There we were, 4 Tower Hamlets Officers and 5 volunteers sitting there deciding about issues that cost major junks of money. I decided to ask the awkward questions and not to give in easily to proposals that would involve the participation at yet another service provider, this time to produce simple statistics and present them in palatable format to us.
I was astounded to be even asked this question without as much as getting a costing estimate coupled relatively to projected savings. There was no direct reference to the legal framework or projected political developments that would see a national housing scheme by the most likely future Conservative government allowing social tenants to move freely within the UK. This has to tie in with the proposed comparison website by the Tenants Services Authority (TSA) whereby we can compare landlords and how good or bad they serve us. The criteria for which would be set by the Tenants Services Authority and they most likely carry out consultation. This would therefore be a national matter rather than a local one, and data compiled for such a comparison site would have to be compiled but the question is who will finance this.
We have been presented with a very expensive brochure about the proposed involvement of the new company but that does not contain any financial information either.
This is a matter for an audit and again the question crept up, why is it that a leaseholder can mount up £20.000 worth of arrears for service charges whilst a rent arrears officers knocks on the door of a tenant who is £10 behind with the rent. This must have severe implications on the local service structure but is a matter of a financial audit.
Considering that we are already suffering from a lack of finance to carry out existing very essential repairs I decided to ask for detailed costing proposals and not approve anything unless I can put it in a finance and legal perspective.
Asking why it is that other estates in the area can get expensive improvements whilst ours are put on hold for lack of money, I also objected to proposals of new directories to be printed, that would contain information that we already get from Thompson’s directory, Yellow pages and the BT directory.
It is very important that representatives from as many Tower Hamlets Homes estates as possible attend these meetings because The Service Improvement Working Group can make considerably influence the decision-making process, though no volunteers were voted to sit on this group nor are employed to do so. We even had our sandwiches cancelled but can get fares paid to go to and from the venue. Council will book taxis.
The estate inspection schedules for the next 6 months can be found on the Tower Hamlets Homes website. The question of accountability should be uniformed for each estate, that either the repair reference number is kept a note of so that interested parties can ring the repairs service to find out about the status of a communal repair or a book be kept to enter the status of essential repairs.
I’d like your comments on these matters to help with the important discussions and decision-making processes.
24.11.09 Addition to the above.
I am pleasantly impressed to receive a polite letter in the post today from Tower Hamlets Homes telling me that the proposal was about a 3-day workshop and the costing has been supplied. I approved as the cost is expected to be recouped fully.