COUNCIL ESTATE DEMOLITION: LAMBETH COUNCIL ADVISERS PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE IS “NONSENSE” SAYS TORY OPPOSITION LEADER (and could be a criminal offence….)
ANY SUGGESTION that Lambeth’s own specialist independent advisers can provide legal advice to residents about the demolition of their estate is nonsense – and could be illegal.
The warning comes from Lambeth’s Conservative opposition leader Cllr Tim Briggs in a letter to senior Lambeth council officer Neil Vokes.
Cllr Briggs said he attended a meeting a month ago close to the Westbury estate – one of six estates which Lambeth council want to demolish – where council officers AGAIN said that independent legal advice would be provided.
” ‘Legal advice’ has a specific meaning in the context of work done by solicitors, as a reserved legal activity under the Legal Services Act 2007, and it is a criminal offence for non-solicitors to provide a reserved legal activity” Cllr Briggs tells Mr Vokes..
“It needs to be clarified whether the council has either (1) lied to residents in providing its offer of independent legal advice with no intention of providing it, or whether (2) independent legal advice was budgeted for within the redevelopment plans for the Westbury Estate and has now been removed.
“It is in the council’s interest in providing the independent legal advice it has offered, and to stop messing residents around on this point.”
I attended a busy Westbury estate meeting last year (30th June 2015) at which residents worried about the financial aspect of Lambeth council’s regeneration offer were told by officers and Cllr Matthew Bennett (cabinet member for housing) that they would have access to independent legal advice.
“It was the promise of independent legal advice that allowed the meeting to conclude.
“Suggesting that the council’s own specialist independent advisors can provide advice is a completely different offer.
“Any suggestion that they can provide legal advice to residents is nonsense and completely against the spirit and the letter of what was promised, a promise that would enable residents to understand their legal options at a critical time.
“By way of example, at the last meeting residents were angry that the council had sent letters urging leaseholders to sell their properties to the council without providing the independent legal advice that would enable them to act in their own best interests.
“The council needs to understand that if the decision of residents to comply with the requirements of regeneration is made on the basis of promises made which are then broken, the council cannot proceed on the basis of the false information it has provided.
“Added to the other legal question of whether a proper consultation can be considered to have ever been carried out in the first place, since the option to not demolish was never given, the failure to provide independent legal advice to residents as promised means that the council has made a promise on which reliance has been made, and the council wants to proceed it will be stopped from doing so unless it revisits the terms of the original consultation, since that promise formed part of the offer which has now changed.”