Thursday, 27 June 2013

Barnet Council announces first new council housing building program for 30 years

On Tuesday Barnet Council announced that it was to start a small scale project to build council houses. A total of 41 houses are planned for the next three years. You can read the news here on the Barnet Council website.

Now you may expect this blog to react hysterically to the news. In fact we welcome the news. Unlike so many of the plans the council has made, whilst we would like to see a more ambitious project, it is eminently sensesible to start by testing the water. 38 Houses will not scratch the surface of the problem, but as the council has lost all of its experience in such schemes, dipping the toe in first is clearly a good way to start.

What is perhaps troubling is the statement by the Leader of the Council -
Cllr Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council, said: “Central Government now gives councils greater freedom to spend our housing income as we think is wise so we can create these new family sized homes along with a number of fully wheelchair accessible homes.
“There is no doubt that London needs new homes and I think council housing will be part of that mix.
“They will, however, be very different from council housing as we have known it in the past.  I don’t see that there will be large estates and we plan that council housing will be available to a family for a particular period in their lives. It won’t mean a house for life.”

The last sentence about the properties "not being a house for life worries me. What exactly does the leader mean? Does he mean that at some unspecified point families will be evicted? I am all for people moving out of Council accomodation when they can afford to move, but what when they can't? Do we really want to see people turfed out on the streets?

I suspect that the statement is actually just a nod to the more right wing loonies in the Barnet Tory party. I don't really think Richard Cornelius is someone who is so heartless as to sling people on the street, when through no fault of there own, people  find themselves in times of hardship.

There are thousands of people on the waiting list for council homes in Barnet. The council has no policy to address this problem. All this can be seen as is a green shoot of common sense. People on the left should resist the urge to react antagonisitically to something which indicates a modicum of common sense is being displayed. We should remember that there was a period from 1997 until 2002, when Barnet had a Labour Council and the country had a Labour government, when no council houses at all were built in the Borough. 

Even worse, this period lumbered us with Barnet Homes, which if it was being launched today would have the local BAPSters and other groups on the left protesting outside the town hall. Sadly as Labour brought in this awful organisation, no one said a dickybird. I sincerely hope that the local Labour group has learned. We do ourselves no favours by shutting our eyes and pretending it is all marvellous, because this leads to a complete cock up. Sadly the local Tories learned nothing from the acquiesence of the Labour hordes to stupid and misguided policies and so have embarked on equally stupid ones with One Barnet. 

1 comment:

Moaneybat said...

No! The rejected Labour Council did not bring in Barnet Homes to access Decent Homes funding although, they had gone a long way to planning it in line with the Central Government policy of the Decent Homes Policy in 1997 onwards. Barnet Defend Council Housing campaigners that included Maria Nash and her late husband, began it's opposition to an ALMO with a sitting Labour Council from 2000 onwards.

Barnet's Defend Council Housing campaigners were protesting INSIDE the Town Hall and on the streets with the support of both the local branches of the Unison and GMB trades unions.

Councillor Salinger held the housing portfolio following their election in 2002. See the Hendon Times archives. It is he who had the casting vote in a tied residents and sycophants participation group meeting. The paraphrase goes something like
"I'm the housing Chair and it's going through". Some of the people whom heard that decision are still around. The results from the "test of opinion" ( an independent ballot was denied) with loaded questions put forward by Barnet Council are to this day questionable, depending on how you calculate the returns.

Suffice to say that under the terms for ALMO access to Decent Home Standard funding, the council had to submit revised forecasts every two years. As a result, not all the council homes received the full Decent Homes upgrade, Barnet Homes under the previous Chief Executive offered a choice of bathroom or kitchen,. It’s all out there in the archive of the Hendon Times. The Barnet Press of November 23 2006 stated that the campaigners were fully vindicated regarding the mismanagement of Decent Home Standard money.

Barnet Homes inept leadership and successive Board of Directors has overseen the failure of No Choice before anybody’s choice, that is now probably, by some inventive accounting of public housing money being supported by way of a loan.. .

While 41 new council homes particularly with wheelchair access are a welcome start, given the above record of both council and it’s private management agent Barnet Homes, it would be no surprise if it is the beginning of Barnet Homes towards fully fledged independent housing company, to circumvent consultation and justify stock transfer.

Barnet Homes need to be returned to full council control and accountability as the Management and Maintenance revenue Account is a massive amount of money, even in austere times. Meanwhile,this ageing moaneybat hopes to be on the good earth long enough to be wrong.