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Help Us – Help You: Help Yourself

Are you a homeowner paying Service Charges to Lambeth Council?

Join the Lambeth Homeowners Association – we are 850+ strong: an Association run by homeowners for homeowners. We help each other. Click here to join.

The LHA needs a little bit of funding so please help us to help you – Help Yourself. Click here for more information or here to donate.

 

 

People’s Audit: Your Views Do Count

6 February 2018
The people’s audit  has demonstrated that the views of residents count. It has published evidence and facts that show a “systemic lack of financial governance” within Lambeth Council.
Those of us who have suffered Major Works, repairs, maintenance and Service Charge fiascos with Lambeth Council will probably ask ‘what’s new?’ The answer is that a group of residents who are professionals in the relevant fields have compiled the evidence and published it. The Council’s response so far has been to put its head in the sand and dismiss it as politically biased. Well, it isn’t because the residents who have done the work have shown the evidence and it is very similar to the sorts of evidence that LHA members are complaining about on our Forum.
Now we can hear more about what is happening with the People’s Audit. They are having their first public meeting on 22 February, Chaired by Kate Hoey MP.  Full details are below. Please do try to get along and find out more about what they have done, and what they intend to do next.
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‘Ratify our secret deal’: the latest call from democratic Lambeth Council

Lambeth Council wrote on 26th February:

After the deliberations of the 3 Area Boards, the following amendments were proposed to the draft Constitution. There were also strong views the 3 Boards should have met together to consider the Constitution. Therefore a joint meeting is proposed to ratify these amendments on Wednesday 7 February starting at 6.30pm in Room 1-01 in the Town Hall

Area Boards however, do not yet exist. The meetings were supposed to be to discuss the Constitutions that would establish them.

The first meeting on 4th December was of all the residents selected by Lambeth Council to have these discussions. All residents present wanted to discuss and consider the Constitution proposals put forward jointly by Tenants Council and the LHA but Lambeth Council have forbidden this. They have also forbidden any discussion of anything other than the draft Constitution they have forced through on pain of expulsion from the process. ‘Shut up’ democracy.

To stop residents acting together, Lambeth Council then organised three secret meetings that only a few residents were invited to attend and even fewer could actually get to due to awkward and short notice timings. There are no Minutes and no indication how the few cosmetic amendments to the Council’s own Constitution were arrived at.

Now Lambeth Council has called another meeting at short notice for 7th February. It is supposed to be secret too. But that is not how democracy works. At least, it is not how democracy is supposed to work. And they want residents to ratify what they have forced through, which will remove all forms of collective representation, leaving residents only able to raise a limited range of issues in Area Boards and many categories of residents will be excluded.

The LHA and Tenants Council Executive have written jointly to Lambeth Council to object. The text of the letter is below and can be viewed in full by clicking hereOur proposed Constitution can be found by clicking here.

If you wish to write to complain, please contact:

Mark Howarth <MHowarth@lambeth.gov.uk>, Jennifer Brathwaite <JBrathwaite@lambeth.gov.uk> and Sue Foster  sfoster1@lambeth.gov.uk

Mark Howarth

Lambeth Council

Meetings to determine Constitution to establish Area Boards

Glen Hellen and I are concerned at the way in which meetings have been held to discuss a draft Constitution to establish Area Boards as part of a pilot project for resident engagement because they have not complied with the norms of democratic process.

Our concerns include that the meetings to which you refer in your email dated 26th January have been held in nigh-on secret conditions with a highly restricted agenda with no Minutes and excluding the views of our two organisations which represent very large numbers of tenants and homeowners across Lambeth.

Your email includes a draft Constitution which has a few cosmetic alterations to the original Constitution that Lambeth Council drafted. As you know from our first meeting on 4th December, this draft was not found acceptable by the large number of residents present. Circulating what is, in effect, the same Constitution now as the result of three further meetings demonstrates that there has been no meaningful engagement with the draft by those affected by its provisions. Indeed, doing so demonstrates there has been a lack of meaningful democratic engagement in the development of this draft.

We note that your email dated 26th January calls for a joint meeting on 7th December of those residents selected by Lambeth Council to represent the three Areas for which Lambeth Council wishes to create Boards. The email states that this meeting is ‘to ratify’ the draft Constitution that is circulated with the email of 26th January. We feel strongly that this document should not be further considered until the draft Constitution that Tenants Council Executive and LHA jointly has sent you on behalf of their memberships has also been considered and discussed. There needs to be an open, transparent, democratic and inclusive discussion on the establishment of this pilot project. So far, this is wholly absent.

We also feel that a meeting on 7th February does not give residents enough notice and will exclude many of those who wish to come.

We therefore strongly urge you to postpone this meeting and to circulate the joint TCE/LHA constitution draft to all residents for consideration, or at least to the ones which Lambeth Council has selected to determine the Constitution that will bring Area Boards into force. You will recall that, at our meeting on 4th December all residents present, a strong turn-out, voted unanimously that this should be done and you agreed to do so. Subsequently you have not only refused to circulate the draft but also refused to allow it to be discussed either at the meeting with residents or between Lambeth Council and the TCE/LHA representatives.

We feel strongly that the draft Constitution circulated with your email does not cover the needs of residents and is inappropriately worded for operational, policy and representational reasons. This includes lack of mention that it covers a pilot programme and it introduces long term appointments far beyond the tenure generated by the pilot programme. There are also faulty constructions and vague operational language permeates the draft. This includes lack of appropriate structure of paragraphs and details such as voting procedures and clarity of objectives and aims. There is much that needs to be tightened up as well as clarified. The draft submitted by TCE/LHA jointly addresses many of these issues. We attach a copy.

We also wish to point out that it is bad practice to confirm the Constitution that establishes one element of the pilot programme (ie Area Boards) without any discussion of its other elements. We cannot make informed decisions on one part of this pilot programme until more information is provided about the other parts. For the whole pilot programme to be seamless and effective the structure of all its components needs to be developed near simultaneously.

We also would point out to you that the Cabinet decision to establish a pilot programme did not give any Lambeth Council officers the powers to bring any new Constitution into force. This means that no matter which draft is considered, it cannot be brought into force until Cabinet have rectified this position.

For all these reasons we look forward to hearing from you that the meeting on 7th February has been postponed to allow residents the opportunity to consider the Constitution proposed jointly by Tenants Council Executive and the LHA and that a full discussion on the alternatives can be held at the next joint meeting of residents to consider the establishment of Area Boards.

Please note our reiteration that Area Boards have not yet been brought into effect and cannot be established until their Constitution has been agreed by residents and brought into effect. This requires residents’ consent and Cabinet authority.

Regards

Glen Hellen                                                                    Shemi Leira

Chair                                                                                Chair

Tenants Council Executive                                          Lambeth Homeowners Association

 

Cc Cllr J Brathwaite

Cllr Jacqui Dyer

Sue Foster

Kate Hoey MP

Chuka Umunna MP

Helen Hayes MP

 

 

Lambeth Council’s secret meetings: it’s democracy Jim, but not as we know it.

Once upon a time in a galaxy not actually too far away there was a claim to democracy by the governing organisation but it seems that this is now light years away.

Lambeth Council has called what is tantamount to a secret meeting tomorrow, 8th January, to try to force through its own Constitution to establish Area Boards as part of its imposed Resident Engagement process. This Constitution would create Area Boards in a form that severely limits resident engagement.

The meeting has been convened on 8th January and only a very small group of residents has been invited to attend. Indeed, the timing and structure of the meeting is so awkward that very few of those invited are likely to be able to be there: it is tagged on to the end of an afternoon visit to the North Area Office.

Notice of the meeting was hidden away in a more general email over the Xmas period but it was accompanied by a thinly veiled threat that anyone who dares to challenge the points across by Lambeth Council would be deemed to be in breach of the Code of Conduct and barred from the process.

Observers have been blocked. No Minutes are available or are likely to be taken (none were taken for the previous meeting). Only one document, Lambeth Council’s proposed Constitution (already rejected by wider groups of residents) will be allowed to be discussed. An alternative proposal put forward jointly by Tenants Council and the LHA has been barred from consideration.

The plan is for two more such meetings (dates not known). Divide, isolate, restrict the agenda, prevent observation, don’t keep records: this seems to be the policy. Above all, don’t listen to residents and don’t act on what they want.

The stated expectation is that the already rejected document will be forced through. This document would have far-reaching implications for all residents, limiting their rights and ability to raise issues of concern and act in collective representation.

The full detail of our concerns is in our letter to Lambeth Council which we are requesting members should  should read as a matter of urgency. We have also written to all LHA members and Tenants Council is sending it to Tenants registered with them to encourage them to reject Lambeth Council’s proposals and insist on a broader consideration of options. Please consider writing to Lambeth Council to object.

The LHA and Tenants Council believe that this whole new resident engagement process that is being forced on us does not comply with the provisions of Lambeth Council’s overarching Constitution. However, if this process is to go ahead on a trial basis as stated by Lambeth Council, it is essential that its component structures are correctly and appropriately formulated. It is therefore crucial that the Constitution which creates Area Boards should be acceptable and appropriate for the needs of residents. This is fundamental for a resident engagement process. It’s not rocket science.

 

 

Democracy, but not as we know it: shut up and do what we say

According to Lambeth Council, the meeting on 4th December for residents to consider establishing Area Boards was unproductive. The reason: residents asked questions on how the new Area Boards would be able to address issues of serious concern to them and the Council could not answer them because it doesn’t.

The Council has construed this as being counter-productive because it prevented them from forcing through their own Constitution which would have established the Boards in a way that allowed them to control and limit what residents could raise.

At the moment, none of the imposed Resident Engagement Structure exists because none of it has managed to work despite six months having elapsed since the Cabinet decision (against unanimous and overwhelming resident objections) to impose the scheme and two failed meetings.

The Council has admitted that its attempt to hold a Resident Assembly last year collapsed because no Chair was appointed, no elections held, and the agenda comprised Lambeth Council telling residents that it must adopt the process.

The attempt to establish Area Boards on 4th December also collapsed because residents wanted to know why so many residents were excluded, why there was no process for collective representation, and why issues of serious concern to residents were omitted. No answers were forthcoming. Crucially, residents wanted to know why the joint Tenants Council/LHA Constitution proposals were not circulated and voted that they should be. Lambeth Council has now told us that proposals from residents

are contrary to the Cabinet proposals so wouldn’t be able to be taken on board

They are now holding a series of secret meetings with a select few residents to try to force through their Constitution. If adopted, this would establish the Boards in a way that will severely limit the scope of resident engagement to a few harmless areas and prevent discussion of any issues of real importance to residents. The first meeting, for the North Area, we have just learned, will be held on Monday 8th January. It has not been widely advertised and no observers are allowed.

And, to top this, the democracy Tsar at Lambeth Council has written to residents selected for the task of considering the establishment of Area Boards to say that if they object or cause a fuss at these meetings they will be considered to be in breach of the Code of Conduct and will not be allowed to participate. Democracy by shutting up and doing what I say. Click here to see the full letter.