Jeremy Corbyn(left) joined the battle this weekend as attacks on Riverside Housing Association continued unabated.
The Labour leader did not mention Riverside by name but his speech at Nottingham clearly had organisations like Riverside in mind when he said that Labour aims to reverse years of forced privatisations.
The forced privatisation of Carlisle`s 6,000 council houses was planned and engineered in Whitehall 14 years ago by Mr John Prescott, then Tony Blair`s Community Secretary. Today, while Mr Corbyn attacks such privatisations, similar attacks are made by Carlisle City councillor Ray Bloxham who played a leading part in the actual handover process of the houses to Liverpool-based Riverside in 2002.
Councillor Bloxham`s attacks are very significant. He speaks with a lifetime experience of work in social housing. He also knows at first hand about Riverside`s sixty suffering tenants in ice-box homes at Longtown caused by that organisation`s dodgy boilers. He knows because he represents that town on the city council .
From being an enthusiast for Riverside, Councillor Bloxham is now a disillusioned critic.This may be considered surprising because as a Conservative he is politically the opposite of Jeremy Corbyn.
This what Councillor Bloxham said following Riverside`s decision last week to scrap its vital Carelne service for the elderly and vulnerable in order to save money:
|Coun. Bloxham.." I despair..."|
“I despair of Riverside because when we handed over the housing stock to them, we did so because they were community minded.
“I don`t like their dictatorial attitude. This is no way to treat people. Riverside should not be in the housing business if they cannot talk to people”
Not community minded. Dictatorial in dealing with people.This is what Councillor Bloxham says and it is exactly what has been said for 14 years by critics of Riverside led by Carlisle Tenants and Residents` Federation.
Councillor Bloxham with his detailed knowledge of Riverside`s suffering Longtown tenanrs, could have added something else. That is that Riverside is organised in ramshackle way and is grossly inefficient.
Riverside`s dictatorial decision about Careline contrasts markedly with many other housing associations.These associations are doing ground-breaking work for their tenants and others.
Gentoo Housing Association of Sunderland is one of these. Its work was described in a recent post on this blog.( See Carol Matthews and an organisation put to shame).
Gentoo`s outstanding work is hopefully to be the subject of discussion by the city council later this month following questions submitted for oral answer by thecouncil`s Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel. The submiited questions are:
“Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation welcomes the Panel`s decision to invite other housing associations to take part in those of its hearings when reports from Riverside Housing Association are discussed. The Federation asks if this wider discussion can please be extended to other housing associations, particularly those associations which are doing ground-breaking work for their tenants and others, and who unlike many associations are not principally motivated by profit and the desire to boost their financial reserves.
“Gentoo Housing Association based in Sunderland is a good example of these ground-breaking associations. It is running a pilot scheme jointly with the NHS, targeting fuel-inefficient homes occupied by people - irrespective of any connection they might have or might not have with Gentoo - who have respiratory problems likely to be worsened by cold and damp, These people are given a boiler on prescription by the NHS. The prescription comprises a new boiler and insulation work including double-glazing, supplied by Gentoo.
“In the first six months of the pilot scheme, GP appointments were reduced by 28% and outpatient appointments by 33%. Tenants’ energy bills were reduced by a third on average and the scheme has saved the NHS many thousands of pounds”.
“Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation in the past has criticised the limitations of the Panel`s scrutiny role when reports from Riverside Housing Association are discussed. The Federation has also criticised the Panel`s very limited allowance of oral questioning by taxpayers.
“In the spirit of the Panel`s new wider remit as referred to in the previous question, will the Panel now please move to further increased scrutiny and questioning to emulate the excellent work of parliamentary select committees.
“This question partly arises from what the Federation was previously told by the council i.e. that the basis of the work of the Panel is founded on the work of these select committees and that nationally all local government overview and scrutiny bodies are the local government equivalent of these committees,”
CarlisleTenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228 532803.