On 15 June 2021, I introduced the Noel Park Major Works Scrutiny Report to Cabinet. I have set out below what I presented to the Cabinet with the simple message that the Scrutiny Report should be adopted in full.
I will be presenting the Scrutiny Report into the Noel Park Major Works Programme which was authored by Cllr Ruth Gordon in her then capacity as the chair of the Housing and Regen Scrutiny Panel. She is now in the Cabinet.
Before proceeding any further, I want to state that I have checked and there aren’t any conflicts in my presenting this Scrutiny Report. Yes, I used to live in Noel Park, my parents still live there and I am a ward Councillor.
I have had direct engagement with Noel Park leaseholders affected by this Scrutiny Report on what I am about to present, which is perfectly in line with the new cabinet’s approach to co-design and co-production.
I am one for using plain English. In my case, it means that I have spoken directly with the Noel Park Leaseholders and what I am about to say reflects their views as well.
There are three broad points I will make.
First, we are grateful to the Cabinet for accepting the overwhelming majority of the 20 recommendations in the Scrutiny Report.
Secondly, we are a little surprised and disappointed that you are rejecting recommendations 1 and 20 and that you are only partially accepting recommendation 12. Afterall, the Scrutiny Report was authored by Cllr Gordon, one of the Cabinet members.
For the reasons that I will explain, we would like you to adopt all of the recommendation without any exception not least because Cllr Ahmet, leader of the Council said, in response to a question from Sarah Klymkiw (one of the leaseholders) at last week’s O&S Meeting that she stands by the Scrutiny Report.
Finally, there are recommendations that you are supposedly accepting, but the effect of the Cabinet response is that the scope of the recommendation has been altered so fundamentally that it reads like a rejection or that the scope has been watered down so much that it does not give effect to what was intended in the Scrutiny Report. Again, I will elaborate shortly.
Turning now to the recommendations that the Cabinet are rejecting or partially agreeing
Recommendation 1 is about an independent investigation into why responses to leaseholder questions after receiving the S.20 notice in September 2020 were not provided in full or in good time.
Cabinet response for rejecting this is not acceptable for the following reasons:
- Response said that the leaseholders are not legally entitled to seek further particulars of the works and cost. We should not be operating to what is the statutory minimum. If the new cabinet is serious about co-design and co-production, then we need to be as transparent as possible and provide as much information as possible to residents.
- The suggestion that there was a high volume of complex questions and that leaseholders organised collectively to ask the same questions should not be material. The high volume and complexity of the questions demonstrates how poor communication and consultation had been prior to the Section 20 notice. Leaseholders share common concerns and may have very similar observations that they wish to raise.
- Freedom of Information rules must not be used, or rather misused, to ignore observations simply because some leaseholders have helped each other collectively.
- We are told that a ‘lessons learnt’ session had taken place – In the interests of transparency, it Is essential that any reports resulting from this ‘lessons learned’ session should be made publicly available.
Recommendation 12 is about the cost of removal of asbestos from the pods should be borne by the freeholder (Council). This was only partially agreed.
Leaseholders believe there have been clear failings in the way that Homes for Haringey has managed the issue of asbestos across the estate. Had the works been done when they should have been done, asbestos could have been removed from the pods more cheaply off-site, something that it is no longer safe to do. Residents have been living in unsafe homes for years now due to Homes for Haringey inaction. We believe that this recommendation should be implemented in full, with all costs relating to asbestos removal being borne by the freeholder, for all asbestos throughout the property.
Finally, recommendation 20 is about Contracts and Oversight Procurement Committee – we will simply refer you back to the original Scrutiny Review as to why this is an important recommendation, and it should be implemented in full.
We will now turn to recommendations that the Cabinet have accepted but altered the scoped fundamentally
Recommendation 7 is about guaranteeing the cladding outside the new pods. The Scrutiny Report sought an assurance that leaseholders will not be held financially liable if they need to be removed or replaced at any point in the future. Cabinet response limits the guarantee to 12 years.
In the event that cladding needs to be removed or replaced after the 12-year guarantee has expired, the freeholder must still be prepared to bear any costs for defects related to issues with the design or build, regardless of whether those issues were known at the time or are only identified in the future.
Recommendation 9 states “That it is established how estimates for pod replacement and other works have escalated over the time-period between purchases of the properties and the S20 notices in September 2020.”
The Cabinet response is that the cost escalation is due to the wider construction industry cost inflation. Leaseholders do not agree that the extent of the cost inflation has been justified nor that the increase in the scope of the works in the intervening period has been justified. Leaseholders should not have to pay higher costs because the works were not done when they should have been done, nor should they have to pay for works that have become necessary due to the properties being neglected by Homes for Haringey. Both Councillors and Officers have repeatedly stated that the works should have been done years ago.
Recommendation 10 is in relation to resale packs. It recommended that “That a review is undertaken to establish whether resale packs supplied to leaseholders when purchasing their properties were complete and correct.”
Leaseholders support this review but note that there is no suggestion as to how any cases of inaccurate or inconsistent resale packs will be remedied.
Furthermore, the cabinet response says that “HfH have commenced an internal review of Noel Park resale packs to ensure accuracy and consistency going forward.” This is very different from the Scrutiny recommendation which stated that there should be a review of past resale packs.
Recommendation 17: “That the formal roundtable talks should be minuted and outcomes jointly agreed between the parties.”
The Cabinet response is that this has been agreed but we note that we no minutes or action points have been made available from the leaseholder consultation sessions. This must be done for the roundtable talks to be meaningful.