City of London’s treatment of its social tenants

CITY OF LONDON TENANTS DUE A WATER CHARGE REFUND
Public call for the City of London Corporation to respect the law
We, the City councillors named below, call on the City Corporation to pay its social housing tenants a full refund of a profit that it (and a number of other local authorities) made on “water reselling” from 2001 to 2019 following a ruling by the courts that this profit was unlawful.
The City Corporation should have taken the lead in paying a full refund, because it:
– prides itself on upholding the rule of law,
– is the wealthiest local authority in the country, and
– has the smallest number of social housing tenants. 
But it hasn’t done that. While many other local authorities – including Kensington and Chelsea (https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/housing/rent-employment-and-financial-support/water-charges-rebate), Southwark (https://www.southwark.gov.uk/housing/water-refunds) and Lambeth (https://beta.lambeth.gov.uk/housing/council-tenants/overpayment-thames-water-charges/how-credit-calculated) – have been paying full refunds plus interest for some time, the City has yet to make any announcement about what it will (or, it seems, won’t) do. 
The issue of water charge refunds appeared in the agendas of the meetings of threeCity committees over the last nine months: the Housing Sub-Committee in May, the Community and Children’s Services Committee in September and the governing Policy and Resources Committee in November. Although each committee discussed the issue, no announcement has yet been made. The issue is expected to appear again in the agenda of the meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee on 20 January. All the discussions have been held behind closed doors – wrongly, in our view. Why should complying with the law be discussed in secret? Why should it be discussed at all? 
The public can deduce that most members of the three committees that have discussed the issue have been reluctant to agree to a full refund, otherwise an announcement would have been made by now. The Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee effectively confirmed this deduction when she mentioned, in answer to a public question after the meetings of the first two committees, that the issue had “reputational” implications. That must mean most members of the Community and Children’s Services Committee had wanted to avoid making a full refund, since otherwise there would be no “reputational” implications.
An officer recently stated in answer to a public question that provision had been made for water charge refunds in the relevant City accounts following a committee decision going back only six years. That would cover the period from 2013 to 2019, but not from 2001 to 2013. 
The Chair of the Housing Sub-Committee wrote in her newsletter to local Labour Party members that she thought the issue was “complicated”. We don’t think there’s anything “complicated” about the Corporation complying with the law.
We call on the City Corporation to stop procrastinating behind closed doors. At a time when many of its social housing tenants are suffering from a reduction in universal credit and increasing energy bills, the Corporation must cease holding on to money that rightfully belongs to its tenants. The Corporation should immediately announce that it will pay a full refund, plus interest, then make the repayments promptly. 

Sue Pearson (Cripplegate)
Marianne Fredericks (Tower)
Jason Pritchard (Portsoken)
Munsur Ali (Portsoken)
Graeme Harrower (Bassishaw)

GUILDHALL ELECTIONS MARCH 2022

Have YOU registered to vote?

The elections for Common Councillors, which include Cripplegate and Aldersgate wards, will be held next March to decide who will represent Barbican residents for the next three years.

Every vote counts as the elections are your way of ensuring your voice is heard and your priorities help shape the Barbican’s future.

Preliminary Ward Lists show that in some Barbican blocks over 33% of residents haven’t registered.

DEADLINE DAY FOR REGISTERING IS THURSDAY 16 DECEMBER

You must be registered to vote.

You can now register to vote online and should have received a letter in the post with a link and individual password. If you don’t have this information, request a vote or find out more at: www.speakforthecity.com

Petition for a new and improved Zero Emission Zone around the Barbican

Beech_Street_Tunnel

The Barbican Association is supporting the following petition:

The City of London should, as soon as legally possible, engage with local residents, through the Barbican Association (BA), to promote the evaluation of a more extensive and better designed ZEZ around the Barbican.

Why is this important?

The BA, representing Barbican residents, is committed to the improved air quality, reduced traffic noise, and improved safety for pedestrians and cyclists, that a ZEZ will bring to the area. (see the BA’s submission to the City’s Streets and Walkway’s Sub-committee). The failure of the City of London to engage with residents has meant that the existing experiment was badly designed and implemented and has failed in its objectives of evaluating the impact of a zero-emission scheme around the Barbican.


In addition, the unlawful actions of the City (see the Judgement of the High Court) means that most of the infrastructure associated with the scheme will be dismantled with no clear date for its reinstallation.

The Barbican Association and Residential Consultation Committee’s response to the City of London on Lord Lisvane’s Recommendations on Committees and the RCC

We are responding in particular to:

Para 353. This Committee’s task, according to its terms of reference, is entirely one of management. If that is the case, I cannot see why it should exist as a Corporation Committee. So far as the interests of the Corporation are concerned, that function can be dealt with by Officers. So far as the internal arrangements are concerned, those can surely be made by the residents themselves.

The current arrangements for the RCC were set up in 2003. Attached is the original agreement, and result, from the ‘2003 referendum’ among Barbican residents that we mentioned to you. This document came to light recently and we trust it is a valuable contribution to your meetings with Elected Members and Officers about Lord Lisvane’s recommendations re the Barbican residential estate. 

To highlight a few key phrases:

  • The Resident consultation committee will immediately have a significant influence in the management of the Estate and in future could develop to be the basis of a delegation of service responsibility. (Page 7)
  • The Resident consultation committee will be highly influential in the strategic and operational management of the Estate. In short, the Committee will have teeth.(Page 7).
  • The Resident consultation committee proposal is designed to move beyond resident consultation to a level of significant resident influence over operational and strategic management of the Estate. (Page 8)

We welcome the City of London as freeholder and service provider. Further, we believe that the RCC, which has elected representatives from house groups and officers of the City of London, is competent to carry out the role agreed in 2003 with the BEO acting on behalf of the City as its Managing Agent. We have discussed this with the Assistant Director Barbican and Property services and the Head of the Barbican Estates and are in agreement the 2003 agreement represents a collaborative and effective approach to managing the Barbican residential estate. We will be having further discussions as to how this would be implemented

In the event that the City adopts Lisvane’s recommendation to abolish the BRC we recognise that the RCC will still need to feed into the City’s committee structure and would expect to be consulted on any new arrangements. 

Can we also take this opportunity to request that in your deliberations on Committees, you consider our request for an umbrella group to look after the Grade II listed Barbican Estate. It is not getting the attention it deserves as responsibility for the Estate falls among the 21 different committees.

Adam Hogg Chair Barbican Association

Christopher Makin Chair RCC

Standards Committee Abolished

Councillor Graeme Harrower has made the following announcement about the end of the standards campaign in the City Corporation:

City’s Standard’s Committee abolished

In January 2018, a resident councillor of unimpeachable integrity successfully challenged the City of London Corporation on behalf of her constituents. Two weeks later, the Corporation referred her for prosecution which proved to be entirely groundless, and for two prejudiced hearings by its Standards Committee. The whole process cost tens of thousands of pounds of public money, and resulted in no sanction.

In December 2018, two motions were proposed in the City’s Court of Common Council in response to this scandal. Supported by only 14 out of elected 125 members, the motions aimed to reform:

(1) the Corporation’s “dispensations” policy, by removing undue restrictions on resident members speaking and voting on matters affecting their constituents, and

(2) the Corporation’s standards proceedings, by replacing members on the assessment, hearing and appeal bodies with independent persons.  

The Policy Chair ambushed the first motion with an amendment to preserve the restrictive policy on “dispensations” to vote. A debate on the second motion was prevented by a member moving “that the question now be put”, after which the motion was overwhelmingly voted down.

In April 2019, 1,200 City residents signed a petition in which they declared that they had no confidence in the Corporation’s standards regime, and called for it to be reformed in line with the motions.

The campaign for standards reform continued, waged by only a handful of members, but with strong resident support and external publicity. It was aided by the propensity of the Standards Committee to make the wrong decision practically every time it acted. 

In March 2020, a further case exposed in open Court the folly of members judging each other. Further motions for reform were proposed in June and October 2020, but were both neutered by amendments. 

Even the Corporation-friendly Lisvane report, published in September 2020, recognised that the City’s standards regime was not fit for purpose. The report recommended its radical overhaul, together with the abolition of the Standards Committee.

Eventually, in January 2021, the Court of Common Council adopted those recommendations.The aims of the two motions proposed more than two years earlier were finally achieved. The Standards Committee has since disappeared into oblivion. 

The success of the standards reform campaign – in the face of determined resistance by the Corporation’s leadership – proves that the Corporation, with all its financial, legal and PR resources, can be defeated.

This should encourage City residents to take further action against the lack of democratic accountability in the Corporation. They can do so by signing this petition, which calls for the reform of its planning process, another area in which residents are disenfranchised.

The City’s standards regime and disenfranchisement of City residents gives more background to this story.