Trade unions to urge Haringey council’s scrutiny committee to rethink Lend Lease appointment

Trade unions will urge Haringey Council to rethink a controversial decision to name Lend Lease as its preferred joint venture partner during a special meeting of a scrutiny committee this evening.

In February, the council’s cabinet accepted the recommendation of an earlier report and duly appointed Lend Lease as its preferred partner in a 50:50 joint venture Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). But the decision was challenged by 10 Labour and eight Liberal Democrat councillors, who have called it in for examination by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, where opponents are set to air their grievances and urge the council to think again.

The HDV is intended to lead the borough’s regeneration efforts over the next 20 years or so, and the council claims it will deliver new jobs and at least 5,000 new homes. However, opponents are concerned that the proposals include the transfer of council assets – including housing, public, and commercial buildings – to the HDV’s ownership.

Indeed, ahead of that cabinet meeting, GMB called the proposals a “reckless privatisation” of some £2bn of public assets, although the council maintained the joint venture structure would ensure the council remains in control.

The union is taking part in a lobby of the meeting this evening at the Civic Centre in Wood Green, and has asked to speak to the committee before it makes it decision.

“We again call on the council to take a step back and review this decision,” said Warren Kenny, secretary of the GMB’s London region. “Nobody disputes the need to bring much needed regeneration projects to the borough but this should not be done by selling off the family silver or at the expense of current and future council tenants."

But it’s not just “privatisation” that’s at issue; the union Unite is outraged that the council is “getting into bed” with a company that was caught up in the blacklisting scandal that shook the construction industry a few years ago, which saw the union taking its challenge to the High Court in 2013.

“Lend Lease were blacklisters and breached building workers’ human rights – the right to be active in your union. In the absence of other sanctions, it is the view of Unite that blacklisters should not be rewarded with public contracts, particularly by Labour councils,” said Adrian Weir, Unite’s assistant chief of staff, who will be presenting his concerns to the committee when it meets this evening.

“Blacklisting is bigger than just damaging the individual worker – blacklisting is a form of collective intimidation. It sends out strong signals to everyone in the industry that if you stand up for your rights and the rights of others then sooner or later no construction employer will take you on.”

A statement from Lend Lease acknowledged but drew a line under the historical issue: “Lend Lease EMEA was previously part of the Bovis group of companies and was acquired by Lendlease Corporation in 1999,” it said. “It is acknowledged that in the past, prior to the acquisition of Lend Lease EMEA by the Lendlease Group, a company within the Bovis group of companies (now known as Lend Lease EMEA) was involved in the issue of construction industry vetting. However the involvement of Lend Lease EMEA in relation to this vetting was minimal. Lendlease has settled all claims made against it by affected individuals. Lendlease confirms that it does not tolerate this activity.”

Haringey Council declined to comment.

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