Saturday, 28 February 2015

Meet the National Tenant Council

Tenants up and down the country have a powerful new body made up of 50 social housing residents. Emily Twinch joined them as they met for the first time to find out exactly what they want to do.

NTC members

Source: Richard Hanson

1) Richard Crossley 2) Pol O’Gray 3) Pam McIvor 4) Keith Clancy 5) David Exall 6) Neil Hughes 7) Steven Pruner 8) Penelope Rodmell 9) Louis Loizou 10) Peter Kirkpatrick 11) James Scollen 12) Alan Jess 13) Ken Bates 14) Mazie Gibson 15) Kelly Johnson 16) Norman Hart 17) Mike Dale 18) Alex Brown 19) Ann Harris 20) Theresa Lyons 21) George Atherton 22) Terry Edis 23) Hilary Wears 24) Dave Stuttle 25) Richard Tarling 26) Carol Beardsall 27) Richard Mandunya 28) John Paul Maytum 29) Brenda Chester 30) Brian Potter 31) Elizabeth Spring 32) Nic Bliss 33) Linda Damerell 34) Joe Kargbo 35) Mark Lolley 36) Joanne Reid 37) Allan Harvey 38) Barney Miller 39) John Jennings 40) Steve Hilditch, chair of NTV project group 41) Carole Donnelly 42) Agnes Bradley 43) Kathy Hine 44) Cora Carter

Scores of council and housing association residents descended on Sheffield last week to mark a new chapter in tenant empowerment.

Plucked from across the UK - and from a variety of backgrounds, ages and cultures - 42 of the people in the picture form a new National Tenant Council, charged with influencing government policy and housing practice.

The pressure doesn’t seem to be getting to them so far. As they line up inside the Hilton Hotel, where they are meeting for their first ever discussions, they smile and pat each other on the back, buoyed by the excitement of their new roles.

It’s the second day of a two-day meet, and they are still making acquaintances and working out what they want the new body to achieve. The council forms a central part of the National Tenant Voice, a non-departmental government organisation being set up with funding of
£1.5 million a year to champion tenants’ rights and issues. The council numbers 50 people at full-strength, although some of the new members were not present due to other commitments or illness.

On Wednesday last week, they set to work on their first task, hammering out a response to the Tenant Services Authority’s consultation on the standards it has set out for social landlords.

Richard Crossley, co-ordinator of the NTV, has no doubts the council will be a ‘strong, powerful group’.

He adds: ‘People will have different views and different priorities and their task is to be able to cope with that. It’s one voice but different opinions.’
All of that lies in the future. The big question for now is who is on the council and what do they want to achieve? We asked four of them.

Richard Mandunya (no.27)

‘My particular interest is to sell the vision of the National Tenant Council.

‘I would want the message to come across to the relevant authorities and to the landlords that tenant empowerment is not contrary to their business.

‘The fact that someone is living in [social] housing does not mean they are not qualified, and it does not mean that they don’t know anything about their housing association.

‘The biggest challenge will be to change the culture within the social landlord fraternity. Too many times landlords view the tenants as powerless.

‘There’s lot of zeal to make it work.’

Richard Mandunya is a 46-year-old marketing consultant and Soha Housing association tenant from Oxford.

Kelly Johnson (no.15)

‘I was a bit worried about coming and what people would think because I’m young but nobody has ignored me. I’m still learning, but so is everyone here. If people have been in communities for a long time, young people think they won’t be accepted. But if we all have the same goal it doesn’t matter what issues we have or what age you are.

‘We will disagree at some point but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. We don’t want to be “yes men”.

‘Social housing has got a bad name which I don’t think is right and I don’t think people who live in social housing should just settle for things.’

Kelly Johnson is a 30-year-old tenant of arm’s-length management organisation Carrick Housing in Truro, Cornwall. She is the youngest member of the council.

David Exall (no.5)

‘I don’t have much experience as a housing activist.

I was the kind of tenant who just paid my rent and shut up. I didn’t get interested at all until almost by chance .

‘I was really excited about the opportunity to be at the centre of social housing matters.

‘Before we become the tenant voice we have to become the tenant ears. We have to not just put forward our own particular views but actually speak authoritatively on areas that affect the general tenant populous.’

David Exall is a 72-year-old grandfather and retired careers adviser from Bradford. He is a tenant of Headrow, part of the Arena Housing Group and chair of the group’s board. He was inspired to get involved by a TSA roadshow.

Hilary Wears (no.23)

‘We [social housing tenants] reached a stage where we really needed to have that strategic voice nationally. I don’t think that because we live in social housing we should be expected to live in antiquated, dilapidated homes that are in a state of disrepair.

‘Many of the issues in London are national issues as well. There’s a shortage of housing nationally, there’s a need for social housing to be in a decent condition and rents to be affordable.’

Hilary Wears is a 50-year-old tenant of arm’s-length management organisation Lambeth Living and an expert on community safety, working on domestic violence and hate crime reduction. She set up and chairs a tenant and resident association on her estate and chairs an area housing forum.

Readers' comments (16)

  • It has been a long and occasionally difficult journey, but the first meeting of the National Tenant Council made it all worthwhile. The quality of the people in the room and the excellence of the debate were the perfect reply to those who constantly disparage social housing and social housing tenants. There is a big job to do but I have no doubt the National Tenant Voice will have a huge and positive impact on housing policy in the years to come.
    Steve Hilditch
    Independent Chair
    National Tenant Voice Project Group

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  • Steve Hilditch | Fri, 5 Feb 2010 10:57 GMT

    Could you say, please, whether in the big hard job you have ahead of you, making the National Tenant Council a body elected directly by tenants rather than just being selected by thrid parties, will be one of your most important tasks?

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  • Steve Hilditch | Fri, 5 Feb 2010 10:57 GMT
    Steve writes as Independent Chair, National Tenant Voice Project Group

    And that really is the problem independent of any tenant mandate, which will devalue the work be it good, poor or indifferent

    Norman Adams Northampton

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  • Kass and Norman, the NTV is a huge leap forward but some people can only knock other people's efforts . We've discussed the point about elections on here before - how could anybody organise elections amongst 8 million tenants when local councils struggle to get an accurate electoral register. It would be a nightmare and impossible. I believe 1300 tenants applied to be on the National tenant Council, that shows huge interest in the NTV amongst tenants that isn't reflected by the moaners and groaners. Personally I think the Government has done well to enable tenants to have a much bigger influence over policy and to start challenging the many useless landlords out there. Let's just support the 50 and make the most of it.

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  • Talking of elections; I agree with Dave's sentiments. It would be nigh impossible to organize elections for these positions. Besides the herculean task, elections have too much of the likelihood that good candidates are left out in preference to the ones who 'look good', regardless of their input to the national project.
    As it is, 30 of the members were recruited from tenants around the country. This was quite a task and the results seem to speak for themselves I believe.

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  • I am a Council tenant however I empathise with Social Tenants in the private housing sector. I suppose it's a case of "proof in the pudding" so we wont know just how effective this organisation will be for some time but we can only judge by results. Let's hope for instance that the NTC campaigns for stronger tenancy rights for social tenants so that they too can enjoy the security of Secured Tenancies for their families instead of just Assured Tenancies, I'm sure then that we would sit up and listen.

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  • Sorry, but not another body designed to help tenants......
    All we want is straight forward services, a tenancy agreement that is fair and staff who do their jobs.
    We have:
    Housing Ombudsman
    And now this.
    I truly do not understand and it is all a bit overkill when honestly, we just want to get on with our lives.What could we do with all the money fellow tenants...

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  • I know this will sound negative, but please don't get too comfortable in the NTV,because come May or June the Tories will be in power, and they will not let a bunch of Social housing Tenants have a national say, as far as they are concerned we should be grateful we have a house because if they had their way they would sell off the ones they didn't sell the last time, but apart from that it still seems the same old faces have got seats, I thought this was to be different from before.

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  • Well what a bunch of hand picked social housing tenants,I feel that most have been selected because they fill the criteria of being young,disabled,from an ethnic background etc etc what I would like to know is are they council tenants,Almo or housing association tenants and where are they all from.
    To have one say that they know nothing much about social housing but will learn is not the type of person I would want to represent me after all they are suppose to be giving the tenants view on things are they not, what happens to the view of all social housing tenants how can fifty people possibly know how the rest of the tenants in this country feel.One tenant says that his role is to champion the ntv wrong he should be championing the tenants not another mad idea that will be another waste of money.
    This will be yet another self apponted,self regulated quango just like taroe who are only interested in their own end.

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  • It is just unthinkable or totally barmy that anybody who has not been ELECTED to do so by their fellow tenant should accept, feel proud, and believe they should represent their fellow tenants in a national body.

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