Tower Hamlets Watch

Did the council consult residents when selling off Car-Park?

September 14, 2010
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A member of a campaign to save Roman Road Market, has let me know that at tommorow evenings Council Meeting at Mulberry Place at 7:30pm, residents will be asking the council a question regarding the selling off of the Safeway’s Carpark. They would like to know if the council consulted any residents of the area before selling off this much needed carpark for £150,000 so that over 200 flats could be built.

If readers know anymore, or would like to contribute please respond through the comments or email..


Connaught have now officially collapsed

September 8, 2010
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Connaught have called in KPMG to handle the administration of the company. KPMG are hoping that the majority of workers jobs can be transferred to other companies.

What does this mean for the future of Tower Hamlets Homes Major Works programme? Lets also hope that in this uncertain time that these workers manage to find work elsewhere. Reading between the lines though, it would seem this may be just the tip of the iceberg for these type of companies.

For all those interested in the history of scandals and state of this company and its downfall, I’ve assembled a few interesting links for you:

Using the word “Connaught” as a search in Inside Housing Magazines search engine brings every article up regarding the company in date order: “Connaught at Inside Housing Magazine”

Using the same search at the Telegraph: “Connaught at the Telegraph”

“Connaught at the Financial Times” including their financial analysis page including company reports

Connaught’s collapse: sign of the times? by Dan Corry

On another note; sorry to all of you that have been salivating at the thought of my latest articles, *wink, I’m sorry that I’ve not been writing anything, just had other stuff get in the way. I’ll try to pick up the pace again soon.


Connaught suspend Share Trading amid concerns for future

September 7, 2010
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Just an update really.

Connaught, one of the Councils Major Works Contractors has suspended share trading today amid concerns for its future….

Read more at the Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/epic/cnt/7986271/Connaught-suspends-shares-warns-rescue-funding-unlikely.html


Tower Hamlets Homes – Decent Homes Contractor about to go Bust?

August 9, 2010
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Connaught, the major works contractor for Tower Hamlets Homes, who at the moment are carrying out works to properties on the St Vincents Estate in limehouse are looking like they are in serious trouble.

Only a couple of weeks ago, the sub-contractors to Connaught on the St Vincents estates who are installing toilets, went on strike as they had not been paid by Connaught. Connaught themselves who recently have been marred by accusations of financial irregularities are now being investigated by the Financial Services Authority for potential market abuse;

“The company has suspended Peter Jones, the managing director of Connaught Partnerships, the social housing maintenance division, amid an internal investigation.

Mr Jones made £264,953 by selling 68,000 shares on May 21 and 17,839 shares on June 23. Connaught issued its profits warning on June 25.

The Daily Telegraph understands that Connaught held a board meeting on June 23, the day of the second share sale, where the senior executive directors warned of public sector clients deferring social housing spending. Sir Roy Gardner, the chairman, gave management 48 hours to validate the figures, before the findings were issued to the market late in the afternoon on June 25.

Mr Jones was not at the board meeting, but runs the division that the figures related to. He is registered with the City watchdog as a “person discharging managerial responsibility”, which means both the company and the regulator deem him to have in-depth company information and he must seek permission each time he deals in the company’s shares.

FSA rules state directors must disclose any share dealings within four working days, but the dealings were only disclosed to the market on Tuesday. That statement also revealed Mr Jones bought back 7,217 shares on July 16 at a cost of £9,000 .

An FSA probe could leave Mr Jones with a fine or facing criminal proceedings for market abuse. ” – FSA investigates Connaught director’s share sale ahead of profits warning

The company who only a year ago were living a healthy lifestyle, and share were floating at around 300 pence per share have had a disastrous few months, only 2 weeks ago they secured a £15 million loan facility that enabled them to avert further strikes by their sub-contractors. But now as they have warned, they

“probably breached the terms of its loan covenants, which would entitle its banks to seize control.” – Connaught in emergency talks over debt-for-equity swap

On Friday their shares dropped a further 50% to just 15.5 pence a share, as of right now their shares are priced at 12.08 pence

None of this looks good for Connaught, watching the market tickers, it looks as if the share-holders are jumping ship under threat of losing everything. What this means for those living on the St Vincents Estate and anywhere else in the Borough if they collapse who knows.

Tower Hamlets Homes today are holding emergency talks with those living on the St Vincents Estate including members of the Residents Association to inform them of the situation at hand regarding the beleaguered contractor. Residents are extremely concerned at the news, as they have been campaigning years for their homes to be refurbished to the decent homes standard. Some are immediately concerned on wether the works have already been paid for by Tower Hamlets Homes, and that if Connaught collapses what would this mean for the unfinished works?

As this is ongoing at the moment I will endeavour to keep you updated.


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.


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….


Tower Hamlets Homes creeping Privatisation

June 16, 2010
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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.


Tower Hamlets Homes redefines the word ‘Local’

June 8, 2010
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Chrisp Street Local Housing Office is now officially closed. All 3000 homes which came under the umbrella of this local community housing office in Chrisp Street Market have still not officially been informed of the closure. Officially the Office closed on 27th April 2010, and now the site operates only as a one stop shop. Poplar’s Local Housing office is now no longer in Poplar, but is situated now in Bow at 542 Roman Road

Most Council residents in South Poplar are completly unaware of the closing of their local housing office. None were consulted for their opinion on whether they agreed with the proposed closure, which has now been in the pipeline for some months.

At a Tenants Federation Commitee Meeting earlier this year; Tower Hamlets Homes Board Members, Iain Lawson & Cllr Alex Heslop were dumbfounded to realise that members of the federation knew of the proposals to close Chrisp Street Housing Office at that time and were being pumped for answers by those present regarding consultation.

Jamie Carswell, Director of Strategy and Performance who also attended the Tenants Federation Meeting informed those present that there had been consultation by a resident questionaire that had been sent out.

One member attending asked the basic question of whether residents had been directly asked in the document;

“Would you like to see your local housing office closed?”

, which Jamie replied “No, we had come to that decision by summarising the answers from different questions”. When pushed again on whether any of these questions hinted at the proposed closure, again Jamie replied “No”

When pushed to reveal figures of returned/eligable questionaires, Jamie’s response prompted those present to calculate that at that time there was something like a 2% response from sent out questionaires. Jamie quite rightly hung his head in shame, and could not really face those asking these very simple questions.

To be fair, those present representing ‘Tower Hamlets Homes’ were not expecting this barrage of questions regarding ‘Chrisp Street Housing Office’. The fact is, most members of the meeting were only made aware of the fact that evening in Jan/Feb of this planned closure.

The response from ‘Tower Hamlets’ just recently, from queries regarding what the consultation involved was;

“Our consultation with residents, including through the development of our Customer Access Strategy, told us that it is important to residents that they are able to get in touch with us in person, on the phone and online and have their query dealt with quickly and successfully – these changes have been put in place to deliver that. “

Just as non-descript as Jamie’s answer at the Meeting in Jan/Feb.

I would go so far as to say that Residents had not been consulted in any way whatsoever. To quote that;

“it is important to residents that they are able to get in touch with us in person, on the phone and online and have their query dealt with quickly and successfully”

putting forward this as an official answer as to why you closed our housing offices, is completly out of touch of what what people really feel on the ground.

No worries though because one of the new strategies of our new ‘ALMO’ is that;

“In addition to opening a new office, we have also introduced a new service; guaranteeing residents a home visit from their local Neighbourhood Housing Officer within 10 days. – LBTH Communications Officer

If you take into account that most ‘Neighbourhood Housing Officers’ have on average ‘700 residential addresses’ on their own rounds, then
the maths looks something like this;

10 days X 8 hours = 80 hours (Assuming Officers work 8 hours a day)
80 hours X 60 minutes = 4,800 minutes
4,800 minutes divided by 700 residents = 7 minutes per resident

Thats right; 7 minutes allocated to each resident or around 68 residents per day. This has to include report writing, travelling time between homes, even travelling to and from the office nearly two miles away. I know this is a rather simplistic, over-stated and rather sarcastic version of the whole affair, but still these statistics offer a rather scary scenario. This promise by ‘Tower Hamlets Homes’ is impossible to really guarantee. I would urge readers that this proposed security hinted at within this promise, is entirely unobtainable in what most would deem an emergency. This is what happens when you let a private corporate mind-set conduct the affairs of what is essentially a social public service.

The local housing office system has been replaced by housing surgeries which only operate 2 days a week. Tuesday and Thursday seem to be the favoured day for most estates. This has been in the working by Tower Hamlets Homes since at least January, if not before, and has now been in effect since April 27th, and yet no residents have been made aware of this, in fact sign-posting for this has only been put up today June 7th over a month later;

Signposting to Housing Surgery in Robin Hood GardensNotice that no dates or times are shown for surgeries.

Taking place in what used to be community facilities, but now being taken over by other interested parties in most cases. As in the case of Robin Hood Gardens Training center;
Former Robin Hood Training Center
which used to be a Training Centre provided much needed skills to an already impoverished community, and homework clubs, has been taken over by the ‘Blackwall Reach Regeneration Team’ on Tuesdays and Thursdays (these guys are a whole different story), who have deemed to let THH in on the same days, to run housing surgeries.

The problem’s faced already and reiterated by those tenants who know about the surgeries, are that the computers at these surgeries do not connect to the Tower Hamlets Home network, and more importantly because these venues are already occupied by other organisations, time allocated to each venues computer usage is already a huge bone of contention, creating tension and arguments between teams, within each venue. Other problems already surfacing are that since there is usually only one ‘Neighbourhood Housing Officer’ allocated for each estate, the reality is that as these ‘officers’ already have a huge caseload of work to get on with (estate visits, home visits, anti-social behaviuor notices, evictions, and all manner of other official distractions), then what we’re finding is, is that unnofficially these surgeries are in fact closed, the majority of the time.

Case in point last Thursday 3rd June, THH had a Neighbourhood Action Day, on the St Matthias Estate behind Story House, Cottage Street E14;
Picture showing Marquee Tent on the Grass behind Story House
As you can see from the picture above, not many residents turned up, and was seen as;

“not worth the effort”

by those attending.

Why the low turn-out? Well maybe this had something to do with the fact that this was due to be held with another event on the grass within the Robin Hood Gardens Estate, and was advertised as much the week before. At the last minute for some unexplained reason, the day before, a small number of virtually invisible amount of posters were pasted up hurriedly around the estates changing the venue. Most residents who actually saw the posters got confused, the others only had their originally leaflet to go by and went to the original venue. This one was set up by the team of volunteers at SPLASH & Neighbours In Poplar, who have been looking after the people of Poplar and providing a support structure independently for over 40 years.

The event at Robin Hood went fine with dozens of people attending, face painting, games for kids etc, also attending were the local police force’s ‘Blackwalls Safer Neighbourhoods Team’, dealing with issues surrounding crime and handing out leaflets etc. The Police attending the event were also confused as to why ‘Tower Hamlets Homes – THH’ decided to pull out at the last minute and hold their own disastrous event at a different location down the road.

More to the point as I’ve already pointed out, the ‘THH’ event went on from 12:30 to 4:30, and as most Neighbourhood Housing Officers were present, then again the surgeries had to be closed for that event. Leaving those who knew about the surgeries, and the times, and not understanding that there may have been this ‘Action-Day’ were left again with no access to their services locally.

Residents and employees alike are complaining that the system since the Housing Office closures and centralising them at Roman Road at present is just not working. In fact Residents No:1 complaint so far is

“Why dont you bring back the Local Housing Offices?”

Hundreds of complaints are being dealt with by the ‘resident engagement team’ who are having trouble explaining to resident’s the new system, and how in a perfect world (well, maybe the old system) should actually be working.

Is anybody listening?…..