Islington’s estates see decades of Labour neglect reversed

The transformation of two of Islington’s worst-built estates is making more progress this month with Market estate’s rebuilding well underway, and Hyde Housing getting funding agreed for Packington. Both estates were built by Labour; abandoned by Labour; and the initiative to get decent homes for their long-suffering residents by rebuilding them was taken by the Lib Dem council, with tenants’ backing. So it’s ironic to read Labour councillor Martin Klute claiming that we have Emily Thornberry to thank for winning Government funding for the re-building of the Packington Estate and accusing the Lib Dems of wanting to ‘flog it off wholesale to the private sector’.

Packington Estate has to be rebuilt because it does not comply with current building safety standards. It was the old Labour council which demolished some of Islington’s regency houses to build Packington; and which then failed to note that it did not comply with safety standards after the Ronan Point disaster. It is the Liberal Democrat council which took action, investing in making Packington safe by removing all the gas installations and converting residents’ cooking and heating free of charge. And it is the Liberal Democrat council which worked with residents to offer them two options on the way forward; PFI or stock transfer.

It’s interesting to hear Labour say that PFI would have been ‘flogging off the estate wholesale’. Is that how they see Gordon Brown’s PFIs for hospitals, railways and schools? PFI would have kept the Packington residents as council tenants, rather than forcing a stock transfer. The council thought it was important to give tenants that choice. The other option, stock transfer to a housing association, does in fact mean ‘flogging off the estate wholesale’ – and that’s what the tenants chose.

As for the Government investment, while it is welcome, it was obvious from the start because of the unique safety issues that this investment would be necessary whichever route the Packington tenants chose. When it came to rebuilding the Market Estate, it was the Liberal Democrat council who had to step forward and find the funds to make it happen, after the Government reneged on its pledge of £9M.

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