEC’s suggestion that councillors should “mediate” with people opposed to the council’s plans as “an affront to democracy”.

Those council leaders have been at the forefront of privatising and outsourcing council services, and implementing austerity for decades.

That’s why they’re a bastion of the Labour right—and are leading the fight against Corbyn.

In a bid to placate them, Corbyn assured councillors on Saturday that Haringey was a “unique situation”.

Yet Haringey council is not the only Labour council to force through housing attacks or cuts to services. Labour’s leaders should always support those who fight back.

Kober’s slurs can’t hide a success for campaigners

The campaign against the HDV in Haringey was not sexist, as Claire Kober claims
The campaign against the HDV in Haringey was not sexist, as Claire Kober claims (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Claire Kober, leader of Haringey council in north London, announced last week that she is standing down from her position after the elections in May.

Kober has faced a huge campaign against the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV).

This deal with private firm Lendlease would have seen seven estates demolished—with an uncertain future for thousands of residents.

But in a series of interviews Kober has tried to deflect attention from the revolt against social cleansing by attacking the Labour left.

“The only thing I see that’s worse than sexism in the Labour Party is antisemitism,” she said. Kober went on to argue that for the left, “Feminism is seen as distraction from the class struggle.”

In response a large group of local women activists wrote, “As women, many of us have experienced sexism and we agree that no woman should be subjected to it.

“However, this campaign has been about Claire Kober’s attempt to impose the HDV, not about her as a woman.

“Vocal opposition to an unpopular policy which is being implemented in a paternalistic way without proper consultation is not bullying or sexism, it is democracy.”

Labour councillors had a great opportunity to vote against the HDV in an emergency meeting on Wednesday this week.

But there were strong signs that instead they would vote for a motion calling for the decision to be postponed until after May’s elections. They should seize any chance to bury the HDV.

Khan decides votes are OK

London mayor Sadiq Khan has reacted to the deep anger that is coming to the surface over housing within and outside the Labour Party.

On Friday of last week he announced a new position on estate redevelopments which marks a significant shift.

Khan called for tenant ballots on every “big” estate regeneration scheme in London.

He had previously said they “risk turning a complex set of issues that affects different people in different ways over many years into a simple yes/no decision at a single point in time”.

He said, “If a full ballot is not done, or if local residents vote against the regeneration plans, I will withhold Mayoral funding for the project.

“I will also use my planning powers to ensure there is no loss of council housing as part of any estate regeneration schemes that come to me.”

This is a victory for campaigners who have fought for years against estate demolition and social cleansing.

But Khan must be held to his word—and pushed to back mass council house building.

Bosses fear a wider revolt

A shiver of fear is running through the boardrooms of property developers.

They are terrified of a revolt against housing “regeneration” schemes that produce luxury apartment for the few and demolition for many.

The bosses’ Financial Times newspaper is worried that “public anger over lucrative property contracts is calling into question future housing projects across London, as leftwing activists and community groups lash out at developers.”

A study in 2016 showed that of the 214 estate regeneration schemes in London that already had planning permission, there would be a net loss of 7,326 social rented homes.

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