Latest Activity

Iain Meek replied to Paul Drinkwater's discussion Plumber recommendation wanted
"My landlord uses this chap and he is an excellent plumber who gets it done AND cleans up afterwards. Pawel Rapacewicz boiler and radsMAXUS Heating and Plumbing LtdPawel Rapacewicz Gas Safe Engineer 543 233(t) 07864 663638www.maxuslondon.com"
26 minutes ago
Christine Clifford replied to Nicholas Tait's discussion Proposals for replacement of the Museum of London
"More offices"
yesterday
Nicholas Tait posted a discussion

Proposals for replacement of the Museum of London

Sharing the proposals for the development to replace the current Museum of LondonSee More
Saturday
JF posted a discussion

Double mattress

Memory foam double mattress in really good condition was in the guest bedroom. Make an offer. See More
Friday

Forum

HEALTH & WELLBEING

117 discussions

ESTATE OFFICE ANNOUNCEMENTS

603 discussions

GENERAL COMMENTS & QUERIES

1326 discussions

MAJOR WORKS & PROJECTS

116 discussions

COLPAI

Site of former Richard Cloudesley School

168 discussions

BERNARD MORGAN HOUSE

16 discussions

COMMUNITY CENTRE

17 discussions

ITEMS FOR SALE OR RECYCLE

219 discussions

@GoldenLaneEC1

Text Box

Facebook

There are four Golden Lane Estate related facebook accounts and you can follow them here: goldenlaneEC1 

Golden Lane Estate / RCS site 

Save Bernard Morgan House

City of London

CITY OF LONDON CORPORATION FAILS ITS RESIDENTS

CITY OF LONDON CORPORATION FAILS ITS RESIDENTS

I've called on the City of London Corporation to use some of its £2.6 billion quasi-public “City's Cash" to fund an acceleration of the renovation of its social housing estates, which - due to decades of neglect - are in poor condition.

My call has been rejected by the leadership. The Corporation is happy to spend what is needed to put up new non-residential buildings within a short time frame, but refuses to spend what is needed to complete the renovation of its social housing estates within a similar time frame, or indeed any time frame: the works proceed at a glacial pace, often delayed and uncoordinated, and with no end date in sight.

I reproduce below the text of my email to the Corporation’s Chair of Policy explaining the situation, comment on her reply, and ask questions about a photograph taken last month.

EMAIL SENT BY ME TO THE CITY OF LONDON COURT OF COMMON COUNCIL ON 6 JULY 2021 (addressed to the Chair of Policy and copied to all members)

Dear Policy Chair,

During the last month, I have called on the Policy and Resources Committee to take urgent action on a matter that blights the Corporation’s reputation and many of its residents’ lives.

For decades, the Corporation has neglected the maintenance of its own social housing estates. When I gave the Chair of Policy a tour of Golden Lane Estate four years ago, I believe you were shocked to see its poor condition. When I gave Keith Bottomley, Vice Chair of Policy, a tour of the estate last month, he had a similar reaction. Any member can go to the estate to see for themselves peeling paint on the buildings and railings, patched and leaking roofs and rotten window frames. The buildings bear the insignia of the “Corporation of London”, a name which the City of London Corporation hasn’t used for the last 15 years. The shame of the neglect is compounded by the fact that this estate is grade II and II* listed and part of the City’s rich heritage.

A programme of renovation works is being undertaken on the estate, but during the last few years it has achieved relatively little in the context of all there is to do. Promises made to residents have not been kept. Covid cannot be used as an excuse, because the programme was slipping before the pandemic began, and the Corporation anyway proceeded with construction work during the lockdowns on a new project only a few metres away from the windows of the existing estate buildings. While the renovation programme continues at its current glacial pace, the condition of the unrenovated parts of the estate continues to deteriorate, causing costs to escalate. The lives of the residents, most of whom have no other homes, are continually disrupted by the slow and sometimes unco-ordinated works.

The residents on social housing estates owned by the Corporation outside the Square Mile face a similar problem.  

The cause of this problem is a lack of resource. It is not realistic to expect a relatively small team of officers to reverse decades of neglect on several estates within a reasonably short time frame as well as dealing with their day to day running. Following the Grenfell fire disaster, the emphasis moved to fire safety, and another raft of projects had to be added to the major works programme but with no additional funding or resources. What is needed to renovate the estates within a reasonable timescale is funding for additional resources. What is spent will be less than the cost resulting from the delays inherent in the current programme.

We are told that financial prudence is required within the Corporation, hence the "fundamental review” and TOMS. But the inability to recruit staff within the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) to cope with the expanded major works programme has not been financially prudent. It has also had a cost for the quality of life of many of those living on the Corporation’s estates. 

The Corporation is undertaking a major new project consisting of building new courts, a police station and an office block off Fleet Street. We can be sure it is not entrusting this project to a few officers to deal with on top of their existing duties, but is employing a range of professionals to ensure that the project is delivered on time and on budget.

If the Corporation can afford to put up large new buildings within a relatively short time frame, why can’t it do the same for its existing buildings where its residents live? The answer is a lack of political will, but that is not an excuse.

There is no doubt that the Corporation - which is by far the wealthiest body in the country to exercise local authority functions - can afford to renovate its relatively few social housing estates in a similar timescale to its large new building project. The HRA has limited funds. The obvious solution is for the Corporation to use City’s Cash, its quasi-public fund, to supplement the HRA.

There is precedent for this: the Corporation has set aside up to £50 million from City’s Cash to provide Covid recovery support to small businesses in the Square Mile, who have not historically suffered from the Corporation’s neglect in the same way as residents. It’s already clear that only a fraction of that £50 million will actually be spent for the benefit of small businesses, even with the extension of the application deadline to the end of this month. That will leave a lot that could be applied to funding the resource needed to renovate all the social housing estates within a reasonably short, rather than indefinite, timescale. 

The committee with the power to take this decision is the Policy and Resources Committee, hence my addressing this email to you.

Unfortunately, my call has so far been met with a series of evasions. Attempts have been made to minimise the problem, although its existence is literally visible. A report will be coming to the Community and Children’s Services Committee this Friday (9 July) which catalogues what renovation has been done, but omits how much has not been done and when it will be completed. Reasons are found for constantly slipping timescales. We hear how hard the officers work, but no acknowledgment of the burden placed on them to do so much with so little resource. The Policy and Resources Committee has pushed the problem back to the Community and Children’s Services Committee, which has no access to City’s Cash, and can’t do more than it currently does of in supervising an unsatisfactory cycle of slow progress, more delays and escalating costs.

A particular reason for the Policy and Resources Committee not grasping this nettle of the Corporation’s own making, seems to be sensitivity around using City’s Cash for the benefit of residents. The Corporation includes its residents as “stakeholders”, and wouldn’t have the status of a public authority without them. It has shown no hesitation in using City’s Cash for the benefit of its other “stakeholders”, who include big businesses and, with the recent support scheme, small ones. So why not the residents?

The Chair of Finance described the application of City’s Cash for their benefit as “complicated” - but so are many things, including initiatives in which the Corporation engages for the financial City. On being pressed, he cryptically responded that “we must not compromise the national picture with anything we do”. What does that mean? And why is the “national picture” our concern - isn’t that the government’s role? I asked these questions three weeks ago, but haven’t received a reply.

Could the reason for this apparent reluctance to address the subject be that if the Corporation supplements the HRA out of City’s Cash, it might in future get less government grant? But why should taxpayers’ money be used to subsidise an institution like the Corporation that has money of its own which it could use to bring the condition of its own social housing estates quickly up to a decent standard? 

This matter doesn’t appear on the agenda for the meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee this Thursday (8 July). I ask that you propose to the committee that it address the matter.

 

MY COMMENTS ON A REPLY SENT BY THE CHAIR OF POLICY TO ME ON 20 JULY 2021 (and copied to only a few members of the Court and a few of the Corporation's officers, including the PR director) 

The Chair of Policy’s reply was lengthy, but continued to evade all the issues I had raised in my email.

  1. I wrote:

“Unfortunately, my call has so far been met with a series of evasions. Attempts have been made to minimise the problem, although its existence is literally visible. A report will be coming to the Community and Children’s Services Committee this Friday (9 July) which catalogues what renovation has been done, but omits how much has not been done and when it will be completed."

The Policy Chair in her reply described what renovation had been done, but omitted how much had not been done and when it would be completed.

  1. I wrote:

“The Corporation is undertaking a major new project consisting of building new courts, a police station and an office block off Fleet Street. We can be sure it is not entrusting this project to a few officers to deal with on top of their existing duties, but is employing a range of professionals to ensure that the project is delivered on time and on budget … If the Corporation can afford to put up large new buildings within a relatively short time frame, why can’t it do the same for its existing buildings where its residents live?”

The Policy Chair replied:

“The major projects you mentioned are not all-new initiatives as they support areas of work in which the City has been involved for years, replacing out of life facilities for our police, courts, markets and museum. All these existing buildings would need considerable work even if they were not being relocated.”

The point of my question was why is the Corporation spending money on putting up these new functional buildings within a short time frame but not spending money on renovating its residential buildings within a similar frame? If a choice needs to be made (although it does not), why prioritise putting up new buildings where no-one lives over renovating existing buildings that contain peoples’ homes (and in most cases their only homes)?  

  1. I wrote:

“The Corporation includes its residents as ‘stakeholders', and wouldn’t have the status of a public authority without them. It has shown no hesitation in using City’s Cash for the benefit of its other ‘stakeholders', who include big businesses and, with the recent support scheme, small ones. So why not the residents?”

The Policy Chair replied:

"We are conscious of the need to strike a balance in our spending across our various stakeholders. The City Corporation provides extensive services for the benefit of all Londoners, and crucially supports the competitiveness of the UK during challenging times for the global economy.”

The Corporation does not "strike a balance” between its “stakeholders”. It spends large amounts out of “City’s Cash” promoting the financial City, which can easily afford to fund its own promotion. The current condition of its social housing estates is proof of how little it has spent on its residents. The slow and often unco-ordinated programme of renovation, that has no clear end date shows how it continues to underfund work for its residents.   

  1. I wrote:

“The HRA [Housing Revenue Account] has limited funds. The obvious solution is for the Corporation to use City’s Cash, its quasi-public fund, to supplement the HRA. There is precedent for this: the Corporation has set aside up to £50 million from City’s Cash to provide Covid recovery support to small businesses in the Square Mile, who have not historically suffered from the Corporation’s neglect in the same way as residents.”

The Policy Chair replied:

“The City does not subsidise its local authority functions from City Cash; the Covid grant to the Housing Revenue Account in March 2021 was exceptional given the unprecedented situation.”

But why does the Corporation not subsidise its local authority functions from “City's Cash" when it can do so (unlike any other local authority) and has set a precedent by putting aside up to £50 million to support small businesses in the Square Mile?

  1.  I wrote:

“The Chair of Finance described the application of City’s Cash for [residents’] benefit as “complicated” - but so are many things, including initiatives in which the Corporation engages for the financial City. On being pressed, he cryptically responded that “we must not compromise the national picture with anything we do”. What does that mean? And why is the “national picture” our concern - isn’t that the government’s role? I asked these questions three weeks ago, but haven’t received a reply. Could the reason for this apparent reluctance to address the subject be that if the Corporation supplements the HRA out of City’s Cash, it might in future get less government grant? But why should taxpayers’ money be used to subsidise an institution like the Corporation that has money of its own which it could use to bring the condition of its own social housing estates quickly up to a decent standard?” 

The Policy Chair replied:

"The City is not the only authority suffering from the effects of Covid on their HRA and we are building a case to seek central government compensation to HRAs for COVID losses. We must not compromise the national picture with anything we do.”

No other local authority will be “compromised” by the Corporation supplementing its HRA from “City’s Cash” because no other authority has a similar fund from which to supplement its HRA. The rest of my questions remain unanswered.

  1. The Policy Chair wrote:

"In any case City’s cash is running at a deficit at revenue level and is having to draw down on reserves to finance its budgeted activities, so there is no scope for to provide the support you suggest.”

It is disingenuous to suggest that the Corporation can continue to fund the promotion of the financial City but not find the money to renovate its social housing estates. Why not reduce its "budgeted activities” in other areas that it has not historically neglected? Alternatively, why not solve the alleged “asset rich, cash poor” state of “City’s Cash" by selling some of its many assets.

  1. The Policy Chair wrote:

“It is important that the City Corporation plays its role in delivering high quality affordable housing in the City and neighbouring boroughs. As part of this, the City Corporation has embarked on an ambitious new housing development programme that is expected to deliver up to 3,700 new homes on sites across London by 2025.”

The reply does not mention that a few years ago the Corporation sold a housing block for key workers on Golden Lane Estate to a private developer, which demolished it and built an oversized block of luxury flats. It also does not mention that the Corporation previously set a target that it failed to meet it. Even if the Corporation does this time meet its target, how is that relevant to renovating its existing housing stock, which it has let fall into such disrepair?

  1. The Policy Chair wrote:

"Housing shortages and high costs are a threat to the capital’s competitiveness and the ability of the City, and London businesses, to attract and retain the workforce it needs. Therefore, it is important that the City Corporation plays its role in delivering high quality affordable housing in the City and neighbouring boroughs.”

Aside from the points just made that the Corporation has in recent times not done much about developing new housing stock and that this project is, in any case, irrelevant to the renovation of its existing stock, the words just quoted reveal how the Corporation seems to think of homes only in terms of supporting the City’s workforce. People with no connection to the financial City have always lived in the Square Mile, and still do. Many of our older residents have spent over 50 years living on the estate. There is a long-standing prejudice within the Corporation that residents are a nuisance and get in the way of it promoting the financial City. But the Corporation would not have the status of a public authority without residents. Perhaps a solution for residents to consider is that the Corporation ceases to be a public authority.  

  1. The Policy Chair wrote:

“With an overall satisfaction level among residents of 97% over the last 12 months, we are heartened that residents are pleased with the service we are providing and the present levels of investment in our housing.”

That claim is as incredible as it is false. Living on Golden Lane Estate, I know what residents think, and it isn’t that. Barbican residents have different issues, but the summer of discontent shows they do not have a high “satisfaction level” either.

A PHOTOGRAPH THAT RAISES QUESTIONS

 

A resident sent me this photograph taken on 26 August showing the Policy Chair, Deputy Chair, Chair of the Housing Sub-Committee and two officers in discussion in the middle of Golden Lane Estate.

The photograph raises the following questions:

  • Why was I not invited to join them? As the only member of the Court of Common Council who lives on the estate, I know it better than any of them.

 

  • Are they visiting each of the other estates owned by the Corporation? When I first called for an acceleration of the renovation of the Corporation’s estates, I made clear that this was for all of them, not just Golden Lane.  

 

 

The Policy Chair’s reply gave no indication that any action would be taken to accelerate the renovation. What, then, were those in the photograph discussing? Is a PR campaign being planned to show how much the Corporation has done on Golden Lane Estate and how “our residents are very important to us”? Spin won’t work: residents live with the truth. It will be another freezing, damp winter for many. It’s time the Corporation faced the fact that it is failing its residents, and that this matter will not go away until it spends a small part of its vast wealth on accelerating the outstanding work.

 

Views: 797

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of goldenlaneestate.org to add comments!

Join goldenlaneestate.org

Comment by Mark Bostock on September 3, 2021 at 14:51

I fully support the position which Sue Pearson has taken.

Mark Bostock

Councillor, Cripplegate Ward

© 2021   Created by Paul Lincoln.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service