Residents tell it to Lambeth council…

Numerous residents spoke this evening at the Lambeth Cabinet meeting highlighting the strong community and resident-led options.

Here is the speech from resident Gerlinde:

I am speaking today in my capacity as the Co-Chair of the TRA, elected resident rep, member of the Leaseholders’ Council and finally as a local tax payer.

I would like to thank officers for producing such a poor and utterly rubbish report that has clearly had no resident review or input. So thank you for providing us with the final evidence in a public format of your sheer incompetence and confirmation that this consultation has been a sham consultation and an unfair consultation. I would like it noted that we will be submitting to the council a full detailed analysis of the failings in your report and decision making process.

However, as you provide only a measly 2 mins for myself to contribute here today in your rubber stamping process, I would like to focus on 2 fundamental elements in the hope that the cabinet members will see sense and vote against this report’s recommendations, despite Cllr Matthew Bennett boasting in his blog article that the decision has already been made:

  1. Glaring absence of a comparative analysis of the options. Which, if had been disclosed here, would not lead to the recommended decision in the report but rather to one of refurbishment.
  2. Glaring absence of Options 6, 7, and 8 that residents have formulated in the spirit of the co-operative council.

Let me commence with element 1. Any professional would have expected a table in this report summarising and comparing the options against the agreed criteria. But this is obviously very hard since you have no agreed criteria, so let me propose the non-controversial criteria along the regeneration requirements of economic, social and environmental wellbeing improvements.

Economic. The officers have failed to disclose in the report the financial viability of all the options. The first stage of any financial viability assessment is to calculate the Net Present Value of each option. In layman’s terms, what would each of the options cost in total in today’s money. In this context a positive NPV means that you make a profit and can pay off all associated debts over 30 years. Option 1, refurbishment, is your only financially viable option with a positive NPV based on the council’s numbers. Both Options 4 and 5, ie demolition, are negative NPV. What does this mean? You will be unable to pay off the associated debt over 30 years, and no external lender or investor will see this as a viable transaction as it currently stands. In your numbers, each extra “council home” will cost this council £415k each. £415k is the net cost to Lambeth council and its tax-paying residents, even after all the private sales of new homes and collection of rents on the site. £415k to construct a 1 or 2 bed council flat is not good value for money. This is not even good value for money in the private sector.

Social Wellbeing. The council has failed to carry out even a preliminary comparative analysis of the social impact of each of the options on the wellbeing of the community, let alone the impact on the wider community in terms of transport, schools and other services. Consequently, we have done this for you now in the spirit of co-operation using the industry standard HACT model. As you will see, from the table in front of you, Option 1 delivers £20m pa in social wellbeing improvement, whereas at the other end of your scale Option 5 has a £22m pa negative social impact on the community as a whole.

Environmental. The council has provided no analysis on the environmental impact of the 5 options. A recent UCL review of academic research concludes that refurbishment typically performs better than demolition.

In summary, comparing against economic, social and & environmental well being criteria, Options 4 and 5 are not viable and are indeed highly detrimental to the community.

We recognise that Lambeth Council has squandered millions of pounds through the mismanagement of its housing stock and its most recent Lambeth Housing Standard major works. Such is the extent that it has now limited capacity to borrow further and thus begs the question whether the council is actually legally bankrupt as it cannot fulfil its duties and liabilities under law as a landlord. However, we also are aware that Cressingham Gardens is a net cash contributor to the HRA, meaning in layman’s terms Cressingham Gardens generates a profit for the council, which it has been using to fund the repairs on the other estates and to service its debt. Given this cash surplus generating position, we believe the estate is able to fund its own refurbishments, as well as contribute to retaining and increasing truly affordable housing.  Hence Options 6, 7, and 8 that we would like to very briefly present now to the committee as they are missing in the officers’ report to you.

Option 6 – This involves undertaking a green retrofit refurbishment of the estate. The resident working group’s findings, which have not been disclosed here in your cabinet report, shows that a green retrofit is (1) cheaper on a net cost basis than basic refurbishment (2) delivers a higher quality home than Lambeth housing standard (3) dramatically reduces fuel bills and hence fuel poverty and (4) can generate income for the estate. Cllr Bennett here will be quick to jump in and say that funding is an issue. We would like to counteract this and say that funding is available for this option. Indeed, we would like to announce today that the Cressingham Gardens Community has now officially secured £20k in grant funding to do the community consultation for a green refurbishment and pull together the business plan in order to secure the large-scale funding that will be subsequently available. Let me repeat, Cressingham Gardens Community has been awarded £20k based on the early viability assessment of a green refurbishment option to pull together a business plan that works for the community.

Option 7 – This is Option 6 with the addition of a reconfiguration of the 6 voids, that have been void for over 16 years. We believe after an initial preliminary assessment that we can create an extra 23 truly affordable bedrooms at council rent. The compares very favourably to the council’s preferred options that are currently showing a net loss of affordable bedrooms.

Option 8 – This is Option 7 with the addition of community initiatives. Residents have already formulated numerous ideas that are currently going through review and further assessment for viability. They include a business hub, a centre of excellence for social housing and urban design, a horticulture apprenticeship program, and the list goes on.

In summary, we are requesting that the Cabinet members vote to reject this report and to instruct the officers to truly work with the community in the spirit of the co-operative council and to truly co-design a solution that is win-win for both the community and the council.

Supplementary documents handed out to Lambeth Cabinet councillors

1. Summary of comparative analysis of options: CressinghamOpAnalysis_v1

2. Review of council’s preferred (but unviable) options 4 and 5 (ie demolition) : OptionAnalysis_150309

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