Monday, 2 September 2013


Freedom of Information is serving Carlisle badly says a community group, because it does not  include housing associations.

These organisations do whatever they  see fit because they don`t have to answer questions about their operations in a democratic way as they would if they were covered  by the Freedom of Information Act.

Riverside Housing Association is the latest association to fail  to answer questions when it demolished 16 flats in Borland Avenue, Botcherby. Carlisle, says a Letter  to the Editor today from Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation. The letter is to the News and Star, Carlisle.

Here it is:

A dark shadow remains over Carlisle despite the very welcome spotlight shone by your newspaper on the Freedom of Information Act.
he News and Star  did a great public service with its spotlight. But sadly, many people will conclude that the Freedom of Information Act serves Carlisle  badly.

Badly, because  housing associations- the biggest landlords in Carlisle- are unlike other public bodies : they don`t  do Freedom of Information,  the Act does not include housing associations.

Nationally, some of these housing associations  are also big
and powerful .One of the biggest in the country, Riverside
owns 50,000 homes nationwide. About ten per cent of these
are in Carlisle, and this Carlisle holding gives Riverside a near-monopoly of the city`s social housing.

It also gives Riverside very similar powers  to the city council in running
the  housing estates.

On these estates, the council  has a good record in dealing with information under the Act. But Riverside is under no such legal obligation. Nor is Riverside very ready to explain what it is  up to on these estates.

Riverside has a freedom in Carlisle denied to the council-  freedom to act much as it sees fit.

A couple of weeks ago in Botcherby,  Riverside demolished 16 one-bedroom maisonette flats in Borland Avenue. Before the demolition, there were protests  from a local councillor, from Botcherby people,  and from a protesting petition.

Riverside said it had consulted these people. But  this consultation never included an explanation of why the demolition had to go ahead despite the protests and despite the city shortage of one bedroom accommodation, made worse by the bedroom tax.

Riverside never explained because it didn`t have to explain.

A  Freedom of Information request would have forced an explanation

There have been several similar Riverside demolitions over the last few years in other parts of the city. Sheltered accommodatation  and old people`s bungalows have gone . And  like the Botcherby demolitions,, the reason why they have gone  has never been explained by Riverside.

Riverside`s unexplained demolitions have been challenged repeatedly, particularly by the tenants` and residents` organisation, Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation.

But such challenges are easily brushed  aside by an organisation that has the freedom to do exactly what it thinks fit.

One hundred years ago, Carlisle council also had the freedom to do what  it thought fit,.But, unlike Riverside, it did it in a democratic way which it was prepared to explain. What  the council thought fit  to do 100 years ago was to start building council houses..

Down those 100 years the council also  thought  fit to continue building until  9,000 homes  were created and Carlisle was doubled in size through a handful of newly-created council estates.

Ten years ago, all this ended with the takeover of the city council houses by the giant Liverpool organisation, Riverside.

Riverside`s unexplained demolitions and other unexplained measures- all of them, no doubt, decided  in a what-we-think-fit  way in Liverpool -are now changing for ever what the city council created  during a century of democratic government.

Freedom of Information would force Riverside to explain these unexplained demolitions and tell us what is going on.

Carlisle people who built these estates through their rates and taxes have right to know what is going on.

Community Voice Carlisle is the blog of Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation. Information abourt the Fededration is  contained in the first post of this blog, dated March 25 2013

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