The Guardian journalist Dave Hill has started a new London blog and his latest post is a Q&A with Haringey Council leader Claire Kober about the controversial plan to redevelop parts of the Borough jointly with the giant building company Lendlease in some form or joint venture known as the Haringey Development Vehicle.
As a Union Officer in the private sector my job is excitingly varied…. but one issue have I dealt with consistently for decades relates to the property estate of one of the UKs largest companies and how it is managed. So clearly I wont be writing about that here.
But it does give me the experience to suggest we do need to ask some questions and get some answers about Lendlease.
Ms Kober’s remarks about the impact of Tory Government policy on local Council’s budgets and in particular their housing policy seem to me well made. She makes a number of guarantees about future housing for people in areas impacted by the HDV but I wouldnt be the expert in understanding the status of those guarantees. She does however suggest, in response to Dave Hill’s questions, that going with Lendlease, having looked in some way at alternatives, is the only game in town.
Hmmm. If that is the case, and I’d always cast a critical eye on such a point, Lendlease will know that too.
Lendlease are not a charity or a social enterprise, They are a large private company whose legal duty is to make profits for their shareholders. One can see the attraction of the HDV to them. In a period when Government spending on public sector projects is in decline, thanks to misguided austerity policies, the HDV represents a very large opportunity to work and extract profit from that sector.
Of course that may not be how it works out. Profits for a variety of reasons may not be what is hoped. It may cost more than is anticipated (this is almost certain, I represent project managers- good union members btw) and it may take a lot longer (this is also quite likely) Lendlease will of course be contractually obliged to continue even if any of these things are the case. But will they? My experience would suggest they may well not, at least not as originally agreed. Ultimately such matters have to be resolved in the Courts which takes lots of time and money. Lendlease has both, the people of Haringey less so.
Of course it will be argued as the current love affair between Haringey and Lendlease blossoms, this is something that could never happen. Unfortunately many marriages do end in divorce. Best to think about that before you start