with reference to the Report of the Camden Community Investment Programme Scrutiny Panel March 2022. https://tinyurl.com/rkc2ctt9
Objectives of Community Investment Programme –
(clause 7 in report) – The CIP programme was created in 2010 to deliver new homes (including replacement council homes; new council homes and affordable housing) together with new community facilities and schools, financed through the sale of land and cross-subsidy by market housing. Camden’s preferred option is to deliver the majority of schemes through direct delivery (i.e. Camden as developer).
Questions raised about the CIP programme:
Is it value for money and do the new homes and facilities it delivers justify its budget and expenditure?
Are the social, environmental and long-term economic ‘indirect’ costs of the programme -usuallly experienced by residents and tenants- being adequately considered in decision-making?
What is the level of financial risk to the Council?
Does the overall transparency and accountability of the CIP project need improvement?
“It’s shrouded in secrecy, mired in debt and looking at the report it seems to be failing even in its main basic aims of providing net new or additional social housing for Camden. I think that summary in itself is pretty damning.”Labour Kilburn councillor Douglas Beattie, quoted in Camden New Journal March 2022:
Some Recommedations paraphrased from the Scrutiny Committee Report
Targets and Oversight
- CIP housing targets should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound and based on a 3-yearly cycle.
- Camden’s RCP (Resources and Corporate Peformance) and Housing Scrutiny Committees should monitor performance.
- The Council should review the probity of the Cabinet Member responsible for CIP sitting on the Planning Committee when CIP applications are being decided.
- Greater collaboration with residents, tenants, community groups, councillors, and relevant organisations is needed. Information, both strategic and in relation to individual sites, should be available in one central, publicly accessible dedicated spreadsheet on the CIP website as well as published as an Annex to the CIP Annual Report.
- Projects should be tracked, setting out the anticipated and current date for completion and any material change in project benchmarked.
Level of risk
Council housing, once the cherished centrepiece of Bevanite socialism, took just twenty years for successive governments to pick apart.Lynsey Hanley
The Council’s overall exposure to financial risk, with anticipated expenditure of £283m in the approved CIP programme, relies on receipts of £295m. This cross-subsidy, direct delivery model depends on private sales so is vulnerable to movements in the housing market.
Anticipated costs should be benchmarked against other CIP projects, other private development projects in Camden, and compared against other projects being delivered by other local authorities. Any abnormal and additional costs associated with estate regeneration proposalslso should be accounted for.
Quote from Letter from Neighbours of West Kentish Town – September 2021 CNJ
“Here, in our bit of the borough, Camden is the one with “huge powers”, the over-mighty developer.
Sadly, over the past 10 years of their Community Investment Programme Camden has gone ahead with all kinds of local intervention without the benefit of a planning framework. Resulting unwanted side-effects include: massive delays on housing schemes, very low return of additional council flats, over-dense development (CIP’s cross-subsidy model means building many more small flats than family homes), loss of open space and play areas, confidential negotiations / partnerships with buyers of public land to dodge Camden’s own planning policies, destruction of mature trees, demolition of the last remaining council-owned workspaces in the neighbourhood and, now, the botched road closures around Queen’s Crescent.
There has been no open space planning, no community facilities planning and no strategising on housing needs specific to our area (with Carlton School now closed as a result) and no economic development planning…Over the next five years we will find ourselves living in the teeth of three major housing developments at Bacton, West Kentish Town and Wendling.
We have no confidence our council is interested or capable of planning this properly. …we want proper town planning in our neighbourhood and have been asking for it now for the best part of 10 years.”
Ensuring public confidence is essential and Camden has not ensured residents know what is happening to their estates and their borough.
The focus of the future CIP programme must be on the delivery of new additional social-rented homes, rather than replacement homes, new schools or community facilities. The key question when deciding on future CIP projects should be whether a particular proposal delivers sufficient value for cost in comparison with alternative options.