Lambeth Council Deceit Exposed

by More Street Cleaning and less Social Cleansing, please

A very illuminating document, probably written in the mid-1990’s, plopped onto my doormat the other day.

This document has been included in disclosures to, and by, Devonshires. This action obviously validates the authenticity of the document.

Thank you to the person who gave me the document, and thanks too, to the anonymous person who actually wrote the ‘South London Shortlife Development Forum’ report, copied below. From the information included in the report, I believe that the person who wrote the document, even back then, wasn’t entirely comfortable with the deceit being perpetrated by Lambeth Council.

Lambeth Council has systematically lied and cheated 1000’s of Lambeth residents. Housing Co-operative residents have been cynically manipulated by this corrupt and dishonest Local Authority.

Lambeth Council should be held accountable for their malfeasance.

Finally, after 20 years, the relentlessly appalling behaviour exhibited by Lambeth Council, Lib Peck, Peter Robbins, Sue Foster, Devonshires, Peter Drake et al makes a very nasty kind of sense…

First, the story of a court case that took place in 1990/1991, then see the document that show why Lambeth Council has been treating Shortlife Housing Co-operative residents so cynically.

In 1969, an area around Lillieshall Road, SW4 was declared a clearance area under Part III of the Housing Act 1957. In 1971, the area was CPO’d for slum clearance and in the early/mid 1970’s Lambeth Council began purchasing the houses. The plan was to demolish the cottages and build a small estate.

Before demolition could take place, the Clapham Society managed to get the properties listed and this effectively stopped Lambeth’s plan to clear and develop the land in Lillieshall Road.

Then Lambeth Council, in the mid/late 1970’s, began to allow a ‘quasi-squatting’ situation to develop, I say ‘quasi-squatting’ because the keys to properties were being handed out by the Council’s own neighbourhood officers. There were no official tenancies involved, but the Council was allowing young people and families to move into, and live in, the derelict buildings.

In 1980, in order to formalise this ‘quasi-squatting’ situation, the residents were told to form a Housing Co-operative and that licenses to occupy would then be granted.
The Council assigned a Housing Association, Solon, to oversee the sub-licensing of the houses, effectively creating a legal barrier between the residents (Lillieshall Road Housing Co-op) and the owners (Lambeth Council).

Individual residents signed 5 year license agreements with Solon, beginning in 1981 and lasting until 1986.

However, we now know that there was no license between Lambeth Council and Solon during the 1980’s. Repeated requests, over many years, have failed to unearth any valid license (pre-1990) referring to the Lillieshall Road properties. Recently, Lambeth Council’s Shortlife officer, Peter Drake, stated that the only license that had ever covered the Lillieshall Road properties, was dated 1990, and this license didn’t even include every house managed by the Co-op, only those that had received, or were about to receive, small amounts of funding for refurbishment.

So, in 1981, Solon licensed the properties to individuals in the Co-op, but Solon themselves did not have a license with Lambeth Council.

In 1990, at the request of Lambeth Council, Lillieshall Road Housing Co-op attempted to evict a resident who had stopped participating in the functioning of the Co-op. The Co-op agreed to do this because it was told to sort out any problems within the group, in order to become a Permanent Co-op, an outcome that would give the Co-op residents leave to remain in their homes indefinitely.

Up until this point, the Co-op was functioning extremely well, resident participation was high, rent payment was excellent and the Co-op were following the formalities, stipulated by both Lambeth Council and Solon Housing Association, that would enable the Shortlife Co-op to become a Permanent Co-op.

Lillieshall Road Housing Co-op was officially recommended for Permanent Co-op status.

However, before Lillieshall Road HC managed to achieve Permanency, the attempted eviction in 1990/1991 (at the behest of Lambeth Council) changed everything.

At the initial 1990 hearing, the Co-op was awarded possession against the defendants, but the defendants were allowed to Appeal this decision. In this initial hearing, much of the case revolved around what plans the Council had for the land that the Co-op properties sat on.
The Judge, with Lambeth’s understanding and agreement (Lambeth was represented by Housing officer, Fiona Jamieson), declared that the residents would have been regarded as Secure Tenants of Lambeth had there not been development plans for the  land.

However, during the 1991 Appeal, it was proven that the development plans were not valid, because

  1. the properties were listed buildings and could not be demolished
  2. the Department of the Environment refused Lambeth Council permission to convert the properties into flats

The result of the Appeal was that the residents the Co-op were attempting to evict, were declared Secure Tenants. Referring back to the initial hearing, the Secure Tenancy was obviously with Lambeth Council.

The big issue here is:

Lambeth failed in it’s duty to give Secure Tenancies to many of the residents it allowed to occupy ‘Shortlife’ properties.

The development plans were invalidated before the Co-op existed,  before the newly formed Co-op became involved with Solon and before any individual agreements between residents and Solon (as the intermediary, aka the ‘Secondary’) were ever signed.

The issuing of Shortlife licenses was legally dependent on the properties being on land designated for development. But the land was not development land (due to the success of the Clapham Society in getting the houses listed and then the Department of the Environment’s refusal to allow conversion of the houses into flats).

Therfore, the failure of Lambeth Council to issue Secure Tenancies to authorised residents occupying Council properties, on land that could not be developed, was illegal.

After the late 1991 Appeal, Lambeth’s attitude to Shortlife Housing Co-operatives changed radically. Perhaps naively, Lillieshall Road Housing Co-op had no real idea why, at the time.

Lillieshall Road Housing Co-operative was repeatedly threatened with eviction from about 1993 onwards, the previous promises of Permanency disappeared, Lambeth refused to tell the Co-op whether they were even licensed or not.

Now, in black and white, spelling out Lambeth Council’s efforts to avoid their legal duties, is a report written by the South London Shortlife Development Forum, referring to the legal status of Shortlife residents.

Devonshires, Lambeth’s own legal team, is referred to as advising that Shortlife residents were probably Secure Tenants.

The report rounds up with:

“…Councils only want to have to deal with the problem when faced with requiring vacant possession of the properties for disposal or development and then are trying to exert pressure on individual associations to mislead the Courts in order to obtain possession…”

Read the Brixton Blog’s article about the ‘dirty tricks’ campaign that Councillor O’Malley was told about by a council officer, and read an earlier blog on here, the last but one paragraph, referring to Devonshire’s and Lambeth’s campaign of misinformation.

Now it’s all starting to make sense, Lambeth Council has acted deceitfully for decades. It’s treatment of Co-op residents has been designed to scare people away from fighting possession orders and evictions. Threats of tens of thousands of pounds in ‘occupancy’ charges; vulnerable people being ill-treated; misinformation constantly being repeated by Council officers and the obvious avoidance, by the Council, of any kind of constructive or equitable negotiation… the Council has been trying to get through the whole of the Shortlife recall without having to confront, or even acknowledge, the illegality of the treatment of Shortlife Housing Co-op residents in the borough.

Thousands of people who, in all likelihood, should have been Secure Tenants of Lambeth since the 1970’s, have been forcibly evicted from their homes.

The £100,000’s raised by the Co-ops, and individual members of Co-ops, spent on maintaining and re-building their homes, was effectively used by the Council to simply increase the profits made when Shortlife homes were eventually sold.

Lambeth Council has systematically lied and cheated 1000’s of Lambeth residents.

Housing Co-operative residents have been cynically manipulated by this corrupt and dishonest Local Authority.

Lambeth Council should be held accountable for their malfeasance.

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