Council committee recommends inquiry into estate redevelopment ballot following concerns over way it was run By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
Councillors in Haringey have called for an independent inquiry into an estate regeneration ballot following allegations of “vote collection” and “pressure” put on residents.
Members of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee recommended holding the inquiry after hearing housing campaigners’ concerns over the ballot of Love Lane Estate residents in Tottenham.
The poll, which took place in August and September, saw residents on the estate narrowly back the council’s regeneration plans, allowing their 297 homes to be demolished to make way for the 2,600-home High Road West development.
But during a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, campaigners from Haringey Defend Council Housing claimed practices they alleged council officers had engaged in were “enough to invalidate a ballot when the result was so close”.
Speaking during a deputation to the committee, Paul Burnham, from the campaign group, raised concerns over “the amount of pressure the council put on residents during the ballot period” – particularly vulnerable people.
He added: “And then there is vote collection. We first heard about it from the residents. We know that the ballot administration company told the council not to do it, but we believe that they carried on anyway.”
Paul quoted one resident who alleged council officers had visited their home and “helped” them with the vote. The resident claimed they were initially undecided but voted using one of the officers’ mobile phones.
Under questioning from members of the committee, Paul’s colleague Florence Alloway claimed four residents had told her their ballot papers were taken away by officers.
It is the second time in a month that the council has faced criticism over its handling of the Love Lane ballot. On 4th November, members of the housing and regeneration scrutiny panel agreed to ask the civic centre to consider re-running the vote after learning that officers collected four sealed ballot papers from residents with severe mobility issues.
A senior officer told the meeting the council had followed independent guidance on the ballot and denied there had been a “process of systematic vote collecting”.
The ballot took place after the council secured £91million from City Hall and the government to boost the number of council-rent homes on the scheme to 500. This allowed the civic centre to offer a council-rent home to all secure and eligible non-secure tenants on Love Lane Estate.
But Paul also raised concerns over the delivery of the homes. With a financial ability assessment submitted as part of the planning application showing the High Road West scheme would deliver less than half of the target profit of 14% for developer Lendlease, he warned of risks that had “not been properly assessed – not least the council housing component”.
And he claimed 300 of the council homes would not be finished until 2032, meaning some Love Lane residents would have to spend “years in temporary accommodation off the estate”.
The overview and scrutiny committee made a number of other recommendations to cabinet after members carried out their own review of the High Road West scheme.
They included calls for the rents for those moving into new homes from the estate not to increase, financial support for leaseholders, and for businesses not to feel “pressurised to relocate” as a consequence of regeneration.
Members of the council’s cabinet will decide whether to act on the committee’s recommendations at a future meeting, expected to be next week.