Labour council chiefs hit back at national ruling body over housing dispute
Dozens of Labour council leaders in England and Wales have signed a letter rebuking the party's ruling body over its order to halt a housing scheme in north London.
The National Executive Committee unanimously backed a motion, put forward by a Unite delegate, urging Labour-controlled Haringey council to pause the controversial Housing Development Vehicle.
Pro-Corbyn group Momentum has been campaigning against the proposed £2bn project and argued it amounts to social cleansing.
The vote was taken shortly after Momentum boss Jon Lansman and two allies won crucial seats on the NEC, tipping its balance in their favour.
But nearly 70 council bosses have accused the NEC of an "affront to democracy" and ordered it to stay out of local council decisions in future.
In their letter, seen by the Sunday Times, the leaders say: “We wish to make it clear to the NEC that it has no right or justification to interfere in or influence the legitimate actions of locally elected representatives.”
“Labour councillors around the country are deeply concerned that, in seeking to mitigate Tory austerity by proposing radical new solutions, we face calls for disciplinary action against us.
“Such calls are uncomradely, disrespectful, and wilfully ignore the difficult and challenging role we play in doing our best to protect the most vulnerable.”
The housing proposals have caused tension in the borough, with unions and some party members opposing the transfer of public land and commercial property to a 50-50 partnership between the Labour-run council and firm Lendlease.
In the letter the councillors said the NEC vote to pause the project took place with “no advance notice given” and after a discussion “based on opinion and speculation rather than facts”.
Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle city council and of the Labour group at the Local Government Association, which organised the letter, said: “This statement is a strong and powerful assertion of our ability to determine policy at a local level without fear of recrimination.”
He added: “If the NEC [was to] intervene directly in the running of a Labour group, without any clear justification... it would have been seen by Labour local government as a declaration of war.”