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HARINGEY residents, especially those threatened with homelessness by the local council’s plan to sell their estates to a private developer, will welcome council leader Claire Kober’s decision to stand down.
Momentum members and allies in the north London borough have played an outstanding role in mobilising public opposition to Kober’s gentrification scheme and have successfully challenged her supporters for the right to represent the party in May’s council elections.
Property speculators have smelt blood in recent years, seeing cash-strapped local authorities struggle to meet commitments to their electorate in the face of ceaseless cuts to central government funding.
They have become adept at drawing up glossy prospectuses that promise renewal of rundown estates and retail facilities, explaining that areas of luxury housing at their heart are essential to finance provision of “affordable” accommodation for those decanted from their soon-to-be-demolished council homes.
Speculators don’t guarantee that all existing council tenants will be rehoused because this would cut into the profits their shareholders expect.
Schemes such as Kober’s Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), involving the transfer of £2 billion of council assets to Australian company Lendlease, are as much a part of the privatisation drive championed by neoliberal zealots as Gordon Brown’s obsession with private finance initiatives (PFI) or Jeremy Hunt’s accountable care organisations (ACO).
Those holding the purse strings insist in all circumstances that partnerships with the private sector are the only way to access investment.
While many public service unions criticised the PFI model, warning, as did the Morning Star, that it was both expensive and inefficient and forecasting that it would result in private companies holding the public sector to ransom, Brown and New Labour largely got away with their three-card trick for a time.
Local people were delighted by the delivery of new schools, hospitals and other public projects and turned a blind eye to the build-up of long-term indebtedness.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, a consistent critic of PFI, has highlighted the reality of £200bn of public debt hanging like an albatross round our necks and promised to seek ways to rejig existing deals while rejecting any extension of this bankers’ welfare scheme.
High Court agreement to the demand by pressure group JR4NHS to hold a judicial review into Hunt’s ACO scheme is also to be welcomed.
The group, set up by former consultant eye surgeon Dr Colin Hutchinson, health professional Professor Allyson Pollock, former NHS England medical director Dr Graham Winyard CBE and public management expert Professor Sue Richards — and supported by Professor Stephen Hawking — wants an end to the Americanisation of our NHS in England.
Kober’s HDV may seem small beer in comparison, but it emerges from the same school of thought that celebrates the transformation of public assets into private profits.
The decision by the Labour Party national executive committee to speak out last week, backing Haringey people’s opposition to the HDV, exemplifies how much it has changed since Jeremy Corbyn’s election, and re-election, as leader.
If Kober has evidence of “sexism, bullying, undemocratic behaviour and outright personal attacks on me as the most senior woman in Labour local government,” she should refer them to the national executive.
The committee’s current membership can be trusted to investigate and tackle such misconduct, if it exists.
Haringey council tenants who faced the likelihood of losing their homes and being driven from their borough if her HDV scheme was driven through may feel less sympathetic.
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