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'bullying' Prescott Accused Of Hitting The Poor

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'Bullying' Prescott accused of hitting the poor

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

(Filed: 26/01/2006)

John Prescott is accused today of employing "corrupt economics" and bully-boy tactics in his plans to demolish 168,000 homes in the Midlands and the North.

He is condemned for allowing developers, consultants and social landlords to profit at the expense of poor residents.

Mr Prescott: a tenth of his staff claimed to have been bullied

A second charge of bullying is levelled by a select committee of MPs. Its report accuses the Deputy Prime Minister of allowing a culture of bullying to flourish in his department after a tenth of his staff claimed in a recent survey to have been victims.

A Whitehall source said last night: "The bullying comes from the top."

The report attacking Mr Prescott over compulsory purchase and planned demolition of whole streets in nine towns and cities, including Liverpool, Newcastle and Hull, is published by the charity Save Britain's Heritage.

It gives a damning list of who will gain from his Pathfinder housing renewal initiative. The first are private consultancies such as Llewellyn Davies, Babtie Group, Halsall Lloyd and Mouchette Parkman. Mr Prescott's department has so far paid them £168 million. Save says that the money could have restored 8,000 homes.

It accuses housing associations, or registered social landlords (RSLs), of doing deals with councils to raise their income from speculation and development rather than relying on the modest rents from their properties.

Save says that evidence of this is "highly visible" in the Pathfinder areas, where tenants have been decanted from their properties, leaving large tracts "tinned up" and vulnerable to arson and vandalism following a lack of investment and deliberate running down of essential public services, such as rubbish collection.

"Liverpool has thousands of otherwise perfectly good properties boarded up, while between the council and the RSLs there is a housing waiting list of some 18,000 people," the report says.

It accuses the Housing Corporation, a department that comes under Mr Prescott, of allowing that to happen, although managing social housing portfolios to secure development opportunities is clearly against the RSLs' regulatory code.

Save says that chief executives of RSLs, who are paid between £100,000 and £200,000 a year, tend to benefit through their large salaries, which are often higher than the Prime Minister's.

Those standing to gain most from compulsory purchase of homes at low values caused by the blight of being within a clearance boundary will be house builders, including Bellway, Gleeson, Keepmoat and David Wilson Homes.

The report says: "Houses are being condemned on the basis of cursory inspections. Lines are drawn on maps based on evidence that is in many cases out of date. Local wishes are ignored. Areas are blighted and communities are destroyed."

Save calls for an immediate moratorium on all demolitions while Mr Prescott's department considers whether the £1.2 billion cost of Pathfinder by 2008 would be better spent elsewhere.

Marcus Binney, the president of Save, says: "One of the nastier aspects of the whole programme is the bullying involved. One resident, determined to mount a campaign against the bulldozers, was told that she was a 'fame-seeker'. The folly of Mr Prescott's policies is becoming increasingly evident. This report provides the ammunition to blast Pathfinder off the political agenda."

Save has set up a £10,000 fund to help support groups fighting the needless destruction of their homes.

A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister condemned the report as "utter nonsense" and "ill-informed scaremongering".

He said: "Pathfinder programmes are taking a wide range of action to turn around neighbourhoods blighted by boarded-up houses, vandalism and anti-social behaviour. To date, more than 13,000 homes have been refurbished compared with 4,000 demolished."

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You do realise that this is the man who was given a 'bung' in the form of free (or massively reduced apartments) in the planned Battersea tower development in London. Prescott went over the head of everybody to directly approve it.

Now if a Tory minister had done that there would have been hell to pay, but under labour.......barely a murmur from the press.

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