Now the dust has settled across London after May’s borough council elections what key themes are emerging for housing where there has been notable changes in Council leadership or composition? We take a look at some of the councils in London that have experienced the most change since May and housing policies in those boroughs.
Probably the most talked about borough in London prior to the May elections was Haringey, mainly due to leader Claire Kober standing down, after many supporters of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) were deselected by Momentum-dominated Labour party branches. So what has happened since?
Labour councillors narrowly elected Councillor Joseph Ejiofor to succeed Claire Kober. Cllr Ejiofor has in interviews since the election stressed that Haringey is a Labour council, not a Momentum council. However Momentum has certainly flexed their muscles in the borough and the council has shifted to the left. The leading councillors are prominent Momentum members: both Ejiofor and deputy leader Emina Ibrahim are on the Momentum National Executive Council. One of the first major moves by the Council, albeit hardly unsurprising, came in July when they voted to abandon the HDV project. This was despite a cabinet report that acknowledged the risk that the council could miss its housing target and incur censure from national government.
Moreover there is already evidence of a change in the way councillors prefer to see affordable housing delivered. In the two planning committees since the election, members have been clear that social and affordable rented tenures is their preferred way forward for the borough rather than intermediate forms of affordable housing. While Ejiofor is among the more moderate section of Momentum in Haringey, a wide spectrum of Labour opinion doubts the value of intermediate housing and shared ownership.
There have also been significant changes in Haringey’s neighbouring borough of Enfield. After the election the local Labour group elected a new leader in Nesil Caliskan who became at the time the youngest council leader in London, the first female leader of Enfield and the first person of Turkish heritage to lead a council in Britain. One of her first decisions was to agree a new strategy for the 10,000 home Meridian Water regeneration scheme after the council failed to agree terms with Pacific Century Premium Developments (PCPD), which led to PCPD exiting the process.
The revised plan will see the council work with multiple partners rather than one master developer to build the scheme. Caliskan has said the reason for this was the risk that the majority of homes built would be sold to overseas buyers, which was not something she was willing to sign up to. Thus, says the council leader, the Council’s new plan for Meridian Water will lead to a better deal for residents: her aim is to deliver for local residents and reduce inequality in the borough.
This is emblematic of an emerging theme across Labour boroughs in the capital, a greater focus on delivering what they deem to be truly affordable housing for local residents. In Newham the newly elected Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz made truly affordable housing for local people one of her key manifesto pledges during the election. Within the second week of her mayoralty a commitment was announced to develop a joint action plan with the Greater London Authority and the Mayor of London to increase the number of affordable homes built in Newham.
Moving much further south and west across London, Kingston Upon Thames experienced a big swing away from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats returning a huge majority for the Lib Dems, with them taking 39 of 48 seats available, leaving the Conservatives on a rump of just nine seats. Before the election Kingston had a pro-development leadership under Kevin Davis with the only problems at committee for developers coming from the Liberal Democrat opposition.
On numerous occasions Lib Dems voted against unpopular housing developments, best exemplified by their opposition to Meyer Homes’s Tolworth scheme, a huge 950 home project replacing former Government offices.
So three months on from the Lib Dems taking power in the borough have they continued with past form and objected to housing developments? The answer so far is no. Whilst it is early days they have approved several major developments and voted to approve the Meyer Homes Tolworth scheme, despite previous opposition to it. The Lib Dems have asserted their five priorities for development in the borough; design, sustainability, accessibility, affordability and public realm. New housing developments will theoretically be judged on those measures.
Overall then what are the main conclusions three months on from where changes occurred in councils across the capital? Some Labour councils are shifting to the left on housing, delivering policies aimed at producing more truly affordable housing, echoing the Labour Party’s national policies that have emerged over the past year. While in the South West the Liberal Democrats in administration are more pro-development than their years in opposition.
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