Under the authoritarian Blairite leadership of Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester’s Labour Council has been imposing Tory austerity upon our city for years. The Council could of course fight-back – no one is forcing them to do the Tories bidding — but instead they choose to demean Labour’s proud socialist heritage by stating that to launch a fight-back is impossible.
The crux of Soulsby’s so-called plan to revitalise our city is a capitalist construct pure and simple. He aims to attract huge private equity groups to invest in constructing luxury housing projects in the heart of our neglected city, in areas that are in much need of public investment.
To help oversee such capitalist profiteering in Leicester, last summer the Council appointed Mark Oakley to serve as their “Director of Inward Investment and Place Marketing”; moreover, to help sell our city to super-rich investors the Council also launched a new web site called “Invest in Leicester.”
As part of this ongoing ‘activism’, this week Mr Oakely and his unsocialist friends in “Team Leicester” have been in Cannes, France, at the annual MIPIM conference — an event which is really a land auction for foreign investors which describes itself as “The world’s leading property market.”
Reporting on the scale of this disgusting private sector land grab, the Leicester Mercury (March 15) ran with an article titled “The £500m-plus plan to create thousands of homes in Leicester.” Needless to say, the “five year plan” is not to help meet the need for quality, genuinely affordable housing for our city, but “to build as many as 3,000 new executive flats in the city.” Apparently, Leicester developers who spoke on our city’s behalf at the MIPIM conference “said multi-billion pound investment firms were looking at the city as a safe bet for their money.”
Hence local property mogul, Joe Levy, highlighted our city’s apparent attempt to help address the housing crisis by constructing luxury accommodation. As the Mercury reported:
“He said new PRS – high-spec serviced Private Rented Sector schemes – would help address the housing crisis, meet demand from young executives keen to live close to the offices and amenities of the city centre, and provide sound, long-term investments for funders.”
In his evident excitement to hand over large swathes of our city to billionaires, Mr Levy went on to explain:
“There are funders who have already invested in Leicester, such as Cording Real Estate Group [in Bath Lane] and Long Harbour [in Vaughan Way] and they are actively seeking more sites and want to work with partners they already know.
“They have got hundreds of millions of pounds and we are encouraging them to invest in Leicester.”
His reference to this Cording Group, which is owned by Edmond de Rothschild Holding SA, is particularly important, as only last November the Group announced that it had “secured the first deal for its new £400 million Cording UK Residential Investment Fund, which invests in the private rented sector (PRS) on behalf of Continental European investors.” They added:
“The fund has agreed to forward fund a build-to-rent development for around £50 million at the Merlin Works site in the Waterside regeneration area in Leicester. The development has been assembled by the developer, CODE, and will be built by Winvic Construction in its second built-to-rent project with Cording.” (“Cording secures first deal for new £400 million UK private rented sector fund,” Cording Group, November 5, 2018)
This development was reported on at the time in the Mercury (November 5). The newspaper wrote:
“Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said it showed how the city was becoming an attractive proposition for investors and developers. He said: ‘There is now recognition that this is an area that people want to live in and developers are interested in putting money into it.’”
Soulsby’s evolving corporate takeover of Leicester will do nothing to help the working-class with their ever more desperate need for housing.
What is needed is a socialist alternative for our city. This would mean opposing the ongoing privatisation of public spaces and launching a mass Council house building program that will commit to making our city fit for the majority of ordinary people, not just for young executives and for private investors from the billionaire-class.