Saturday, 25 January 2014

AFTER A STORMY MEETING....A NEW MOVE



TENANTS SAY

THEY ARE GETTING 

NOWHERE

Reports last week of a  stormy meeting...now, Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation has been called in.

And a special Federation get together of members will take place in a couple of days to help Riverside Housing Association tenants who were at that stormy meeting.

The meeting was at Longtown, near Carlisle last week, and was also attended by Riverside  representatives. The Longtown tenants are very annoyed and frustrated. They  say they are getting nowhere in their long-standing dispute with the Liverpool housing association which is increasingly being seen in the Carlisle area as a property developer.

The Longtown tenants have asked the Federation  for help.
It is the third request  to the Federation for help  so far this year. A couple of weeks ago, the BBC Five Live radio programme, Five Live Investigates sought help for a programme about the  extra charges Riverside is imposing on its Carlisle Leaseholders.

Shortly afterwards, the campaigning magazine, The Big Issue sought Federation help about Riverside`s soaring rents which the Federation has discovered have risen nearly a third more than equivalent rents in Barrow where the social houses are still owned by the local authority.

The three requests to the Federation for help indicate a busy start to the year.The previous year was busy too, according to the Federation`s 2013 annual report, presented by the Chairman, Denise Moses, at the annual meeting a few days ago

This is what the report says:

The Federation has had another very successful year with regular  monthly meetings and Sub Group meetings held in the Family Church, Petteril Bank. Carlisle, by kind permission of the Church Elders. All our meetings have been stimulating and enjoyable and have attracted people from other groups in the city.

The following are the highlights of the year:

Open-ness and accountability: The Federation has welcomed the government`s plans for increased open-ness and accountability by public bodies. A gigantic increase of open-ness and accountability is sorely needed on the housing estates of Carlisle as far as the principal landlord, Riverside Housing Association, is concerned. The Federation continues to campaign against Riverside for proper open-ness and accountability.

Links with other campaigning organisations: The Federation has this year continued to strengthen working links with the North West Tenants` and Residents` Assembly. The Secretary has attended meetings in Birkenhead of the assembly executive. Information from the assembly for distribution to Federation members has been received on an almost a daily basis. Nationally, housing stock transfers continue to be questioned and successfully challenged nationally. Locally, questions  persist in the city and  district about the wisdom and legality of the Carlisle transfer of its housing stock to Riverside  eleven years ago.

Bedroom Tax: The Federation supported the Carlisle Axe the Bedroom Tax campaign and attended several of the group`s meetings in the city Enterprise Centre and also attended demonstrations in Botcherby.

Thamesmead Residents: The Federation recently succeeded in linking up with Thamesmead Residents,  an organisation in the London area  opposing Gallions Housing Association in a similar way to the Federation`s opposition to Riverside .Residents in several London boroughs support the organisation, mainly as a result of Gallions charges and way  it is operating. The link was established through  a radio programme about Thamesmead by BBC Radio Five Live. Gallions is based at Sidcup in Kent. The link is :  http://www.thamesmeadresidents.co.uk/

Carlisle City Council and questions for Riverside:  The Federation has continued to hold Riverside to account with written questions about its activities which were addressed by the city council Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel . The Federation has been in  helpful correspondence about the work of the Panel with Mr Jason Gooding the city council Chief Executive and Mr Mark Lambert, the council`s Head of Governance.However, during the year it became increasingly difficult  to get these questions accepted by the council and it was decided that the questions were leading nowhere and were not worth the considerable trouble involved in preparing them.

Riverside campaign of hostility to the Federation:  The Federation has continued to challenge Riverside`s  campaign of hostility to the Federation which started  when Riverside provocatively, deplorably and outrageously, told the city council that the Federation would cease to exist This  statement was noted  by the council and entered in the minutes.
Riverside followed this by twice attempting to block the Federation `s participation in the business of the city council Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel.Riverside has  still not explained why it wishes the Federation to cease to exist and how it proposes to ensure that the Federation ceases to exist.

The late Councillor Joe Hendry:The Federation  continued to pursue the issue of the late Councillor Joe Hendry  Leader of the city council, who for nearly two years failed to attend to a Federation request for help about Riverside issues by failing to  acknowledge or reply to a letter making the request. The issue was concluded during the year with Councillor Hendry`s death. Councillor Hendry was one of the four city council nominees on the board of Riverside and the Federation issue was raised with both the city council and with Riverside. Neither the council nor Riverside could help the Federation and it appears that council nominees  on the Riverside board cannot be held to account by either  organisation.The legality of the council`s arrangements for the work of the four nominees continues to be challenged.

Resignation of Mr Patrick Leonard:  During the year, Mr Leonard resigned as Carlisle Regional Director of Riverside and took up a new job in Whitehaven. During his ten years with Riverside he gave no encouragement or support to the Federation and more than once refused to have dealings with us. Mr Leonard`s lack of judgement  was criticised by the Federation and others after he  stood for  election as Labour candidate for the post of Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and amazingly said through an article in the Press that if elected he could do two jobs, the commissioner`s job alongside his Riverside job
Riverside`s excessive rents and unfair charges:A lot of time has been spent challenging Riverside about its excessive rents and  unfair charges. A detailed and extensive investigation of rent increases in Cumbria found that Riverside`s increases were thirty per cent larger than comparative rents in Barrow where the social houses have  remained in council ownership. Unfair  charges to Riverside leaseholders introduced fairly recently have added twelve per cent to bills.

The Federation blog: During the year, the Federation was encouraged by community activists in West Cumbria to start a blog on the internet which since it started has been contributed to by several  Federation members.The activists, Rebecca Hanson and Geraldine McNamara and her son, Cain, gave considerable help to get the blog up and running  and we thank them. Most of the issues  in this  annual report have been covered by the blog  at various times and  the blog`s viewing figures have risen consistently since the blog started  in March . The link to the blog is:

Radio Five Live and the magazine The Big Issue: It was through the internet and Federation blog that Radio Five Live and The Big Issue contacted the Federation  and invited our help.The programme, Radio Five Live Investigates needed help with a programme about excessive and unfair charges faced by housing association leaseholders  following Right to Buy purchases.The Federation was happy to give examples of these outrageous charges by Riverside in Brampton and in Dixon`s Court, Carlisle.
The Big Issue needed help with an article  about excessive rents charged by Riverside.
In both these cases, the Federation was happy to help.
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Lobbying councillors and M.P.`s:  The Federation has continued to hold meetings with councillors and has  been in touch with Mr. John Stevenson M.P. for Carlisle and Mr Rory Stewart M.P. for Penrith and the Border.

Carlisle South Community Association: The Federation continues to give active support to Carlisle South Community Association   which does excellent work supporting communities, particularly in tackling dog fouling and improving  the facilities in Dale End Park. A new group, Friends of Dale End Park, has been formed by the association and is working with the city council on a £80.000 improvement scheme for the park`s children`s play area.The association continues to have the active co-operation of the NHS in Carlisle and the  city council Green Spaces  and  Environmental Health departments.

Botcherby Forever . The Federation has continued to give active support to those members of Botcherby Residents` Action Group(BRAG) who were banned from BRAG meetings following the takeover of the group  by  a group of Durranhill residents and other residents living outside the original Botcherby estate. These  banned members formed a new community group. Botcherby Forever, which meets  monthly, helped by the Federation.
Botcherby Forever has spent much of the year helping local author Pat Hitchon who is writing a history of Botcherby.Pat has attended all our meeting along with many residents, all very keen to help the planned publication. Altogether, Pat has had help from more than 50  local people, many of them  linked together  through Botcherby Forever meetings. Botcherby Forever has had  many difficulties in finding suitable places  to hold its meetings and has met in five different places-including one member`s home. However, with kind  and helpful cooperation from all members, all meetings have been a great success.

Thanks to everyone: I wish to thank everyone who has helped the Federation during the year and thank all who have attended our meetings and contributed to our many interesting discussions and debates. Special thanks to the Elders of the Family Church, Petteril Bank who have made available their church, with its excellent facilities, with no charge to the Federation.. Thanks too, to members of Carlisle South Community Association who have helped at our meetings, particularly Joan and Kenny Simpson and their friends and family who have continued to provided excellent refreshments at all meetings throughout the year.