9 January 2019
Lambeth Green Party have criticised Lambeth Council for withholding important information which relates to the council’s estate regeneration scheme.
The Green Party, currently the main opposition in Lambeth, have called-in a decision by the Cabinet Member for Finance on borrowing £360 million over the next three years. The call-in was made on the grounds that the unredacted financial viability assessments and an up-to-date business plan regarding estate regeneration have not yet been shared with the Green Group for scrutiny.
The decision, which was agreed by Councillor Andy Wilson on 4th December 2018, approves borrowing from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) for “the Financial Redress Scheme, Homes for Lambeth and other planned capital expenditure”. Homes for Lambeth has oversight of the estate regeneration scheme which is set to see the demolition of 6 housing estates in Lambeth.
The Green Group have challenged the borrowing for Homes for Lambeth, claiming that the council needs to be more open and transparent in their plans for estate demolition. The Group first requested the financial viability assessments for each of the 6 estates on 19th November 2018 but, as of 9th January 2019, these have not been received. In the supporting text for the call-in of the decision the Greens state:
“The official opposition should not have to resort to the call-in process to access information that we should already have access to as members...It is clear from the Homes for Lambeth business plan that the dates within it are completely unachievable. For example, recent experience on the Aylesbury estate in Southwark has shown that the Compulsory Purchase Order process alone has taken over 4 years. Yet the business plan assumes commencement of construction by March 2019. The process of taking a loan from the PWLB should therefore be halted until a robust business plan can be put in place.”
Lambeth council refused the call-in on 17th December 2018, stating that a request for more information is not an appropriate use of the process. Councillor Pete Elliott (Gipsy Hill) has responded to this with criticism, saying:
“It is unacceptable that Lambeth Council is not sharing this information with the Green Group, this is information that residents on the estates have been requesting for years. Their lack of transparency around the whole demolition scheme is preventing us from doing our job as the opposition party and makes us question what it is they’re hiding. This borrowing is only going to cover three of the six regeneration estates and there doesn’t appear to be any consideration for how much money will be needed for the other three estates or where this money will come from. The council are borrowing a huge amount of money here without fully considering the risks, laying out clear plans or properly assessing the impact that estate demolition is having on the residents, particularly those with protected characteristics.”