Monday, 11 September 2017


Sarah Paton and 
the farce
of a
talking shop
Much is expected of housing association boss Sarah Paton as she continues to take over her failed organisation. Can she deliver? is what everyone wants to know, particularly in view of the indifferent record of her two predecessors.

That indifferent record has just been under scrutiny by Carlisle City councillors. Laid bare before them were the failings of Riverside Housing Association under the two Carlisle regional director predecessors, Patrick Leonard and Dean Butterworth.

The two ran the Carlisle section of Liverpool-based Riverside in succession to each other for 14 years. During those years Riverside chalked up an increasingly bad reputation for bossiness, gross inefficiency and arrogance.

Late last year Ms Paton was brought in from outside the Riverside organisation to do some cleaning up, it is believed.

She has made a start by meeting critical Carlisle councillors and facing up to some of their criticisms and also providing some  answers.

One of of those answers caused great worry to the councillors. (The councillors met as the Economic Scrutiny Panel, previously known as the Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel.)

That Riverside worrying answer was a plan to establish a Riverside Liaison Group comprising Ms Paton together with councillors and council officers. The panel would meet regularly and discuss problems and complaints from the 6,000 Carlisle Riverside tenants and leaseholders.

Would such a group work and would it give a voice to the tenants and leaseholders? And how open and transparent would it be?

Councillors quite rightly were worried and not sure on both issues.

The councillors well remember the notorious ineffectiveness of a previous Riverside group, its Carlisle governing board which had four city councillors on the board of a dozen or so.

That board met regularly but apparently did nothing worth recording in the 14 years of its existence. At least no one can recall anything it did.
(The board has now failed to meet for several months and is now apparently dead. So, good riddance!)

What that board did do successfully in those 14 years was talk. There was lots of talking. In fact it was a talking shop!

So it was no surprise that the Economic Scrutiny Panel councillors also talked about talking shops and the farce of having a talking shop! And they appeared to be unanimous that Riverside`s planned Liaison Group must be anything except…a talking shop!

How will that be achieved? No one can be certain. The councillors admitted they has no power to achieve it. Only Ms Paton apparently can achieve it. It all rests on her goodwill towards the council.

So the 6,000 tenants and leaseholders can only wait and see.

The one certainty is this: as far as the future of these  “shops” go - talking or non-talking - much is expected of Sarah Paton.

 Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228 532803

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