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THE letter below—of yesterday’s date—was written by Cllr. Stuart McNamara to the Haringey Council Leader, Claire Kober.
I have reproduced faithfully what was sent to me. I understand it is common currency within Labour Party circles; it was not sent to me by Councillor McNamara and I have not discussed it with him.
Stuart McNamara is a former Labour Cabinet Member and a current Haringey Councillor of much experience. Stuart has been in the forefront of warning about the extraordinary risks posed by the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) to the Council: and to the Borough as a whole.
I am a Haringey Councillor
Highgate Ward, Liberal Democrat
3rd November 2017
As you know, I have recently spent some time travelling and with my family. I returned this week and, although I have been kept informed of developments during my absence, nothing could have prepared me for recent events at the council, especially as we are a mere six months away from the local elections in May 2018. Whether the fact that your intransigence over the HDV has now led to the council being dragged through the courts, your stubborn determination to close Park View Road, your giveaway that is the Hornsey Town Hall deal or countless other bad ideas such as the Highgate Library plan, things just stagger from bad to worse.
Haringey Council’s current position is increasingly untenable, as a result of the way you have personally chosen to lead the organisation, especially over the past couple of years. This has, in turn, had a significant impact on my view of the health of the council and on my future intentions. I am and always have been a loyal Labour Party member and it is for that reason that I feel what you have done to the borough and party, and continue to do, has to stop.
Somebody has to call you out on your wrecking ball tactics and horrific wasting of public money on nonsense vanity projects whilst council services are starved of cash or sold off to the lowest bidder, making horrendous Tory government cuts even worse. This government and its behaviour towards the most vulnerable in our society is an absolute scandal; I am not suggesting they are not the core cause of the council’s financial predicament, rather that your ideological determination to pursue out-dated and maverick policies, whilst losing sight completely of the Labour values we are supposed to stand for, has made a very bad situation immeasurably worse.
When you became leader, nine years ago, we all welcomed new blood and a fresh injection of young talent into the local party. You had joined us in Haringey with a number of friends from Labour Students and the National Union of Students. You all quickly assumed central roles and responsibilities. The council’s reputation and recent history had warranted change and you came to us at a time of crisis at Haringey Council when a fresh direction was urgently needed. Like many people, I initially supported your leadership. You had, and still have, a right to be objectively and fairly judged on the merits of your leadership. Sadly, and on that basis, your leadership has been largely focused on the ideological pursuit of a poorly thought-through version of a commissioning and out-sourcing council.
Many of the policies you have pursued and subsequently rolled out, often in the teeth of significant opposition from a wide range of others within the Haringey Labour Party, have been badly researched and untested, have squandered significant amounts of taxpayers’ money and ultimately caused great harm to council services. You have operated in your role as Leader of the Council as though Haringey were your own personal fiefdom, consistently ignoring the views of others and prioritising bad policies time and time again and, in the process, you have caused incalculable damage to the Labour Party in Haringey. You have shown yourself to have little or no regard or respect for party members, a sizeable number of Labour councillors, both Constituency Labour Parties and both Members of Parliament. Considering that you are Chair of London Councils and regularly speak on behalf of the Local Government Association on issues pertaining to London, I am at a complete loss as to where you actually get your mandate from when you clearly have used your position in Haringey for your own personal political advancement, at the expense of even moderately constructive relations with others here in Haringey. You have projected a falsely positive view of Haringey to other local authorities and people of influence elsewhere in local and central government that is increasingly divorced from the reality on the ground. You have also placed a far higher importance on having good relations with private developers than with others in the Labour Party in Haringey and with residents, the very people we were elected to support and represent.
We are now facing your third term of office and we do this under a Conservative government which is fragile but which has managed to inflict incalculable damage on local residents through its austerity programme and through swingeing cuts to local government. I have voted against some despicable cuts proposed under your leadership yet I have been loyal to those collective Labour Group decisions, which have gone through anyway, without much serious analysis and with many Group members sadly being largely incurious about alternatives. You have only maintained a narrow majority in the Labour Group throughout your time in office and you have done this through a combination of patronage and punishment. Many of my colleagues have, unfortunately, been willing to let you run the council without their input.
Although you have loyal courtiers and enforcers that you actually have some sort of relationship with, the vast majority of us, elected local Labour representatives, are strangers to you, uninvolved with decision-making and powerless to influence the council’s direction. Our interventions are regarded with suspicion and hostility and you have attempted to publicly humiliate some of us with suspensions, formal warnings and demotions, so as to keep us in our places.
In the last budget round, we voted to cut meals on wheels, close day care centres for the elderly, close a recycling centre, begin charging for some waste services and shut down children’s centres across the borough. You put to us a proposal to increase council tax for residents with disabilities and to sell off our parking services team. This was voted down, but so was our counter-proposal to increase council tax. We have been left with the nonsensical legacy of your cast iron commitment to keep a promise you made in a manifesto many years ago. What makes this remarkable is that this is the only manifesto commitment you have ever truly kept and when the government is reducing, to zero, the funding it gives us, your position look stubborn and asinine rather than principled. You are strangling the services we deliver.
You have overseen a culture where a core group of senior officers and a few members of Cabinet set the policy direction of the council whilst backbench councillors are ignored. This was the case after the August 2011 riots when dozens of ward councillors like me were side-lined and you sought to empower self-appointed and unelected ‘community leaders’, including the group you recommended that nearly scuppered the IPCC investigation into the death of Mark Duggan. You have consistently made statements declaring that almost everything we have, and do, to be a failure and then outsourcing or selling it off, sometimes under very dubious circumstances. The exception to this of course being schools, where you have taken credit for improvement and at the same time actively encouraged schools to leave council ownership and seek academy status. You are generous with council resources, waiving rents and large payments from powerful organisations when it suits you and you condone councillors dining out and enjoying corporate hospitality when the meals on wheels service has been cut. All too often, Labour councillors and residents find out about these things after the event, through member enquiries or FOI requests.
What you are currently planning to do through the council’s proposed partnership with Lend Lease which was, in effect, sprung on all of us when it was too late to plead for reason and restraint, is splitting the Labour Party and putting you at odds with almost everyone else, including a number of your Cabinet. The HDV was not in any manifesto and yet you have pursued it through a covert and incremental approach, duping fellow councillors who sat on the Future of Housing Review about the sheer size and scale of the plans. Both MPs and both the Tottenham Labour Party and the Hornsey & Wood Green Labour Party actively oppose it. It is also opposed by a sizeable and growing number of local residents, local groups and businesses and has dragged the council into the High Court and the press for all the wrong reasons and at great expense to the Haringey taxpayer. You have totally ignored the scrutiny process, which was far more thoughtful, thorough, and in-depth than anything you, or officers, could deliver and you have sought to insult the intelligence of your fellow councillors and the public by peddling the pretence that the council has undertaken meaningful consultation and has met its Public Sector Equality Duty. It is disappointing, yet sadly very familiar, this same pattern of you seeking to force through unpopular, expensive, and incompetent and poorly thought-out policies. You seem to have no inherent ability to either listen to others or know when something is simply a very bad idea. Your Thatcheresque ‘I have no reverse gear’ isn’t a sign of strength of leadership or character but an abysmal flaw whereby you see compromise as weakness.
The One Borough One Future Fund (£668,745 in Tranche 1 paid out in 2012 out of the £1.5 million fund set aside to give grant funding to various organisations without any evidence of their track record in delivery), the iMPOWER contract (£2,000,000 paid up to May 2017 with little concrete evidence of how this was good value for money and whilst the youth service budget was slashed), the N17 Design Studio (estimated in June 2015 as costing the council £351,037 for refurbishment and running costs, now likely to be much higher than this, for an architect firm that left after the free money stopped and yet was awarded contracts on Apex House and another site in Tottenham Hale), 51 Degrees North (£406,618 for a failed experimental lettings firm that only secured a handful of tenants and then collapsed) and a seemingly endless list of other bad and failed ideas have seen your administration squander millions upon millions of pounds of finite council money on trendy and exciting sounding fads, almost all of which failed to deliver on their original aims and objectives and with no-one held to account and the council patting itself on the back at each turn on its dynamism and willingness to experiment with new ideas.
These ideas weren’t dynamic; they were incompetent attempts to reshape the very nature of what the Council is for, without the necessary expertise or common sense to see that, irrespective of how good or exciting these ideas might have been, they were experiments nonetheless and badly researched ones, whilst vital public services had almost identical sums of money slashed from their budgets to fund these irresponsible gambles. Haringey Council is a local authority, not a bank or a hedge fund and the loans to Chicken Town (£90,000 grant, £210,000 loan and a further £40,000 loan) and other local hipster ventures are further evidence of poor decision-making, especially when the amount of money you have personally allowed to be spent on all of these things could have kept our adult social care homes open and fully funded our youth service and a range of other council services. For every one of these bad and costly decisions there have been desperately needed public services you have been willing to shut down at the flip of a switch that could have been kept open if you had been willing to listen to what your colleagues and the residents of this borough have been trying in vain to say to you.
You promised that when Customer Services moved from Apex House and Station Road to Marcus Garvey Library and Wood Green Library that services would be improved. It is now clear that these were bad moves and cost huge sums of money for the borough to end up with an inferior library service at both sites and a diminution in Customer Services’ front counter capacity. You were told this was likely to be the case but you simply wouldn’t listen. The same is true for Osborne Grove; a site that we as councillors were assured would be a centre of excellence, yet following a recent damning report by the Care Quality Commission was rated as inadequate. Your response was to suggest it is sold with no one held to account and no immediate commitment to maintaining and improving services there. The same is also true for the Youth Zone proposal, which plumbed new depths when it came to bad ideas written on the back of an envelope. No proper thought was given to the inoperability of a single site, the Friends of Chestnuts Park were neither consulted nor involved and the project would have breached guidance in relation to construction on metropolitan open land. In none of these scenarios have you ever demonstrated responsibility or contrition when they have gone belly up as a result of rushed, poorly researched and contentious proposals. If anything, the more contentious the proposals have been, the more enthusiastic you appear to have shown yourself to be.
When proposals like these inevitably went south, as most of them have, you have simply carried on as normal without a glimmer of remorse and with no one taking responsibility amid an ugly fog of hubris that seems to have taken hold at council headquarters in Wood Green. The more people disagree with you, the more you believe you are right. This is not a way to lead people and in the process you have become increasingly isolated. At this years Labour conference, the leader’s speech appeared to condemn Haringey, without naming us, over our reliance on developers to set local political policy. Your response to the party leader was childish defiance on the issue of ballots for people whose homes are threatened with destruction and who face exile. You are contemptuous of the party you have used to obtain power and personal importance and all you have left to rely on is your record, which is dismal.
We all recently learned of the existence of a Shadow HDV Board, which has apparently been meeting in private, and before any Cabinet decision to proceed with the HDV took place. This sums up what you stand for and the utter contempt you appear to have for almost everyone around you and the very people that put you where you are. I am disgusted how councillors and the public were deceived on this and this, along with the fact that you attempted to interfere in the selection interview process by submitting spurious allegations about fellow candidates that you happen to dislike, is for me the final straw. Haringey Council is fact becoming a Loony Right imitation of Militant on your watch.
I have therefore concluded that I cannot be a fellow candidate with you in the forthcoming local elections and have written to the Haringey LCF to inform them that I am withdrawing my name from the list of prospective candidates. I will be stepping down from the council at the end of my term of office in May.
The Labour Party in Haringey is a force for good, as exemplified by our two brilliant Members of Parliament, the many good ward councillors we have and our thousands of members drawn from every corner of the borough and every walk of life. I am optimistic that common sense can prevail and the Labour Party in Haringey will be able to unify around the sensible, popular and desperately needed policies outlined in the 2017 Labour Party Manifesto and resoundingly win the local elections in May 2018. For that to happen you need to fundamentally change the way you do things and listen to sensible voices around you, including by immediately halting the HDV. If you genuinely cannot bring yourself to actually listen, involve others and change the way you do things then for the sake of Haringey and of the Labour Party you probably need to just resign before you cause any more harm to this great borough.
So that's all good then. Is the leader's objective to identify what Haringey does well and find more ways of doing less of it better?
Also, less flippantly, I think it might useful to identify exactly who is making all the decisions. Who's on the inside - is it the Cabinet, or the Senior Leadership Team - or is the very shadowy Cabinet Advisory Board (CAB) still in existence?
(I quote, "the CAB is an informal confidential meeting of the Cabinet, which the Senior Leadership Team and other senior officers attend. The meetings usually happen on a fortnightly basis. As this is an informal confidential meeting, the minutes are not formally published or circulated.")
If the Labour party don't know how to get their voice heard what chance do the rest of us have? This is a one party borough, utterly undemocratic and all too prone to autocratic rule. I suppose the next slate of candidates is currently being selected by the party, and changes may be afoot - but, what's the point in any of us voting if another council gets selected in another smoke filled room?
Regrettably, the current three Crouch End Labour Cllrs are fully paid-up subscribers in good standing … for the current regime
… that Cllr. McNamara critiques more eloquently than I possibly could. Of course Stuart has the 'benefit' of inside experience.
I hope those three—AKA The Hapless Trio—might read his letter and possibly learn, but I'm doubtful on both scores.
I have not discussed Stuart McNamara's letter with him. In fact I haven't seen him since he recently got back from visiting family members.
I'd heard something critical was expected though I must admit that I assumed more of the on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand style which Stuart usually employs. But this letter certainly opens the windows and the curtains and lets in light and fresh air.
Let me please suggest, Adrian, that your pessimism may be unjustified. He has spoken truth to power. It's up to all of us to take up the baton. And that includes Labour, LibDem, Green and members of any other party. Plus non-party-aligned residents who have spoken out.
I gather that Claire Kober may have replied saying something along the lines that Stuart McNamara as a former Kobinet member must accept collective responsibility. How very convenient! And her usual perverted authoritarian un-logic that councillors are always always required to obey the Dear Leader.
And that applies even to a councillor who has taken part in a detailed and thorough official Council Scrutiny review over nearly a year, and which recommended against the Haringey Development Vehicle.
Starts to feel to me like Kober is proposing a political suicide pact. As she sees her power ebbing away, and a range of foolish decisions, large and small, turning sour. She still wants to press on over the cliff and take everyone with her.
"If I fall you're going down with me."
and that is precisely the problem. If I vote against Labour in the next council elections, because I abhor the direction Claire Kober has taken, I will be aiding the loss of local councillors who have been mainly supportive. I am watching them carefully to see if they support the FEC plans and the HDV and their stance will colour my vote. I also wish they would stage a coup - is Claire Kober not also up for re-election as council leader?
Yes, all Labour councillors are up for re-selection - or de-selection, by Labour Party members, starting with selection meetings in various wards - Seven Sisters, Northumberland Park, Tottenham Hale, and Woodside - on Wednesday 8 November 2017.
Below is a list of all Labour Cllrs who have voted for the HDV and their ward with Cabinet members’ names in bold. I urge Labour Party members to vote "NO" in the first ballot to all sitting Labour Party Councillors in the list. Unfortunately, as sitting Cllrs, they get to be automatically selected for the second round of voting which is usually about 4 or 5 days after the first selection meeting. By voting "NO" in the first ballot or "trigger" ballot, at least then the Cllrs below will have to explain why they support the HDV. The good news is that anti-HDV candidates are standing against them in all the wards, so I urge Labour Party members to nominate and support all those standing who are anti-HDV.
The list of those who have voted for the HDV:
Cllr. Peray Ahmet - Noel Park
Cllr Kaushika Amin - Northumberland Park
Cllr. Jason Arthur - Crouch End
Cllr. Eugene Ayisi - West Green
Cllr. Dhiren Basu - West Green
Cllr. Barbara Blake - St Anne's
Cllr. Clare Bull - Bounds Green
Cllr. Joanna Christophides - Bounds Green
Cllr. Ali Demirci - Bound Green
Cllr. Natan Doron - Crouch End
Cllr. Sarah Elliot - Crouch End
Cllr. Tim Gallagher - Stroud Green
Cllr. Joe Goldberg - Seven Sisters
Cllr. Eddie Griffith - West Green
Cllr. Claire Kober - Seven Sisters
Cllr. Toni Mallet - West Green
Cllr. Jennifer Mann - Hornsey
Cllr. Stephen Mann - Noel Park
Cllr. Peter Mitchell - Woodside
Cllr. Ali Gull Ozbek - St Anne's
Cllr. James Patterson - Alexandra
Cllr. Shiela Peacock - Northumberland Park
Cllr. Lorna Reith - Tottenham Hale
Cllr. Raj Sahota - Stroud Green
Cllr. Alan Strickland - Noel Park
Cllr. Bernice Vanier - Tottenham Green (but may not be standing again)
Cllr. Ann Waters - Woodside
Cllr. Elin Weston - Hornsey and on HDV Shadow Board with Lendlease
Cllr. Charles Wright - Woodside
Hmm..... interesting . I am in Hornsey ward and Adam Jogee is one of my councillors. I am pleased to see he is not on this list but am very disappointed in Elin Weston and Jennifer Mann
Sorry but if you're going to publish a list like this, take the trouble to get it right or you risk undermining the whole campaign. Cllr Ahmed does not support the HDV - see http://opinion8.ning.com/forum/topics/the-remaining-support-for-the... for more accurate information from Clive.
Agree. Voting really does matter. It's important to be fair and accurate and to state the basis of listing, as my list—to which you've linked—does. In the list I published I had—and have—no interest in pursuing any personal animus, but solely in accuracy.
At first glance, the list published by the anonymous NoToHDV appears to be a list of any Labour Cllr who ever supported the HDV at any time (and doesn't allow for changes of mind over time).
However, StopHDV’s inconsistent list does not include Cllr. Jogee who has previously supported the HDV, but notably voted against it at the 15th June Labour Group meeting (on 21st June, Terrapin's Peter Bingle alluded to that, here).
Is that list not unfair to both Cllrs. Ahmet and Jogee?
My list came with several caveats including a request that I be contacted if there were any inaccuracies, one Labour Cllr did and I corrected it immediately.
The basis of my list is not caprice, but my best information of the 15 June Labour Group vote when as many Labour Cllrs. as possible voted at the same time and the same place. And of course, the vote on that date was the basis for taking the HDV forward to the 3rd July Cabinet meeting.
It has never been voted on by full Council, the fourth of four Grounds of the JR complaint.
If it did, I am confident that Liberal Democrats can be relied on—to a man and woman—to vote against the HDV.
Liberal Democrat Cllr.
I did get my information right. Cllr Ahmet's name is in bold as being a Cabinet member who in Cabinet meetings voted for the HDV and (in Feb and March 2017) for Lendlease being the partner. She did not attend the Cabinet meetings in July 2017, (there were 2 in July because one was a call in), and sent her apologies for her non-attendance. More recently, Cllr Ahmet voted in the October Cabinet for Lendlease being the partner to the Love Lane regeneration project, (aka High Road West). You can check my facts by reading the minutes etc on the Haringey website. The one time she abstained on the HDV issue is in one meeting of the Labour Group which is a private meeting. The Cabinet take all the decisions about the HDV and she has supported the Kober line in all the Cabinet meetings she has attended. She has defended her position by saying she is bound by collective responsibility. But the obvious reply to that, is then resign from your well paid Cabinet position. There are Labour Cllrs who voted with their conscience and against the HDV and I applaud them all. "Collective responsibility" is a sham term to hide behind, used by those who do not have the courage to do what is right and against the collective madness of following Kober. I think Haringey residents need Councillors with real Labour principles and not opportunists who, (when they see the tide is turning against the HDV), hedge their bets because they want to cling to power.
Jacqueline, if you are referring to the hapless trio Arthur, Doron and Elliott they have indeed been supportive, of Claire Kober. NotoHDV has included them in her list of miscreants below. Jason Arthur depends on Claire Kober for both his special responsibility allowances and Natan Doron for his as Chair of Planning. Goodness only knows what, or if, Sarah Elliott thinks.
Add to this whatever legerdemain took place to persuade an officer of the council to give up the meagre return Haringey was to get from the sale of HTH in order to buy the re-selection of these three by underwriting the inclusion of affordable housing, and they deserve no mercy. I say legerdemain because if I say what I think must have happened without being able to prove it, I would probably be guilty of libel.
ADRIAN, you mention the Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs).
In the Labour Group votes on the matter (January and June), there was a remarkable (high) correlation between the receipt of an SRA and the likelihood of voting to support the HDV. Some might say that it's mere coincidence or, that the kind of Labour Cllr. who was already in receipt of an SRA was in any event likely to support the HDV.
Following the January meeting, I compiled a spreadsheet that sets out this information. The SRA amounts and responsibilities were already in the public domain (deep in the Council's Constitution) and I link them with names and then names with votes.
I'll publish the info. shortly, with special scrutiny and reference to the voting performance of those on the significant Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel.
If I find time, I'll update it to the June Labour Group meeting, where a few Labour Councillor’s positions on the HDV changed.