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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

The always excellent Aditya Chakrabortty has written a disturbing piece for tomorrow's Guardian about Haringey's plans to "gentrify" areas of the borough and privatise school buildings etc. I don't remember Labour mentioning any of this last time there were local elections. It's a deeply worrying read...


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Haringey Council has been on the path of social cleansing for some years. They call it "regeneration", but it is not for the good of the current people in Haringey. It is designed to price a lot of poorer people out of the borough. It wants to bring in people who earn more money, can afford higher priced housing, and pay more council tax. Haringey wants to push out small local shops and services, to replace them with more valuable ones that can pay more in business rates. It is no surprise they are starting with Northumberland Park. Driving out poorer people reduces the cost of council services for them; gentrifying what are currently council houses (what we are now supposed to call "social housing") and replacing them with houses for market rents, or, at best, "affordable housing" (not affordable to anyone in Northumberland Park. It is a terrible betrayal of what the Labour Party is supposed to be, and, worse than that, it is a betrayal of the people Labour should be standing up for. It is a betrayal of many of the people of Haringey.

The risk of slowly winding down the shutters on an ever-shrinking Council that can’t properly serve its community. 

I am afraid this has already been  happening.  

Teams and services have been decimated to the detriment of the community.

That's the clever thing about the Government's austerity policies over the last 6 or so years - national government takes the money away, but others get the blame - local councils, immigrants, the EU etc

[NB I'm not suggesting that Haringey is a particularly good council, but large cuts are happening across the country]

Agree 100%

I agree with this. Someone put it as 'obfuscating incrementalism'. The whole economic framework has been changed and most councils have a gun to their head. In the local area people aren't connecting the massive hike in business tax planned for April and the eviction of a large swathe of tenants from the poorer parts of the borough and Surreys recent proposal to hike council tax by 15% or deny service. If you then add in what is happening in other London boroughs, in schools and hospitals and across the country we see the same picture. THe cuts have come from the top. The pain felt on the recieving end will be meted out against the service deliverers. Any messaging to counter this is incredibly complex whereas the messaging to cut has been very simple.
On the whole it seems as if the council could argue for better settlements for their tenants and AT LEAST offer a right to tenancy in the new developments - regardless of the national settlement for councils.

Hugh, I can completely understand why you might see the the "article" from Claire Kober as a "reply"  to Aditya Chakraborrty's sharp critique. But before that view is indexed by Google and becomes accepted as accurate, please let me set out and explain the sequence of events.

In my view this is important because what we now have is not Claire Kober's reasoned reply to criticism by a Guardian journalist, but something rather different and more worrying. It also sheds light on how decisions are driven through this right-wing council and how contrary viewpoints and evidence are ignored and/or dismissed.  Including by the "Communications" team funded by us - the residents.
Some members of HoL will know that many people in the two local Labour Parties (Tottenham; & Hornsey Wood Green) do not share Claire Kober's boundless enthusiasm for supping with developers with very short spoons. There are many dissenting views. They range from the cautious and sceptical. ("Hmm, that sounds dubious. Please convince me.") To outright opposition. ("It's simply privatisation and 'social cleansing'.")

Over last autumn a councillor panel set up through the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee worked steadily to try to answer some practical factual questions about the proposed Development "Vehicle". ('Partnership' is one of the cosy words Cllr Kober uses.) The panel went on visits, made phone and email inquiries, and read public reports where other councils have set up such joint development vehicles with private companies.
I'm told that one Council - Bournemouth was positive about their successful scheme to develop several carparks. But on the whole the pattern emerging was broadly negative. Some partnerships cost a lot to set up, and even more when Councils had to extricate themselves from serious problems. In some cases hundreds of thousands; and with a few councils, several millions. It appears that no other local council had set up a vehicle on the scale Haringey proposed. Nor with thousands of Council-owned homes handed over.
The draft Scrutiny Panel report was checked for accuracy, then published on the Council website a week before going to the full Overview and Scrutiny Committee. That committee - on Tuesday 17 January- endorsed the Panel's report.

The following afternoon 18 January, all Haringey Labour Party members - including me - were sent an email from Claire Kober with (I think) the same text as now posted on the Council's website on Thursday 19 January 2017.
So as you'll see, her "article" was not a reply to Aditya Chakrabortty. As far as I know, his article was "under wraps" until yesterday evening 19 January when it appeared online under the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' section.
For the record I was one of many people interviewed by Mr Chakraborrty. He strongly challenged me on the basis for my own views and what alternative I proposed to the "Development Vehicle". I had no idea what sort of article he proposed to write.

Claire Kober's so-called article could and should have been an engagement with the Scrutiny Panel's report which had been publicly available for over a week on the Council website. But she did not - and now does not - mention the Scrutiny Report, nor its evidence, nor its conclusions and recommendations. The Scrutiny report is perhaps obliquely referred to with dismissive references to people being:
"nervous about the idea of the vehicle – or outright hostile to it"  [...] "Phrases like ‘social cleansing’ and ‘privatising our homes’ get used a lot".  Condescendingly she says that: "people are right to be emotive about housing – it is people’s homes and people’s lives."
Well actually I and others are not just "nervous" and "emotive", but deeply concerned by the evidence from other councils' experience that this scheme could be a huge, mistaken and damaging disaster.

A final point, I also wrote to Claire Kober to challenge her use of the private Labour Party database of members emails to send what she described as "information." Because what she wrote is not information but a wholly one-sided view of a complex social and political question. Something very much in contention.
Cllr Kober has also used her power over the Council's communication channels to propagandise her own views as though this Development Vehicle had been agreed and endorsed by the Council. It has not.
I often use the playful title of "Dear Leader" to suggest Claire Kober's tendencies to accumulate power and inflate her status. But now I am deadly serious. In my view, we have a dangerously autocratic and closed-minded Council Leader who in this instance - or so I believe - has abused the channels of communication of both her own Party and the Council.

What should Cllr Claire Kober have done instead? In my view she should have used her power responsibly and positively. She could and should have ensured genuine opportunities and adequate time for a fair, balanced range of viewpoints - for and against the Development Vehicle - to be presented and discussed. Which means not just involvement of councillors, But by any interested Haringey residents. And above all including those residents and businesses directly affected by this proposed scheme.
That involvement could and should take place before the "vehicle" motor is switched on, and it sets off. Not waiting until the wrecking balls are on their way to destroy thousands of Haringey homes and businesses.
Instead of such an open, informed debate and consultation, Cllr Kober appears to be using every lever of communication available to her in insisting that her own favoured option is the only one available. Insisting, as Mrs Thatcher famously said: "There is no alternative".

Well said. I was curious how a mass email I recieved became a response to Chakraborrty!

Thanks for the link, that also lead me to this https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/davehillblog/2017/jan/08/transf...

Interesting to hear   - Keith Flett's - secretary of Haringey TUC  (long term Tottenham resident) brutally honest views of the area.  You just have to get past the Claire Kober puff piece

Clare Kober replies to Aditya's article in the Guardian, unfortunately there is no 'comment' section below to respond to her letter.

More clichés and upbeat stuff from Cllr Claire Kober.  With a slogan we've heard before: that she is "... not in the business of managing decline". Which is unfortunately exactly what she is having to do as Government cuts bite more deeply and public services worsen.

To me, her words ring false when she claims that she is "absolutely committed to communicating and collaborating with local residents and businesses throughout".  I say this because her idea of consultation bears little or no relationship to any model of genuine engagement that I understand.

As for her claim that she is being "brave" and "courageous", it's easy to be brave when you're risking other people's homes, futures and businesses. As I remember from the TV series "Yes Minister", when Sir Humphrey comments that cabinet minister Jim Hacker is suggesting something "brave", he is - oh so delicately – telling the minister he’s being unwise or even 'reckless'.

I’d also point out that Claire Kober still shows no sign whatever of acknowledging the Scrutiny Panel Report. Let alone engagement with the substantive issues it raises. Here I'm thinking of the solid and substantial factual evidence gathered from other councils who actually tried one of these "vehicles". And whose experience suggests high risks, and a strong  possibility that things will go wrong and cause substantial losses .
Perhaps Claire Kober's omission is because she knows that this evidence is persuasive and deeply worrying. So she simply ignores it.

I am prepared to believe that Cllr Kober and her allies genuinely think they are doing the right thing.  In my view they are probably mistaken. But in any case, I think the potential risks involved are so high that it is wise to delay and undertake considerably more investigation and scrutiny. Looking again very searchingly and hard, before they leap.
Councillors on the Scrutiny Panel and on the Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee agreed with this view at their meeting a few days ago on 17 January.

But Cllr Kober is not prepared to agree with or even consider such caution and circumspection. Instead she launches an attack on the motivations of those of us raising these concerns. For her we are:
"those who seem to have no qualms about stirring up fear in vulnerable communities to achieve their political ends". 

In other words an ad hominem argument with the implication that we are acting dishonestly and without genuine regard for local people. The innuendo that we must have some ulterior "political ends" which are nothing to do with the outcomes of her policies for "vulnerable communities".

I find that a monstrous and sickening smear against me and others.



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