London Mayor betrays 34 estates over housing ballots

Mayor quietly signs off funding for 34 estates, dodging new ballot rules

At Mayor’s Question Time this week, the Mayor gave me a firm promise not to sign off any new funding for estate demolition while his new policy to require a ballot of residents was out for consultation. But he was concealing the fact he has recently rushed through funding for dozens of controversial schemes, allowing councils and housing associations to dodge his new policy.

The new policy to require ballots was announced on 2 February, with a consultation on the details (such as the size of schemes, who can vote, whether independent organisations should carry them out etc) open until 3 April.

I asked him at MQT this week not to sign off any schemes meanwhile, and he was clear he would not do this, saying: “I will be signing no new funding contracts until the consultation has ended and we’ve published the final guide.”

This seemed quite good. Along with campaigners from many estates across London, and with the support of the Assembly, I’ve been working to change the Mayor’s policy on giving residents a say since his truly appalling draft ‘Good Practice Guide’ to estate regeneration was published in December 2016. A consultation on that draft closed nearly a year ago in March 2017, and the results were that 95 per cent of responders asked for ballots for residents facing demolition.

However,

I have now found out that, all this time, the Mayor has been quietly signing off funding for some of the most controversial estate schemes in London….despite promising in his manifesto to “require that estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support, based on full and transparent consultation.”

By Sian Berry

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Site Allocations Direction of Travel Consultation (Homes, Work & other spaces) – Have Your Say

Islington council is consulting on the Site Allocations Direction of Travel Document and is seeking feedback until 26 March 2018.

The Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD) is a key document within Islington’s Local Plan. Site allocations provide site specific policy for key sites to help secure specific land uses, meet identified development needs and ensure the infrastructure required to support growth is in place. The DPD is used alongside relevant planning policies to guide decision-making on planning applications relating to allocated sites.

Over 150 sites have been identified, which could accommodate new housing, workspaces, shops, open spaces, or leisure and community facilities. The council is inviting feedback on the proposed site allocations. Any comments received during the consultation period will be used to inform the drafting of the final version of the document.

You can view the Site Allocations Direction of Travel document via the link: www.islington.gov.uk/consultations.

Hard copies of the draft document are available to view at all Islington libraries.

Have your say

You can make comments on the draft document:

·         by email to planningpolicy@islington.gov.uk

·         in writing to Planning Policy Team, Freepost RTXU-ETKU-KECB, Planning Policy, Islington Council, Town Hall, Upper Street, London N1 2UD.

Please send your comments by midnight on Monday 26 March 2018.

Yours Sincerely
Planning Policy Team

London Borough of Islington

Annual Leaseholders Fair – Wednesday 11.10.17

Annual Leaseholders Fair 

Will take place on Wednesday 11 October 2017

3pm – 7.30pm,

At the Resource for London,

356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA.

Islington Leaseholders Association will be attending

Please come and meet Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA) and ILA Directors. 

__________________________________________________

Pity that Islington’s Councillors aren’t as concerned about their leaseholders

Please read this letter…

Basically, in a very few words, it outlines many of the problems, and aspirations, associated with being a council leaseholder in the borough of Camden.

In my opinion its content could/should be common to all council leaseholders, regardless of which borough they live in since it forcefully stresses the plight of a deliberately ignored proportion of the electorate…until, of course, the council present us with their grossly inflated charges for substandard work…

I just wish I had written it…

Dr Potter

Chairman: – Islington Leaseholders Association (ILA)

 

 

Report of the Camden Leaseholder Recharges Scrutiny Panel

Cllr Meric Apak (Chair) writes:

I cannot help but speculate whether, before my time as a Councillor, my predecessors have been in this same position, aspiring to resolve leasehold related issues in council housing.

My personal aim through this scrutiny process has been to shine a torch on our failings as shown by the evidence we have collected, learn from this, and make recommendations to unravel this complex tangled mess which we seem to have allowed to fester.

Alas, for too long now we seem to have turned a blind eye to a culture which treats our leaseholders as second class residents – at least that’s the impression I get from my postbag. We need to accept that leasehold tenure in council housing is here to stay and that our leaseholders make a positive contribution to Camden.

Leaseholders are neither an irritating adjunct to council housing nor an ATM machine, and we need to differentiate the ordinary vast majority, from the minority who used the Right-to-Buy scheme for property speculation purposes.

We need to tap into Leaseholders’ knowledge and expertise to help Camden drive costs down, particularly in supervision and management. Services need, particularly in today’s straightened times, to provide value for money and to be comparable with those procured elsewhere in the marketplace, whilst complying with health and safety requirements. Not driving costs down can only result in unjustified charges to leaseholders which will not be recovered, which in turn can only be met by the Housing Revenue Account – thus pushing rents higher. So when we say leaseholders are “subsidised by tenants”, are we not highlighting our own failure?

We need to come up with ingenious methods to successfully engage with and meaningfully involve leaseholders (together with tenants) during the consultation process and convince them from the outset that this process will deliver a high quality service and value for money.

For this to work, there needs to be ‘buy-in’ from leaseholders that the survey and estimated cost of works to be done is worth the paper it’s written on. We then need to execute the agreed work, on time and to the agreed budget. This is obviously a simplification of what is needed – perhaps even a fanciful aspiration some might say.

Our success will be measured by how much culture change we can bring about throughout the officer ranks of the Council. We have a real opportunity to expand the ‘Right First Time’ philosophy, and to instill ‘buy-in’ for this concept right from the very junior member of staff to the most senior manager, and through to external providers and partners involved in delivering services to our leaseholders and tenants.

I would like to extend my thanks to the panel members for assisting me in this process. I would also like to say a special thanks to our Assistant Director Stuart Dilley, who agrees that there does need to be a culture change within the Council. Special thanks also to our committee clerk Vinothan Sangarapillai who has been instrumental in capturing the evidence through his diligent note taking.

But most of all, I am truly grateful to the many leaseholders for the large number of case studies that they have submitted to the Panel and took the time to describe the many harrowing experiences they have endured under the unsatisfactory historic arrangements – thank you.

Meric Apak

 

Context   http://wp.me/PY9zq-Ly

Annual Leaseholders Fair – Monday 17.1016

Annual Leaseholders Fair 

Will take place on Monday 17 October 2016

3pm – 7.30pm,

At the Resource for London,

356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA.

Islington Leaseholders Association will be attending

Please come and meet Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA) and ILA Directors. 

LEASE advisers will be attending

__________________________________________________

‘Raid on ringfenced housing cash is one of country’s worst,’ say Islington leaseholders

‘Raid on ringfenced housing cash is one of country’s worst,’ say Islington leaseholders

Interview with Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA) from “Islington Tribune” 15 July 2016

Dr_Potter_proxy?

Brian Potter: ‘Breaks the ringfencing’        Published:15 July, 2016  by JOE COOPER

COUNCIL chiefs have been accused of using money ringfenced for housing on back office spending across other departments.

The housing revenue account (HRA) cash is taken from rents and service charges paid by tenants and is supposed to be ringfenced for investment in homes.

But Islington Council, along with many other local authorities across the country, is able to use a loophole to divert this cash to prop up general funds – by spending the money on finance and legal services used across all council departments.

Chairman of Islington Leaseholders’ Associa­tion Brian Potter said it was akin to “laundering money”, adding: “This breaks the ringfencing and is ripping off the HRA.”

Asked whether he thought cuts imposed by central government on local authorities justified the move, Mr Potter said: “Two wrongs don’t make a right. Islington is one of the worst in the country for this.”

Ken Lee, chairman of the housing panel at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said: “As social tenants tend to be the poorest and are a minority in society, is it right that they should be supporting the majority in the community?

“We should be looking at strengthening [the HRA] ringfence and bringing it up to date.”

A council spokesman said: “The HRA represents 31 per cent of the council’s gross spend, and council housing represents 37 per cent of the total households in Islington.

“We have since our change of administration in 2010 brought our arms-length management organisation [Homes for Islington] and our housing repairs service in-house. These changes are reflected in the increased proportion of the CDC [corporate and democratic core services] paid for from the HRA.

“All of this is contained in our annual, democratic, budget-setting process and reporting. As a general point, it may be unhelpful to compare councils’ CDC data, as there are likely to be inconsistencies in how different councils classify CDC costs.”

Housing cash raided as we struggle to get basic repairs done

Islington Tribune Leaseholder’s Letters.  

Housing cash raided as we struggle to get basic repairs done

Published:15 July, 2016

• IF you are an ordinary, working-class council tenant who ever thought Islington’s Labour council was on your side, think again.

Our rents and service charges are supposed to be ringfenced for managing, maintaining and repairing our homes. They are paid into the council’s housing revenue account (HRA), as distinct from the general fund, which all households pay into (including council tenants) through council tax.

The council, though, has just been exposed (in Inside Housing magazine) for using a loophole to raid the HRA to pay for “democratic and corporate core services”.  

While other councils have likewise been caught out, Islington has taken much more from the HRA than others. In 2014-15, 44 per cent of the cost of its “democratic and corporate core services” was taken from its HRA, while the London average (still inexcusable) was 6.9 per cent.  

This has been going on for years, with the percentage hiked up six per cent from 2011-12 to 2014-15.  Presumably, at the very least, the outgoing Islington housing lead member, now Deputy London Mayor, James Murray would have to have been aware that our rents are being used to subsidise other households, including some of the country’s wealthiest middle class. 

All tenants’ and residents’ associations should demand that the HRA raids stop and that any money taken for “democratic and core services” be paid back, especially as many of us struggle to get basic repairs done on our estates and are told that the budgets which council TRAs might bid for (for estate improvements) could be cut.  

PHIL COSGROVE 
Finsbury estate, EC1

LBI Housing Scrutiny Committee – Mon 29 Feb 2016 – 7.30pm

This is an extremely important meeting for all leaseholders.

Dr Potter would like as many leaseholders as possible to attend this meeting, and question the need and validity of the outrageously high charges the council expects us to pay for exceedingly poor quality work to our homes.

The next Housing Scrutiny Committee will take place on

Date: Monday 29 February 2016

Venue: Committee Room 1 at Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2UD

Time: 7.30pm

To view the publicly available agenda information, which has just been published, please click on the link: Agenda details

The following items are included in the agenda:

No.         Item

Formal Matters

A1 Apologies for Absence

A2 Declaration of Substitute Members

A3 Declarations of Interests

A4 Minutes of Previous meeting

A5 Chair’s Report

A6 Order of Business

A7 Public Questions

Scrutiny Items

B1Responsive Repairs: Witness Evidence

B2 RSL Scrutiny

B3 Capital Programming: Final Report

Urgent Non Exempt Matters

Exclusion of Public and Press

B4 Exempt Reports ( if any )

 

Please attend the Scrutiny meeting on the 29th of this month, and ask them to explain their position regarding your roofing guarantee’s…REMEMBER…IF THE GUARANTEE LIES WITH THE CONTRACTORS/SUPPLIERS AND THEY GO BROKE/CLOSE DOWN/GO BANKRUPT…ETC…AND THERE IS NO INSURANCE BACKING…BANG GOES YOUR GUARNTEE’S
AND YOU WILL BE CHARGED AGAIN FOR ANY FUTURE REPAIRS, OR REPLACEMENT, TO YOUR ROOFING…!!!

Building contractor sacked after overcharging housing chiefs £300k

Leaseholders will be interested to know There has been a bit of a sea change in Brighton amongst the councillors and they recently refused the Housing Revenue Account budget for the next 3 years. There has also been another, yet another, scandal regarding overcharging and Mears . More here

Charge to leaseholders has nothing to do with the cost of the service -Tribune letter 01.16

Charge to leaseholders has nothing to do with the cost of the service we get

8 January, 2016

• ISLINGTON Council residential leaseholders are generally unaware that their service charge has not been calculated or apportioned according to the terms of their leases.

Council leases state that the service charge shall be apportioned by area, but the council has never properly measured the area of all its flats, so instead it decided to use what it calls bedroom weighting.

The High Court has decided that bedroom weighting is wrong, and that area should be used. The council is now claiming this High Court decision does not apply in most cases. I disagree.

The reality is that the service charge is just a pre-decided figure that the council wishes to recover from leaseholders, and has nothing to do with what the service provided actually costs.

For more information