Tower Hamlets Watch

Message from Barbara Brownlee – Tower Hamlets Homes Director of Housing

July 23, 2010
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Sources close to Barbara Brownlee tell me that she has been chomping at the bit at my post on her involvement with Pinnacle Consultants and their influence within Tower Hamlets Homes. I’ve heard rumours she has also consulted legal advice within the council about this particular post made in my blog, demanding that it be taken down. As the post spreads like wildfire within THH, going from email to email, text message to text message, I’m told her frustration is at about boiling point.

Today, Tower Hamlets Homes staff recieved their monthly staff newsletter “Home Pages”.  Staff immediately alerted me that there was a message from their Director of Housing Barbara Brownlee, directly addressing the post, almost calling for calm within the organisation, at what some feel could almost soon amount to a full blown mutiny.

Here below is the Message from Barbara Brownlee, taken from todays monthly newsletter;

You may have seen some blog postings about me and my former role at Pinnacle in the past couple of weeks. Whilst these postings are largely inaccurate (and VERY badly written!) I’m keen to make sure that in the next few months nothing distracts us from us our work in improving services for residents and preparing for our crucial inspection, so I just wanted to set the record straight for staff.

I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’ve worked in the private sector as well as the public sector, and in fact I think that experience helped me develop as a manager. And yes, as everyone knows, we sometimes use consultants and temporary staff to ‘plug gaps’ and bring in specific skills, this is about improving the way we do things, and making the necessary changes in the run-up to inspection.

The past year has seen some significant changes which I know a number of you have found difficult, but we have our plan to take us through the inspection and beyond, and we need to make sure we don’t let mad conspiracy theories from an anonymous website get in the way of that.

Barbara Brownlee
Director of Housing and Customer Service

Note: I’ve left this Message above completly unedited including leaving in any grammatical errors

Thanks for the shout out to my blog Barbara, I’m quite flattered really.
As for inaccuracies, please feel free to point them out to me and I will immediately change them.


Poplar Harca kick Estate Board out of their own meeting

July 19, 2010
18 Comments

Residents on the Lansbury Estate tell me that on the 5th July, on the Monday evening, the members of the newly elected Lansbury West Estate Board were kicked out of their own meeting by members of the Poplar Harca Resident Engagement Team.

After heated discussions following what members believe is a clear abuse of their constitutional rights, Fintan Tynan – Poplar Harcas Resident Engagement Manager, broke the rules laid out in the constitution, cleared the room and called the meeting to an end.

The discussions started after members were immediately asked to acknowledge a new constitution with huge changes compared to the current one, without any discussion by estate board members, and more importantly without agreement or ratification by members.

Members were insulted to hear that the matter of these changes was not to be a subject for discussion and never would be, and were then threatened by Harca Officers present with the fact that non-acceptance of the dramatically changed constitution would mean that you could not be members of the Lansbury West Estate Board. Elected Members argued that they were already democratically elected by residents on the estate to represent their interests, and that each one of them had already recieved letters congratulating them by Harca on their successful election to the Lansbury West Estate Board, so how could they be sacked in their first meeting? Harca Officers then instructed them that the Estate Boards were not Independent entitites, and were part of the Poplar Harca Governance Structure, and that if they didn’t like the situation they “could always set up their own residents association” that would then be fully representing residents unlike the Harca Estate Boards. Members claim that Harca do not support “Independent” residents associations in any way, and make it difficult for members to meet by blocking use of community facilities. Members do not know of any other tenants associations that exist on Harca Estates, and all that did exist have since been disbanded and absorbed into the non-independent Harca governance structure. Leaving resident without any real independent advice on their estates.

Members present felt insulted and bullied by the Harca officers. They felt that they were being told that they represent Harca first over the residents of the estate, and the ‘take it or leave it’ attitude by those senior Harca officers present was an insult to the whole estate.

These events have left residents on the estate angry and determined to get involved with the process of representation on the estate. They argue that the new constitution gives too much power to Harca Officers, even stopping residents or representatives from bringing complaints to meetings. Other changes bar you from critising the actions of Harca officers, or reminding them of their duties to board members. Other changes include; Harca will now be in charge of removing people who they deem to be disruptive, and restricting committee members access to those people or members who Harca deem disruptive.

Harca have since cancelled another Estate Board meeting called by members last Monday 12th July 2010 without any explanation, and have now sent an ultimatum letter. This letter explains that they have to sign a declaration that they will accept the new constitution of 2010 otherwise they are not welcome as Estate Board Members, this must be signed by today 19th July 2010.

This “bullying and intimidation” is from the same Resident Engagement Team that won the Tenant Empowerment Team of the Year award at the prestigious Housing Heroes Award 2010.

Fintan Tynan and the rest of the Resident Engagement Team
Fintan Tynan and the rest of the Mob.

Is that a ‘Glock 9mm’ he’s holding?

Good Times…


Urgent: Publics Right To Inspect Councils Accounts – 9 days left

July 19, 2010
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Urgent notice to all those concerned; you may inspect the councils Accounts, and certain related documents (comprising books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts) at the Town Hall Mullberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London E14 2BG. This is different from your normal rights and only occurs once a year during the councils audit inspection by the Audit Commission. You have a dedicated and protected right under law that states you have a minimum of 20 days to inspect all of the above documents, without any restriction. This years session I’ve just found out ends in 9 working days time on the 30 July 2010..

Dont let the councils employees bamboozle you, walk into Mulberry Place without announcement, and ask to see any reciept of council expenditure that you so please, and the council are duty bound to provide you with it, including the copy facilities. I’ve done this a few years ago with a friend on another council, and its an interesting experience watching them try to lie to you about your rights. They may just try to give you a copy of the already published accounts that are on the councils website, stand your ground and demand to see what you came for, this right is entirely different, and more indepth if you choose to excersise it. You have a different set of rights protected under different regulations, and these rights can only be excersised 20 days a year. If you know what you want to see, be specific, ask and you shall recieve. Be patient as they will tell you to come back another day, but refuse, complain, ask to see their manager, they should be giving you almost unrestricted access to all of the councils reciepts, not summarised in some file, but the actual reciepts or exact copies of.

I had been racking my brains regarding this years right to inspect council documents. I found last years notice online last night;

null

placed at this address: http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/idoc.ashx?docid=9fb3e66d-c2ef-49d4-a731-fe765d36b736&version=-1 buried deep, deep, deep undercover, with no link to the document from the front page of the councils website and no matter how much you search from that front page you’ll never find it. Yet using the google search tool and my own internet jedi kungfu skills, I managed to find last years, but nothing on this years.

Now the above notice is a statutary notice that all councils are liable to publish a notice;

Appointment of date for the exercise of rights of electors
13.
The auditor shall, for the purpose of the exercise of rights under section 15(2) and 16(1) of the 1998 Act, appoint a date on or after which those rights may be exercised, and shall notify the relevant body concerned, or in the case of a parish meeting the chairman of the meeting, of that date.

Public inspection of accounts
14. – (1) Subject to paragraph (2), the relevant body or, as the case may be, the chairman, notified under regulation 13, shall make the accounts and other documents mentioned in section 15 of the 1998 Act available for public inspection for 20 working days before the date appointed by the auditor under that regulation.

(2) The council of a parish, or the chairman of a parish meeting of a parish not having a separate council, notified under regulation 13, shall make the accounts and other documents in relation to a period to which regulation 9(3) applies available for public inspection on reasonable notice.

Alteration of accounts
15. Except with the consent of the auditor, accounts and other documents shall not be altered after the date on which they are first made available for inspection in pursuance of regulation 14.

Notice of public rights
16. – (1) Not later than 14 days before the commencement of the period during which the accounts and other documents are made available in pursuance of regulation 14, a relevant body to which regulation 11(2) applies, or in the case of a parish meeting, the chairman of the meeting, shall give notice by advertisement of the matters set out in paragraph (2).

(2) The matters referred to in paragraph (1) are –

(a) the period during which the accounts and other documents referred to in paragraph (1) will be available for inspection in accordance with regulation 14;

(b) the place at which, and the hours during which, they will be so available;

(c) the name and address of the auditor;

(d) the provisions contained in section 15 and section 16 of the 1998 Act; and

(e) the date appointed under regulation 13.

(3) A relevant body to which regulation 12(2) applies or which is referred to in regulation 12(3) or, in the case of a parish meeting, the chairman of the meeting, shall display a notice containing –

(a) subject to sub-paragraph (b), the information referred to in paragraph (2) above in a conspicuous place or places in the area of the body for a period of at least 14 days immediately prior to the period during which the accounts and other documents are made available under regulation 14; or

(b) instead of the information referred to in paragraph 2(b) above, details of the manner in which notice should be given of an intention to inspect the accounts and other documents.

– The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2003

Anyway phoned some of my contacts within the council and found out that this was apparently published in the East End Lies magazine in the 14 June – 20 June issue. As I’ve already told you between the hours of 9am and 5pm and up until the 30th July you may excersise your rights unhindered. The council meeting on the 14 July also alluded to this right of public inspection;

“Interested parties have the right to inspect the
accounts during the audit and local electors have the right to submit questions to the auditor. Details of these rights are published in local newspapers at appropriate stages.

but as you can see, it say’s “local newspapers” when the fact is East End Lies was the only one to publish it.

Why the council doesn’t put this up on their website like other councils and authorities do?, I’ll never know.

So get down to the Town Hall, think of some reciepts or documents you may want to see, maybe councillors or council officers expenses submissions, properties bought or sold by the council, basically anything you can think of.

Edit: Here are your specific Legal Rights to Inspect Your Councils Accounts and ask the Auditor questions. These are protected under the following sections (14, 15 & 16) of the Audit Commission Act 1998;

Public inspection etc. and action by the auditor
14 Inspection of statements of accounts and auditors’ reports

(1) A local government elector for the area of a body subject to audit, other than a health service body, may—

(a) inspect and make copies of any statement of accounts prepared by the body pursuant to regulations under section 27;

(b)
inspect and make copies of any report, other than an immediate report, made to the body by an auditor; and

(c) require copies of any such statement or report to be delivered to him on payment of a reasonable sum for each copy.

(2) A document which a person is entitled to inspect under this section may be inspected by him at all reasonable times and without payment.

(3)
A person who has the custody of any such document and—

(a) obstructs a person in the exercise of a right under this section to inspect or make copies of the document, or

(b)
refuses to give copies of the document to a person entitled under this section to obtain them,

is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(4)
References in this section to copies of a document include references to copies of any part of it.
15 Inspection of documents and questions at audit

(1) At each audit under this Act, other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, any persons interested may—

(a) inspect the accounts to be audited and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts relating to them, and

(b) make copies of all or any part of the accounts and those other documents.

(2) At the request of a local government elector for any area to which the accounts relate, the auditor shall give the elector, or any representative of his, an opportunity to question the auditor about the accounts.

(3) Nothing in this section entitles a person—

(a) to inspect so much of any accounts or other document as contains personal information about a member of the staff of the body whose accounts are being audited; or

(b) to require any such information to be disclosed in answer to any question.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), information is to be regarded as personal information about a member of a body’s staff if it relates specifically to a particular individual and is available to the body for reasons connected with the fact—

(a)
that that individual holds or has held an office or employment under that body; or

(b) that payments or other benefits in respect of an office or employment under any other person are or have been made or provided to that individual by that body.

(5) For the purposes of subsection (4)(b), payments made or benefits provided to an individual in respect of an office or employment include any payment made or benefit provided to him in respect of his ceasing to hold the office or employment.
16 Right to make objections at audit

(1) At each audit of accounts under this Act, other than an audit of accounts of a health service body, a local government elector for an area to which the accounts relate, or any representative of his, may attend before the auditor and (in accordance with subsection (2)) make objections—

(a) as to any matter in respect of which the auditor could take action under section 17 or 18; or

(b) as to any other matter in respect of which the auditor could make a report under section 8.

(2) No objection may be made under subsection (1) unless the auditor has received written notice of the proposed objection and of the grounds on which it is to be made.

(3) An elector sending a notice to an auditor for the purposes of subsection (2) shall at the same time send a copy of the notice to the body whose accounts are being audited.
– Sections 14, 15, 16 of the Audit Commission Act 1998

Good Luck, have fun and be careful out there…..


Posted in Uncategorized

Tower Hamlets break the law in refusing to Answer FOI Request regarding Pinnacle Consultants

July 19, 2010
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Tower Hamlets Council is now refusing to answer a recent “Freedom Of Information Request” regarding Tower Hamlets Homes employment of consultants, employed through Pinnacle psg and Barbara Brownlee’s involvement, who was previously employed by Pinnacle, and now stands as the Director of Housing for Tower Hamlets Homes.

The request, which contains numerous questions, was put in over a month ago and still has recieved no official response after repeated requests, the council now actually stands in direct contravention of the “Freedom Of Information Act 2000”, and are now effectively breaking the law.

Under the terms of the Act an organisation like the council has 20 working days to respond in full to the questions asked under the terms of the Act. They also have a duty under the terms of the Act to respond within the 20 working day time limit, if they intend to refuse the request or even if they want to seek an extension of time. This duty to respond within the 20 working day time limit with regard to its extension can be used to clarify the request or questions. There are also restrictions under the terms of the Act regarding cost, which can also be used to refuse a request. The “Information Commissioners Office” governs and explains the Act to us, they issue guidance for us in most aspects of understanding the Act, offering a great resource to researchers and the public alike. This guidance also tells that refusals on the grounds of cost or “Using the Fees Regulations” follows a specific formula, this tells us that;

“The Fees Regulations state that this cost limit is £600 for central government, legislative bodies and the armed forces (ie Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the FOIA) and £450 for all other public authorities.
A public authority must still confirm or deny whether it holds the information requested unless the cost of this alone would exceed the appropriate lim”

And then goes on to state that;

“Such costs are calculated at £25 per hour per person for all authorities regardless of the actual cost or rate of pay, which means that the limit will be exceeded if these activities exceed 24 hours for central government, legislative bodies and the armed forces, and 18 hours for all other authorities.”

On the Information Commissioners Office website, the government department which deals with enforcing the law regarding “Freedom Of Information”, they offer some easily understandable rules on how authorities should treat applications for information under the “Freedom Of Information Act”.

The Information Commissioners Office also offers guidance on the regulations regarding “Time Compliance”, or the authorities duty to “confirm or deny” they hold the information within 20 working days;

7. What if the public authority needs more time to consider exemptions?
“Any information which the public authority is required to release must be disclosed to the applicant within the 20 working day time limit. Where the authority is relying on one or more of the exemptions and is withholding information, it must issue a Refusal Notice (under section 17 of the Act) within the same timeframe, specifying the exemption and why it applies.
There is a provision in the Act, at section 10(3), which allows the 20 working day time limit to be extended to a ‘reasonable’ time, where the authority is required to apply the public interest test, because one of the ‘qualified’ exemptions applies. However, the authority must inform the applicant in its Refusal Notice if it needs more time to consider the public interest in disclosure and must give an estimate of the date by which it expects to make its decision. [FOI Act, s10(3)]” – Freedom Of Information: Awareness guidance 11 Time for compliance

The request in question is now over 27 working days late, and has also not answered repeated attempts now to even respond to the requesters pleas for acknowledgement. How the council can get away with blatanly disregarding the law in this way just goes to show that there is no oversight within the council itself. The Information office within the council which deals with Information requests is on the 6th floor at mulberry place within the Legal Services Department. So effectively they have no excuse in not understanding the law. Although to be fair if the behaviour of Isabella Freeman, the chief legal ‘scumbag’… “oops sorry”, officer, is anything to go by then no wonder this office seems to have a tendency for breaking the law.

As reported on this blog on June 16, Tower Hamlets Homes seems to be riddled with consultants, and the situation has got worse since the consulting group Pinnacles Director of Consulting Barbara Brownlee resigned from Pinnacle and became Tower Hamlets Homes Director of Housing. Members of Tower Hamlets Homes tell me that they feel Pinnacle staff are now taking over key positions, and that every Tower Hamlets Homes member of staff that leaves under pressure, feeling let down by the council, those positions then get taken over by consultants who then become fulltime employees. Tower Hamlets Homes at the moment seems to be in crisis, with members telling me that a strike may be upcoming with regards to the treatment of office staff, cut-backs and closure of housing offices, and the increased pressure of consultants like Pinnacle and their hench-woman Barbara Brownlee. They argue at the moment that rather than these consultants actually helping residents, the schemes that members have to abide by, make it extremely more difficult to respond and react to residents queries, complaints and calls for help. Residents argue that the new system of closing the local housing offices, has led to a culture of invisibility of staff, and hundreds of complaints are being slung at an already overworked and overburdened workforce, who do not deserve the abuse slung at them on a daily basis. All of this pressure is probably caused by the acts of newcomers like Pinnacle, who daily create mistrust and agitation amongst staff members. Members tell me that there are more and more senior positions, staff with years of history within the local authority feeling sidelined, neglected and abused by the behaviour of the new administration and its culture of confusion that they are now taking early retirement. These positions, members claim, are then in most cases taken up by consultants.

Back to the FOI in question, as you can see from the regulations set out in the Freedom Of Information Act 2000, and the ICO’s guidance on the regulations, Tower Hamlets Council are in fact now definitely breaking the law. They have refused to notify the requester of any, clarification, or to ask for a revision to bring the cost down, or to notify that there will be a public interest test on the request, or even just to confirm, deny, or refusal in any way within the 20 working days timeframe as laid out under the terms of the Act. Because of all this, they are now duty bound to respond to the requestors questions in full and case law backs this claim, and the Infomration Commissioner warns that “time delays are unacceptable”

The problem is, is that those mealy mouthed *?”Cs within the Council know that theres not much the Goverment will ever do to enforce the Law;

10. What happens if a public authority does not respond within the time limit?

Failure to respond within the time limit would be a breach of the Act.
The Information Commissioner has a general duty under s47 of the Act to promote good practice.

Should he become aware of a consistent failure to respond to requests within the time limit, he may issue an Enforcement Notice.”

Although the ICO provides an excellent resource for advice and guidance on the FOI and the Data Protection Act, I find it odd that its powers are limited to enforcement notices, and not automatic fines. Even when found guilty of multiple breaches authorities are just offered further guidance on how to respond to requests. I’m sure theres one minister out there trying to fight this, that the ICO should in fact have more power to issue judgments? but then again with the expenses scandals going ahead, their probably lobbying to restrict the ICO’s powers even further.

God i get off the mark sometimes. So basically Tower Hamlets is now in complete breach of the Freedom Of Information Act 2000, and theres basically nothing you can do about it, apart from phone a Goverment Department that will probably end up slapping the council on the wrist and then offer them further guidance. No wonder the idiots down at the council think they can get away with ignoring people….


Harca Door Mat Ban Update..

July 9, 2010
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Just came across this today, a summary of one the Poplar Harca Boards. This is the first I’ve seen in writing from Poplar Harca regarding this new policy;

Safe and Clear Communal Areas Policy
Andrea Baker set out details of a proposed new policy on a zero tolerance approach to any items or rubbish in communal areas, including hanging baskets and doormats. The report had been presented to JEP where it was unanimously approved.

One Board member felt uncomfortable about the scope of the policy and felt that things like doormats and hanging baskets often improved the look of a block. Officers maintained that this was necessary for health and safety reasons so that escape from a property was not impeded in any way in the event of a fire.

The Services Board agreed to implement this policy (with the exception of one Board member) but asked that the impact of the policy be reviewed in 6 months time and a report presented to a future Services Board meeting.

http://www.poplarharca.co.uk/Aboutus/OurBoards/BoardSummaries/ServicesBoardSummary1June2010.pdf

This document can also be found mirrored here: http://viewer.zoho.com/docs/hDrdai


This is from the Services Board Meeting on June 1st 2010, and the Board members present were;

Millicent Muganyi (Chair), Ben Wilson, Katherine
Maciejewski, Ms Rumi Manik and Mr Colin Woollard.

Now I looked everywhere for this type of information when i wrote the last post regarding this “Poplar Harca Ban Door Mats – 6 July 2010” a few days ago, and could not find any clarification anywhere. I wonder if anyone read this, and pumped out the summary of the Services Board meeting on the quick.

Regardless, my sources were right, this is now an actual policy by Harca. The wording “communal areas” means any areas outside of your property. Zero-tolerance, is what gets me. If my sources are right, could this be what gets some people evicted from their homes?

Talking to a resident in Bow just today regarding the situation, we got into quite a heated debate. At first they didn’t believe me and thought i was winding them up, but after they realised i was telling the truth, they became quite angry;

“This is ‘expletive’ outrageous, what ‘expletive’ right does ‘expletive’ Harca have to force these ‘expletive’ rules upon us?”

When I informed them that this was not Harca’s descision but your own resident representatives on the boards of Harca, they replied;

“These people ought to be ‘expletive’ ashamed of themselves, they certainly dont represent me”

Finally after I’d realised the air of anger had started to draw more attention, i left my new angry friend to tell his own pals. As I was walking away, my ear was cheerfully drawn back them, hearing that well-worn East End catch-phrase trail away;

“Who the ‘expletive’ do they think they are?”


Posted in Poplar Harca

Motorcyclist Dies in Blackwall Tunnel

July 8, 2010
2 Comments

Witnesses tell me that at 4 pm Last Night 7 July 2010, that sadly a motorcyclist died in a clash with a Lorry in the Blackwall Tunnel.

From last nights local traffic reports in the Croydon Guardian;

High severity   A102 Blackwall Tunnel Poplar
Southbound at A13 East India Dock Road / A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach
Last updated 24 minutes ago
Severe delays and tunnel closed due to serious accident, a lorry and a motorbike involved on A102 Blackwall Tunnel Southbound at A13 East India Dock Road / A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach, congestion on A12 Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach to B142 Wick Lane (Old Ford). Following an accident just before 16:00. The tunnel is likely to be closed for some time. Long Queues in East and South East London. Diversion: All traffic is being directed onto the A13

http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/li/traffic.in.London/?sort=last_updated

A London Ambulance Service Communications Spokesperson, has comfirmed to me that the motorcyclist died at the scene of the accident.


Posted in Uncategorized

Poplar Harca Ban Door Mats

July 6, 2010
1 Comment

Sources within Poplar Harca tell me that at a recent set of meetings with different Poplar Harca boards, it was voted to ban the use of Door Mats, Plant Pots & Hanging Baskets from outside of all Poplar Harca Tenant & Leaseholder Properties. Apparently this policy is still yet to be announced, and the majority of residents are at this moment still completly unaware.

After looking at this for awhile, it seems that if true,(and I have a reliable source on this), then Harca is not the first to impose such a ban, and that their have been numerous other instances with various Housing Providers.

The question now though is how will residents react to the as yet confirmed but unannounced policy (coming I assume in the following weeks) by Poplar Harca?

Some of the more reserved opinions from residents who know of this are already arguing that this is a “step too far” and that we;

“dont live in a nanny-state, so why do we have to put up with it?”

Will tenants take matters into their own hands like those in Wolverhampton who openly flouted this restriction imposed on them by their own Wolverhampton Homes?.
Will they also like the Wolverhampton residents who then pressurised their elected councillors to lobby their Council to overturn the ban?. Although at present Wolverhampton council didn’t exactly bow to the pressure but rather ordered a review of the situation, it still shows the depth of feeling amongst residents to this much heralded of traditions.

I’ve been informed that this has apparently been voted through on the Harca Boards on some ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Anti-Social Behaviour Policy. It would seem this is probably going to be implemented by a warning, apparently threatening the resident with the possiblity of proceedings being carried out that could lead to you forfeiting your tenancy agreement, or your leasehold agreement, for non-compliance with this ruling/warning.

“Essentially meaning remove these items or will boot you out of your home, regardless of whether you own it or not”

Where most other associations/councils seem to have pushed these same policies through. They seem to be with regard to individual blocks of flats targeting communal corridors, and stairwells. I’m led to believe that Harca’s policy will be a blanket ban across all Harca properties, regardless of dwelling, flat, maisonnette, houses, even those items placed behind gates, well away from typically defined communal areas are to be targeted.

These type of policies, I’m told, are all linked to the tragedy that occured with the fire on July 3rd 2009 last year in South London at Lanakal House, which even members of City hall still cannot to this Date decide how it spread, and to be blunt dont seem to even want to talk about it. Even though there are plenty of theories regarding its spread, it seems that some councils and other housing organisations seem set on using this tragedy to push through some extremely authoritarian Health & Safety Policies
These kind of policies at first sight would seem to have started out as what would seem to be a knee-jerk reaction to the Lanakal House Tragedy, and that some Organisations immediately brought in their own Door Mat Ban policies within a matter of weeks.

If you dig a little deeper though, I believe that the Lanakal House Tragedy seems to be being used to push through policies that were already in the pipeline and were already being used in earlier cases by other housing providers. Why the need for such an extreme Health & Safety Policy though?, when you will create an uproar with tenants, and that ultimately has no link to the recent tragedy?

It would seem that rather than actually thinking about Health & Safety as a first regard, it can come across as if these organisations are more worried about litigation from trip hazards occuring, and who would be responsible.Policies who’s sole benefit IMO seems in some instances to have been set up to avoid possible litigous proceedings in our modern day compensation culture.

Thurrock Council recently introduced the policy;

It has cited the recent fire at Lakanal House in Camberwell in July 2009, where several people died, as an example of the importance of health and safety.

where residents seem to have been opposed to policy;

“Its crazy but really funny at the same time, its health and safety gone mad.”

Local Firebrigade officers I’ve talked to, also think this policy is a step too far. Asking, me;

“Has their been any consultation with residents? and going on to state that although they would not like to go against Poplar Harca policy, that the policies do not come from them. This seems to have been something that Poplar Harca have arrived to with outside agencies.”

Although they agree that communal stairwells and corridors potentially littered with chairs, settees, bikes and the like can be a problem. They have never encountered problems with door mats, hanging baskets, or pot-plants.

I’m told that this policy has been in full consultation with residents, and this was actually instigated by the results of that consultation. Angry residents are arguing though that there has not been any consultation regarding this to their knowledge. I myself have spent the day looking for any sign of this within Harca’s own web site, including the councils, and also talking to Harca residents. Too be honest I cannot find any sign of any consultation regarding this either. Not that that means its not out there, just to state, that it at least seems scant on the ground

Resident Groups realising this is an outrageous policy are now looking to follow the example of other areas and seeking to call meetings with councillors.

Even though I dont own a doormat personally, it makes me want to go out and buy one in solidarity. One of those that would abide by the Ancient and Beloved Irish Welcome placed on doormats all across the emerald isle, and that brings a tear to the eye when first heard;

– Please feel free to comment on this post, and any innaccuracies you find will instantly be rectified if you notify me.


Posted in Poplar Harca

1 in 5 Tower Hamlets Staff cannot afford Affordable Homes

July 5, 2010
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After browsing the fantastic resource that is WhatDoTheyKnow.com (the Freedom Of Information (FOI) submission site that allows you to submit and share FOI requests with the public), I stumbled across a curious fact in response to a question within an FOI request to Tower Hamlets Council.

The question states quite clearly;

“4. After reading the prices for a 25% share of a one bedroom flat in Bow managed by the RSL ‘Family Mosaic’, and the fact that the minimun single income for these properties is £21,550. Please could you list how many full-time/Part-time council employees, agency or directly employed, do not meet the minium single income
requirement
?”
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/affordable_homes_part_rentpart_b#outgoing-54517

The answer to this question given later, (down the page linked to above) by one of the councils own Information Governance Administrative Officer’s was;

“The number of staff who is employed by the Council full time/part time, who does not meet the minimum single income, is 1216 members of staff.”

I’m assuming this minimum single income guarantee of £21,550, is for one bedroom. The original link to this page on the Family Mosaic site is dead, but using my Internet Savvy, I’ve found out the Minimum Income per single person for Affordable (Part Rent/Part Buy) 3 bedroom flats in Bethnal green is £27,234 under Family Mosaic;

The Silk Gardens , Parmiter Street , Bethnal Green , London , E2 9NG
Tenure type: New build HomeBuy
Bedrooms: 3
Bathroom: 1
Features: Garden,Balcony,Parking
Price from: £330,000
Min. share: 25%
Min. share value: £82500
Rent pcm: £360.94
Estimated service charge pcm: £173
Minimum income (single): £27,234
Minimum income (joint): £30,717
http://www.familymosaicsales.co.uk/propertieslist/tower-hamlets/the-silk-gardens-3.aspx

So 1216 members of staff cannot afford Affordable (Part Rent/Part Buy) one bedroom flats in the borough, and will not be allowed to even view them probably, as checks on finances need to be carried out.

This got me thinking, 1216 members of staff seems like a lot of people, which it is, but comparing this with my assumption that Tower Hamlets probably employs 10’s of thousands of staff, this can seem like a small figure. This set me on search for how many Council Staff are actually employed by the Council? Got me thinking about setting up an FOI request myself. The problem is though, that you dont really want to waste an FOI request on just one question, you either want to set it in the context of a set of questions, or as part of some research that would in its entirety reveal some obscure answer that you were searching for. If your lucky these responses get to reveal more answers, or as things go usually, prompt you to answer more questions.

Wracking my brains, for about 30 seconds I decided to search for any previous response to others requests at whatdotheyknow.com. which may answer my question, or which have directly asked the same question;

How many people does the Tower Hamlets employ?

This question above, struck gold and can be found at this address;

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/internet_usage

But this request like so many others is sadly missing from the published requests on the councils own FOI archives of disclosed requests. Yet on the whatdotheyknow site, the answer is published for all to see, nothing personal, nothing for the council to worry about, but they seem not to want to publish some answers.

Anyway the official answer to the above question is;

3- How many people does the Tower Hamlets employ?

As of 30th September 2009 Tower Hamlets have 5,963 employees excluding schools – http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/internet_usage#incoming-51403

Now this answer alludes to the fact that it “excludes schools”. Never mind, as the first FOI request that reveals 1216 employees do not meet the minium income requirement, also doesn’t include schools. I wonder how big the figure would be then?

So now the Maths;

1216 divided by 5963 = 0.2039
Multiply this by 100 gives you the percentage; 20.39%

So 20% or 1 in 5 people working for Tower Hamlets, not including Teaching Staff, cannot afford to buy into the councils much-heralded ‘Affordable Housing Scheme’. These figures are worked out from a one bedroom flat in just one development from one Registered Housing provider. I would imagine that the figures go up exponentially with the amount of rooms you require. Seeing that its also a fact that at least 64% of local working people in the borough (as defined in the Cabinet Report from December 2009) are already priced out of the housing market, then its no wonder so many of these homes are lying void.

These figures seem disturbing to me, so if my analysis is incorrect, then please feel free to contact me with some corrections that I may use to update this page.


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Galloway, Respect, Lutfur Rahman & the Mayoral Seat

July 1, 2010
2 Comments

Could George Galloway and the Respect Party now be pushing for support for ousted Labour council leader Lutfur Rahman in his bid for Tower Hamlets Mayoral Seat?

Even though Lutfur Rahman has been dropped as a candidate by his own party, there are rumblings that there may be other routesavailable for him, to this coveted seat.

As I revealed in my post about the Anti-Fascism Rally, Lutfur spoke at the end of the Rally in Altab Ali park, standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr Galloway, about the need for new leadership in the Borough. Claiming that there was an “abuse of power” (as he sees it) by the current council leadership (Cllr Helal Abbas) in pressurising the Troxy to cancel the Islamic Conference. He mentioned nothing of the Hate preached by those invited to that conference to speak. The same preachers that had encouraged the EDL to want to stage a protest there.

Galloway and Lutfur Rahman with microphone at Altab Ali Park

He went into a long worn out speech that culminated in him calling on the borough to vote for strong leadership in the upcoming Mayoral elections in October 2010.
Stepping away from the microphone, he passed this to Galloway, who immediately went into a highly animated impassioned speech, regarding the abuses of muslim’s, arguing that we would face this ememy (fascism) of religion and race together, before himself stating;

“Lets elect a mayor, like Lutfur Rahman, who will stand up for the people of this Borough, who will stand with the people, and who will not be undermining them and dividing them” – George Galloway 20 June 2010 Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel

This is the same Lutfur Rahman who refused to deny his involvement with the alleged radical islamist organisation, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) in Andrew Gilligans Dispatches Documentary.

The same Lutfur Rahman who did nothing after calls from Galloway to push for the cancelling of the waste management contractors ‘Veolia’ who are building a tramline in occupied Palestinian terrortories, which is deemed a breach of human rights under the Fourth Geneva convention. Stating in his reply to Galloways email calling for abolishment of these unprecedented £25 milion pounds a year, 11 year Veolia contracts that

“I do not consider it appropriate at this stage to reconsider Veolia’s contracts with the Council as I have not seen any evidence of breaches to these contracts.”
– Letter from Lutfur Rahman to George Galloway 14 May 2009

Read his letter to Galloway, he asked an organisation which stands accused by some of abusing human rights, if it was abusing human rights?…..can you really believe the gall of this weazely litter creature?, what the hell did he think they were going to say? He could have called for the disolution of the contracts on moral grounds, or pushed for them arguing the case under the Councils “Corporate Social Responsibility” charter, but no. In a borough whos history is littered with stories of people who risked everything, not least of which is the story of George Lansbury and the Poplar Rates Rebellion of 1921 he does nothing except ask some questions and then lays back in his gilded office, sure that he’s put the world to rights, not caring at all about Veolia’s ‘dirty little business’.

Galloway the man who has fought so furiuosly for the rights of the Palestinian people, the man whos colleague Ken Ovenden, was literally kidnapped and thankfully released during the Gaza Aid Flotilla convoy, now stands by Lutfur Rahman, the man who had a chance to make a real stand in this country, make some lasting change to the lives of palestinian people, but decided he couldn’t be bothered, or that he was too scared to rock the boat, probably in case Veolia attempted to take out an injunction against him.

This is the man Galloway now seems to want to support in his bid for leadership in the upcoming Mayoral elections. Lutfur Rahman, the man who has championed the over development of this borough, the man who developed a failed strategy in buying back ex-council homes, instead of investing in building them, the man who stood in power while this council gives away millions of pounds of tax-payer, council owned land, the man who engaged in the slow privatisation of one of the boroughs secondary schools (St Pauls Way), the man who has stood watch over Tesco trying to take over every corner shop in the borough, which has put a huge strain on local family run businesses, the man who stood watch, while the slow privatisation of our Housing service was kicked off, the man who didn’t raise his voice publically in the press regarding his indignation at his percieved “abuse of power” by the current council, its leader Cllr Helal Abbas, and the rest of the Labour Cronies, when it came to events at the Troxy.

This is the type of man that Galloway should be campaigning against, he stands for everything that Galloway has himself has stood against, and yet this is the man, Galloway on 20th June 2010 in Altab Ali Park called for you to support as Mayor, the man who Galloway now feels will not undermine the people of this borough….

Speechless


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