Today I have written to the Leader of Haringey Council and Cabinet members regarding the Haringey Development Vehicle together with Catherine West MP, Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green.
I have urged the Council to pause the Haringey Development Vehicle, and you can read the letter in full below.
Cllr Claire Kober
Leader, Haringey Council
River Park House
225 High Rd
3rd July 2017
Dear Claire and Cabinet Members
Re. Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV)
We are writing further to our letters dated 19th December 2016, 11th January 2017, 26th January 2017, 14th February 2017 and our most recent meetings on Wednesday 14th June and Monday 19th June regarding the Haringey Development Vehicle in which we have expressed concerns about:
The affordability of the homes that the HDV will deliver;
The bidding process and choice of a private partner;
The serious and significant financial risks to Haringey Council and local people that this project involves;
The lack of oversight and scrutiny of the process so far;
The reputational risk to Haringey Council over the next 20 years;
And the need for more thorough consultation with Haringey residents.
We do not believe that these concerns have been adequately addressed. In addition to reiterating these concerns, in light of the fire at Grenfell Tower we write today with the utmost urgency to urge caution and call on the Cabinet to pause and reflect further on whether entering into a public-private partnership is the correct decision for the Borough and its residents.
In our view no decision should be taken on the HDV until a fully updated business case is evaluated and further work is carried out by an external advisor or auditor to analyse and review the risks relating to the HDV.
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendation that a wholly council-owned housing company to purchase and manage HDV social homes and affordable homes should be strongly considered in order to ensure that there will be no overall reduction in the number of homes in the Borough that are wholly owned and managed by the Council.
We are also concerned about governance issues as there has not been a permanent Chief Executive of Haringey Council in place whilst a project of this scale and significance has been planned.
If you must press on, we would urge you to take into account the following:
1. The HDV adoption in July 2017
1) We note that at the Cabinet Special Meeting of 7th March 2017, the Cabinet unanimously resolved as follows:
1. To agree to the selection of Lendlease as preferred bidder with whom the Council will establish the joint venture HDV.
2. To agree to the selection of a reserve bidder as set out in the exempt part of this report.
3. To agree to proceed to the Preferred Bidder Stage (‘PB Stage’) so the preferred bidder’s proposal can be refined and optimised, in particular to formalise the structure of the vehicle, finalise legal documents and further develop site and portfolio business plans, as required to establish the HDV; and gives Delegated Authority to the Director of Regeneration, Planning and Development after consultation with the Leader of the Council to agree any further documentation as is required at the PB Stage.
4. To note the emerging arrangements for governance of the vehicle and its likely shadow implementation, and emerging issues informing the management of the Council’s relationship with the vehicle.
5. To agree to receive a further report recommending approval of the final documentation to support the establishment of the Haringey Development Vehicle, and agreement of the relevant business plans, following further refinement at preferred bidder stage.
2) We note also from the Haringey Council webpages on the HDV that “A final decision on whether to establish the Haringey Development Vehicle, and on proposals for the first phase of sites, is expected to be made by Haringey Council’s Cabinet in the summer of 2017”.
3)We note further that the thirteen items put forward for negotiation with the preferred partner, prior to establishment of the Haringey Development Vehicle, by Councillor Bevan, were put forward before the fire at the Grenfell Tower.
2. Grenfell Tower
4) You may be aware but we wish to bring to your attention the work initiated and progressed by the Lakanal House Working Group (LHWG) set up by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s Lakanal House Working Group. It is enclosed with this submission, but I highlight:
“Following the inquests into the deaths of the six people at the Lakanal House Fire (3 July 2009) the Coroner, Her Honour Frances Kirkham CBE, wrote to a number of organisations, including London Fire Brigade (LFB), recommending what actions should be taken to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. The Coroner made recommendations using her powers under Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984. A Rule 43 Report (Rule 43) identifies actions that should be taken to prevent future deaths. The outcomes of the Inquest and LFB’s response to the Coroner’s recommendations were reported to the Authority on 20 June 2013 (FEP 2072). At this meeting Members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) established a cross party working group to review and oversee some of the other key issues that emerged from the Lakanal House fire. The Authority also agreed the following terms of reference for the working group: ‘to undertake a review of the Brigade’s response to the fire at Lakanal House and to feed recommendations back to the Strategy Committee’.
6. In accordance with the work programme, the members of the LHWG reviewed and progressed work covering the following activities:
x) The production of two ‘Guides for Councillors’; these are called:
• Making Sure Estates are Safe from Fire - Guide for Councillors
• Guide for Councillors on Safety in Blocks of Flats and Maisonettes
The first guide is for councillors making housing estate visits to help them ensure that legal obligations on fire safety requirements are being met. The second guide sets out the responsibilities of local authorities as the ‘responsible person’ under the RRO and gives examples of strategic and policy questions councillors can ask at meetings. This is aimed at councillors who have a specific scrutiny responsibility as members of housing committees/ALMO Boards, etc. Both guides are now at the advanced design stage and will be made to work primarily as electronic documents.”
5) You may also be aware of that the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities Sajid Javid MP has created a new independent expert advisory panel on 27 June 2017 to advise on any immediate measures that can be put in place to make buildings safe following the Grenfell Tower fire so the public can be confident everything possible is being done to make all public and private buildings safe as quickly as possible. The panel is made up of a range of building and fire safety experts, and will be chaired by Sir Ken Knight, former London Fire Commissioner and former Government Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser, Dr Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of the Building Research Establishment, Roy Wilsher, Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council and Amanda Clack, President of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and a Partner at EY.
6) You may also already be aware that cladding samples found to have failed a combustibility test at the Building Research Establishment have been found present in 181 high rise buildings across 51 local authority areas.
3. Action that the Cabinet is requested to take
7) Accordingly, as an emerging issue informing the management of the Council’s relationship with the vehicle [Minutes, p 27, resolution 4] and as part of and before the completion of (i) the final discussions with the preferred bidder on how the joint venture will be established and managed, (ii) the refinement and optimisation of the preferred bidder’s proposal, (iii) the formalisation of the structure of the HDV; and (iv) the finalising of legal documents required to establish the HDV, we strongly urge you to incorporate into the HDV specification that all developments made pursuant to the HDV must:
a. Incorporate each emergency measure recommended by the new independent expert advisory panel announced by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid on 27 June 2017 [supra];
b. First involve considerations the LFEPA LHWG guidance for councillors [supra];
c. Not include the cladding samples found to have failed a combustibility test at the Building Research Establishment and present in 181 high rise buildings across 51 local authority areas [supra].
8) The paramount importance of these simple but crucial safeguards will be obvious to you and we are sure you will already be seized of the necessity of their incorporation into the HDV if you go ahead with it, but we briefly particularise that importance and necessity:
a. All risk of occurrence of a fire such at the Grenfell Tower within Haringey must be eliminated;
b. Control of such risk must not be left solely to case by case planning applications;
c. The people of Haringey must be assured that that everything possible is being done to make the enormous number of buildings planned under the HDV are safe;
d. The severity of the risk makes it unsafe to wait until the statutory instruments are updated and the Moore-Bick public inquiry reports, witness local authority action across the country.
9) We hope you agree that:
a. The ratepayers of Haringey have a legitimate expectation that you will consider the above requested actions and if necessary consult ratepayers, LFEPA LHWG, and DCLG prior to adoption of the HDV;
b. The above represent relevant considerations for you to take properly into account before and in finalising the HDV; and
c. After the Grenfell Tower fire, not to incorporate the above safety measures into the HDV, so as to place fire safety as the paramount consideration in all development thereunder, and to introduce heightened scrutiny of development proposals and heightened fire safety standards, would be to act such as no reasonable local authority would.
We are of course always available to discuss these matters further.
Rt Hon David Lammy MP
Catherine West MP