Council 'Plotting to Get Rid of the Poor'

MP claims housing plans are 'Shirley Porteresque'

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Local MP Andrew Slaughter has obtained documents which he claims show a concerted policy by Hammersmith & Fulham council to 'socially engineer' the borough in a 'plot to get rid of the poor.'

The Council's housing strategy includes the option of demolishing a number of housing estates across the borough in order to redevelop them. This includes the White City Estate, where the 'preferred option' is "a phased redevelopment of the estates to be largely completed within 20 years to provide new housing with a mix of tenures". 

But critics have accused the Council of aiming to reduce the amount of social rented accommodation in the borough and increase the number of privately owned properties within the areas currently occupied by the estates. Slaughter says the documents he has obtained via a Freedom of Information request, which include emails, notes of telephone conversations, and reports, prove the Council's intentions.

In one document, Council Leader Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh refers to social housing as being "ghettoes of multiple deprivation" and states that council homes should only be provided "for those who are unable due to age, infirmity or disability from using welfare subsidy to provide for themselves". In another document Cllr Greenhalgh states: “The picture of social housing is a bleak one, characterised by dependency, worklessness, poor education and health." In yet another, an unnamed speaker is quoted as saying: "The bulldozer argument does not recognise the strength of every tenant as a resident occupying a home. Funding needed for political problem of management. Hard to get rid of people."

Labour Councillor Jean Campbell lives on the White City Estate, where 74% of residents are council tenants. At a recent Town Hall meeting, Campbell "spoke movingly about the sadness she feels to hear people like her neighbours on the White City Estate so grossly misrepresented and stigmatised by Stephen Greenhalgh," according to the 'Hands Off Our Queen Caroline Homes' residents' group.

"My community on the White City Estate is a vibrant one. My neighbours include people working in health care, people working as police officers or people who are simply doing their best to bring up their kids and look after their families," Campbell told the meeting.

Andy Slaughter MP alleges that the Council's plans are tantamount to "social engineering on a grand scale". "Using the language of social cleansing, and with no respect for age, vulnerability or human rights, the Tories propose to destroy communities on estates in Shepherd's Bush, Hammersmith and Fulham. The sites will be used mainly for commercial development like hotels and conference centres. There would be a reduction of social rented homes by up to a third, and new housing for sale would be unaffordable to local residents," he says. 

The allegations recall the case of Westminster Council in which Dame Shirley Porter attempted to consolidate her party's control of the Council by moving tenants who were likely to support Labour into inferior properties which were already under Labour control and encourage private tenants to move into marginal wards.

However, Cllr Greenhalgh has rebuffed the claims. "It's ludicrous to talk about 'social cleansing'," he said. "That's rubbish from neanderthals in the Labour Party. Every time someone comes up with an idea on housing, they are branded as having an ulterior, nasty motive. I make no apology for having a bold vision. We are not stepping back and as and when we have specific plans, we will talk to people about it."

Council tenants say they are worried they may be moved out of the borough and rehoused elsewhere, but speaking on the BBC's Politics Show, the Chief Executive of H&F Homes, Nick Johnson, categorically denied this: "The numbers of social rented won't change. People will not be asked to go out of the borough, they will be offered a permanent home in the event....These are the tenant and resident guarantees," he said.

9 July 2009