Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Streatham Guardian splashes on co-op housing

This weeks local Guardian has splashed on the issue we raised a couple of weeks ago around housing, and how Lambeth is turning its back on co-operative housing.

The scheme, that originally included a stock of 1,200 homes, now has just 170 houses left.

It quotes us as (the only party apparently) opposed to what Lambeth council is doing. Two articles are now online here and here. Some quotes:

"The self-styled “co-operative borough” has been booting out hundreds of people living in housing co-operatives so it can make millions by selling the run-down houses they have looked after for decades.

"Hundreds of people living in “short-life” housing co-operatives are being handed repossession orders by Lambeth Council and told they must move out, or face criminal prosecution.

"Their houses, which they have spent thousands repairing and sometimes maintained for more than 40 years, are now being sold at auction for bargain-basement prices."

"One property, a 10-bedroom house in the Chase, Clapham, recently netted £1.6m for the council in July 2011, but a smaller six-bedroom house on the same road is being marketed at £2.6m.

"Meanwhile, a three-bed maisonette in Rosendale Road, West Norwood, was sold for £260,000 two years ago, and the flat above, which is the same size, is also in the process of being sold for a similar price.

"Despite this, a neighbouring six-bedroom house was sold for £925,000 in November last year.

"Scores of properties are being sold for more than £575,000 each, according to campaigners, often short of their full market value."

"Those being threatened with repossession, many of whom are families with young children, were recruited by the council in the 1980s to look after homes that it could not afford to repair.

"They were given charge of managing run-down properties, spending thousands on maintenance, while paying rent to a central co-op body.

"Campaigners estimated co-operatives have spent more than £50,000 in maintenance and management on each property over a 30-year period, and co-op members carried out the equivalent of £150,000-worth of labour on their homes over the same period.

"But now, the council is threatening tenants with court orders and occupation charges, as well as refusing to re-house them if they reject calls to leave."

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Is time running out for Streatham library?

It's good to see a growing public awareness in Lambeth about the Council's plans for its libraries.

The Tradescant Road blog nails it when it observes:

"Lambeth is not going to shut any libraries - it's simply going to under-fund them to the point where most of them probably shut themselves."

I met with Lee Alley from Streatham Action to discuss the council's proposals last week, and specifically how they will impact Streatham Library, and it is clear that there is rapidly growing concern in Streatham where substantial money will need to be spent on the building, which is not being provided by the council.

You can read the consultation document here. But in a nutshell, the Council is planning to abdicate responsibility and offload its old buildings, and with it their running costs, onto the community - whilst it reserves some key powers for itself.

The proposals saddle local communities with responsibility for:

- Building management and maintenance
- Cleaning contracts
- Rates & utilities
- Refuse collection
- Insurance
- Photocopiers, stationery, equipment, cash collection
- Income generation

In a move akin to the McDonaldisation of Lambeth’s libraries, it is going to turn them into franchises, using similar principles to the privatisation of the railways and the NHS. Or in the words of the council's own consultation document:

“This contract or franchising method is widely used in both the public and private sector in everything from providing public healthcare services to popular chain restaurants.”

The proposals threaten to return Lambeth’s Victorian libraries to the Victorian era, leaving local communities with a choice between financing potentially crippling costs or closing them.

You can respond to the consultation here.