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Leeds tenants say 'hands off our homes'

little londoner | 15.05.2006 14:04 | Free Spaces | Social Struggles

At 12.30pm this Wednesday, (17 May), residents of Little London will gather outside Leeds Civic Hall to demand the Council immediately suspends its privatisation plans for their estate.

If sucessful, Leeds City Council will sell off or demolish 435 council homes and force hundreds of tenants to leave their homes and community.

The lobby has been called to pressure the monthly Council Executive meeting (1pm) at which Councillors will decide whether to or not to go ahead with an £85m Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme - called the 'Comprehensive Regeneration Option' – to redesign the area and build hundreds of private houses and flats for wealthier city workers.

Anywhere between 450 and 800 tenants, some who have lived in the area for as long as 80 years, will be forced to leave their homes to enable private developers to make £millions in profit. The Council has refused to guarantee that tenants forced out of their existing homes will be rehoused in the estate.

Contrary to Leeds City Council's misinformation campaign, tenants and residents of Little London have NOT backed the PFI scheme. There has been no ballot and despite enduring a completely biased consultation process in favour of the PFI scheme, 63% of tenants in Little London refused to endorse the Council's plans. This is backed by a petition circulated by the Little London Tenants & Residents Association (LLTRA) and signed by more than 500 residents – around a third of the estate - that opposes any demolitions or the sale of properties that would force people out of their own community.

"Leeds City Council pretends it wants to regenerate council housing yet it is going to get rid of 310 council homes in Little London and 10,000 across the city. It says it has 'consulted' the community yet since 2000, Little London has been effectively blackmailed by the Council in an appalling undemocratic process. From ignored ballots to biased information, to bare-faced lies in public meetings, the Council has completely abused its power to rail road this back door privatisation through. What people need to ask is - who benefits from privatising tower blocks and bulldozing homes? Is it poor working class families local to Leeds, or wealthy city workers and private property developers? I think we all know the answer."

An alternative option, the more modest £20m Decent Homes scheme, would bring homes on the estate up to the government's minimum standard without reducing the council housing stock or evicting local residents. Despite this, it is expected that Wednesday's Council Executive will decide to ignore opposition and go ahead with the Comprehensive Regeneration Option. Council officers last week admitted that they had already put the PFI bid in, subject to formal approval. However, tenants are not going to lie down and die quietly.

An alliance of residents plan to lodge a formal complaint with both the Local Government Ombudsmen and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which has ultimate responsibility for council house regeneration. Individual tenants are also beginning private legal proceedings.


In 2002, Leeds City Council balloted tenants of Little London and Woodhouse on whether they wanted a £35m Private Finance Initiative (PFI) to regenerate council housing in their area. 54% of voting residents in Little London and Woodhouse said NO to the proposed PFI-regeneration on a whopping 67% turnout – just 26.9% voted in the Hyde Park and Woodhouse ward in the 2004 council elections. The Council, however, didn't like the result, examined the voter breakdown, cut out Woodhouse and within weeks re-balloted Little London by itself. This time the result was reversed but 46% of eligible tenants did not vote.

Since 2002, no regeneration work has taken place nor have any substantial repairs been made.

PFI schemes are notoriously over budget and late; they are also on average 30% more expensive than if the government borrowed the money. Because of the delay, the government forced Leeds City Council to consult tenants again on regeneration for Little London.

The Council's determination to push residents down the PFI road was seen in the unashamedly biased and totally illegitimate nature of the door to door consultation in February. The information was only in English, discriminating against the hundreds of migrants and refugees living on the estate. Close scrutiny of how the Council actually compared and contrasted the pros and cons of the two options revealed huge bias. For example, the 'opportunities' section for the Decent Homes option actually contained a list of "negative statements" about Decent Homes, whereas for the same section of the Comprehensive Regeneration option, the display contained ONLY "positive statements".

The Council neglected to tell residents that a large number of the community would be forced to leave Little London under Comprehensive Regeneration.

Local residents and campaigners were so angered by the biased Council exhibition that they spontaneously put together their own "counter exhibition" with all the missing facts, and attempted to display it alongside that of Leeds City Council. However, on several occasions, these residents were refused entry to the foyer by council officials and ALMO officers.

One eyewitness recounts discussing the biased nature of the presentation with two council employees in the lobby of Lovell Park towers when one of them stated she hadn't even really looked at it properly, it was "just a chance to get out of the office in East Leeds".

On one occasion when residents of Carlton Towers (scheduled for demolition under PFI) were being "consulted", the same eyewitness heard a council representative informing a tenant that under Comprehensive Regeneration he would "definitely be rehoused in Little London". This directly contradicted the Joint Leader of Leeds City Council, Mark Harris, who only a week earlier at the 2 February public meeting between the Council and tenants had said on record that "no guarantee could be given". When the council official at Carlton Towers was challenged on this, the response given was that Comprehensive Regeneration "is a 30 year scheme" - therefore implying that tenants would be re-housed back in Little London over this framework.

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