PUBLIC CALL FOR THE CITY OF LONDON CORPORATION TO RESPECT THE LAW
We, the City councillors named below, call on the City Corporation to pay its social housing tenants a full refund of a profit that it (and a number of other local authorities) made on “water reselling” from 2001 to 2019 following a ruling by the courts that this profit was unlawful.
The City Corporation should have taken the lead in paying a full refund, because it:
– prides itself on upholding the rule of law,
– is the wealthiest local authority in the country, and
– has the smallest number of social housing tenants.
But it hasn’t done that. While many other local authorities – including Kensington and Chelsea (https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/housing/rent-employment-and-financial-support/water-charges-rebate), Southwark (https://www.southwark.gov.uk/housing/water-refunds) and Lambeth(https://beta.lambeth.gov.uk/housing/council-tenants/overpayment-thames-water-charges/how-credit-calculated) – have been paying full refunds plus interest for some time, the City has yet to make any announcement about what it will (or, it seems, won’t) do.
The issue of water charge refunds appeared in the agendas of the meetings of three City committees over the last nine months: the Housing Sub-Committee in May, the Community and Children’s Services Committee in September and the governing Policy and Resources Committee in November. Although each committee discussed the issue, no announcement has yet been made. The issue is expected to appear again in the agenda of the meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee on 20 January. All the discussions have been held behind closed doors – wrongly, in our view. Why should complying with the law be discussed in secret? Why should it be discussed at all?
The public can deduce that most members of the three committees that have discussed the issue have been reluctant to agree to a full refund, otherwise an announcement would have been made by now. The Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee effectively confirmed this deduction when she mentioned, in answer to a public question after the meetings of the first two committees, that the issue had “reputational” implications. That must mean most members of the Community and Children’s Services Committee had wanted to avoid making a full refund, since otherwise there would be no “reputational” implications.
An officer recently stated in answer to a public question that provision had been made for water charge refunds in the relevant City accounts following a committee decision going back only six years. That would cover the period from 2013 to 2019, but not from 2001 to 2013.
The Chair of the Housing Sub-Committee wrote in her newsletter to local Labour Party members that she thought the issue was “complicated”. We don’t think there’s anything “complicated” about the Corporation complying with the law.
We call on the City Corporation to stop procrastinating behind closed doors. At a time when many of its social housing tenants are suffering from a reduction in universal credit and increasing energy bills, the Corporation must cease holding on to money that rightfully belongs to its tenants. The Corporation should immediately announce that it will pay a full refund, plus interest, then make the repayments promptly.
Sue Pearson (Cripplegate)
Marianne Fredericks (Tower)
Jason Pritchard (Portsoken)
Munsur Ali (Portsoken)
Graeme Harrower (Bassishaw)