Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Southwark's Housing Crisis

Last night I spoke at a packed public meeting which was called to discuss the recent changes to housing management in the borough. Although the council is the landlord of nearly 60,000 properties we no longer have a dedicated housing department, which has effectively been abolished and its responsibilities scattered amongst various other departments of the Council such as Environment, rubbish collection and Social Services.

What is perhaps more astonishing about the changes is that they were introduced without any warning, discussion or consultation - even by the Executive who are supposed to make these sorts of decisions!

Only two Executive members seem to have known anything about the changes before they happened - the current Leader Cllr Stanton and his 'A-list' Tory Deputy, Cllr Humphreys. Neither of these seems remotely concerned or apologetic for the outcry which their changes have incurred, with Cllr Humphreys arrogantly determined to press on with "Phase 2" of his Thatcherite plans for Southwark's housing.

Last night's meeting was absolutely united in its oppostion to the changes and the manner in which they had been introduced. At the conclusion of the meeting I indicated that the Labour Group would be calling a Special Council Assembly meeting to discuss the changes. I hope that this will take place within the next 10 days - it certainly cannot wait until the next Council Assembly on the 5th of December.

With tenants and leaseholders experiencing serious ongoing problems with the £100 million Call Centre; with one of the borough's major repairs contractors going bust without warning or explanation leaving jobs unfinished, and with the latest changes to the ex-Housing Department, it really does seem that the shaky Tory/LibDem coalition in charge at the Town Hall has lost its grip.

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