All posts from: August 2010
Staff at the Audit Commission are in the depths of despair at the moment after communitites secretary Eric Pickles axed their organisation with a surprise phone call a fortnight ago.
One other thing that might now be for the chop is the commission’s choice of music for callers placed on hold.
While conversations between Closed Circuit and Audit Commission staff have been rather sombre of late, the hold music is incongruously cheerful.
One source says: ‘We should change it really: I was thinking that Beethoven or Tchaikovsky might reflect the mood here a little better.’
Brighton Council is making a song and a dance out of families who are under threat of eviction.
The families are being given exclusive sessions with a local DJ thanks to Brighton’s family intervention project.
They will spend time with Adam Freeland in a bid to occupy their time with something constructive.
Closed Circuit wishes the project all the best but does wonder if it might prove counterproductive if the families show off their newfound skills by throwing a late night party.
Is Britain on the verge of a giant rat infestation? It is if you believe what you read in The Sun newspaper.
The red top’s front page last week featured a story saying giant rats had been found on a housing estate in Bradford.
When Inside Housing called its contacts in Bradford they seemed rather puzzled - and a little angry - about the fuss.
Both Bradford Council and the 21,000-home housing association Incommunities, which owns about half of the homes on the estate in question, said they had received no reports from residents about rat problems.
So, it seems that far from being on the brink of a major giant rat problem the tabloids have, in fact, found a fresh alternative to the perennial spottings of mysterious large black cats.
Always useful in a period of slow news (like August). Closed Circuit is hoping things get a little more glamorous, however, with sightings of boxing kangaroos in Clapham, perhaps.
Contacted about the news that some destitute migrants had been seen eating rats, the Food Standards Agency came up with one of its more unusual pieces of advice last week.
Emphasising that the rodents were not regarded as a source of food in the UK, it added: ‘In the unlikely event that you decided to eat rat then, as with any meat, you should avoid cross contamination and ensure that the rat is cooked thoroughly to kill any harmful organisms that it might be carrying.’
It then went on to warn that there might be other risks, such as from chemicals that rats might have eaten. From this Closed Circuit, concludes that it is probably best not to eat rat - even if it has been cooked by Delia Smith.
Private tenants have been known to get a rough deal from the occasional rogue landlord - but they are usually provided with homes that have floors and ceilings.
One landlord in Blackpool, however, seemed to regard even the basic structure of a house as too much of a luxury for their tenants.
The building on Tyrone Avenue was immediately closed down by Blackpool Council after it was discovered on 10 August.
An investigation revealed the tenants had been living in a veritable building site for 12 months - and they were paying more than £500 a month in rent for the privilege. Along with the holes in the floor, there were exposed live electrical cables and exposed brickwork.
When questioned, the owned claimed he was undertaking a major renovation project.
In a move which gives a different meaning to the term ‘casino finance’, giant housing association Affinity Sutton has appointed Gala Coral group executive chairman Neil Goulden as its new chair.
Mr Goulden has also held board positions at bookmaker Ladbrokes and Allied Leisure, which provides ten-pin bowling centres, and was also non-executive director of publican and brewer Marstons.
So, will it be pints of bitter followed by ten-pin bowling for the association’s next AGM?
In recent time, Prince Charles has been preoccupied with fighting architect Richard Rogers’ housing plans on the site of the former Chelsea Barracks.
But now he has turned his attentions closer to home with plans to install photovoltaic panels on the roof of Clarence House.
Planning documents submitted to Westminster Council earlier this month say the plan is ‘the latest in a line of renewable technology projects undertaken by the household of HRH the Prince of Wales that not only have a direct benefit of reducing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions but also have an indirect impact by raising the profile of such technologies’.
That all sounds very nice, but Closed Circuit wonders whether the prince is bracing himself for calls from other royals concerned about the project’s impact.
Popularity comes at rather a high price these days, or at least it does for government departments.
Figures uncovered in a series of parliamentary questions submitted by Tory MP Damian Hinds show that the Communities and Local Government department spent £750,000 on getting their websites to the top of Google’s search rankings in the past two years.
The department spent the sum on paid search, which produces a box at the top of users’ search screens directing them to sites providing information on home information packs, energy performance certificates and eco-towns. There are no figures on how many new visitors the paid searches brought in, or whether this includes another CLG-run website, which allows council workers to make suggestions on potential savings local authorities can make. Perhaps a similar website for CLG would be a good idea.
And finally, happy birthday to Ian Perry, chief executive of Harvest Housing Group.
Mr Perry had arranged to chair the Northern Housing Summit last Friday - the day before a certain ‘landmark birthday’ - until he noticed a horrified expression on his wife’s face.
Mr Perry, who put in a fleeting appearance at the start of the all day conference, found out that a surprise break had been booked by the Perry family to Center Parcs for celebrations.
For some reason Mr Perry did not look too pained at swapping a day-long housing debate for the swimming pool.
The Lib-Con glitterati turned out in force for the Centre for Social Justice’s recent annual awards ceremony.
Among the high-flying politicians and well-known social campaigners, Closed Circuit spotted secretary of state for work and pensions Iain Duncan Smith, pensions minister Steve Webb, ‘poverty tsar’ Frank Field, socialite Jemima Kahn and TV presenter Dan Snow. And then there was Sir Bob Geldof, who took to the stage for a 20-minute rant about, well, everything.
To fit the evening’s theme of fatherless families, Sir Bob started with an account of his own fatherless childhood, moving on to his personal battle for custody following his divorce and the failings of the family law system. He ended by describing his surprise at Mr Duncan Smith’s appointment.
‘You’re the last person I’d expect to be interested in something like this,’ he said, pointing at the minister, before urging him to sort out the broken legal system. When the rocker eventually finished, Closed Circuit noticed a collective sigh of relief from the CSJ staff, who had been creeping up to the stage, wondering how to politely stem the rant.
Polygamous marriages might not be an obvious component of benefit reform.
Nonetheless, this week the Department for Work and Pensions divulged guidance on how to handle claims from second and subsequent spouses.
Department papers dating back to 2007, but released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal why civil servants recommended that the husband and first wife be treated as spouses for benefit claims while additional spouses make claims as single people.
The change was deemed necessary to avoid the government appearing to lend ‘tacit support’ for polygamous marriages by allowing special provision through the benefits system. So now you know.
And finally… congratulations go out to Thames Reach and The Voice.
Together the homelessness charity and newspaper have raised thousands of pounds to enable a homeless man with severe kidney problems to spend his final weeks with his family in Jamaica. The pair raised the cash to enable Derrick Riddle to stay on dialysis when he returned home last week. Mr Riddle, who lived in a hostel run by Thames Reach, also has cancer and needed dialysis, costing £4,000.