Monday, 01 September 2014

Fed hits back at Shapps' FOI threats

A housing chief has hit back at threats made by Grant Shapps that landlords must become more transparent by saying the ministers demands lack clarity.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, wrote to the housing minister today saying that it was not up to the NHF or government to make housing associations become public bodies ‘by default’.

Mr Shapps had earlier written to Mr Orr saying that ‘time was running out’ for housing associations to open themselves up to scrutiny and he called for the NHF to encourage members to follow the lead of Home Group which has published expenditure over £500.

In a lengthy riposte, Mr Orr said housing associations had already put in place a number of measures to ensure they are transparent and accountable.

Mr Orr said: ‘I have explained all of this to you previously. At our meeting in July you asserted you were “not now interested in codes – we have to do something more than that”.

‘I asked you to be more explicit about what additional measures you thought were necessary.

‘It seemed to come down to a requirement to publish all expenditure over £500, with no explanation of why this would be helpful, or why it was a matter for government given our members are not public sector bodies.’

Mr Orr also attacked the housing minister’s concerns on transparency in the social housing sector are directly linked to Freedom of Information.

Mr Orr said: ‘My understanding is that this is not the case. We believe the first question will be whether or not housing associations carry out functions of a public nature.

‘If it is determined that they do, consideration will be given to whether under Section 5 of the Act, (as housing associations are not public bodies) it would be proportionate and helpful for FOI provisions to apply in respect only of those functions deemed to be of a public nature.

‘There is a third question as to whether the legal personality of ‘housing associations’ can be sufficiently described to be clear as to which organisations would in fact be affected. These are all clearly proper matters for consultation.

‘None of them is directly affected by the present performance of housing associations and none of them is affected in any way by the decision whether or not to publish expenditure over £500.’

He added: ‘We do not think it appropriate for the National Housing Federation, or the government, effectively to require housing associations to use measures that have been designed for government departments and local government.

‘Housing associations are not public bodies and do not wish to become so by default.’

Readers' comments (15)

  • Mr Orr you do not live in the real world. These Housing Association are not accountable. In fact is not Tenant Scrutiny in our Housing Trust. Its Management Led right up to the Board.

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  • Mr Orr certainly lives in the real world unlike Mr Shapps. Housing Associations are accountable and jhave far greater customer involvement than any other business I know of.
    The biggest complaint usually comes from those few customers who don't get their own way. There may be some lack of transparency from the larger non local HAs but even these are open to scrutiny by tenants and other regulatory mechanisms.

    I believe that Teants get a service that is great value for money when you consider the diverse roles and functions they now have to take on as the Government take away from other front line services.

    Good for you Mr Orr!

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  • Once again Shapps is baying to the populist agenda. If HA's are *really* public entities, why is their borrowing not on the PSBR? And has he consulted tenants to see whether they are happy that their rent money is to be used to fund the production of a load of extra information in which they will not be remotely interested - given all RSLs already submit annual audited accounts to the public domain via the Companies House and/or the Charity Commission? Empty posturing, to distract the public, that's all this nonsense is from Shapps.

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  • Interesting that Mr Shapps wants to take forward what Tony Blair sees as his worse bit of legislation....

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  • Apoica

    HAs take funding from the HC/HCA not to mention S106 and take their intake from the "priority needs" list of the local LA thus 100% of their tenants are funded by HB. Indeed this is the core of their business model. Therefore it should be of obvious to the casual observer that HA are carrying out functions of a public nature and indeed are funded by the public to do same.

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  • Apoica - as the HB claimant rate is nearly 50% in private sector housing does that make them a public body? or does it need HB claimant rate to be 51%?

    Its neither as im sure even you will admit so stop peddling silly arguments

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  • St Alban

    I only thought the Minister was clueless, now it appears he is impotent too.

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  • Jack Davies - One significant difference between private sector landlords and RP's is that private sector landlords do not recieve direct government grant subsidy to allow them to develop and manage new homes.

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  • Apoica

    Quite. Private sector landlords do not receive HCA subsidy and neither do LAs give them S106. In fact it is private developers - and the general public who purchase their product - that have to pay extra so the HAs can develop their rabbit hutches for the warehousing of the benefit dependent. It is inconceivable that modern HAs are not public bodies. A far indeed from the private sector philanthropist roots of Octavia Hill, George Peabody and the other founders of the movement. How the mighty have fallen.

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  • Urban Spaceman you are a very luck Tenant may I ask who is your Landlord, Housing Association.

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