Posted by: Tom Lloyd26/03/2012
Will history look more favourably on the Tenant Services Authority than Grant Shapps did?
The housing minister made it pretty clear what he thought of the social housing regulator before he even made it to government. And when the coalition government came to power and he switched from being shadow housing minister to housing minister it always looked like the agency’s days were numbered.
There was of course the required consultation to go through first, but Mr Shapps did rather undermine this by referring to the regulator as ‘toast’ before the supposed scrutiny had got underway. The coalition government has always had a rather different view of the term ‘consultation’ than other organisations, as the recent debacle over feed-in tariffs has shown.
One of the final acts of the TSA, which closes for business this week, was to publish a short history of its existence. Needless to say this didn’t go down particularly well with Mr Shapps, who tweeted on Friday: ‘I’ve scrapped this wasteful Lab £100m quango, but they’ve still found time to write their own 7pg history before going.’
The history doesn’t appear to contain any mention of the term ‘toast’ or indeed much reference to the rather chaotic demise of the agency. It also fails to mention that the regulator was, for a short period of time before it started work, to be known as ‘Oftenant’.
Source: Anna Branthwaite
Its highly entertaining publicity campaign that featured then chief executive Peter Marsh touring the country in a bright pink VW camper van to talk to tenants is also strangely absent from the TSA’s own version of events.
From a personal point of view I’ll be sorry to see the TSA go. Stories about its creation, future and demise have given a steady boost to website traffic over the last few years, and our exclusive story confirming that it was to be axed remains one of the most read items we’ve ever run.
From the – significantly more important – point of view of the social housing sector, it is harder to judge what impact the end of the regulator will have. In its ‘history’ document the regulator focuses on the standards it has developed, and how these will be taken forward by the regulatory committee of the Homes and Communities Agency.
It could be argued that a little over three years is a long time to spend developing some standards, and perhaps the regulator could have achieved more, but then it was always going to be struggling once the government made clear it had the life expectancy of a mayfly.
Whatever history makes of the TSA, its demise is certainly going to see major changes to the way social housing is regulated. We know the new regulator is going to be much more concerned with economic regulation than housing management issues. And we know tenant panels will be expected to pick up some of the slack.
What we don’t know is whether or not this will result in an effective system of regulation that will offer protection to tenants while allowing landlords to flourish. We may have to wait another few years for our next history lesson to find out.
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