HOMES FOR LAMBETH SUPREMO BENNETT GETS A BATTERING (much of it from other Labour councillors)

Homes for Lambeth supremo Cllr Matthew Bennett took an absolute battering – much of it from other Labour councillors – at Thursday night’s meeting of Lambeth council’s overview and scrutiny committee.

The committee voted for a whole series of recommendations aimed at scrutinising what is going on within the highly controversial Homes for Lambeth scheme which involves demolishing six council estates in prime locations across the borough.

The recommendations call on Homes for Lambeth (HfL) to:

minimise the impact of regeneration on people and positively support people with mental health problems particularly people who Lambeth council are ‘corporate parents’ of; and

maximise the amount of social housing provided through HfL

The committee also recommended:

Ensuring proper project management is carried out to keep all HfL projects under review

Widening the representation on HfL’s overview and stewardship panel

Consider setting up a steering group that meets regularly with HfL’s project team

Ensuring Environmental Impact statements include contracts that can be closely monitored; and

Maximising the work opportunities for young people in Lambeth particularly those who are care leavers

The committee also recommended that, to ensure greater monitoring of Homes for Lambeth, both the overview and scrutiny committee AND the council’s corporate committee, should receive regular reports.

Cllr Liz Atkins, (Lab Streatham Hill) chairing the meeting, asked: “Can we widen the representation on the ownership and stewardship panel? “It strikes me as just having one resident on the panel completely outnumbered by cabinet members can be daunting but doesn’t allow that voice to be heard”

Cllr Matthew Bennett, whose official title is cabinet member for planning, investment and new homes, said: “There’s far more O and S (ownership and stewardship) built into this than other functions of the council. “There’s also a board made up of individual external members who are accountable to provide good governance.

“They are not there to be council stooges and are accountable to that in law. “The O and S panel is a cabinet advisory panel. “They are advising cabinet on decision making. “It’s quite a different concern from this committee or the corporate committee.”

But Cllr Mary Atkins (Lab Tulse Hill), vice chair of the committee, said: “There’s a concern that the cabinet can’t scrutinise itself and you’re ultimately responsible for delivering this.

“And there won’t be any outside scrutiny if you’re scrutinising yourself. “How do we have independent scrutiny. “I’ve not heard there’s going to be any independent scrutiny.”

Cllr Bennett. “I disagree on that – there’s a lot there.”

Cllr  Mary Atkins: “We don’t have any evidence that the monitoring is going to be put in place and it isn’t independent enough.”

Cllr Liz Atkins, winding the debate up, said a number of important issues had been raised. There was a need for greater clarity and independent scrutiny, the need to monitor performance, the need for a proper management approach and a need to make sure there was a better representation on the ownership and stewardship committee, she said.

The recommendations go to the council’s cabinet which was next set to meet on June 24th. That meeting has been cancelled.

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