MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
Haringey leaseholders will soon pay less than half of the originally proposed cost to get digital TV, after a successful campaign by local Liberal Democrats and leaseholders.
Reports published recently detail a u-turn by Haringey Council and a notable victory for leaseholder groups and local Liberal Democrats on a change to the scheme which charged up to £1,000 for the installation of new TV aerials in housing owned by the Council.
Haringey Council’s Cabinet should agree to a new plan this week which will see full consultation, a cap on costs to leaseholders of £400 and a retrospective payment to leaseholders who have already had to pay up to £1000.
Liberal Democrats launched a campaign against the extortionate costs in June last year after it emerged that Haringey’s leaseholders had to pay up to ten times more than leaseholders in neighbouring boroughs.
After the decision was made by the Labour Cabinet to go ahead with the aerials scheme in July, Liberal Democrats forced a rethink of the scheme through Hraingey Council’s watchdog committee.
Local Liberal Democrats have today expressed concern at the fact that leaseholders and tenants still have to pay four times as much as some neighbouring boroughs to watch TV, and are now calling for the cost to be cut further.
Cllr Matt Davies, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, comments:
“I’m glad that finally the signal from local leaseholders and Liberal Democrats has got through to Labour loud and clear. Leaseholders did not want to have expensive, diamond encrusted aerial systems imposed upon them without any say.
“Unfortunately it took action by the Liberal Democrats and local leaseholder groups in July last year for Labour to realise their error. I am glad that our pressure will mean leaseholders get to pay less but it’s still quite a bit to fork out to watch TV. I know that leaseholders are still worried about the excessive cost, and the battle continues.”
Lynne Featherstone MP, adds:
“The digital aerial scheme fiasco is a prime example of how badly Labour runs Haringey Council. It fails to consult, it imposes an expensive system without considering the implications and only after intervention from Liberal Democrats and residents does it change its mind.
“I’m glad they have dropped the price but it’s still four times the price leaseholders in neighbouring boroughs pay and we’re making that concern clear to the Council.”
It looks like the formidable campaign by my LibDem colleague Cllr Matt Davies, the Leaseholders’ forum, various local campaigners (and me) will succeed. You can read the full story here. Haringey Council wanted to charge astronomical charges to their council blocks for digital switchover – £1000 to each home – way over the odds. After a long battle it looks like this will now be reduced to £400. That’s not as low as it could go – but it’s a hell of a lot better than before. Fingers crossed for the meeting next week where this will/should go through.
Haringey Council has admitted that a key part of its strategy to improve housing in the borough will be delayed. Documents released by Haringey Council last week show that the plan to reconsider planning procedures for houses with multiple occupants (Houses in Multiple Occupation or HMOs) and the actions Haringey Council would take against problem landlords will not complete until September 2011. This means that areas like Harringay ward, which suffer from an over concentration of HMOs and the associated problems, will have to wait nearly two years for any action.
Local Liberal Democrats have expressed their concerned and have said that local residents will be let down by Haringey Council’s lack of action.
Cllr Carolyn Baker (Harringay Ward) comments:
“The announcement that Haringey Council are delaying taking action on HMO’s is disappointing given the amount of work the pilot wards have done on this issue.”
Cllr Matt Davies, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, adds:
“HMOs can cause an array of problems such as anti-social behaviour, noise, increased parking, litter and refuse problems, and more crime. The fact that Haringey Council is failing to meet a clear target of action on this real problem shows that they have once again turned a blind eye to the issue.”
Haringey Council has today come under attack by Haringey Liberal Democrats for its lack of ambition for new council housing in the borough after it was revealed that it failed to apply for extra funding to build new council houses.
The revelation came in the response to a direct plea for Haringey from local MP, Lynne Featherstone, to the Housing minister as soon as it was discovered Haringey was omitted from the September announcement.
Under the scheme six London boroughs shared grants worth £28.5m to build 322 homes – money Haringey had no chance of winning because of its not applying for the scheme.
Commenting, Lynne Featherstone MP says:
“Haringey obviously meets the need threshold, it’s a shame its leaders do not meet the aspiration threshold.
“Time and time again this Labour-run council fails to make the case to its own Government for Haringey. We see this with unfair funding for schools and now with housing.
“I desperately hope they will get their act together to apply for the second round of funding before it is too late.”
Cllr Matt Davies, Haringey Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, adds:
“This news comes as a bitter blow in the fight for better housing for our borough. It is sad to learn that Haringey Council is not seizing every opportunity to address the chronic housing shortage in our area.”
Labour’s Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr John Bevan, is facing growing pressure to make a public apology for misrepresenting leaseholders in the ongoing issue of £1000+ bills for the installation of digital aerials.
At last week’s Annual General Meeting of the Haringey Leaseholders’ Association (HLA) it was confirmed that the HLA had never voted in favour of Haringey Council’s expensive digital aerials scheme despite Cllr Bevan saying publicly that they had.
Cllr Bevan publicly stated, at Full Council on 19th October 2009 and at the special meeting of the Council’s ‘watchdog’ committee on 1st October 2009, that leaseholders in fact voted for the scheme. Cllr Bevan was not at the AGM, but attended a previous HLA meeting in February 2009 where leaseholders voted in favour of an opt-out from the digital aerials scheme.
Local Liberal Democrats are calling for a public apology from Cllr Bevan to set the record straight.
Opposition housing spokesperson Cllr Matt Davies, who attended the HLA meeting on Thursday 22nd October 2009, comments:
“The Chair of the HLA asked the meeting to agree the minutes from February, which clearly state that leaseholders voted for an opt-out from the digital aerial scheme. She also asked all those present who had been at the previous meeting to confirm that this was an accurate recollection and not one single person has the same memory of the meeting as Cllr Bevan.
“Cllr Bevan must now apologise to the HLA as he was clearly mistaken. It is not surprising leaseholders get such a raw deal from Haringey if even when Labour try to listen they only hear what they want to hear.”
With the huge cost of digital aerials not the only complaints being raised by leaseholders with Councillors and Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, further questions are being asked about how Haringey bills leaseholders.
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, comments:
“It is unbelievable that Cllr Bevan has so far refused to correct his statements or apologise. He must do so immediately. It is typical of Haringey Labour that they feel they can just say what they like and ignore leaseholders – treating them like a piggy-bank they can just smash open whenever they want.
“After personally hearing so many serious concerns raised individually by leaseholders, I have asked the auditors to look at how Haringey gets money from leaseholders. I will also be meeting with the HLA to discuss their concerns as a group and would encourage any other leaseholders who have complaints about their bills to contact me. We will not be letting this drop.”
The ongoing fight against Haringey Council’s extortionate digital aerial costs that have been imposed on leaseholders continued this week as local Liberal Democrats launched their online petition.
Charges to install the Integrated Receiving System (IRS) have exceeded £1000 despite many local leaseholders saying they neither want nor need the new service.
The petition demands that Haringey Council reduces costs (neighbouring Islington Council established leaseholder digital access for only £75 per leaseholder) and to give leaseholders the ability to ‘opt out’ if they do not wish to have the aerials installed.
Local residents and leaseholders can sign the petition by visiting http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/aerialscampaign
Lynne Featherstone MP comments:
“Local leaseholders have had a rough deal from Haringey Council and continue to be ignored. It is time that we all came together to show how much opposition there is to this scheme – £1,000 to watch TV is ridiculous and leaseholders must get the chance to opt-out if they want to.
“I hope local leaseholders and residents will sign the petition so that we can show that the extortionate prices for aerials, that many do not want or need, will be fought all the way.”
Cllr Matt Davies, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, adds:
“We will continue to listen to the concerns of local leaseholders and press any way we can to ensure they get a better deal.”
Haringey Council has failed to win funding for new council homes despite the London Borough of Haringey’s chronic housing shortage, it has been revealed.
Haringey Liberal Democrats have attacked the ruling Labour administration for their failure to successfully lobby their own government for a better housing deal, following an announcement last week that Labour intends to build 2,000 new homes.
The missed opportunity comes on the back of a string of failures to obtain fair funding deals for Haringey’s residents, including equal per pupil funding for the Borough’s school children and inadequate financial assistance to support people seeking asylum.
Liberal Democrat MP, Lynne Featherstone, has written to the Housing Minister, urging him reconsider the failure to include Haringey in this or future waves of the programme.
Commenting, Lynne Featherstone says:
“My weekly surgery is packed with families who desperately need new homes today. Yet again, Haringey Labour has failed to stick up for these people.
“Now, not only do our school children not get a fair deal, but neither do people waiting to be housed. The case for Haringey is so strong – the Government must reconsider.”
Councillor Matt Davies, Haringey Liberal Democrat Housing champion, adds:
“This is such a disappointment for the Borough, particularly given the urgent housing needs of local residents. Even though the numbers to be built are small, they would have been a step in the right direction.
“How the Labour-run Council could fail make the case for Haringey is beyond me. The Government must change its mind.”
Note: Haringey currently has approximately 12,000 residents on the housing waiting list and 4403 in temporary accommodation.
Money set aside to repair local residents’ homes was raided by Haringey Council’s Labour Cabinet last week, after it was forced to pump yet more taxpayers’ money into the troubled ‘Decent Homes’ programme. Over £5 million was diverted from Haringey Council’s Major Repairs Fund to plug a gap in the Decent Homes budget, due to a Labour overspend on digital aerials and pitched roofs.
Only last month it was revealed that the Decent Homes project was £26 million in the red. The Homes for Haringey Gateway Report showed that the project overspent on items that were not shown in the original budget. This threatens work to homes still to be improved by the four year Decent Homes programme.
Local Liberal Democrats, concerned at the continual problems with the Decent Homes programme, have questioned Labour’s ability to control such large financial projects.
Cllr Matt Davies, Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson, comments:
“This project is rapidly descending into a financial farce. Sadly, once again, it is the Haringey taxpayer and council leaseholders who will have to pick up the tab for Labour’s financial incompetence.
“The Council’s own report shows that the Decent Homes project is over-budget, thanks to the massive overspend on digital aerials and pitched roofs.
“It may be desirable to have these, but you do not spend money that you do not have and which was never in the original budget.
“Now, Labour have had to dip into the Major Repairs Fund, which was already allocated for urgent repairs, to bail out the Decent Homes Project. It clearly demonstrates yet another Labour financial project that is out of control.”
Lynne Featherstone MP adds:
“This is more evidence of a council in crisis. Council leaseholders are being used as a cash cow, to hide Labour’s financial incompetence in the Decent Homes programme. They have had to fork out over £1000 each, to fund Labour’s reckless spending.”
A quick reminder / round-up of my Lib Dem colleagues on Haringey Council who are online themselves:
Matt Davies (Fortis Green ward councillor) blogs at mattdaviesharingey.blogspot.com
Karen Alexander (Harringay ward councillor) is on Twitter as @karenjalexander
Neil Williams (Highgate ward councillor) blogs at neilwilliamslibdems.blogspot.com
Fiyaz Mughal (Noel Park councillor) has a website at fiyazmughal.org.uk
Richard Wilson (Stroud Green councillor) blogs at www.richardwilson.me.uk
Over the last year, the online presence of Haringey Liberal Democrats has steadily been growing and expanding. Five of my local colleagues now have their own sites / blogs:
Matt Davies – Fortis Green councillor
Fiyaz Mughal – Noel Park councillor
David Schimtz – Tottenham Parliamentary spokesman and Seven Sisters candidate
Neil Williams – Highgate councillor
Richard Wilson – Stroud Green councillor
Haringey Liberal Democrats are also on Facebook, including information about our forthcoming events, or – if you’re not a Facebooker – you can also instead out about our events via the main party website.