It is a strange world in Greenwich where the Labour Council chose in July to abolish security of tenure in its newly created ‘Housing Delivery Vehicle’ and then last night attacked the Conservative government for abolishing the very same security of tenure.
At Greenwich’s Cabinet meeting on 20th July, which lasted less than six minutes, the Labour Cabinet agreed a plan that will mean rent increases and removing security of tenure.
The Labour Cabinet’s plan means 28 Council owned properties will be transferred to a new Council company (run outside of democratic control) and new residents of these properties will face changed
conditions of residence, including:
- Increasing rent from the level faced by current Council tenants by 50% (although it will remain about 20% below the market level).
- Remove security of tenure for those properties and provide only short-hold tenancies.
- Remove the Right to Buy from these properties, so residents will find it hard to make the transition to home ownership.
To start this new company which will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Council, run by either the Leader of the Council or a Labour Cabinet member, the Council is spending:-
- £0.5m to bring all the properties up to a habitable level.
- £50,000 to cover the start up costs of the company and support it in its first year.
- Around £1m buying five properties from the private sector in the Eltham area.
In addition, a further 23 houses with gardens are being gifted to the company, which based on the costs of the recently purchased five properties can be estimated at £4.6m. In total, local Conservatives have estimated the costs of this project at between £5m and £6m to taxpayers.
This scheme is in complete opposition to the Labour Party’s recent election campaign, where they accused Conservatives of planning to increase Council rents and remove security of tenure, things which they clearly planned to do as part of this scheme.
Having got this through Council in July, the Labour Party’s Cabinet Member for Housing (who missed the July Council meeting where the ‘Housing Delivery Vehicle’ was proposed) moved a motion in October including a statement that:
“Council further believes that any plans to end security of tenure for new social housing tenants will exacerbate the drift towards a stigmatised social housing sector occupied only by the most vulnerable in our communities and will undermine the shared ideal of mixed communities.”
The speeches by Labour Councillors made me think that they could not possibly have been aware what their own policy was. In Greenwich, ironically, it was the Conservatives who expressed support for security of tenure and pointed out that the government was only giving the Council the power to end security of tenure if it wanted. Labour Councillors seemed not to trust themselves with this power over tenure, but given their inconsistency on this issue, they may be right.