All posts from: June 2011
Much was made of panellist Clive Betts’s footballing credentials at last week’s annual Welbeck Land debate.
The Labour MP and chair of the communities and local government select committee was introduced as both captain of the UK parliamentary football club and a fan of league one club Sheffield Wednesday. ‘I won’t attempt to draw any comparisons between Sheffield Wednesday’s attempts to play football and the government’s attempts to reform the planning system,’ said Mr Betts, who has spent more time than most scrutinising the Localism Bill.
He sounds like a character from a children’s story book but meet Mr Payne, the anti-social tenant.
Seven Locks Housing was granted a possession order against pensioner Barry Payne (of the ‘in the backside’ branch of the family tree), 67, from Market Harborough, it revealed last week.
He had breached an anti-social behaviour injunction three times and received custodial sentences for doing so before the eviction proceedings began.
Closed Circuit hearby launches a search for other aptly named individuals in the sector.
The Audit Commission has suggested that a Mr Softtouch works at the Tenant Services Authority - but we don’t think it meant it literally.
Remember John Belcher, the former chief executive of Anchor who trousered £391,000 a year for running the retirement and care specialist?
The recent demise of care provider Southern Cross, currently battling financial crisis, set Closed Circuit thinking about the well-healed Mr Belcher, whose employer justified his whopping pay packet by saying it was on a par with profit-making competitors such as, er, Southern Cross.
It also compared Mr Belcher to the well-compensated boss of McCarthy and Stone - the self-proclaimed ‘leading retirement builder’ forced to restructure its debts after running into financial trouble.
Perhaps just as well, then, that Anchor’s board decided to drop the policy of linking executive pay to the private sector following Mr Belcher’s sudden departure from the organisation in 2009.
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Amid all the talk of cuts, one myth that has quickly taken up common currency is the notion that alternate weekly bin collections has added to rat infestations as people replace refuse services with fly-tipping.
The Local Government Association’s very own pied piper, in the shape of its vice-chair Richard Kemp, took to the pages of The Times to put the record straight. He pointed out that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ figures show an 18 per cent decrease in fly-tipping incidents between 2009 and 2010. When will the long-tailed scribes of Fleet Street put the record straight?
A new development for adults with special needs in Aberdeen was given an ‘utterly brilliant’ official opening by TV personality Timmy Mallett.
The wacky star was chosen to cut the ribbon at Tenants First Housing Co-operative’s £2.7 million development as his brother Martin lives and works in a similar community in the city. He even brought his famous mallet to hammer home the scheme’s importance.
The development provides 13 flats for adults with varying forms of learning and physical disabilities. Closed Circuit is sure the day was so much fun that it would have flown by in a bit of a ‘bleugh!’.
Closed Circuit was dismayed to learn that housing boffin Professor Tim Leunig was caught up in the delays on South West Trains last week which caused chaos for London commuters.
The London School of Economics professor told a BBC reporter: ‘What was amazing was the lack of information at Waterloo and the lack of thinking through which trains to run and which to cancel.’ But the media spotlight didn’t shine quite as brightly on the academic heavyweight as it did on eight-months pregnant Emma Firth, who was rescued from her stranded train by piggybacking on a fellow passenger, although there is no mention of whether Professor Leunig was the heroic rescuer.
Homes and Communities Agency deputy chief executive Richard Hill said he has been given an alarming warning about the agency’s affordable rent product.
Apparently it won’t work north of Watford, or within the M25. ‘That doesn’t leave much of a gap,’ he told a Jones Lang LaSalle seminar this week, before adding hastily that he didn’t think the statement was true.
City YMCA, in London, clearly has eagle-eyed auditors.
In a tweet on Monday the young person’s accommodation provider proclaimed its joy at ‘missing stapler located - after auditors visit last week - fundraiser now v happy’.
Closed Circuit is unclear whether the auditors found the missing object or whether they voiced their concern about its absence, but either way ‘stapler-gate’, as the incident will hitherto be known, reveals they aren’t to be messed with.
The summer break of housing policy wonk Malcolm Ramsay was a bit of a busman’s holiday, he revealed this week.
While English skies radiated bright sunshine, the head of policy at Foundations, the national body for home improvement agencies in England, suffered a week of rain while holidaying on the Spanish island of Ibiza. Why busman’s holiday, you ask? Foundations is an ‘umbrella’ organisation. Geddit?
Communities wishing to take advantage of the government’s promise to hand more powers to local people might fall at the first hurdle if they try to approach ministers for help.
A ‘barrier busting’ form, available on the Communities and Local Government department website, promises to help individuals get things done for their community by helping them identify red tape in housing and planning issues.
However, with 13 lengthy questions to answer, a confusing amount of local authority jargon thrown in for good measure, and a complicated procedure for submitting any supporting information, Closed Circuit can’t help but feel a twinge of irony on perusal of the form.
A bit of self-deprecation does not go amiss, but one tenant campaigner has, perhaps unintentionally, gone a bit far.
The disgruntled resident runs a website which makes a whole series of unsubstantiated allegations against his landlord Amicus Horizon.
The website’s homepage boasts bright blue letters which, apparently without irony, declare that ‘Amicus Horizon tenants are revolting’. Whether the tenants who live in Amicus Horizon’s 28,000 homes are happy to be described in this way is doubtful.
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It’s tough at the top these days, but housing association bosses are rising to the challenge of working more efficiently.
Take Phil Gandy, for instance, the boss of the newly formed Symphony Housing Group in the north west, who jokes that he has even had to cancel the chief executive’s daily siesta. Good to hear that the sector’s leaders aren’t taking the spending cuts and policy overhaul lying down…
One man who certainly is looking forward to a rest, though, is the chair of the Hanover Housing Group, Lord Best.
Speaking at a Town and Country Planning Association event last week, the cross-bench peer lamented the sheer size of the latest incarnation of the Localism Bill.
‘It is the biggest bill the Lords printing office has seen in years,’ he notes of the voluminous tome. ‘I, for one, shall be very glad to see the back of it.’
Lord Best should count himself lucky - at least the government shortened the bill’s name from ‘The Decentralisation and Localism Bill’.
Labour leader Ed Miliband deftly avoided a grilling by Closed Circuit last week when he was called to another meeting.
Calls to his press office were met with hopeful positivity, until a member of staff emailed to apologise saying that Ed had been too busy tied up with ‘other appointments’ to make a phone call to the news desk. Closed Circuit later learned that he was meeting US President Barack Obama.
We suggest Mr Miliband sorts his priorities out.
Finally, Closed Circuit would like to extend a warm welcome back to Katie Nicholson, the very able former communications supremo at the Housing Corporation.
Ms Nicholson is now head of communications at London & Quadrant. Word reaches Closed Circuit that she has been drafted in to help the organisation recover its poise following the mauling it received over the very public spat with secretary of state for work and pensions Iain Duncan Smith and L&Q’s controversial redevelopment of the Walthamstow dog track.
Having taken on the brief, Closed Circuit hopes Ms Nicholson hasn’t bitten off more than she can chew.
Caught on camera: which housing association chief executive is said to have got in a massive huff when an employee sat in the front seat of a car, relegating him to the back - and then disciplined the worker for insubordination?
Muir Group Housing Association has decided to ‘promote its environmentally friendly ethos’ - by creating a giant wizard. ‘Muirlin’ (see what they did there?) will be 14ft tall, made of fibreglass and wearing a cloak featuring designs of ‘the house of the future’ by the Chester-based landlord’s residents.
Confusingly, Muirlin is not inspired by his almost-namesake of Arthurian legend. Rather, he is based on the Wizard of Oz, who according to the association ‘presided over the perfect society - the Emerald City’. He also turned out to be a fraudster, a fact that has disappointed children throughout the ages.
Still, as the press release puts it, Muirlin will ‘make his debut not on the Yellow Brick Road, but on the streets of Chester’ so no one’s really sweating the details.
Howard Sinclair may be trusted with running the show at homelessness charity Broadway, but it turns out that his staff don’t trust their chief executive to run his own Twitter account.
At a recent fundraising event, Mr Sinclair admitted he has not even been given the login details to Twitter account @howardsinclair1, and instead has to email his 140-character missives to several different figures within the organisation for approval before they go online.
‘Pepys and Swift never had someone moderating their work,’ grumbled Mr Sinclair to Closed Circuit. One such moderator piped up from across the table: ‘Yes, well, we’re not quite talking about Pepys or Swift here, are we?’
BBC News presenter George Alagiah gave a typically smooth performance as host of the Housing Heroes Awards last week.
His only slight hiccup was in his description of inspirational board member of the year Hackney Homes chair Rupert Tyson, which was delivered while the backdrop displayed a picture of fellow finalist Sue Roberts, from Wolverhampton Homes.
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