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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.
Jacqueline you seem to have a similar conundrum as mine.
I'm a Labour Party member and a former councillor. I don't yet know who will be the three candidates in my own Tottenham Hale ward. For one reason because, as NotoHDV correctly says, we have yet to meet and even put together a shortlist. But the second reason is that like most ward branches we've had a huge surge in membership. Most - but not all to join or rejoin to support Jeremy Corbyn and the Party manifesto in the last General Election.
The KoberTory Homes Demolition plan will probably be a key issue. It certainly is for me as I could not bring myself to vote for someone who supports it. Two of our three current councillors, Reg Rice and Vincent Carroll have consistently opposed the HDV.
Cllr Lorna Reith has voted for it, and as Chief Whip also acted as Cllr Claire Kober's enforcer. So I am hoping my fellow ward members will choose three anti-HDV candidates. But in any case I absolutely don't want to see someone from my ward supporting Claire Kober's right-wing policies and ideology, should her faction be in a position to maintain their control. But when the new Council elects party leaders there may be only a few votes in it.
As you don't say that you are a Labour member, Jacqueline, can I assume you're not. If that's correct, then my suggestion is that you wait and see who is selected by your local Labour Party branch. Then check 'em out.
By the way I am not in any way complacent enough to believe that Labour will retain all the seats it now holds on Haringey Council. If Scottish politics, Ukip's rise and fall, and the Corbyn surge tells us anything it's that the ground can shift under our feet.
A final point, which is that while Housing issues are vital, so are many many others. The failure of Kober and her faction is the failure to offer anything beyond more privatisation, and trust in market solutions. I have a sense that there are great ideas and new energies waiting in the wings. The next six months could be an exciting and important time as Haringey begins to work on preparing a programme of repair and change. And that will need to include green ideas which are more urgent every day.
I commend Cllr McNamara’s letter to Cllr Kober. The behaviour of the Labour Cabinet, and the Labour Cllrs who voted for the HDV in Labour Group, reminds me of the disgusting contempt shown to the Hillsborough families, which is highlighted in Rev James Jones report, (published last week), called “The patronising disposition of unaccountable power”. It is an excellent report and the title tells you all.
The only way we can make Labour Cllrs accountable is deselecting them in the upcoming Labour Party shortlisting and selection meetings which start on Wednesday 8 November in Seven Sisters, Northumberland Park, Tottenham Hale and Woodside wards. We have very little time to stop the HDV. Now is the time to demand change and accountability.
Dear Stuart, Thank you for your letter. I know you have been having some time-out from the Council recently so I am personally not surprised by your decision. However, having worked together in one way or another for the best part of twenty years - the last seven on the council - it is right to recognise that you stepping down truly represents the end of an era.
I am particularly grateful to you for the work that we did together during your time as a Cabinet Member and the decisions that you guided through the Labour Group and Council between 2014 and 2016. You took a pragmatic approach in identifying the £70m of savings required to balance the Council’s revenue budget in the face of unprecedented Government cuts; supported these proposals in the Labour Group; and then helped pull together and subsequently agree the Medium Term Financial Strategy as a Cabinet Member. You pioneered the strategy to - as far as possible - maintain maintenance standards in our parks by pursuing a more commercial approach to events and generating income.
Inevitably this was not without controversy and you worked hard to listen to community concerns while making the case for a greater number of events in Finsbury Park including the Wireless festival.
The Haringey Development Vehicle is the means we identified to deliver on our commitment to tackle the housing crisis; the insecurity faced by the 3,000 families living in temporary accommodation, the 9,000 on our housing waiting list and those living in substandard private rented accommodation, many of whom are children. It is a policy that has been almost three years in the making and again, not without its challenges. Thank you for your efforts as a Cabinet Member, particularly your support in approving the business case for the HDV and agreeing in November 2015 that the Council should proceed with the procurement of a Joint Venture partner.
I know through our time together how much we share the love for our borough and our party and a passion for tackling inequality and making lives better for people in Haringey. I also know that we both agree that serving as a local Councillor is both an honour and a privilege but, that there are always compromises we must make to ensure that we deliver what is expected, especially in terms of the time we are able to spend with our families. I agree that the challenge is greater now and will continue to be so, which is why I understand your decision to put your health and your family first and wish you the best of luck in the future.
"Crouchender" At other times this sort of spoof might be funny.
But it really isn't any joke. The Dear Leader and some of her cronies perhaps really do believe that they have somehow done a grand job instead of the reality of the huge mess we will face after she has gone.
I'm also both sad and disappointed that a few of them at least probably do have a touching and desperate wish to believe something along the lines of the imaginary fantasy you've made up. Yet another "narrative" from the lies factory. This time about tackling both inequality and the housing crisis?
With bonny bouncing piglets in their nests in every Koberberry tree?
The story in the Ham and High contains the words "Whilst cllr Kober commented: “There are always compromises we must make to ensure we deliver what is expected, especially in terms of the time we are able to spend with our families."
So, either Crouchender had seen the reply, or the spoof has become fake news.
The Ham&High have a story covering Cllr. McNamara's letter, together with Cllr. Kober's reply:
I need to apologise.
I haven't seen Stuart McNamara nor been able to check with him. But I've spoken to someone who is pretty confident that the letter above is actually the reply sent by Claire Kober. So I'm very sorry for misleading people.
It would have been helpful if "Crouchender" had given their real name. But the responsibility is mine for not doing more to check.
So now we know that Claire Kober is not just unable to accept any criticisms of the Haringey Development Vehicle. But continues to make fantastical claims for what it will achieve. We will improve the housing for thousands by destroying the homes of thousands.
Despite all the evidence gathered by her Council's own Scrutiny Panel on which Stuart served.
Haringey Council is now led by someone impervious to reason and evidence.
LET us see if the ostensibly warm, sympathetic words evidenced here, will not be matched by official Labour Party sanctions. The posting of the billet-doux on behalf of the Council Leader by an ally* would, to a casual observer, sound kind and generous.
However, there's likely to be Party pressure to punish Stuart McNamara, due to the demonstration effect.
I imagine the Whip will have called for a punishment meeting to decide on particular terms. Not because it would make any difference to Stuart, but pour encourager les autres.
Cllr. McNamara's leadership (earlier example) in this matter is potentially crippling to the local New Labour cabal.
But for the Payroll Vote and a general fear of retribution or lack of preferment, other Labour Group Members might have before now opposed the reckless, if not suicidal, HDV project.
Not all of the pro-HDV Labour Group members are as hard-core as the Hapless Trio in Crouch End.
Unless New-Labour, the Whip and their right-wing leader fail to make an example of Stuart McNamara, others may read his long indictment, see the truth in it and become braver.
* “Crouchender” claims they live in Crouch End
Liberal Democrat Cllr
TUESDAY The Evening Standard now have the story, but imply that opposition to the HDV is entirely a left-wing plot, which is irritating to a Member of the Council Opposition Group. Liberal Democrat Members would all vote against the HDV if it were to come to a Full Council meeting.
Have you read what happened at the Seven Sisters ward meeting on 8 November? see https://skwawkbox.org/2017/11/10/haringey-council-leader-reselected...
Why am I not surprised?
THE #HDV command-and-control system is beginning to crack.
Cllr. McNamara's remarkable letter that contains a number of municipal criticisms should, on the face of it, be cause under Labour Party rules for punishment (uncomradely, etc.). However, since Stuart has said he is stepping down, one imagines he wouldn't be troubled by sanctions, such as suspension from the Group.
The tenor of the New Labour Leader's response letter does not necessarily imply punishment.
And now, the Labour Group Chief Whip—who has been responsible for disciplining the Labour rebels—was not selected for Tottenham Hale Ward for 2018. In any event, in the run up to the May elections, how much authority—moral or otherwise—can now reside with the Whip?
Especially on the matter of the #HDV.
Some die-hard New Labour Members may be tempted to wield the (non-Party) Council Members’ Code-of-Conduct against Cllr. McNamara, perhaps suggesting that he has brought the council into disrepute. I'm not convinced that'd be a runner, as Stuart's much stronger defence would be, that it is the current New Labour Administration and their HDV that has affected the Council's reputation.
The large and failing HDV has not been some natural-disaster, or government-inflicted imposition. The HDV is much a policy of choice by the New Labour Cabinet. Those New Labour Members who have supported it have largely done so by choice (and perhaps an element of fear and greed).
It is failing expensively and the failure is entirely of New Labour's own making.