Tower Hamlets Watch

Tower Hamlets Homes creeping Privatisation | June 16, 2010


Is Tower Hamlets Homes being slowly and purposefully destroyed from within, in anticipation of a takeover by private organisations?

Repeated ‘mantras’ sold to us as ‘great improvements to the service’ or streamlining measures, are just reflections of the fact that ‘Tower Hamlets Homes is facing dire consequences and is just simply running out of money. As far back as August of last year it was reported that ‘THH’ had spent their ‘Major Repairs Allowance – MRA’ for 2010/2011 in anticipation of the promised Decent Homes Cash that Gordon Brown then removed.

Our own cabinet in January had emergency sessions to deal with a damning report carried out that highlighted a £4 million pound deficit in the Housing Revenue Account, and a £2.4 million pound overspend by Tower Hamlets Homes. which also had an impact on setting rent levels this year. Go through the cabinet reports yourselves, dont take my word for it. The evidence is right there, since the creation of the much-appraised ALMO service that was going to be a way for the council to improve our services and was the only way government would bring in funding. In reality they have cost us more, and then have simply gone about cutting our paid for services.

To blame part of the overspend on “changes in capital financing costs” is just fancy terminology for saying we’ve employed too many consultants. Insiders from THH, tell me that since its creation consultants have been employed more and more, within the organisation. These consultants who come mainly (I’m told) from the ‘Pinnacle Consulting Group’, are highly overpaid, some recieving as much as £700 to £800 pounds per day. Members of THH staff tell me that they seem to come up with ‘crazy ideas’ which regular staff who have been in the job for over 20 years completley disagree with.

There have been calls by ‘Pinnacle Consultants’ to require all ‘Neighbourhood Housing Officers’ in fact all staff to adhere to a strict dresscode. No casual clothes, favouring suits & ties over jeans an trainers, which has been deemed ridiculous by regular THH staff as well as Neighbourhood Housing Officers. Many of the residents come from inpoverished communities, and diverse ethnic backgrounds, and seeing a uniniformed officer at their door could make them look intimidating.
Some resident-leaders from our ethnically diverse community who have been consulted also fear that elderly residents frequently associate ‘suits & ties’ with police officers in their countries of origin.

We probably also have ‘Pinnacle’ to thank for the fact that now you cannot simply call up THH and ask to talk to your Housing Officer. Now when you call, your name, address, and the nature of your problem are taken down, before then being told;

“Sorry, your Neighbourhood Housing Officer is out of the building at present”

or that;

“they are in a meeting”

GGGRRRRRRRRR……..

Since their probably running around like speedy-gonzales, trying to visit each Housing Officers allocation of 700 residents within 10 days, another great Pinnacle strategy more than likely, then its no wonder residents complain about the system.

Complaints have even been thrown at some of these so-called consultants themselves with regards to their behaviour toward THH staff. One consultant was even forced to resign due to their conduct with a disabled employee. This consultant urged this employee who was disabled, to actually resign, to take early retirement after long service, telling them that

“Dont you think that its time you took early retirement, do you think that someone in your condition can really keep up with the work”

The employee took great insult at the insinuation, and rightly so, they complained to their manager, and the consultant was removed. In what was a highly volatile time for THH, which almost led to revolt this consultant was removed as a way of assuaging the anger of colleagues and friends of the long-term THH employee.

Reports of what staff seem to call harrassment are highlighted dailiy, and many staff have resigned from the organisation with many years of service under their belt. One telling me that they cannot understand the direction THH is taking, and that their position was made entirely uncomfortable, so that what they felt was maybe a ‘redundancy’ coming down the line, they chose to take early retirement. Hoping that in the next few months to take positions back with the council, securing their pensions and continuing in working within the system.

I’m told that each member of staff that has resigned so far has been replaced by a ‘Pinnacle’ consultant who then becomes a permanent member of Tower Hamlets Homes. These members of staff are in Housing officer positions right up to senior level. Sources tell me that they virtually occupy all senior levels. Placed pepperpot fashion throughout the organisation.

I’ve done a little digging around and come up with some rather sinister evidence. If what my sources are saying is true, expressing their concerns that ‘Pinnacle’ seem to be taking over, then their must be some sign of this within the system.

Firstly who are ‘Pinnacle’? Well their own website defines them as a ‘manager of social housing’, who were also the first private housing management company to win the Housing Corporation accreditation back in 2007
. Wait a minute though, why are we consulting a Private Management Company of Social Housing when our ‘Tower Hamlets Homes (THH) ALMO’ was set up for this express purpose? From THH’s website;

“Tower Hamlets Homes manages homes and estates owned by Tower Hamlets council….The council is still the landlord and the owner of the homes. Tenants are still council tenants and leaseholders are still council leaseholders, with the same rights and responsibilities. http://www.towerhamletshomes.org.uk/home/about_us.aspx

So why are the the not-for profit company THH set up by Tower Hamlets Council consisting of employees transferred under TUPE regulations, some with over 20-30 years or more of experience in Social Housing, consulting a private social houising manager?

Hackney council it seems also have links with Pinnacle. In fact the managing director of Pinnacle ‘Neil Euesden’ used to work for Hackney Council. The reality since Neils departure and becoming Pinnacle’s Managing Director is that Pinnacle now

“manages all Hackney Council housing services in Shoreditch and the NE Neighbourhood.
…Hackney Council remains the landlord and is still responsible for setting rents and deciding what money is spent on repairs. Pinnacle is responsible for reducing rent arrears, ensuring that estates are cleaned, voids are turned around as quickly as possible, and anti-social behaviour and nuisance neighbours are dealt with.”

Hackney Homes 5 Housing Offices are now managed entirely by the Private Sector. Pinnacle are managing 2 of them.

Hackney Homes, Hackney’s own ALMO set up to take control of their housing services has its own Pinnacle representative on Hackney Homes Management team – Elliot Brooks

Newham also has Pinnacle psg managing at least 1,200 homes in Canning Town as part of the private finance initiative (PFI) scheme signed by the Council with London City East Partnership. Pinnacle PSG assumed management responsibility in June 2005

John Gibson who left Newham Council and became Pinnacles Director of Housing in 2002, went back to residents in Newham the following year 2003, and was reported in Cabinet Minutes from 23/10/2003 in their report on consultation persuaded council tenants that letting Pinnacle manage their homes would be in their best interests.

Browsing around ‘THH’ website i stumbled upon the Management Teams page, and found the entry for Barbara Brownlee, directly below the CEO Gavin Cansfield;

Barbara Brownlee, Director of Housing and Customer Services
Barbara Brownlee
Barbara’s career started with Lewisham Council, where she was a Housing Advisor providing homeless advice and support. She moved to Haringey Council, where she worked with private sector tenants and landlords to improve and adapt their properties and on to Hackney where she developed neighbourhood services and ran Estate Regeneration for the Borough. This was followed by eight years in the private sector delivering service improvements for a number of housing organisations in the South East.

In the highlighted section above, it fails to mention exactly which company she has worked for. On the ‘linkedin’ website which is almost like a networking CV for business proffessional, she has personally filled out her own page; http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/barbara-brownlee/a/264/4a7, which tells us the name of the previous company and her time at that company;

“Barbara Brownlee’s Experience

Director of Housing and Customer Service
Tower Hamlets Homes (Non-Profit; Civic & Social Organization industry)
September 2009 — Present (10 months)

Director of Consulting
Pinnacle (Management Consulting industry)
August 2005 — August 2009 (4 years 1 month)

Head Of Regeneration
London Borough of Hackney (Management Consulting industry)
1997 — 2002 (5 years )”

Funnily enough it doesn’t say that she worked in the private sector for 8 years, like her statements on Tower Hamlets Homes Website, but only for 4 years with Pinnacle. Not only did she ‘just’ work for Pinnacle, but she was in fact the ‘Director of Consulting’. How much of her influence and contacts within Tower Hamlets Homes has she used to bring in more and more consultants from the Pinnacle Group.

Pinnacle the company that my own contacts within THH tell me that most service personell have huge concerns regarding their motives. Asking me to look into this company i have found various disturbing pieces of evidence that lead me to believe that they are in the process of a corporate takeover of Tower Hamlets Homes, not by accident but by design.

It seems with only a days digging around that Pinnacle amongst other groups seem to have their hands in so many different social housing authorities, providing services and in some cases managing the homes. How much is this extra level of public baggage really costing us as tax-payers?

So the questions remain are ‘Pinnacle psg’ in the process of taking over the management of Tower Hamlets Homes Housing Offices?. Were they behind the recent closures our local housing offices? that were highlighted on this blog, that required no real consultation, and has aggravated residents.
How many consultants are already in the system which already has overspent by around £2.4 million? What percentage of the budget is allocated to these types of organisations?

I could go on and on, but these are all questions you as residents must be asking not only yourselves, but your elected members.

Anyone out there with more information or just to highlight errors in this post feel free to contact me.


8 Comments »

  1. I am staggered at this information about Pinnacle. Surely it deserves to be widely publicised? ELA? Circularise to Councillors? Even those of us involved with housing issues have heard nothing of this. What can the Federation do to give this wider coverage? Do we confront THH Management with this?

    Comment by Phil Sedler — June 18, 2010 @ 7:33 am

    • Hi Phil,

      Sorry for the late response.

      I’ve tried in the past to get stuff published with ELA, but to no avail. Remember though, they are a private company with huge concerns, and responsibilities regarding litigation. I would be inclined to put my neck out there, to encourage debate, but they seem to always back off from scoops, without first waiting for the accused to respond. I always thought publishing the truth as you know it would encourage them to respond.

      The Federation are well placed IMO, to confront THH Management. Table a set of questions, and then publish the response. This needs to be known by everyone. The more i look into it, the more I see a takeover of THH.

      Comment by fatoompsh — July 5, 2010 @ 6:56 am

  2. Fascinating report. Keep it coming, please.

    Btw, why the scare quotes around Neil Euesden’s name?

    Comment by Sy — June 22, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

    • Sorry Sy

      Been a bit lax with the comment replies recently. The scare quotes?, just getting used to writing again. Been a long time since I left education. Come to think of it though, these peoples names probably need scare quotes around them permanently

      Comment by fatoompsh — July 5, 2010 @ 6:50 am

  3. Thanks for this. I’m a THH leaseholder and therefore subject to everyday excesses, this explains some of it. It’s clear that slick, spin obsessed, non-responsive people are in control. Now we know, they are ‘consultants’, a very bad word for me, since I’m computer industry!

    Comment by Hugh Barnard — July 4, 2010 @ 9:41 am

    • Hi Hugh,

      I feel we in Tower Hamlets have a very bad few years coming to us. As well as having to deal with the economic crisis, I feel we are dealing with an extremely corrupt system.

      Keep reading this space….

      Comment by fatoompsh — July 5, 2010 @ 7:06 am

  4. Freedom of Information Act – request for information Ref: AF280969E Date: 08 Jul 2010 15:35:52

    First name: Hugh
    Last name: Barnard

    Please describe the information which you seek access to as fully as you can: : How much money has THH spent on Pinnacle Consulting as a cumulative figure over the course of THH’s existence? Also by financial year, to see the trend?

    What is the day rate of the highest paid consultant?

    Warning: This is an easy answer question, since it will be one supplier code in JD Edwards. All avoidance and obfuscation will go to the information commissioner, LGO and the audit commission. I’m telling you now, you won’t be warned again at deadline.

    So, when I get an answer, I’ll publish it [and no doubt, be damned!]

    Comment by Hugh Barnard — July 8, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

  5. I really don’t care where they come from: What I do care is that the reforms are increasingly inward looking and remote from the needs of the residents.

    Its all very well having a CC team but when as in today for the nth time it needs to be escalated they do not know who is available to deal with the call, let alone are able to get someone to pick up the phone.

    The vast majority don’t need Neighbourhood Offices if the system they say they have is actually staffed to work!

    Sadly the change is cultural one, as much as old Council mentality of “one way” we now have one focused on internal metrics and perceptions not a customer facing one.

    “Do more and measure less”

    Comment by AndrewM — February 16, 2012 @ 3:16 pm


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