It’s all change up the road at Brixton Town Hall, where £185,000 per year chief exec Andrew Travers has announced he is standing down, probably after May’s local elections.
“Working for Lambeth Council has been a great experience,” Travers tweeted. “Lots to do before I go.”
Lots to do to fix Lambeth’s housing departments, that is.
It was probably only a coincidence, but the day before Travers’ announcement, a damning report was published by the Housing Ombudsman that revealed that Lambeth had been issued with five complaint-handling failure orders last year and was the subject of six complaints which led to findings of maladministration.
In total, Lambeth was subject to 30 findings against it by the Ombudsman across nine investigations.
Now none of this will come as a surprise to regular readers, whichever side of the borough boundary that they find themselves on.
The Ombudsman report identified poor record-keeping, significant delays or failing to respond to complaints and failings in responding to repairs – all areas which had been well highlighted in a series of television reports last year which exposed the “appalling” state of some of Britain’s council homes, including in Croydon, and in Lambeth, too.
Lambeth, which has around 33,000 council homes, was forced to pay £6,425 compensation involving eight orders to resolve individual complaints.
A spokesperson for the council said, “We are committed to tackling any issues raised to ensure that we provide the best possible service for all our tenants.” Oh, the shameless insincerity of it all.
But how Lambeth intends to pay for all the repairs work needed is unclear: the council has a £8.6million overspend on its Housing Revenue Account (much worse than in Croydon), while its “Resident Services” department is forecasting an overspend of £3million this financial year, of which £1.7million relates to costs associated with temporary accommodation.
What was hailed as the solution to many of the borough’s housing problems, Homes for Lambeth – the council-owned company founded in 2017 and which is supposed to deliver 1,000 new homes – continues to lose money, with subsidiary HFL Build recording a loss of £8.5million to March 2021. The Labour-controlled council last month agreed to lend HfL another £7.5million.
Until 2012, the leader of Lambeth Council was, of course, Steve Reed.
Reed has gone on to become notorious as his party’s Westminster front-bench spokesman on local authorities who, when in that role, never uttered a word of criticism about Labour-controlled Croydon Council’s financial collapse. Some of Reed’s closest political colleagues in the borough have recently been identified in a Report In The Public Interest as having acted unlawfully over a £30million property deal that went badly wrong.
Reed, who has recently been shunted sideways in Keith Starmer’s shadow cabinet, has similarly remained silent about the housing travails in his old stomping ground.
Homes for Lambeth is, of course, nothing at all like Croydon’s money pit, Brick by Brick.
Part of HfL’s mission is the clearance of several large housing estates, including the architecturally noted Cressingham Gardens and the Central Hill Estate in Upper Norwood, evicting council tenants living in social housing in order to build new homes mainly for lucrative private sale.
It is very similar to the business model used by Brick by Brick in Croydon.
In January, someone at HfL had a brainstorm, and ahead of their monthly Zoom “engagement” meeting with tenants on the doomed estates sent out packages including a couple of tea bags. “This is an informal event, just the chance to get to know us,” said a card announcing “Brewmonday”.
Or, as one of the unfortunate recipients put it: “You better sit down and have a cuppa. We want to kick you out and demolish your home.”
Read more: Londoners being priced out of London by social cleansing
Read more: Norwood residents ask MP Reed to act over estate demolition
Read more: Lambeth is showing the way with destruction of five estates
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