As officers of the Tottenham Executive Committee we welcome today's intervention by the NEC.
The Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) has dominated our CLP for nearly two years. At no stage did the council leadership bring this policy or plan voluntarily to the party for discussion. In fact our first awareness of it was from grass-roots members who raised it through their branches. Details only emerged after backbench Councillors requested information through members' enquiries and members of the public submitted FOIs.
Month after month, motion after motion members used the democratic processes of our party to express severe concerns, none of which gave us satisfactory answers to our concerns around loss of council homes, transfer of land and residents right to return on all phases of the 25 year programme. Members used their ability to send motions to the National Conference and Regional Conference. Their motions on both occasions were passed unanimously.
Residents across the borough have campaigned against this policy, alongside Trade Unions and even the Highgate Society. Their objections have been dismissed and ignored. They have raised over £20,000 to take this case to Judicial Review (judgement pending). Even with our own communities taking our Labour Council to court, we have seen a council leadership unwilling to listen and unable to bring people on board.
Our backbench Councillors led and undertook a robust scrutiny, highlighting risks from other boroughs where such schemes had failed. They called upon housing experts, academics and planners, who expressed deep concerns. They gave viable alternatives. The subsequent report by Haringey Council's own Scrutiny Committee, chaired by a Labour Councillor, fell on deaf ears.
Our backbench Councillors who used Council processes to call in decisions have been subjected to disciplinary actions by the whip. This was and is is unacceptable when the decision is about such large transfers of council land, homes and assets. We selected our Councillors to be responsible trustees of public assets. They have a public duty to speak out against risk, with so much at stake and they should be able to carry out their role without fear of unjust and politically motivated disciplinary action.
We have had NEU, Unite, Unison, GMB Trade Unions at local, regional and national level call upon this Labour Council to halt proceedings. Again, their calls were not heard.
Our own Labour MPs have attempted for over a year to speak to both the local Labour Leader and the council staff about their concerns and requests to stop the HDV, without success. They even took the unprecedented step, several times, to make those calls publicly when internal processes failed.
We are clear, every avenue of party democracy has been utilised but has been ignored and our council leadership has acted with impunity. It makes a mockery of our democratic structures.
We believe many opportunities have been given by the CLP through special meetings and standard GCs for the council leadership to convince members, Trade Unions and the MPs this was a good idea and win our members’ support. In order to 'lead' you must be able to bring people with you.
However the HDV has severe risk and flaws financially and to the lives of so many residents. Members made up their minds based on the evidence and the Leadership's inability to reassure.
The 21 Councillors who have continuously voted against the HDV should not have been threatened with having the whip withdrawn if they vote against the HDV. The recent Carillion collapse requires our elected councillors to vote responsibly.
We ask the NEC to give full protection to the 21 Councillors who are having to choose between losing the whip and their ability to stand in May's local election or voting for a scheme that their members and residents, the Trade unions and MPs are against and it is against current party policy as voted in both Regional and National Conference.
Tottenham Constituency Labour Party (CLP) Executive Officers
Russell Dove – Chair
Julie Davies – Vice Chair
Gideon Bull – Vice Chair
Seema Chandwani – Secretary
Sarah Williams – Treasurer
Therese O’Meara – Women’s Officer