Tower Hamlets Watch

Debbie Cordrey of Poplar Harca offers to answer questions | August 11, 2010

Today I recieved a comment from Debbie Cordrey who sits as a resident member on the Poplar Harca Main Board, is Chair of the Poplar Harca Finance & Audit Board, and also Vice Chair of the Joint Estate Panel.

The comment was recieved in response to this post: “Poplar Harca call Closed Meetings for Lansbury West Estate Board: August 5, 2010”. That meeting by the way was called off at the last minute. Sources tell me that members who were invited were not given any agendas, or minutes from any previous meetings, and the meeting was called off with little explanation.

First of all, Debbie if your reading this; my apologies if this comment is from someone impersonating you, and if the real Debbie Cordrey wishes for me to remove this post, proving that she is the real Debbie Cordrey, (sources within Poplar Harca tell me that you can contact me using your poplarharca email that is given to all board members) I will gladly do so…

Heres the comment attached to the bottom of the post above:

“I know we live in a country where freedom of speech is celebrated but it¹s a real shame your using this blog to write completely inaccurate and highly misleading information.

I am a resident of Poplar HARCA and the Vice Chair of the Joint Estate Panel and I want to set the record straight about the constitutional changes.

These weren’t just dreamt up by Poplar HARCA, they were developed by the residents after a lot of consultation and agreed by the Joint Estate Panel unanimously which is a group that is made up from representatives from all the estate boards in Poplar. Residents worked very hard on this and it is an insult to me and the other residents to say that our proposals are a breach of your constitutional rights.

I don’t know what is going on at Lansbury West and I’m sure not everyone agrees with everything, but these changes were voted on

fairly at the meeting, including by the representatives from Lansbury West.

To see our ideas being misrepresented in this way is very upsetting.

I’m not sure who is putting this stuff out, but I am prepared to say who I am and meet with you. Are you prepared to do the same?

Debbie Cordrey


Comment by Debbie Cordrey — August 10, 2010 @ 5:24

Thankyou for your comments Debbie, and especially this one;

“Residents worked very hard on this and it is an insult to me and the other residents to say that our proposals are a breach of your constitutional rights.”

As I’ve stated in the response to your comment on the above post, I cannot see any reason to meet with you, but I do appreciate the offer of setting the record straight, and always welcome open discussion, so here goes;

As a representative of Poplar Harca could you please explain to the residents of Lansbury West why you agreed to do away with the following ammendments in your new constitution;

7. Ordinary General Meetings of Lansbury West Estate Board
d) amendments to the constitution of the Lansbury West Estate Board may be made at Ordinary General Meetings, subject to these being agreed by a majority of all Estate Board members (a minimum of 51% of elected members). Any agreed changes must then be ratified at the next Annual General Meeting of the Lansbury West Estate Board.

It then goes on to state within section 8 that;

8. Annual General Meeting of Lansbury West Estate Board

c) fourteen days prior notice must have been given to the Secretary of the Lansbury west Estate Board for any amendments to the Lansbury West Estate Board constitution. Such amendments must be approved by a two-thirds majority of voting members of the Lansbury West Estate Board at the Annual General Meeting and will then be the subject to approval by the Poplar HARCA Board.

The above two ammendments to the constitutions from what I’m told are both ratified and agreed by all of the Estate Board Members of the Lansbury West Estate Board. These two ammendments seem democtratically sound, and just. Residents tell me that this is the basis of the entire argument, as well as some other pretty disturbing changes (residents feel that they require full and open discussions by Estate Board Members), they feel they have the right to discuss and vote on any of the proposed changes, but for some reason Poplar Harca do not.

So let me ask you this Debbie, do you agree that members of any of the Estate Boards should be allowed to discuss and vote on these changes proposed by yourself and your members of the Joint Estate Panel (in closed sessions), which you have worked so diligently hard to change?

The above ammendments all seems straightforward, and is the template for which most if not all constitutions in history are based on. This ability for any organistion to change its constitution is indispensable for members, its also at the core of what defines a constituion. This right for members to propose, discuss and agree to changes to its constitution, is of paramount importance to the whole definition of constitutions.

Harca now want to take this basic right away from the hands of members and residents feel that in doing so they are putting a stranglehold on any opposing views. The way in which constitutions can get ammended now in the new constitution is as follows, all in its own section, but far more complicated;

13. Constitution Amendments

a) Proposed amendments to this constitution should be considered in terms of their suitability for all Estate Boards or to respond to a clearly specified requirment unique to an individual Estate.

b) The Lansbury West Estate Board may submit potential amendments to the Joint Estate Panel Constitutional Advisory Group throughout the year for the purposes fo discussion and to seek clarification and advice.

c) Proposed amendments must be provided by the Lansbury West Estate Board to the Joint Estate Panel Constitutional Advisory Group by April 30th each year in order to be considered at that years round of Annual General Meetings.

d) Proposed amendments will be collated and distributed by the Joint Estate Panel Constitutional Advisory Group to all Estate Boards for consideration at their Annual General Meeting and will require the approval of a two-thirds majority of residents attending each Estate Board Annual General Meeting. Amendments will then be subject to approval by the Joint Estate Panel and the Poplar Board.

e) Changes agreed by this process will be applied to the constitutions of all Estate Boards, with the exception of any requirements unique to an Estate, which will be recorded in item 14 of this Constitution.

What you’ve supported and voted on here Debbie is a complete mess.
You’ve created a system that allows others to change your constitution for you. For instance if another estate board suggests a change to the constitution and 1 third of the Estate Boards disagree with the change, (thats 4 whole boards) then they will be forced to accept the change. Also and more importantly any change that one Estate Board wants to commit to their own constitution, requires the approval of other at least 7 other Estate Boards, as well as all of the other hoops they have to jump through.

Now could you explain to me why you would agree to something as ridiculous as that. What purpose does it take to devolve this simple constitutional right that all other organisations have and lovingly protect. For some reason Debbie, it comes across to members & residents, that you; Debbie Cordrey, the Joint Estate Panel, and the Constitutional Advisory Group and Poplar Harca overall dont seem to trust the Individual Estate Boards with the conventional power to change their own constitutions.

It may seem as if I’m oversimpifying these matters but this constitutional right to change your own constitution within the original document is paramount to the rights of not only the Boards, but also to the residents that they purport to represent. Each change to a constitution, and the constitutions themselves are the only form of contract that Estate Boards hold, these must not only be protected from automatic changes now, but also into the future. By taking away this basic tenet of constitutional authority, you have paved the way for chaos within the organisation. Now and for ever more, by proposing this, voting for and accepting this basic change, to the way the changes themselves are made you have lost your constitutions and basically made them worthless documents, that are meaningless to your members, let alone the residents who you so fondly claim to represent.

Could you explain to me also Debbie, why your résumé for Poplar Harca makes no mention of your position on the Joint Estate Panel? Not that I disbelieve you, far from it, it’s just that it leads to other questions that have been bothering me of late.

Why are “Joint Estate Panel” meetings not publically minuted like the rest of the Poplar Harca Boards?, or even alluded to within the Boards section of Poplar Harca’s website?
Why is it that none of the board meetings are advertised, and more importantly are not open to the public?

Oh one other thing Debbie, as a member of the Finance & Audit Board, could you please comment on the emails that I’m getting from members of Poplar Harca’s Estate Cleaners. I’m told that Poplar Harca’s Estate Cleaners are the lowest paid in Tower Hamlets amongst all forms of cleaners for social housing estates in the Borough. I’m also told that the organisation you represent doesn’t even pay them the “London Living Wage” which is used to tackle poverty within london providing workers with the basic means to support not only themselves but also their families. Workers tell me that the unions have threatened Strike Action with Poplar Harca, and that Steve Stride himself is in direct negotiations with these Union representatives. Please could you clarify Poplar Harca’s position on this and if these statements are true?
If the statements about the low-pay, being the lowest paid in Tower Hamlets and also being below the London Living Wage which is there to ease poverty are all true?, how does that make you feel representing an organisation on its “Finance & Audit Board” and quite possibly being responsible for potentially pushing families into poverty?

I await your response enthusiastically..


  1. I agree I think Board Members should have valid & reasonable explainations as to why these particular changes to the Constitution were brought in. Who are they benefitting. You dont just come along and change them because this person dont like this etc. An expaination would be Great. Somehow I cant imagine that all of a sudden residents woke up and said lets make this change It was done for specific reasons with no explanation.Also I think once again it comes down to particualr board members who seem to swing things in their favor and have a huge influence over the board & also have intimidating tactics who probably did this to soley benefit their needs. So Will Debbie Cordrey Start Explaining we have a right to Know.

    Comment by Karen Smith — August 11, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  2. Thank you for posting my response on your blog. Firstly, I can confirm that I am Debbie Cordrey and have not been impersonated, flattering though that idea might be.

    Secondly, I’d like to explain how the JEP works and how residents go about making decisions and sorting out differences within Poplar HARCA as you seem to be suggesting that we are some kind of secret society that meets under cover of darkness.

    Every Estate Board can nominate two people to go on to JEP. The idea of the JEP is that they consider issues that are common to all estates like parking, or policies that affect residents directly. This means that every estate including Lansbury West is represented on the JEP.

    Members of the JEP don’t always agree on everything but we do have respect for each others views and don’t put out public statements criticising each other or undermining each other on blogs under anonymous names.

    We don’t say that residents hard work is a ‘complete
    mess’ or that their views and ideas are ‘ridiculous’ as you have said in your blog. We debate in an honest and open way so everyone’s views are heard and counted.

    We listen to residents and admit when we have made mistakes or could work in a different way. For example once we made a decision about parking, but then changed it when Burdett residents came to tell us why it wouldn’t work for their estate. By coming to us in person to put their views across to everyone and argue their case, we were able to listen and take the action needed.

    That’s how the residents of Poplar HARCA do things – in person, face to face with openness and respect.

    On the theme of openness I’d like to take this opportunity to answer you questions about the constitution. Karen Smith you’re absolutely right you do have a right to know why the changes were made. And I hope I can answer your question

    I would like to reassure you it was absolutely not a case of people changing it because they don’t like it (the constitution that is) , or particular board members swinging things in their favour.

    It was part of a complete review of Poplar HARCA’s Governance structure, which was really about getting as many residents of all ages involved in the running of Poplar HARCA. Its taken nearly two years to introduce this, believe me it has not been rushed through and a lot of time has been spent consulting with residents across all estates.

    Every single estate board had the chance to comment on the proposed revised estate board over a nine month period. The constitutions were amended to reflect residents views but only after they were approved by the resident representatives on the Joint Estate Panel.

    Karen I hope this answers your questions. As a Resident Board member, I am very keen to take up any concerns that you have about Poplar HARCA. Once again I would encourage you to contact me through my email address, so we can arrange a meeting to take this forward.

    Yours Debbie

    Comment by Debbie Cordrey — August 13, 2010 @ 8:56 am

  3. Hi Karen Smith can we talk

    Comment by Eva Silver — October 7, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

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