Despite the difficulties in Haringey and Harlow this week, with the resignation of leader Claire Kober and Jon Clempner, most moderate Labour boroughs have kept a Momentum takeover at bay. However those same moderate Labour council leaders, who are looking at the election but one, in 2022, are likely to shift towards Momentum-appeasing policies in the future.
This week Claire Kober resigned as leader of Haringey Council after Labour’s ruling NEC sought to mediate with the council leadership over the controversial Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) scheme. The scheme is a public private partnership with Lendlease to redevelop council housing estates in Haringey.
A leadership election will likely take place before the May elections and it is expected that an anti-HDV candidate will succeed her. Haringey, under Claire Kober’s leadership, has been one of the most pro-development boroughs in London in recent years. A change in leadership could herald a different direction for Haringey in their attitude towards development, particularly flagship regeneration schemes.
Whilst in Harlow, Clempner resigned from his post as Leader, as a councillor, and as a member of the Labour party, citing “an active campaign against my leadership by a local Momentum organiser, being called a neo-Nazi by some Corbyn t-shirt wearing person outside the Labour Party Conference, and events at a national level targeting Labour Councillors and Labour Councils”.
Meanwhile, in Newham Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz OBE has emerged as a contender for the Mayoralty, throwing into doubt the position of longstanding Mayor Sir Robin Wales. Cllr Fiaz has been one of the most vocal proponents for mixed communities on the SDC. If successful in her bid Newham could become tougher in negotiations with developers over affordable housing.
Other local authorities are facing growing opposition to their housing plans. Leftwing activists and community groups are joining forces in slamming urban regeneration schemes and housing projects where developers are not offering enough affordable homes. Southwark council deferred the Elephant & Castle plans over a lack of affordable housing. In Westminster Labour councillors have questioned plans for 1700 new homes on Church Street again about affordable housing numbers.
Buoyed by Jeremy Corbyn’s strong showing in the general election last year, Momentum activists are increasingly flexing their muscles in the Labour party and challenging the way Labour councils do deals with property developers. At Labour party conference, Jeremy Corbyn said that if he became Prime Minister he would ensure any large redevelopments required the approval of local residents. In the Vauxhall constituency Labour party members passed a motion to back ‘meaningful and transparent’ ballots of locals on all big regeneration schemes.
Opposition to developers housing schemes do not come solely from the left of the Labour party, it is crossing party lines. The Liberal Democrats are joining the chorus of calls for more affordable housing provision along with the Greens. Both are echoing local resident’s views that the houses being built are simply not affordable and are pricing people out of London boroughs altogether. In Haringey the Liberal Democrats have been opposed to the HDV since its inception, outflanking the centrist Labour administration.
While we have not seen Momentum councillors selected in other boroughs in anything like the numbers we have seen in Haringey the direction of travel for all Labour administrations is the same; much stricter on affordable housing and tenure types. Consequently it should be expected that there will be tougher negotiations over affordable housing between developers and councils in the future.