Recents posts on this blog have revealed my concerns at the involvement of private consultantcy groups within the governance structure of Tower Hamlets Homes, the Arms-Length Management Organisation (ALMO) that now manages the remainder of council homes within this borough.
These concerns highlighted the reports i was receiving from various departments within the ALMO that these consultants were having not only an unwanted influence on the future path of the organisation but also in some cases would amount to what some would call a form of bullying.
The praise I’ve recieved privately from those working within the organisation is enough to tell me that what I’ve highlighted is of real concern to all those employees transferred under the TUPE regulations when the ALMO was first set up.
This has apparently caused widespread consternation at board level, and Barbara Brownlee herself has written an article within a recent edition of “home” the Tower Hamlets Homes internal newsletter trying to rubbish this blog.
A recent FOI request regarding Pinnacles involvement with Tower Hamlets Homes (46 working days late, over twice the 20 working day time frame, and breaking the law) , which also focused on Barbara Brownlee’s selection as Director of Housing in the organisation, revealed some disturbing truth’s about THH’s approach to Barbara Brownlee and Pinnacle psg. Remember I uncovered that Barbaras Brownlee was previously employed by Pinnacle psg as Director of Consulting?, a fact that she so easily forgot to leave out of her resume on THH’s site.
A simple question within a series of questions was asked by the submitter of the FOI Request;
“7. I would like to know how many meetings were had with ‘Barbara Brownlee’ Director of Consultancy at Pinnacle psg, before any engagement in her new role of Director of Housing and Customer Services at Tower Hamlets Homes. (please list dates)” – http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/tower_hamlets_homes_consultants
after the submitter patiently waited over 43 working days for the answers to come back, they finally got some responses, and the answer given to number 7. above was;
“No meetings were held between Barbara Brownlee and Tower Hamlets Homes in her capacity as Director of Housing Consulting at Pinnacle before joining Tower Hamlets Homes.” – Link to response
The thing is though, that this isn’t exactly the truth, after an electronic consultation (whatever that is?) Barbara Brownlee’s first day in her new office was 1st September 2009.
“1.3 Recruitment of the Director of Housing and Customer Service
Board Members were notified of the decision, on the basis of electronic consultation, to appoint Barbara Brownlee to the position of Director of Housing and Customer Service on a permanent basis. Barbara’s first day with Tower Hamlets Homes will be 1 September 2009. I would just like to reiterate my thanks to everyone for their participation in this process.” – Gavin Cansfield, Chief Executive’s report to the Board 8th September 2009
The question asked in the FOI was; if she had been in meetings before this date with Tower Hamlets Homes before being employed by them. In my opinion the answer to this question could have revealed if there had been any reason to doubt whether or not there had maybe been any form of nepotism playing a part in her successfully aquiring this position.
So why is it that on further investigation, that the above reply to the FOI request that; “No meetings were held..” is in fact untrue. If you look at the following document, which is the Minutes of a meeting of the Tower Hamlets Homes Board Held on Tuesday 12 May 2009 from 6.30 – 8.45pm in Toby Club, Vawdrey Close, London E1, a full four and a half months earlier, Barbara Brownlee was in attendance at that meeting actually in her capacity as a Consultant for Pinnacle Consulting, and at that time was employed by Pinnacle as Director of Consulting.
Heres a little cutting & pasting I done earlier…. “and now to the gallery”
Now I do not actually think that Tower Hamlets Homes would go out of their way to lie about previous meetings with senior members of staff..“ahem, ahem”,.. like those attending that particular meeting;
Gavin Cansfield – Chief Executive (CE)
Jamie Carswell – Director of Strategy & Performance (DSP)
Sayeed Kadir – Director of Asset Management (DAM)
Abraham Nomafo – Director of Housing & Customer Services (DHCS)
Les Warren – Director of Finance & Resources (DFR)
Debbie Okutubo – Governance Manager
Ann Lucas – Interim Decent Homes Manager (for part meeting)
But the facts stand, no matter how Tower Hamlets Homes selectively answer questions and play an economical game with the truth, Barbara Brownlee was attending meetings in her capacity as a Consultant for Pinnacle Consulting before she was employed by Tower Hamlets Homes. Seeing that she was also employed at the time as the Director of Consulting for Pinnacle, then there is no other capacity that she could have attended that meeting in. Therefore she was not a stranger to those senior members already working within the organisation, so why did Tower Hamlets Homes try to avoid the question? Why did Tower Hamlets neglect to mention this fact?, how many other meetings had she had with Tower Hamlets Homes before her employement?, regardless of what capacity. More importantly did she know any of the board members before her engagment in her new role within Tower Hamlets Homes? Did she personally know any senior members that could have potentially raised, in the eyes of outside observers, any conflict issues, or accusations of cronyism? in her engagement, acquisition and ultimately employment at Tower Hamlets Homes?
Why would Tower Hamlets Homes try to hide the fact that yes she had been engaged in previous meetings with senior members, months before her employment at THH?
Just another note on the original FOI and the response was the following question and answer;
“6. Please list how many former consultants/employees of ‘Pinnacle’ engaged in consultancy roles by Tower Hamlets Homes are now employed in Full-time positions within the ALMO. (i.e.; are now not employed by ‘Pinnacle’ and are now Tower Hamlets Homes staff)
We can confirm that at least one member of permanent staff was a Pinnacle employee and is now a Tower Hamlets Homes permanent staff member.”
What a way to answer a legally required response to an FOI request. No real answer just a stupidly ignorant statement. It doesn’t even confirm whether this one member is “Barbie”…
“If any of this is untrue, or misunderstood by myself then, please feel free to comment on this post putting your side of the story. I will deleted anything that is in error, untrue or otherwise as long as full explanations are given, showing the problem with this post”
Just a quick update, sorry i haven’t been writing recently but just noticed this on the Councils Website;
Revisiting the ALMO
Improving housing in Tower Hamlets is a key priority for Mayor Lutfur Rahman, and the council has submitted a multi-million pound bid to improve the borough’s homes.
The Government has changed the way that funding, to bring social rented homes up to a decent standard, can be accessed. This means that all councils can now apply to the Homes and Communities Agency funding whether or not they have an ALMO.
Along with submitting a funding bid for £163 million, the council is also evaluating the best way to deliver and maintain social housing in the future. The changes to policy mean that it is no longer necessary to have an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO), such as Tower Hamlets Homes, to gain decent homes funding. Therefore the evaluation will look at whether an ALMO is still the best way to deliver housing management for the homes that the Council owns in Tower Hamlets.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, said: “We want to make sure that we offer our tenant and leaseholder the best possible service, and that means investigating all of the options.
“The entire landscape for housing policy is changing and I want to be sure that Tower Hamlets is well placed to respond to those changes. I have a duty to tenants and leaseholders to make sure that the current situation is still the best option.
“This in no way reflects on the performance of Tower Hamlets Homes, I have made it known that I am very pleased with the progress that they have made.”
Tower Hamlets Homes was set up in 2008 to enable the council to access some much needed funding to bring its 22,000 homes up to the government’s decent standard – warm and weather-proof with modern kitchens and bathrooms. It is a not-for-profit organisation that manages council homes, along with the council tenancies and leases.
Originally the ALMO had to achieve a two-star or good rating from the Audit Commission to gain extra funding, but this policy has now been scrapped. The ALMO was audited in November 2010 and is awaiting the results.
The Mayor has asked for an options paper to be drawn up for discussion.
28 January 2011
So after the bullying tactics of some consultants that were brought in
read here and the ALMOs recent descision to cut the Housing Surgeries from 2 days a week on each estate to one 2 hour session on each estate, what does the future hold for us as residents?
If you look at the situation dispationatley and listen the views and opinions of the staff, you’ll find that whats happened is a streamlining process of a publicly owned body. Tower Hamlets Council created Tower Hamlets Homes as an Arms-Length body that’s real remit was to cut staff numbers and provide a much reduced service so that this more economically viable package could be sold on or brought back in house with no blame being brought upon Tower Hamlets Council.
Staff have been treated viciously throughout the ALMO, staff with years of service with a wealth of experience are now being told by senior management (usually Interim Managers or New Staff brought in) that experience “no longer matters” that new-blood is whats important.
Barbara Brownlee, Gavin Cansfield & Jamie Carswell all who have links to Hackney & Pinnacle in some way, probably all knew each other and were brought in especially, look set to all get nice pay-offs, bonuses and top-ups to their gilt-edged pension schemes. In private companies these type of scum-bags are called hatchet men, brought in to cut what the company terms “waste” but what equates to a much reduced service, lower wages, reduced staff numbers and newer employees on lesser contracts with less rights and protections from abuse.
What’s in store…