OPINION – HOMES FOR LAMBETH: CARILLION Mk II?

Homes for Lambeth is a financial disaster waiting to happen.

A council which says it has NO money to repair homes on six council estates they want to demolish, NO money to run libraries NOW decides its going to BORROW LOADSAMONEY to lend to a new company it’s just set up.

It sounds like a sketch for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s not. Its effects could prove catastrophic.

Basically Lambeth say they have no money to spend on repairs to these six estates, all of which appear to be in prime locations.

They blame Government cutbacks. That’s rubbish.

Lambeth over the past few years have put fortunes into banks and building societies – even though they owed them NOTHING.

Lambeth’s debts are all to the Public Works Loan Board – a sort of Government bank. These debts (none of them currently down to the present ‘administration’) are all payable over the next few decades, the final date varying.

So they are now going to borrow EVEN MORE money to demolish these estates than it would cost to repair them, then rebuild them – and slap compulsory purchase orders on neighbouring properties in the process – block of flats near Cressingham Gardens, possibly on properties on Lunham Road, Upper Norwood up to and opposite the vicarage – thus extending the estate in the process.

And for what?

In neighbouring Labour-controlled Croydon they have set up a similar company called Brick by Brick. Croydon aren’t demolishing estates. They are adding to them – additions NOT welcomed by existing residents or by local amenity groups.

Lambeth could have done the same. Problem is they won’t deal with anyone who doesn’t agree with them 100 per cent. So ASH – Architects for Social housing – came up with a variety of decent ideas to add properties on Central Hill estate – and were completely ignored.*

This is a council which has still not answered – or even bothered to acknowledge -any of the 101 questions which News From Crystal Palace put to every cabinet member based on the People’s Audit Lambeth report.

These questions included:

The report says “the team unearthed evidence of extensive financial mismanagement and failings in its financial governance that suggest millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being wasted.”

3: What actions are you taking to investigate these matters?

The report says “it found worrying examples of building and maintenance work being paid for but not carried out.”

5: What actions are you taking to investigate these matters?

The report asks “If, as it appears from our investigations, Lambeth is not in control of its contracts with building and maintenance suppliers, how can residents be confident that their homes are safe?”

6: What is your reaction to this quite frankly damning indictment?

The report says “There were payments which had been made without either an accompanying invoice or the necessary authorisation.”

24: Again – Why?

January 2018: And if you haven’t got the money to repair council homes please explain this: A housing management update report to next Tuesday’s meeting of Lambeth council’s corporate committee says: “The latest budget monitor for November 2017 for Housing Services (Housing Revenue Account – HRA) shows a forecast £3.2 million underspend.

How can you underspend when you haven’t got the money to do repairs?

The same report also states that, “with the contract with General Dynamics IT (GDIT) due to expire at the end of March 2018, a decision was taken at the beginning of this year to incorporate these into the council’s existing Capita contract, which delivers the majority of the contact centre services for the council.

“It is anticipated that the economies of scale will deliver a general fund saving of £250,000 per annum, plus further savings for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA). “Overall, Capita’s proposed price to Lambeth would generate savings of around £500,000 each year, with a total saving over the life of the contract of £2.45 million.”

So – even more money for repairs then. And – there’s more:

While the report to next week’s cabinet meeting trots out the same housing waiting list figures which date back to January 2013, the report to next week’s corporate committee meeting says:

“High prevention performance is holding down temporary accommodation occupation increases and reducing homeless acceptance levels.

“In the second quarter, around 100 households who would otherwise have made a homeless application and required temporary accommodation in the long term, chose to privately rent.”
Lambeth really need to sit down and rethink their entire Homes for Lambeth strategy. The sad fact is: They won’t. They have closed minds.

And it will be the ratepayers of Lambeth who could, at some point down the line, end up footing the bill.

*To read ASH’s ‘Kafkaesque’ version of their experiences with Lambeth council please go to: The Castle: Freedom of Information and Commercial Confidentiality at Lambeth Co-operative Council Posted October 31st 2017 on the ASH website.Further reading: A Google search for ‘councils setting up housing companies’ found:

News analysis: Why are councils setting up private companies to build homes? by Ella Braidwood,  Architects Journal February 9th 2017

Barriers to setting up council-owned housing companies – Comment by Janice Morphet
Inside Housing 14/08/17

How To Set Up A Local Housing Company A practical guide Mark Baigent 2016

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