Friday, 17 May 2013

Housing crisis support Lambeth United in fight to stop Labour Lambeth Council selling of our homes and evicting tenants.

‘Shortlife’ evictions briefing 07/05/13

Lambeth’s Litany of Failure on ‘Shortlife’

Recently Stoke Council’s social housing initiative of selling off rundown homes for a £1, and issuing grants to repair them, was in the news – and deservedly so.

It’s a different story in Lambeth though…

Here the council is evicting people who have maintained (through their own funds) housing that the borough abandoned for 40 years.

Many of these properties are listed buildings, but the council ignored their statutory duty of care as owners.  Repairs and maintenance have been undertaken by registered housing co-ops, and not by the council.

Now councillors – some of whom have been alive for less time than these housing co-ops have existed – are selling off these houses at auction.

This means that social housing units are being lost and people are being pushed on to an already over-subscribed waiting list.

As if this wasn’t bad enough the way that Lambeth and their legal attack dogs, Devonshires, have behaved is worthy of contempt…

·         The council promised to consult the residents of these homes about their future use – this never happened.

·         Decisions about ‘shortlife’ housing co-ops, affecting some of the boroughs longest-serving residents, took place behind closed doors.

·         An attempt to question the policy with a ‘Councillor Call for Action’ has been buried under mysterious circumstances.

·         Despite promising that “Labour councillors will continue to fight for your right to stay in your home” these councillors now duck responding to questions, too afraid to go against their party whip or up against officers who keep them in the dark.

·         Councillors who have previously said that our communities “have given a permanence and continuity to the area” have now turned their back on their constituents and voted for evictions.

·         Meanwhile the officers decline to answer key questions.

·         The council say that they can’t keep ‘shortlifers’ in their homes (despite precedents for this) because of legal reasons, and yet when we ask them what these legal reasons are their response is that they can’t tell us for legal reasons!

Eat your heart out Kafka. This is Lambeth.

Despite having an abysmal record on collecting council tax (failing to collect nearly £50m), Lambeth, currently sitting on healthy reserves and planning to spend £30m on new council offices, seem to think it is ok to budget on the basis of removing people from their homes, some of whom have lived in them since as far back as 1974, and who are now of a pensionable age.

These ‘shortlife’ homes are houses that the council CPO’d for demolition in the 1970s/80 and in the words of their own councillors: “We have reminded colleagues and officers that some of these homes would not be standing if it was not for the work of the people living in them.”

It’s a pity that most of the councillors who said this have since turned their back on us and have sat on their hands as these houses get sold off and communities break down.

Lambeth say they need money for repairs one minute and then education the next. Like the reasons for ‘shortlife recall’ across the years, the ‘rationale’ behind their financial arguments changes all the time.

Permanency was an option that was offered to ‘Shortlife’ Co-ops right back at the start. However, after co-ops completed the council’s requirements re: training etc, the option was suddenly retracted.  Meanwhile, permanency deals attempted in the 1990s went by the wayside when the council pulled out of them.


“It would be senseless as well as expensive to evict people only to have to re-house them again.”  Lambeth Labour councillors

Offers of rehousing have been subject to various shifting deadlines and used as coercion. The council would like to portray ‘shortlifers’ as having amicably accepted rehousing, but, in reality, many were not able to mount a defence to the legal action and are unhappy about moving.

People have been shown properties of a poorer standard that the ones they are leaving and unsuitable in many ways in terms of cleanliness, location and health and safety (asbestos, no flooring etc).

Some people have found themselves homeless after receiving no suitable rehousing.

Meanwhile whole communities are being purged.

Lambeth council destroyed working class communities in the 1970s, now in the 2010s they’re destroying co-operative communities.

The Money Pit & The Climate of Fear

The eviction process means that Lambeth are spending money on contractors, vacant property mangers, lawyers, bailiffs and auctioneers.

Developers strut up and down the streets of previously established and stable communities and talk about houses as if they are not homes we are still living in.

Council officers have visited and insulted some ‘short lifers’ within earshot.

Contractors have smashed up facilities in vacated houses and then refurbished them for the ‘tenants’ of vacant property managers.

Meanwhile the legality of using vacant property mangers (who incidentally, receive money both from their ‘tenants’ and from the council) has been questioned by top lawyers.

Speaking of lawyers…

We have heard anecdotal evidence that Devonshires – Lambeth’s legal attack dogs – have intimidated people in court in private rooms.

They are charging costs to us of 5 times the amount that our own solicitors are.

Add to that inflated ‘use and occupation charges’ of tens of thousands of pounds that they are implementing on behalf of a council who never sought any relationship with our co-ops, financial or otherwise.

Suddenly ‘shortlifers’ are tenants when it suits Lambeth to bleed money out of them!

Trying to negotiate with Lambeth

Despite Lambeth United Housing Co-operative drawing together a coalition of co-operative and social housing professionals, Lambeth has shown no interest in a social housing solution.

In order to distance itself from doing so, the council have hijacked the agenda of a key meeting about the ‘Super Co-op’ solution, denied meeting minutes and declined a meeting brokered by a local social housing provider.

Demand the eviction of Lambeth’s Labour Councillors

If a council can behave so badly on one issue why would you trust them with anything else?

The ‘co-operative council’ is a sham.

The ‘shortlife saga’ has found this borough wanting in every level.

Don’t talk to us about a renaissance in local government when such a prominent borough behaves in such a jackboot manner!

COMMENT: New (Labour) Speak

May 30, 2013 11:11 AM
Lambeth Town HallSpectamur Agendo is the high-minded Latin motto of Lambeth Council - in common parlance it means "Judge us by our Actions".
There must be many residents noting ruefully that, there has never been a time in the whole of its somewhat chequered history when the ruling Lambeth Labour party's torrent of fine words seems so oddly mismatched with its actions.
What brings this disconnect so sharply into focus currently is that Labour has made great play of its historic roots by launching The Cooperative Council onto an unsuspecting world. At first nobody quite knew what it was - most, even within the Council, most still don't.
But as a buzz word that chimed distantly with working people's struggles of nearly a century ago and which promised a shiny new contract with Lambeth citizens today, the Cooperative Council moniker must have seemed for a while like an ad man's dream slogan.
Its chief author, however, quickly flew south like some jet-propelled migrating bird and the new Council Leader has since had plenty of time to ditch the disjointed jingle that is so out of tune with reality. But not a bit of it. Like some lumbering liner holding its course steady in the face of impending calamity, the Cooperative Council sails on imperiously.
The Cooperative Council, surely, should be one that fundamentally listens rather than dictates, one that works in partnership and harmony with the community, and one that enthusiastically embraces what the people it serves really want?
Is there even the remotest sign of this?
Take the occupants of what Lambeth euphemistically calls Short-Life Property. These are occupied by tenants who have lived and improved properties that Lambeth bought under compulsory purchase orders or had transferred to them by long defunct public bodies like the LCC or GLC but allowed to fall into dereliction or were already derelict and due for redevelopment for new public housing estates.
This really is ancient history for some as we are of course talking now about anything up to forty years ago but with a sudden and inexplicable zeal the Cooperative Council is rushing around to the most expensive lawyers in the land to hand out the eviction notices before the next election.
The official Labour line is that the time has come to release this valuable public property it has so manifestly neglected over four decades because the housing waiting list queue has actually got longer in Lambeth in nearly half a century. Not a great record you might think. But there's worse.
Even setting aside the legal fees and court time of their half-baked actions that have even invoked the fury of Labour MP Kate Hoey, the Labour Council's plan is that the reclaimed properties will not reduce the housing waiting list one jot but will only be sold on the private market at auction or redeveloped.
Meanwhile another former Lambeth Labour Leader, with his current cabinet hat on, is talking to the media about health inequality and the difference in life expectancy between rich and poor Lambeth citizens. At the same time, the same cabinet member is parading around the borough threatening to evict elderly folk from their sheltered housing homes. We'd say that such brutal and uncooperative treatment is almost guaranteed to shorten their lives.
The Cooperative Council is purely a figment of some fevered imagination and designed to hoodwink the public. Labour-run Lambeth is the very epitome of a centralist, top-down, non-consulting, non-listening, non-caring organisation that could possibly be devised in the modern world. Its political control-freakery has to be witnessed to be believed.
There is no sign of cooperation or sharing of ideas in the Council Chamber, nor respect for another's point of view let alone any meaningful collaboration. Labour plays all of its cards so close to its chest that they are almost tattoos and its ruling junta truly believes that it alone knows best.
The armies of spin doctors employed in the Town Hall are adept at weaving a convincing tapestry of fine words. Labour cabinet members can Talk the Talk but can they Walk the Walk?
Maybe they should look more often at Lambeth's noble Latin inscription and ponder its simple and down-to-earth translation and wonder when their own actions will finally be judged?

AND don’t wait for the local elections next year to make your opposition to this felt, DEMAND the ‘eviction’ of Lambeth’s Labour councillors by sending them the below email and continue to lobby them in any way that you can.

Email title: Eviction Notice

Dear [Insert name of Labour councillor here]

[list of councillors belonging to each party is here: ]

[Meanwhile, emails for the Labour group are here:]

As you have failed to keep your promise to protect the long-standing housing co-op communities in your borough, you are hereby given notice of eviction from your duties.

Please resign your seat with immediate effect.


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Council leader: Lib Peck

Council chief executive: Derrick Anderson

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