All posts from: March 2010
Glasgow Housing Association is very proud of its achievements in improving homes in the city.
Weather-proofing buildings has been an important part of the association’s programme but perhaps it has gone a little too far?
In a final session at the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland conference last week, Fraser Stewart, director of New Gorbals Housing Association, suggested: ‘If you stand still for long enough [in Glasgow] GHA will render you.’
The deputy leader of Britain’s largest trade union seems to be having something of an identity crisis.
As Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Birmingham Erdington, and party treasurer, and also Mr Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey is as close as they get to Labour. But at the Defend Council Housing conference last week he said Labour had continued a process which began under the Tories where councils were being ‘written out of being the providers of new accommodation’. Although he later said there was now recognition of their role.
Perhaps forgetting that he was speaking as deputy general secretary of Unite, he said ‘we’ — presumably meaning the Labour Party rather than the super-union — ‘stand for decent homes. What the Conservatives stand for is stately homes’.
Delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Scottish conference in Glasgow last week could have been forgiven for thinking they’d turned up to a musical open mic night.
At a session about Enterprising communities David Herd, head of the social enterprise investment team at Social Investment Scotland, pulled out a guitar and sang a 1970s ditty about a community that does not want to move as their area is regenerated.
Not to be outdone, Craig Sanderson, chief executive of charity Link Group, revealed that he was ‘not a musician, I’m a drummer’ before pulling out two pens and demonstrating his technique on the lectern.
Closed Circuit looks forward to U2 returning the favour with a lecture about the Scottish housing finance at this year’s Glastonbury Festival.
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It hasn’t been a great month for John Terry.
First Fabio Capello drops the philandering footballer from the England captaincy, and then private tenants say Mr Terry is their idea of a nightmare landlord. A survey by the National Landlords Association of tenants’ ‘dream celebrity landlords’ leaves Mr Terry languishing as the least popular, along with wife of the former PM Cherie Blair.
This damning verdict is hardly a surprise since Mr Terry seems barely able to keep his own house in order, let alone those of others. But Closed Circuit can’t help but question the voting tenants’ judgement for placing a cartoon character - Bob the Builder - as the fifth most popular landlord - apparently for his business skills.
Both Bob and John were beaten to the top spot by Philip Schofield, who was reckoned to be a friendly and sociable landlord who you could rely on in a crisis - presumably helped on his way by that dashing coat of many colours.
The Audit Commission’s lead housing inspector Domini Gunn-Pein seemed none too impressed with the performance of male attendees at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s south east conference earlier this month.
During a session about health, social care and housing she noted her audience consisted almost entirely of women. ‘If you look at last night’s dinner it was predominantly men,’ she observed. ‘Perhaps we should have had a free bar and more men would have turned up.’
Having previously upset the good people of Liverpool with his suggestion that their city had little to offer them, Tim Leunig has decided to go for a potentially more benign target.
The LSE boffin and Inside Housing columnist used last week’s National Housing Federation Leaders conference to make the case for developing on rural land. ‘I cannot see a field when I travel around Britain without thinking of the reduction in misery that would come about if that field was built on. Would anyone really notice?
‘I mean, sure, the Campaign to Protect Rural England can come up with Bill Bryson looking cuddly saying “This field was bigger than Birmingham”. Well yes, but there are millions of fields as big as Birmingham - just go to another field.’
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Closed Circuit would like to thank Hull Council for responding to an Inside Housing freedom of information request this week.
However, without wishing to sound ungrateful, the information is no longer of any use. The phrase ‘if an extension to the 20-day statutory deadline is required, please let us know’ was clearly not prominent enough. The request was sent out a full six months ago, for a story published in October.
David Cowans has done his best to cosy up to the Tories in recent months, sharing a platform with shadow ministers on the conference circuit with notably regularity.
But the association possibly went too far even for the Places for People chief at last week’s Ecobuild conference, where Mr Cowans was billed to appear on a panel alongside shadow planning minister Bob Neill.
When both men failed to show at the allotted time, no sooner had the BBC’s Justin Webb, chairing the session, explained that ‘business in the house’ was delaying the opposition MP, when a stocky figure bustled his way towards the stage. ‘Indeed,’ backtracked Mr Webb, ‘this could be him now.’ Alas, the man in question was not the much-anticipated shadow minister, but Mr Cowans.
Disputes between housing associations and their contractors are nothing new, but one chief executive and contractor took a novel approach to solving one at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s conference in Brighton last week.
An altercation is said to have broken out in the early hours in a hotel bar last Tuesday night, which was resolved when one party gave the other a headbutt. Perhaps they were limbering up for next week’s CIH Scotland event with a ‘Glasgow kiss’…?
Following on from Inside Housing’s successful Empty Promise campaign to tackle vacant homes, the maker of Channel Four’s Secret Millionaire show is urgently seeking five empty homes in need of refurbishment for its next project.
The five-part series, to be screened later this year, will see RDF Television foot the bill for a complete refit of each home, before renting it out to households in desperate housing need. Interested? Then send an email to email@example.com
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One muddy hole in the ground can look much like another, so developer First Base decided to liven up its latest launch, the £29 million Highbury Gardens scheme in north London, with a little graffiti.
‘We are doing ground-breaking in a slightly unusual way,’ observed managing director Elliot Lipton, eyeing a four-foot high mural of himself standing alongside caricatures of the Homes and Communities Agency’s David Lunts, and contractor Mansell’s Ed Morgan.
Perhaps going for the Banksy-effect is developers’ latest attempt to revive the housing market.
A recent visit to Home Group sent Carr Gomm boss Gary Lashko hurtling back to the heady days of 1960s supermarionation (stick that one into Wikipedia and choke on it).
As he approached the Newcastle business park where Home is based, the chief exec was thrown into confusion as the theme tune from Thunderbirds began playing on a continuous loop in his head.
It finally dawned that the random soundtrack was inspired by the sight of Home’s office ‘coming out of the ground, just like the Thunderbird’s HQ’. Sightings of Parker buffing Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce in the Home car park are unconfirmed.
Colin Firth might be bathing in his recent BAFTA glory but it seems he has a new and unlikely role as standard-bearer for the ageing population.
At a recent conference on the subject Angela Eagle, minister for pensions and the ageing society, highlighted that 50 was when one officially becomes an ‘older person’. She will be joining the gang next year, which counts Firth among its number this year and will be joined by Tom Cruise in 2012.
The idea of being grouped with Firth, who gained legions of female fans after emerging from a lake in a wet shirt as Mr Darcy in the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, clearly captured the imagination of other speakers.
Gary Belfield, the department of health’s acting director general for commissioning and system management, said he too would be 50 next year. ‘From the back I look like Darcy,’ he added.
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Being employed by the UK’s largest housing association must be thirsty work.
A procurement manager’s examination of Glasgow Housing Association’s accounts revealed the organisation was spending £22,500 a year on free tea and coffee for staff and visitors. Now new chief executive Martin Armstrong is considering scrapping the drinks machines to save cash.
Closed Circuit feels honour-bound to admit its own unwitting contribution to the drinks bill. With hindsight, it would have politely declined the offer of a cuppa on a recent visit to GHA to interview Mr Armstrong. And as for the request for two sugars…
Confused by the concept of carbon offsetting?
Then look no further than www.cheatneutral.com which follows similar principles to the planet-saving wheeze and is designed to highlight some of the hypocrisies of carbon offsetting.
‘Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat,’ goes the blurb. Premiership footballers and superstar golfers take note and learn how to save your marriage and the environment at the same time.
Pensioners in Barnet know what they want - and it isn’t bright orange and an undignified scramble for seats.
Disgruntled OAPs from the north London borough are planning to demonstrate outside Conservative Party HQ amid fears their Tory council will legally circumvent a court ruling which put the kibosh on its plans to scrap live-in warden services. ‘Barnet is called the easyJet council. But we are not easy, and we are not an asset to be sold,’ said a spokesperson for the UK Pensioners group. No frills here.
The Tories finally launched their planning green paper this week, two weeks later than planned (and a fortnight since Inside Housing brought you all the details anyway).
It’s said party strategists weren’t convinced the minutiae of the local planning tariff would beat rival political stories to the headlines, deciding to delay publication until a ‘quieter news week’. Given the spectacular failure of that tactic, perhaps they should have taken a lead from Labour and tried a spot of sexing up instead. Or perhaps they were simply bullied into it.
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