ESTATE DEMOLITIONS: MAYOR KHAN WRIGGLES ON SIAN BERRY’S HOOK

Sian Berry visiting Central Hill Estate

Sian Berry (second left) visiting Central Hill estate, Crystal Palace – one of the six estates Lambeth Labour are hellbent on demolishing.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been left wriggling on the hook by Greater London Assembly member Sian Berry during questions on estate demolitions at City Hall.  

Sian Berry asked: What is your response to residents on estates who are concerned they will be denied a say on the demolition of their homes because you signed off funding for projects affecting them before your new ballots policy was announced?

As News From Crystal Palace reported on March 26th: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan secretly agreed GLA finance for the demolition of five estates across Lambeth – and a further 29 across London.

The appalling revelations – finally made public in response to repeated questions from GLA Green party member Sian Berry – show that Lambeth council did secret deals before Christmas which will deny people living on five estates – Cressingham Gardens, Fenwick, Knights Walk, South Lambeth and Westbury – from getting a democratic right to vote on the future of their homes.       

A full question and answer posted on the Mayor’s website reveals Khan saying:

Where estate regeneration involves demolition, I believe balance should be used to ensure residents’ support.

Clearly, it was not possible to withhold funding before the draft policy was published.  Decisions to fund some of these schemes were made many months ahead of formal contracts being signed.

I simply do not have powers to insist on ballots on all estate regeneration schemes.

And when Sian Berry asked him: When did you decide to change the policy after you received the consultation responses?  For these estates, why did you not announce in February which estates were already signed off?

The Mayor replied:

Just to make sure I understand the point, the suggestion is that I should retrospectively stop those schemes which had been negotiated and agreed and not receive them because of the practice guidance published in February.  You are not allowed to do that.

Sian Berry AM:  My question was, when did you decide you were going to change the policy?  There was the run-up to it being published, but you must have decided to do it much earlier, similar to what you said about the funding.  There was a process of you making that decision.

(There then follows a long-winded response printed in full below)

Sian Berry AM:  If we can stick to these schemes in the meantime, though, because during that period you were negotiating with the councils and the housing associations.  The residents will not get their ballots……

Sadiq Khan: Some of the schemes were schemes that were negotiated and agreed before we began the consultation, and some of the schemes were agreed after the consultation began……. I need to answer your previous question, which is your suggestion that somehow we tried to delay publishing the final guidance to rush through these schemes is just not correct.

Sian Berry AM:  In order to clear that up, can you publish the decision-making documents for the 16 schemes from December, including the evidence you asked for that would demonstrate residents’ support in the absence of a ballot?  I understand you are not going to give them a ballot.  Can you publish the evidence that the residents were in support of those schemes?  That is your manifesto commitment.  Your manifesto commitment was not for ballots.  It was for residents’ support to be established.

Sadiq Khan (avoiding the question): What I have done is published for the first time ever a Good Practice Guide from City Hall.  What I have done is for the first time ever made it a requirement of funding for there to be a compulsory ballot if there is an estate regeneration….. What I have also said is I will use my planning powers to make sure, if there is a loss of social homes, they have to be replaced like for like with the expectation of there being more, not less.

Sian Berry has a second question lined up on estates demolition:

For each scheme signed off between 25 March 2013 and 31 January 2018 listed in your response to MGLA060218-2820 could you a) provide the tenure split of affordable homes being funded, and b) how much grant funding is going to each?

A note on the Mayor’s website says: Officers are drafting a response which will be sent shortly.

MGLA060218-2820 is a Freedom of Information request on estate regeneration schemes in London. The FOI request reads:

Transitional arrangements for the Mayor’s final Best Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration propose that the requirement for ballots will not be retrospective, so it will not apply to schemes where the GLA already has a contract to allocate grant to a registered provider (RP). But it doesn’t list which schemes already have such contracts. Could you provide a list – with the names of schemes, RP, and borough?

Ballots also won’t apply to schemes that already have full or outline planning permission. (Unless schemes are substantially varied in future). Can you provide a list of those, for any that don’t also appear on the list for already GLA grant-funded?

Ballots will also not apply to ‘regeneration’ schemes that have already had yes votes. Does the GLA have a list of current or planned schemes that have had positive ballots? 

The reply states:
You asked for a list of estate regeneration schemes in London for which the GLA already has a contract to allocate grant to a registered provider (including the name of the scheme, the registered provider and borough). You also asked for a list of estate regeneration schemes in London with full or outline planning permission but which do not appear on the previous list.
Please find attached* the information we have identified as being within the scope of your request. However, please note that this is based on the information that the GLA has on record at a particular point in time, based on the information that partners have shared with us. This is a list of live funding contracts in relation to known estate regeneration schemes. In addition to this list there may also be historically funded schemes with later phases yet to deliver and other schemes that we are not aware of as estate regeneration. This information is likely to be partial and subject to change, and should not be seen as a definitive list of all schemes that meet the criteria listed in your request. You also requested a list of estate regeneration schemes for which a ballot has already been held in which there was a ‘yes’ vote. The GLA does not hold this information. Your other queries relate to the proposal for a funding condition to require resident ballots in estate regeneration schemes that require GLA funding. This proposal is the subject of a live consultation, to which can submit your comments and feedback for consideration. You can
access the consultation on our website at: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housingand-land/improving-quality/good-practice-guide-estate-regeneration. *not included in this article for reasons of space. (Please search  MGLA060218-2820 Response on Google etc. – ed.)

Further reading: ESTATE BALLOTS SCANDAL: KHAN DID SECRET DEALS WITH LAMBETH LABOUR  TO FUND DEMOLITION OF FIVE ESTATES – REVELATIONS ONLY MADE PUBLIC AFTER EMPTY ‘VOTES’ PLEDGE March 26th

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION IN FULL: 

Signing off funding for estate demolition

Sian Berry (17-May-2018)

What is your response to residents on estates who are concerned they will be denied a say on the demolition of their homes because you signed off funding for projects affecting them before your new ballots policy was announced?

The Mayor (17-May-2018)

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chairman.  I firmly believe residents should be at the heart of plans for estate regeneration.  That principle runs throughout Better Homes for Local People, my Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration published in February [2018], the first time any Mayor of London has produced such a guide with clear conditions and expectations.

I expect all landlords planning estate regeneration schemes in London to approach them in line with the principles I have set out.  Where estate regeneration involves demolition, I believe balance should be used to ensure residents’ support.  I simply do not have powers to insist on ballots on all estate regeneration schemes.  However, I have now published in draft and consulted on a ground-breaking way to make a positive ballot a condition for my funding going into significant schemes involving any demolition.  The Good Practice Guide has now been published, and the final version of the funding condition will be published and applied once City Hall has analysed the many responses received through the consultation on the draft condition.  During this period,

I wanted to prevent any funding for new schemes being agreed before the final version of the new condition is in effect.  That is why no GLA contracts for new schemes have been or will be signed from the day the proposed funding condition was published, more than three and a half months ago, to until after the final version of the new conditions has been adopted.  Clearly, it was not possible to withhold funding before the draft policy was published.  Decisions to fund some of these schemes were made many months ahead of formal contracts being signed.  In the case of some schemes, the principle of GLA providing funding was established years ago.  Even for estate regeneration schemes that may not be subject to the new funding condition, whether because their funding has been agreed in the past or because they are not seeking funding for any programme, I nonetheless urge landlords to consider undertaking a ballot.

Sian Berry AM:  OK.  Thank you very much.  I understand there is a process of decision making that needs to be worked through, but a lot of people feel like you are trying to wriggle out of letting them have a ballot on a bit of a technicality in regards to the timeline, if I can just run through that as quickly as I can.

The consultation on your draft guidance ended on 14 March 2017.  You were considering the responses.  At Mayor’s Question Time (MQT) in August [2017] I chased you for it and you said the final guidance would be published soon.  I chased for it again in January [2018] at MQT, and then you published the new guidance on 2 February [2018].  A lot of schemes were signed off very late during that period between you publishing the draft and publishing the final guidance.  Sixteen schemes had their funding signed off on or after 1 December 2017, and it is those people that I think really feel aggrieved.  Obviously, there was a big gap between you getting the responses to the consultation and publishing the new policy.

I have two questions for the people on those estates where you signed off this funding very late in the process.  When did you decide to change the policy after you received the consultation responses?  For these estates, why did you not announce in February which estates were already signed off?  Those people heard the new policy and they were full of hope that they would get a ballot, and it was very late in March that they found out that their funding had been signed off.  Why did you not put that information out there at the time?

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Just to make sure I understand the point, the suggestion is that I should retrospectively stop those schemes which had been negotiated and agreed and not receive them because of the practice guidance published in February.  You are not allowed to do that.

Sian Berry AM:  My question was, when did you decide you were going to change the policy?  There was the run-up to it being published, but you must have decided to do it much earlier, similar to what you said about the funding.  There was a process of you making that decision.

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There was a consultation process.  There was then a General Election called that nobody foresaw.  There was then a long pre-election process.  There was then the Grenfell Tower [Fire], which led to us re-examining some of the responses, and then we published the final report in February [2018].  The process was ongoing.  Some Assembly Members would be very quick to criticise me, the Mayor, if, consulted on plans to improve consultation, I did not do proper consultation.  It is really important, bearing in mind we are consulting on how you consult residents when it comes to estate regeneration, that you consult properly.  I will not apologise for consulting properly.  We now have a situation where, on any estate regeneration where the developer is removing even one social home and wants funding from City Hall, they will be required for the first time to undertake a ballot compulsorily.  Separately, I am using planning powers – because I cannot use this condition for planning powers – to say if you remove even one social home, you have to replace it, and the expectation is there have been more social homes replaced as a consequence of estate regeneration, not less.  That is an improvement.

Sian Berry AM:  If we can stick to these schemes in the meantime, though, because during that period you were negotiating with the councils and the housing associations.  The residents will not get their ballots.

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No, but that is inaccurate.  You cannot mislead people, no.  Some of these schemes were schemes that had been agreed when the previous Mayor was in position but were signed later on.  Some of the schemes were schemes that were negotiated and agreed before we began the consultation, and some of the schemes were agreed after the consultation began.  You are suggesting —

Sian Berry AM:  What I am asking you to do – I am very short of time – is will you publish —

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  You are suggesting —

Sian Berry AM:  I need to ask you this question before I run out of time.

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I need to answer your previous question, which is your suggestion that somehow we tried to delay publishing the final guidance to rush through these schemes is just not correct.

Sian Berry AM:  In order to clear that up, can you publish the decision-making documents for the 16 schemes from December, including the evidence you asked for that would demonstrate residents’ support in the absence of a ballot?  I understand you are not going to give them a ballot.  Can you publish the evidence that the residents were in support of those schemes?  That is your manifesto commitment.  Your manifesto commitment was not for ballots.  It was for residents’ support to be established.

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  What I have done is published for the first time ever a Good Practice Guide from City Hall.  What I have done is for the first time ever made it a requirement of funding for there to be a compulsory ballot if there is an estate regeneration.  What I have required, if there is the demolition of one home —

Sian Berry AM:  Will you give these residents the transparency they need to see —

Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  No, no, no.

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  What I have also said is I will use my planning powers to make sure, if there is a loss of social homes, they have to be replaced like for like with the expectation of there being more, not less.

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