All posts from: February 2012
Has anyone seen Paul Tennant lately? The chief executive of housing association Orbit, recently elected vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Housing and, until recently, regular tweeter, has been quiet of late.
We’ve heard not a peep out of him since 1 February after his Twitter account fell mysteriously quiet. Coincidentally, it’s the same day that he stormed to victory in the CIH vice-presidential election. Closed Circuit can only speculate what he’s been up to since then, but we’d like to think he’s sat in a corner, champagne flute in hand as the 23-day party to celebrate his win draws to an end.
‘I have completely messed this up’, confessed welfare reform minister Lord Freud during a House of Lords debate on the welfare reform bill last week.
How refreshing to have a government minister who is not afraid to admit an error has been made.
So what was Lord Freud’s mistake? Was he backtracking on the government’s plan to introduce a ‘bedroom tax’ for tenants deemed to be under-occupying their homes?
Not a bit of it. Actually, Lord Freud had stumbled over his words while introducing a motion - much to the amusement of peers.
Next, to Glasgow and Closed Circuit has been impressed by the thought that has gone into the rebranding of the city’s Queens Cross Housing Association.
It unveiled its new logo this week, which to the untrained eye looks like a big letter Q. But the 4,500-home association is at pains to point out that this is not the case.
In fact, the circle of the Q represents ‘community and togetherness’ and the wavy line, which makes up the rest of the letter, ‘represents the land’.
Shona Stephen, chief executive of the association, said the logo ‘shows the association and local communities are ready for the new opportunities and the challenges ahead’.
Closed Circuit isn’t sure about all of that but it can confirm that it is the nicest letter Q it has ever seen (and Closed Circuit watched a lot of Sesame Street in its formative years).
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‘Black tie’- a phrase that causes hearts to sink for those who don’t particularly enjoy dressing up in a penguin suit.
The consolation is that you know everyone else at the event will also be formally dressed and will look just as daft - or will they?
Invites to last week’s Chartered Institute of Housing presidential dinner certainly said the ‘dress code is black tie’.
But Closed Circuit was not alone in noticing that the only person among the 600 attendees not in black tie was the new president himself, Robin Lawler. Mr Lawler opted for a lounge suit and tie instead.
‘None of us like wearing this stuff but you have to go along with it, so it’s a poor show really,’ grumbled one chief executive in his tuxedo.
Mr Lawler said attendees at the week’s other glittering occasion, the Baftas had ‘opted for about half [ties] and half [dickie bows]’, so he was in good company.
To the Palace of Westminster and a reception last week organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing’s south east branch.
Andy Yallop, chair and chief executive of developer Croudace Homes, recounts the tale of a recent planning application in an ‘unnamed local authority in the south east’.
The process to approve the materials to be used took so long that the frustrated house builder, not expecting any problems, began onsite anyway to build much-needed housing.
So, imagine its surprise when the council rejected the development. The reason: the thickness of the paving slabs. Talk about crazy paving…
As if anyone in the audience needed to be told how much winners of Tenant Participatory Advisory Service awards value their trophies, a video shown at the beginning of the 2012 Northern Finals last week summed up the feeling.
Resident Linda Fletcher told of her joy at being announced Tenant of the Year National Winner 2008. The day she won the award had been the best of her life, she said, ‘and I’ve been married three times’. Closed Circuit is sure Ms Fletcher just meant the TPAS do had better canapés.
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A councillor in Gloucestershire has come up with a unique solution to the housing crisis.
Norman Hall, a notably outspoken councillor on Leckhampton with Warden Hill Council, suggested in a meeting last week that limiting the number of people moving from ‘the north’ to Cheltenham might mean less housing would need to be built in the area.
Mr Hall told the council that he thinks his idea was ‘common sense’. Closed Circuit is equally sure that Mr Hall will be more than welcome ‘up north’ if he decides to flee Cheltenham for more spacious environs.
At a debate on what 2012 holds for the green agenda in a London pub last week, Nicholas Doyle, head of sustainability at Places for People, entertained the wine-fuelled audience with a story about his past life as a young Trotskyist, praising Marx’s analysis of the problems of capitalism.
But times have clearly changed somewhat and Mr Doyle wasn’t exactly predicting a permanent housing revolution. He added it would be an ‘absolute tragedy’ if social housing missed out on the government’s extremely market-driven green deal to retrofit the housing stock.
There were red faces this week at Camden Council after an outraged resident posted a Youtube video of a talking council-installed security camera.
The camera, in a communal garden, was barking at tenants telling them the area was restricted and threatening to send a photograph of them away for processing if they did not leave immediately.
The camera was branded ‘robocop’ and the Youtube footage has been viewed more than 36,000 times in just a couple of days.
This was all very Orwellian but the council has since come out and said the talking facility was switched on accidentally when the batteries were being changed.
It would seem that all that stands between us and 1984 is the touch of a button.
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The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland was unable to attend its presidential dinner last week after a nasty accident on an ancient ruin.
Alan Ferguson was reportedly holidaying in Greece when he took a tumble down the hill on which the Acropolis stands, rupturing his patellar tendon and rendering him bed-bound for the foreseeable future.
While Closed Circuit wishes Mr Ferguson well, it would like to remind readers that those who climb too enthusiastically up ancient monuments are always likely to come a-cropolis.
Closed Circuit enjoyed a night out at the theatre with United House recently.
The contractor has sponsored the Donmar Warehouse’s production of existentialist playwright Jean-Paul Satre’s Huis Clos (No Exit), most famous for the line ‘hell is other people’.
After an intense, almost claustrophobic, 105-minute performance, Closed Circuit caught up with Paul Nicholls, group director responsible for business development at United House, and pondered who would be the two people we would least like to spend a windowless infinity with. Discretion obviously prevents Closed Circuit from mentioning any names.
It’s amazing how a selfless act can leave you caught short.
Just ask junior housing minister Andrew Stunell who found himself locked in the opposition’s lobby during a commons vote on a Labour amendment to the Local Government Finance Bill.
In the Commons, MPs walk through one of two lobbies to dictate how they will vote. The luckless minister found himself trapped in the opposition lobby after nipping to the washroom to refill a water jug to refresh his thirsty colleagues.
Labour, rather cruelly spun the line that the embarrassed Mr Stunell had ‘plumbed new depths of incompetence’ - even though he had indeed voted with the government. Naturally, the minister protested he had acted out of kindness so his colleagues would be refreshed - but that didn’t wash with the opposition. Water carry on!
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