BALLOTS: Residents pressure the ‘council estate boy’

 

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Elected members of the London Assembly have formally called on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to provide public funds to council estate residents campaigning to save their homes from being demolished by developers and local councils.

London Assembly Member (LAM) politicians have suggested Mayor Khan amend his draft budget to set up a Resident Empowerment Reserve Fund, writes Paul Coleman.

An ‘initial’ £500,000 would be made available to council estate residents and housing campaigners trying to secure ‘No’ to ‘regeneration’ majority votes in estate residents’ ballots.

 

New fund

The LAMs, who voted 12-0 in favour of the RERF amendment, say the £500,000 could be taken from the Business Rates Reserve. Developers and councils as landlords could also contribute to further funds in the future – although developers are likely to resist any contribution.

‘Representative resident groups’ could bid for grants from the new Fund – although it is not clear who would hold the power to decide who is ‘representative’ and qualifies for such funds.

However, Mayor Khan will have to respond to this amendment when he presents his final budget to the Assembly at the 24 February 2022 Mayor’s Question Time meeting.

Since 2018, developers and councils pursuing estate ‘regeneration’ schemes, that require social and council housing to be demolished, need to secure the ‘positive support’ of a majority of residents. This support must be obtained through estate ballots if such schemes are to receive millions of pounds in public subsidies from Mayor Khan and the Greater London Authority.

 

Biased

The LAM politicians, with the exception of residents’ ally Sian Berry AM, had come under pressure from campaigning residents across London, including most recently from residents on the Love Lane Estate in Tottenham and the Carpenters Estate in Stratford.

Residents had condemned estate ballots in 2021 on their respective estates as biased in favour of councils and developers seeking ‘Yes’ regeneration mandates.

Mayor Khan, self-styling as the ‘council house boy’, has come under fire from London estate residents who say he has broken a promise by failing to make his residents’ ballot process fair to residents rather than biased towards developers and councils.

 

Start fights

Such pressure did not stop Khan’s deputy housing mayor Tom Copley from issuing a divisive statement condemning residents who complain of ballot bias. “The reason why residents have voted ‘Yes’ in so ballots is because councils like Newham have spent years engaging with residents to produce excellent, popular schemes,” claimed Copley. “It’s a bit of a slap in the face for non-residents to then try and overturn the result.”

Residents slammed Copley on social media for trying to ‘start fights’ between estate residents and people who live nearby, with one saying Khan and Copley miss the point that the issue is ‘an asymmetric allocation of campaign resources in a process purporting to be fair’.

Focus E15 housing campaigners enlisted the Public Interest Law Centre to write to Copley on 21 January, calling Khan and Copley to cap local authority spending on publicly funded council officers canvassing residents to get them to vote ‘Yes’ to ‘regeneration’ proposals.

Focus E15 and the PILC also urged the Mayor to fund local residents who wish to run their own campaigns. Residents in temporary accommodation on the Love Lane Estate self-funded their own TAG campaign to secure legally binding and enforceable guarantees that Haringey Council would provide them new housing after developer Lendlease demolishes their existing homes.

 

Final budget

Love Lane Estate residents say Haringey Council spent as yet unaudited and undisclosed sums of public money to pressure residents to vote ‘Yes’ to demolition and ‘regeneration’. Haringey Council refused to hold an independent inquiry into the conduct of the August-September 2021 ballot.

Carpenters Estate residents say Newham Council spent £350,000 in similarly biased ways on its December 2021 referendum – a sum and a purpose denied by Newham’s mayor Rokhsana Fiaz.

Assembly Member Caroline Russell, who proposed the amendment, said: “This fund will help level the planning playing field for Londoners. I hope the Mayor listens to the Assembly and includes it in his final budget in February.”

Unfortunately, many London council estate residents have already been subjected to publicly funded ‘regeneration’ propaganda and harassment that have secured dubious ‘Yes’ votes in ballots of questionable integrity.

For many of these residents, the LAM plea to Mayor Khan to ‘level the playing field’ smacks of too little, too late.

 

Further info: visit TAG Love Lane via @TAGLoveLane, and Focus E15 campaign at https://focuse15.org

 

© London Housing Review 2022

London Housing Review is copyright of © London Intelligence Limited ®

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