Today’s ELN leads with “Lutfur blunder: can he recover?” – the surprise story that the Mayor had followed officers’ advice and agreed to sell out the residents of Island Homes, who have been given tremendous support by local councillor Peter Golds. Cllr Gold’s letter to Housing Minister, the Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP, in support of his constituents is printed below. Cllr Golds wrote on behalf of the Conservative Group of councillors, and Cllrs Zara Davis and Gloria Thienel have sent messages of support to the residents.
Jim Fitzpatrick MP and John Biggs AM are also believed to have written to Mr Shapps. Cllrs Marc Francis and David Edgar presented the residents’ case to the Tower Hamlets Borough Labour Party, which agreed to support them. Cllrs Lesley Pavitt and Rachael Saunders have sent Island residents messages of support. It is believed that the Labour Party’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Shiraz Islam, will be writing to Mr Shapps in support of the residents.
Although Island Homes residents are shocked by the Mayor’s actions, they are calling on him to redeem himself and support the residents, who are his constituents, and write to Mr Shapps too. Their own letter to Mr Shapps is printed below.
Read today’s issue, with the full story of Mayor Rahman’s betrayal, on:
Cllr Golds’s letter to the Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP, Minister for Housing
Re: One Housing
I enclose a letter from the Chairs of the three major Resident and Tenants’ Associations on the Isle of Dogs all of whom are managed by One Housing. Their letter outlines concerns with the current situation on the Isle of Dogs regarding One Housing.
One Housing have uniquely succeeded in uniting all political parties on the Council, the Executive Mayor, the GLA member for City and East and the local Member of Parliament for Poplar and Limehouse with one voice. This is that various machinations have seen One Housing gain control of these estates in controversy and with overwhelming local hostility The former resident led boards were sacked and many of those residents who served on the boards treated disgracefully by One Housing.
These boards did not deserve that treatment from One Housing. These boards are completely non-political and contained people from all backgrounds and across the political spectrum volunteering their time to help the local community.
Since One Housing have assumed control a recent major works program that has taken place was embarrassing in its incompetence. On one occasion a Sub-Contractor who had apparently not been paid by either One Housing or the principal contractor disabled the TV cables and every resident across all three estates lost TV coverage for several weeks. This incident was covered by the National Press.
On another occasion I was called in to mediate when a contactor/sub-contractor pierced a water pipe. When I arrived water was flowing through people’s homes and the contractors were arguing over whose fault it was instead of fixing the leak. This leak resulted in destroying the contents of residents’ homes and One Housing’s contribution to this day of chaos was to offer families some cash to buy a meal in the local ASDA cafeteria.
One Housing’s response to the flood of enquiries by elected Members, representing concerned residents, was to complain, at a meeting, that elected representatives were making enquiries. At the same time a major court case was underway, IslandHomes vs. the Leaseholders.
The letter from the TRAs explains in detail the problems that they have faced. I cannot disagree with a single word of it.
I do not believe it is in the interest of good housing and governance that One Housing should be permitted to this takeover, which itself was based on a consultation that would have shamed North Korea.
I hope that the Department and the HCA will investigate fully and prevent the takeover.
Councilor Peter Golds
Letter from the Chairs of the Recognised Tenants and Residents Associations of Island Homes to the Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP, Minister for Housing
Dear Mr Shapps,
We note with interest your commitment to the 1,000 Communities campaign and the Government’s commitment to the Right to Manage and tenants having local control of services.
We are writing to you as a last resort requesting your intervention to halt the abolition of our Housing Association as – despite maladministration by the Local Authority and mismanagement by the Group which took over our Housing Association in 2008 – no other body or individual has been able to correct the injustices we are suffering.
Four estates on the Isle of Dogs, Tower Hamlets, were transferred out of Council ownership under the previous Government’s Stock Transfer legislation. There was a lengthy consultation, as required by that legislation, before transfer took place (on 5th December 2005). This decided the stock should transfer to a new Housing Association which would be led by resident board members who would be elected by residents themselves and in which the Board would set policy and control the purchase and delivery of services. This model was put to tenants in the Council’s “Offer Document”, on which basis tenants voted for transfer to Toynbee Island Homes. The Housing Corporation required that Toynbee Housing Association act in a “parental” role to help the new Housing Association get on its feet.
Maladministration 1: Toynbee Housing Association had a poor audit outcome just before transfer took place and was not fit to supervise the development of Toynbee Island Homes. Despite knowing this, the Council let the transfer take place.
Maladministration 2: The London Borough of Tower Hamlets Legal Department erred in that it did not include the “Offer Document” (on which tenants had voted) in the formal transfer agreement. Once transfer had taken place, no party had a legal route to enforce the promises in the Offer Document.
Lack of meaningful consultation with local tenants
Although there was extensive consultation with tenants pre-stock transfer, as required by Stock Transfer legislation, there was no requirement for consultation post-stock transfer and Offer Document promises could be discarded without meaningful consultation. Our residents suffered from this loophole in the previous Government’s stock transfer legislation.
Lack of consultation 1: Toynbee Housing Association and Community Housing Association formed One Housing Group, which assumed the “parental” role over what was now called “Island Homes”.
Lack of consultation 2: One Housing Group attempted to change the rules of Island Homes so that it conformed to the One Housing Group model rather than the model which had been devised by residents (the basis for the vote for transfer).
Lack of consultation 3: The Island Homes Board having refused to adopt the One Housing Group model, One Housing Group stepped in, sacked the Board and took over the running of Island Homes. It appointed an interim Island Homes Board which “conveniently” agreed to adopt most of the changes One Housing Group had wanted (composition of the board, provision of services).
Abuse of power/process
While One Housing Group was running Island Homes direct, we contend that a number of abuses of power took place including, but not limited to, the following. One Housing Group has, in effect, stolen the right of Island Homes residents to govern themselves which was bestowed upon them by stock transfer legislation. The lack of legal safeguards post transfer has left Island Homes residents with no opportunity to defend ourselves.
Abuse 1 Having sacked the Island Homes Board, One Housing Group used the interim Board it had appointed to change the rules of Island Homes against the wishes of the elected Board.
Abuse 2 Having been requested by the Tenants Services Authority to restore the promises in the Offer Document, One Housing Group merely increased the number of residents One Housing Group appointed to the Board (a process in which the London Borough of Tower Hamlets colluded) – ignoring the promises, not restoring them.
Abuse 3 The Island Homes Board of One Housing Group appointees have not governed Island Homes as the independent Housing Association it is, but have instead adopted One Housing Group standard policies and procedures and delegated delivery of services to them wholesale.
One Housing Group has mismanaged many aspects of service delivery in Island Homes which has cost Island Homes residents unnecessary expense and delivered a Housing Association which is moving ever further from the model residents voted for.
Of particular significance, however, is the Major Works programme, which the Island Homes Board appointed by One Housing Group passed to One Housing Group to manage. This has been a colossal disaster from beginning to end, with inadequate consultation, an inefficient “design and build” contract and poor management of work. A large number of the 750 or so leaseholders are engaged in a major case at the Leaseholder Valuation Tribunal over unreasonable costs of the scheme (which is due to be heard at the end of the year). It is only the LVT case which has obliged One Housing Group to provide full disclosure of works done and the cost. We are concerned that the mismanagement of the Major Works programme should be properly investigated, for the sake of tenants and leaseholders, and not “buried” in a new, merged organisation.
To date, requests, letters, delegations, petitions and motions via our local councillors, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, our MP and the Audit Commission have failed to restore the Island Homes which residents voted for and which we are keen to manage, together, for the benefit of local people.
One Housing Group has now invited the Island Homes Board to wind up the Housing Association so that all properties can be merged into One Housing Group and governed centrally from Chalk Farm – and the Board has, yet again, obliged. A perfunctory consultation process saw Island Homes explain that such a merger “could” save money: clearly an insufficient basis for a meaningful consultation. Resident Organisations are embarking on our own programme of consultation and are confident that residents, who never opted for the kind of service One Housing Group delivers, will once again reject the option of being swallowed up.
Above all, we are concerned about financial matters. We are concerned that the land value of the Island Homes properties is being misused by One Housing Group to shore up its own failing finances. We are concerned that if Island Homes ceases to exist, it will not be able to take action against One Housing Group to recover what may be substantial sums payable to Island Homes leaseholders as a result of One Housing Group’s mismanagement of Major Works.
We ask you to intervene and suspend the merger process – and in particular the transfer of ownership of Island Homes’ assets, including land title – so that the following can be done:
-the case of Island Homes vs. the leaseholders in the LVT can be heard;
-a meaningful consultation can be conducted among Island Homes residents about the future of their housing association, including whether conditions in the transfer document (between Tower Hamlets and Toynbee Island Homes) should be retained;
-a proper investigation of the One Housing Group intervention in Island Homes can be undertaken.
Thank you for your assistance. We look forward to hearing from you.
Sarah Edwards, Chair, Barkantine Management Team
Maggie Phillips, Chair, St John’s Tenants and Residents Association
Jenny Fisher, Chair, Samuda Estate Local Management Organisation
(the three recognised Tenants and Residents Associations in Island Homes)
cc: HCA; FSA; Jim Fitzpatrick MP; John Biggs AM; Mayor and Councillors LBTH.