Greenwich Council’s leader has said the Labour Party’s ruling committee should recognise the independence of its local councils, after her counterpart at Haringey resigned after a row over its plans to spin off council homes into a part-private company.
Denise Hyland was speaking at Woolwich Town Hall the day after Claire Kober announced her departure from the north London borough.
This followed Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) urging Haringey to pull back from its controversial Haringey Development Vehicle scheme, which would have seen the council create a jointly-run company to redevelop housing estates and commercial properties.
Hyland was one of a number of Labour council figures to sign a letter criticising the NEC for the move last weekend, along with Lewisham elected mayor Sir Steve Bullock.
Conservative councillor Matt Clare applauded her decision to sign the letter, and referred to media reports depicting Kober’s resignation as the result of “Corbynite bullying”.
“Can she give the residents of this borough an assurance that the democratically elected councillors in this chamber and their stewardship of this council is not subject to a similar forms of what the press referred to the other day?”, he asked.
Hyland responded: “There have been concerns about the joint venture in Haringey – there are real issues, people are very concerned about putting council assets in such a joint vehicle and whether there will be truly genuinely affordable housing… and people are mistrustful of private enterprise working in public-private finance arrangement.
“It’s not for me to comment on that, that is a matter for the councillors in Haringey.”
But she continued: “The reason I signed that letter was actually for one reason only. And it was that whole issue of autonomy, the localism, of local councillors being able to make their own decisions.
“And the manner, in which that all occured where the voice of the criticism was being heard, but the other side of the story was not being invited to be heard.
“It didn’t feel as if Claire Kober had a decent hearing. What motivated me to sign it was not setting a precedent of an outside body – it doesn’t matter how much we love the NEC, we love Jeremy Corbyn and we love the NEC – it’s actually about horses for courses.
“They make their decisions in the NEC, we make our decisions here in this chamber.” (see video)
Labour’s NEC, which now has a majority of party officials loyal to leader Jeremy Corbyn – who has attacked estate ‘regeneration’ schemes – acted after 21 Haringey councillors complained they faced disciplinary action if they voted against the Haringey Development Vehicle in an emergency council meeting called by opposition Liberal Democrats.