LAMBETH PEOPLES AUDIT -101 QUESTIONS FOR LAMBETH COUNCIL’S CABINET – Part Two
QUESTION 34: HOW CAN YOU SAY YOU HAVE NO MONEY FOR HOUSING REPAIRS AND THEN TAKE £1 MILLION OUT OF THE HOUSING REVENUE ACCOUNT TO FUND YOUR NEW TOWN HALL?
Questions 26 to 53
5.1 NEW TOWN HALL COSTS
The report says the Lambeth peoples Audit “asked to see the budget that was originally signed off in 2013 and any changes to that budget since the information wasn’t released until the day after Lambeth’s budget meeting in February 2017 where cabinet passed a budget approving £55M of cuts which it said that it had to carry out as a result of central government cuts to their funding. “Had the information about the town hall budget been in the public domain it would have been a lot harder to explain these decisions.”
26: Why was there a delay in releasing this information?
The report says “When you take all the extra items that make up the budget the total project cost adds up to an eye watering £104 million.”
27: Do you dispute the eye-watering figure?
28: If so, please say the figure is?
The report asks why the council accepted a bid from Muse which did not comply with the council’s requirement to achieve 40 per cent affordable housing.
The report says project costs had increased by £8m before the project had hardly even started.
30: What reasons were there for this?
31: What financial management systems were in place at the time?
32: Where is the extra £8 million is going to come from to fund this short-fall?
The report says “£1 million was being taken from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA). “The HRA is supposed to be ring-fenced, with the principle being that council tenants’ rent is held in a separate account which is then used to pay for future up-keep of their homes. “Lambeth justify using this money to pay for the town hall cost over-runs on the basis that some of its housing staff will be based in the new town hall.”
34: How can you say you have no money for housing repairs and then take £1 million out of the Housing Revenue Account to fund your new town hall?
The report says “A reserve of £8.3m has been earmarked in the HRA section of the accounts.
“Residents whose council homes are facing demolition under Lambeth’s regeneration programme are understandably asking why their rents are being put into a reserve of this size – instead of paying for refurbishment of their homes, something Lambeth have stated they don’t have the funds to do.
35: Would you like to explain this to your residents?
36: Is the £8.3 million still earmarked for your new town hall – or has it already been spent on your new town hall?
The report says “Lambeth will be selling land to Muse as part of the town hall development for something in the region of £3.1 million. “We have yet to be told what is being sold and on what basis. “Given that Lambeth spent over £12 million acquiring land in order for the project to go ahead we would like to know exactly what they are selling to Muse.”
37: What land is being sold?
38: On what basis is that land being sold?
6 SALE OF COUNCIL ASSETS
The report says “We found a number of examples where Lambeth’s assets were sold off below market rate to a private property developer. In one case the asset is then registered with an off-shore company.
“In 2015/2016 Lambeth sold off three pieces of land on council estates to Pocket Living at a significant discount and without any competitive tender.”
39: Why was the land sold at a significant discount?
40: Why was the land sold without any competitive tender?
It is evident that the council is selling off property outside of Right to Buy.
41: Why? Please justify your reasons for doing so.
The report says “Given that Lambeth council spent over £26,000,000 on temporary accommodation in 2014/2015 alone it surely makes no financial sense, in the middle of a housing crisis, to be selling off council houses for short term gain when such properties could be used to house people who are currently in temporary accommodation.
“The latest DCLG statistics show that there are 291 empty council properties in Lambeth, equating to a loss of £2.9M per year in rent, the second highest loss of council rent in London.”
42: Why are so many Lambeth properties empty?
43: What have Lambeth done to rectify this situation?
7 MAJOR WORKS
The report says “The Peoples’ Audit have seen several examples of Lambeth trying to over-charge residents for these works, in one case by over 350 per cent.”
44: Why have Lambeth been trying to overcharge residents for works?
45: Who authorised this overcharging?
46: What have Lambeth done to rectify this situation?
The report says “As a result of the independent survey the extent of brickwork repairs to the block was reduced from £12,149 to £1,475 and concrete repairs were reduced from £21,063 to £12,498.”
47: How do you explain such a gigantic drop in these figures?
48: Who authorised this overcharging?
49: What have Lambeth done to rectify this situation?
The report says “Despite the Information Commissioner ordering Lambeth to provide leaseholders with copies of these validation surveys, Lambeth have failed to do so.
50: Why are you ignoring the Information Commissioner?
The report says “We are concerned that they may never have been carried out.”
51: Have these validation surveys have been carried out?
52: Who checks these validation surveys have been carried out?
The report says “The Peoples’ Audit have viewed the contracts for Lambeth’s Decent Homes contracts which show the price for a kitchen replacement to be in the order of £2-3,000 per kitchen. “Yet Lambeth are reporting that they are paying on average £4,000 per kitchen with no adequate explanation as to why.”
53: What is Lambeth’s explanation for this?