Council sending representatives door-to-door to press residents to vote and guiding them to vote in favour of council scheme, say campaigners – while leaked ‘traffic light’ table was used by council officers to identify residents opposed to scheme or malleable
Residents are calling on Haringey Council to call off a planned ‘vote collection’ visit by ballot administrator CES to the Love Lane estate in Tottenham this afternoon between 2pm and 6pm, where a demolition and gentrification ballot is in progress until next Monday.
The concept of collecting votes from residents – under a yes campaign – is problematic enough for democracy, when residents would normally vote at their discretion and how they wish. But local housing campaigners say that residents have already received visits from council officers pressing them to vote yes – and even helping them to fill in ‘yes’ votes that were then taken away.
And they say that a leaked ‘traffic light’ document shows council offers used a ‘RAG’ (red, amber, green) spreadsheet to help them identify where to focus their efforts.
A letter from Paul Burnham, with the Haringey Defend Council Housing group, to council leader Cllr Peray Ahmet reads:
Dear Cllr Ahmet
I am writing to you as Leader of the Council about the practice of vote collection in the Love Lane demolition ballot, and the planned visit of the ballot administrator to the estate this afternoon for the purpose of vote collection.
When the ballot began, residents were given clear instructions on how to vote. Each voter would have a ballot paper, and voting was to be by post, by telephone using security codes, or on line using security codes.
However once the ballot started, we heard that Haringey Council officers were door stepping voters insisting that they vote. On Sunday 22 August I was informed by two tenants separately, just a few minutes apart when calling at their homes, that officers had called on them three at a time on Saturday evening asking for ballot papers. They asked people to fill their ballot paper in (with yes, obviously) and let the officers take it away with them. One voter explained how he had gone along with this, and the other one how he had refused to co-operate.
Then on Tuesday 31 August, two vote No supporters spoke to a tenant who said that several council officers had come to her door and they had helped her to vote yes, at their initiative not hers, and this was by phone. They were there when she said the words to vote yes. She said she didn’t fully understand what she was voting on, she didn’t understand it properly.
In these cases, the free will of the voter is being deliberately compromised by the council, as is the secrecy of the ballot. It is intimidating to use several officers together. To ask people to vote in front of landlord representatives, and at their initiative, is a breach of normal balloting procedures based on democracy and the unrestrained free will of the voter.
We only have secret ballots in Britain to prevent landlord and employer intimidation and corruption of voting rights, which we are seeing here.
The use of confidential information by Haringey officers during the ballot is also a breach of normal democratic procedures.
It has come to our notice that Haringey Council officers carried out a pre-ballot survey of estate residents’ views on demolition, which was recorded on a spreadsheet and colour coded using a RAG analysis (red, amber, green) to show residents’ individual views identified by name, address and contact details, red meaning those who do not agree with the Council and Lendlease plans. This was part of an engagement exercise carried out by a joint team of Council and Lendlease officers, using the engagement consultants Soundings as one of their sub-contractors. It is inappropriate for any such landlord monitoring or data collection to take place at all. We have housing management in order to provide services, not to monitor the opinions of tenants.
The Council’s officers also have access to updated information about who has voted. The RAG analysis can then be used to target vote Yes campaigning activities towards those who are shown in the RAG analysis to be less well informed, or less securely attached to any disagreement they may have with the council or its plans.
Another concern is about undue pressure on vulnerable people who can be targeted by Council officers, as was the case when secure tenants were moved off the estate.
There is a gross disproportion between the resources available to the Council and to the community. It is normal democratic procedure is to have a limit on campaign spending, but in this case the spending to seek yes votes is virtually unlimited, and paid for from our rents via the Housing Revenue Account.
Then, following criticism of the council over all these issues, we have the ballot administrator Civica Election Services (CES) being brought onto the estate today, as advertised on posters containing partial and misleading vote Yes propaganda: because a yes vote for the Lendlease deal is NOT the only way to build new council homes. The posters say that CES will be coming because they are ‘qualified to collect your vote’, all in breach of the voting instructions issued to residents which state that it is the voter who may decide to vote, and not anyone else.
The recommendation is that the CES estate visit today should be cancelled, and the practice of vote collection ended. Let residents vote as they see fit, and only if and when they themselves decide to do so. I look forward to your response. I am copying this email to all Councillors.Emphases added by Skwawkbox
Campaigner Paul Burnham told Skwawkbox:
In these cases, the free will of the voter and the secrecy of the ballot is being deliberately compromised by the council. It is intimidating to use several officers together. To ask people to vote in front of landlord representatives, and at their initiative, is a breach of normal balloting procedures based on democracy and the unrestrained free will of the voter.
We only have secret ballots in Britain to prevent landlord and employer intimidation and corruption of voting rights, which is what we are seeing here. The voting instructions issued to residents state that it is the voter who may decide to vote, and not anyone else.
Why is this happening ? Because so many residents are standing firm and refusing to vote for the demolition of their homes. People know that Haringey Council’s promises might not be kept, because they their promises are not being kept now. And people think that the developer Lendlease, which would own the land after demolition and redevelopment, has its own agenda of profit, of new homes packed too closely together, and sky high service charges. So the NO vote is holding up under the Council’s pressure.
The truth is that this ballot is too close to call. This is a community standing up to the Council, the developers, and the Mayor of London, for a better deal. We will be at Love Lane between 2 and 6pm for a spot of election monitoring, with a bit of door-knocking and supporting residents who may be minded to vote NO to the demolition and gentrification plan. Campaigning will continue until the ballot closes on Monday. A digest of our canvass returns is attached. There are 304 people registered to vote in total.
Love Lane Independent Tenant and Leasholder Adviser Damian Tissier also has grave concerns about the ballot process. He said:
This is one of the more important decisions that residents will have to make in their lives. But residents were given only two weeks to consider the council’s Landlord Offer on incomplete and often confusing information before the ballot process started.
A previous Lendlease-council joint housing scheme – the controversial ‘HDV’ – dogged the tenure of right-wing former council leader Clare Kober. Kober was replaced following her resignation by left-winger Joe Ejiofor and now works as director of housing for a private housing management group. However, Ejiofor was recently toppled by the Labour right and the new regime appears determined to push another Lendlease scheme through and create yet another ‘gentrified’ London area at the expense of local council tenants.
Haringey Council was contacted for comment but said it would not be able to provide a response before publication. If one is received, it will be added here when available.
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