OPINION HOMES FOR LAMBETH ONE: PIE IN THE SKY (as in ‘an unrealistically Utopian plan or project’)

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The report to next Monday’s Lambeth council cabinet meeting on Homes for Lambeth has more holes in it than the proverbial colander. Both the report, and the ‘business plan’ accompanying it, make various assumptions and leave a whole range of unanswered questions.

THE REPORT TO CABINET:

Finance

3.1 In agreeing this to the recommendations set out in this report there are no direct financial costs to the council, however HfL’s Business Plan 2019-20 does contain an expectation that the council will do three main things.

“Although the group of companies are wholly owned by the council, they are a separate legal entity and thus the projected costs and incomes outlined within the Business Plan will fall to the company and not to the council.”

Reading both the report and business plan which accompanies it calls this statement very much into question.

The report says there is no direct cost to the Council beyond the costs of the commissioning and clienting functions with the Council. But then states:

“They will require support from the council in terms of making land available and providing initial funding.”

Implications of these commitments are included within the detailed finance comments within this report.

2.3 The reason for adopting a Business Plan is to create an operating framework for the respective Boards and a means by which the shareholder, the council, can oversee and monitor the progress and performance of the company.

But how will this be done? The list includes:

A

Identify and develop sites within the strategic pipeline to ensure continued delivery. (Does this mean more estates being lined up to be demolished? The report does not say one way or another.)

B

Implement new Homes for Lambeth landlord service & target satisfaction > [80 per cent]

Only 80 per cent? What satisfaction percentage would Lambeth expect from tenants and leaseholders of OTHER private landlords?

Have 100 AST (Assured Shorthold Tenancies) homes by Mar 2020 From where? From properties acquired from former leaseholders. But what if they’re not selling?

Support the delivery of Lambeth’s Key Guarantees (but doesn’t say implement – which is what HfL should be doing)

Research market rent tenure options by Jun 2019 (Homework not done yet – and should have been done before Lambeth started on this disastrous scheme)

C

Optimise grant funding & recycle local grants for local people (What does this mean? The report doesn’t say.)

D: Build the HFL infrastructure & a high performing team (Rumour suggests one of this team may be a former senior Lambeth council officer…)

HfL expect expenditure of up to £9.1 million for the period to March 2020 to support the council’s feasibility work for future regeneration schemes; this budget includes HfL staffing resources and externally commissioned professional services.

Where’s the money coming from? Lambeth council.

STAFFING: The completion of effective recruitment, engagement and development of staffing (and resource) with the relevant experience and skills to deliver a complex set of urban regeneration programmes; estimated to be around 26 staff by March 2020; Waffle.

And then there’s this:

3 FINANCE

3.1 In agreeing this to the recommendations set out in this report there are no direct financial costs to the council, however HfL’s Business Plan 2019-20 does contain an expectation that the council will do three main things…..

3.2 Firstly, it will agree to transfer land for HfL to develop, secondly that it will make loans to HfL, and thirdly that it will further commission HfL to undertake pre-development work on specified sites.

But at 3.4: As HfL have limited assets it is likely that they will find it difficult to obtain loan finance at a reasonable rate in the initial years of its operation. Therefore, it has been previously agreed that the council will provide loans to HfL: the Director of Finance and Property has delegated authority to agree loans and thus no additional decision reports will be required. (So none of this goes back to full council. Or even the cabinet. See also paragraph 3.4 of the business plan – Ed.)

SO JUST THROW AS MUCH MONEY AT HOMES FOR LAMBETH AS THEY WANT.

WHAT A WAY TO RUN A SO-CALLED BUSINESS.

4.11 The reasons why the report (what report???!!!)  was not included in the forward plan and that the decision cannot be delayed will be included in the necessary public notice to be published on the council’s website (and sent to the Chair and Vice-Chair of Overview & Scrutiny Committee and relevant officers) alongside this report.

Who writes this stuff?

The report and notice will be published on the website for five clear days before the decision is approved by the Cabinet in consultation with the Leader of the Council. A further period of five clear days – the call-in period – will then elapse before the decision is enacted. If the decision is called-in during this period, it cannot be enacted until the call-in has been considered and resolved.

And enacted because Labour councillors do what they’re told. Or face the consequences.

5 CONSULTATION AND CO-PRODUCTION

5.1 Consultation and coproduction with residents and the wider community is central to the development of individual regeneration schemes and officers from HfL team continue to work closely with residents and communities to support them through the process, ensure they have a say in the look and feel of their new homes, and help them to understand what Homes for Lambeth is, and what it means for them.

Again, who writes this stuff? What it means for them: Seeing their homes demolished, having to buy new curtains and carpets…. 

As the rebuilding of estates work nears completion residents will be consulted on the final choice for their estates.

I’M SORRY I’LL READ THAT AGAIN:  As the rebuilding of estates work nears completion residents will be consulted on the final choice for their estates.

What if their final choice was that they did not want their homes demolished in the first place? Some people might consider this attitude a form of bullying.

5.4 Local Ward Councillors will also be consulted at the point that a development site within their ward is identified for development via HfL.

NO THEY WON’T. They will be TOLD that a development site within their ward is identified for development via HfL and that it will be developed via HfL.

Unless the new council leader Cllr Jack Hopkins REALLY wants to change things……..

9.1 The governance proposals HfL has created new, un-remunerated directorship roles for council officers with an appropriate level of support provided to assist officers in these new roles. Four remunerated roles for non-executive Directors has (sic) also been be created.

BOLD So: council officers work for a third-party employer for free while four non-executive directors (all Labour councillors?) get to trouser / handbag even more money.

And how much of that money will be going, directly or indirectly, to the Lambeth Labour campaigns group?

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