Lambeth Council accused of playing “fast and loose” with finances

8 March 2019

Green councillors and local residents have accused Lambeth council’s Labour Cabinet of ‘reckless abandon’ in approving the latest business plan for Homes for Lambeth.

 

The fiery exchange took place at a meeting of Lambeth Council’s Cabinet on Monday at which the plan to implement the council’s ill-thought-out estate demolition plans was passed.

 

Homes for Lambeth is a wholly Council-owned company, underwritten by the council, and set up by Lambeth to deliver it’s controversial estate regeneration scheme. [2]

 

The Business Plan highlights that Homes for Lambeth will incur a loss in the next two years of £22.6m which will be paid for by a loan from Lambeth Council.  The Plan also suggests that bleak financial forecasts could require major changes to the scheme. This might mean that the GLA could require a ballot of residents on the estates facing demolition, raising the prospect that the scheme could be stopped altogether leaving the council with significant debts.  

 

The Cabinet Paper and Business Plan also contained no Equality Impact Assessment, in apparent breach of the Council’s own constitution.

 

The Homes for Lambeth Business Plan 2019-2020 was nevertheless approved by Cabinet at the meeting on 4th March 2019 but this decision is set to be challenged by the Green Party, the official opposition in Lambeth, who have confirmed they will be attempting to call-in the decision for further scrutiny.

 

Councillor Jonathan Bartley (St Leonard’s) said: “Lambeth Council’s Labour-led Cabinet are playing fast and loose with the council’s finances. By approving the Homes for Lambeth Business Plan, Lambeth Labour are showing a reckless abandon and blatant disregard for the risks involved, leaving the Council exposed to a number of high level problems which have simply not been addressed.

 

“The success of the business plan is reliant on two key things, the sale of private housing and grant funding from the Mayor of London, both of which clearly now have major problems attached to them. There appears to be no consideration from the Council as to how they will mitigate these huge risks. Cabinet Members must fully consider and respond to the concerns I raised at Monday night’s meeting, otherwise they are leaving the council’s financial security in unacceptable jeopardy.”

 

Councillor Pete Elliott (Gipsy Hill) also spoke at the Cabinet meeting and noted his concern over the impact of estate regeneration on those with protected characteristics. He said:

 

“The lack of external engagement and transparency that we have seen so far with regard to the equalities impact assessment of the business plan is extremely worrying. As someone who lives on one of the estates set to be demolished under Homes for Lambeth, I see first-hand the impact that these plans have on residents, especially those with protected characteristics. What’s particularly concerning is the impact that the threat of demolition has on the mental health of residents. I was therefore shocked to read that no specific equalities impact assessment was carried out to inform the adoption of the Homes for Lambeth Business Plan. I’m urging the Council to carry out a full and thorough equalities impact assessment before they proceed any further with this plan.”

 

Notes

 

[1] https://lambeth.greenparty.org.uk/news/2019/03/04/green-councillor-calls-on-lambeth-to-halt-%E2%80%98reckless%E2%80%99-estate-regeneration-plans/

 

[2] http://estateregeneration.lambeth.gov.uk/hfl

 

[3] https://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/documents/s102155/Cabinet%20Report%20-%20Homes%20for%20Lambeth%20Business%20Plan.pdf








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