Haringey Council’s scrutiny response criticised

Council’s response to Noel Park Estate review recommendations criticised by scrutiny chairman, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Haringey Civic Centre

Haringey Council has been criticised over its response to a review of an estate works programme that initially saw some leaseholders facing bills of more than £100,000.

During a meeting on Tuesday, the council’s cabinet fully agreed 17 out of 20 recommendations made by the housing and regeneration scrutiny panel’s review of the major works programme for the Noel Park Estate in Wood Green.

But overview and scrutiny committee chairman Cllr Khaled Moyeed called for all the recommendations to be fully agreed and accused the council of “watering down” some of the ones that were accepted.

The £21 million works programme underway at the estate includes replacing bathroom pods from the 1970s, as well as repairing or replacing roofs, brickwork, doors and windows.

Estimated costs sent to leaseholders last year ranged from £56,000 to £118,000 – far higher than previous estimates of around £25,000.

A consultation on enhanced repayment arrangements is currently underway, and the council announced in May that leaseholders will have their contributions for replacement bathroom pods capped at £25,000 – although they will also be expected to pay towards other essential works.

Cllr Moyeed (Labour, Noel Park) told the cabinet meeting he had spoken to leaseholders and his comments reflected their views.

He said they were grateful to cabinet for accepting the majority of the recommendations but “surprised and disappointed” it was rejecting two recommendations and partially agreeing one.

“We would like you to adopt all the recommendations without any exception,” he added.

The scrutiny committee chairman criticised the decision to only partially agree a recommendation that the cost of asbestos removal in the properties be borne by the freeholder, which is council housing arm Homes for Haringey.

The costs are to be addressed by cabinet next month.

Cllr Moyeed claimed that if the work had started earlier, asbestos could have been removed from pods more cheaply. “Residents have been living in unsafe homes for years now due to Homes for Haringey’s inaction,” he said.

The council’s response to the scrutiny review also rejected calls for an independent investigation into why leaseholder questions “were not answered in full or in good time”. Officers said that beyond a summary of the works and their estimated costs, leaseholders were “not legally entitled to seek further particulars of the works and cost”.

But Cllr Moyeed said the council should not be operating to the statutory minimum and needed to provide as much information as possible to residents. The scrutiny committee chairman added that reports resulting from a ‘lessons learned’ session held by the council and Homes for Haringey should be made public.

Cllr Moyeed called for the council to set up a committee to provide oversight of future major works projects. This had been recommended by the scrutiny review but rejected by council officers, who claimed processes were already in place to scrutinise procurement.

Cllr Moyeed’s speech was interrupted by deputy leader Cllr Mike Hakata, who chaired the meeting for the duration of the item, telling him his allotted five minutes was up. Cllr Hakata (Labour, St Ann’s) thanked him for the comments and told him conversations would continue beyond the meeting.

He said council leader Cllr Peray Ahmet would be meeting leaseholders this week, and what Cllr Moyeed said was being “noted and listened to”.

Four cabinet members, including Cllr Ahmet, had left the meeting at the beginning of the item because they had been part of the scrutiny process. The cabinet members who remained in the meeting agreed the response to the scrutiny review.

A Haringey Council spokesperson said: “The Noel Park Scrutiny Review was a thorough and important piece of work, and we have accepted the majority of its recommendations – and have taken action in response.

“We are finalising our decision at a cabinet meeting in July. We hope to have been able to reassure and address the concerns of the Noel Park leaseholders.”