Thursday, 02 October 2014

Housing associations could be subject to FOIs

Housing associations may soon be subject to freedom of information requests after the housing minister announced plans to launch a consultation with providers.

Grant Shapps told delegates at the Chartered Institute of Housing conference at Harrogate today (Thursday) that he will consult with housing associations later this year on whether to extend the scope of FOIs to include social landlords.

The Ministry of Justice is currently consulting on potential inclusion of a range of bodies under FOI and will now draw up plans to consult with housing associations.

Mr Shapps said the move would make it easier for tenants and the public to find out more about how their landlords work and what their taxes pay for.

He said: ‘Housing associations have a long track and distinguished track record of providing the affordable homes the millions of tenants rely on.

‘But with more pressure on the public purse than ever, all organisations that receive public investment should become more transparent and open to the taxpayers who put the pennies in the purse.

‘Tenants should be able to scrutinise and understand the way in which their landlords take decisions.’

He added: ‘Over the last few decades large amounts of ordinary peoples’ cash has been invested in social housing, and the public now deserve to know if there are opportunities for efficiencies that can be exploited, so the very most is made of their past, present and future investment.’

Readers' comments (12)

  • Chris

    Caption competition time:

    So I was holding Pickles around his ankle .......

    other offers?

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  • Sorry Chris, I've now got some pics from this year, so I've updated it. You'll have to start again. Tom

  • Chris

    It sort of still works! (I reckon you do this to me on purpose Tom - but I do deserve it)

    How about - keep watching my right hand, I don't want you seeing what I'm doing with the left

    or - Harry Potter told me that with this special invisible wand everything I say will come true (and I'm convinced it has worked so far!)

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  • Shapps

    "‘Over the last few decades large amounts of ordinary peoples’ cash has been invested in social housing, and the public now deserve to know if there are opportunities for efficiencies that can be exploited, so the very most is made of their past, present and future investment."

    Ive changed one word in the verbatim quote above below:-

    "‘Over the last few decades large amounts of ordinary peoples’ cash has been invested in PRIVATE housing, and the public now deserve to know if there are opportunities for efficiencies that can be exploited, so the very most is made of their past, present and future investment."

    As private tenants now get more in HB than council tenaants and as PSL in-payment figures are SEENTY PER CENT HIGHER than HB paid to council tenants Mr Shapps.... you were talking of 'opportunities for efficiencies?'

    Shapps: -
    "‘Tenants should be able to scrutinise and understand the way in which their landlords take decisions.’"

    Ill change and add one word: -

    "‘Tenants should be able to scrutinise and understand the way in which their PRIVATE landlords take decisions.’

    Oh of course thats precisely NOT what you are saying is it as you ruled out any monitoring and scrutiny of the uber-efficient PRIVATE landlords who dont have such constraints and cost yet charge the public purse SEVENTY PER CENT MORE than council landlords.

    Is dogmatic hypocrite the right term here?

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  • Rick Campbell

    "Worms, can of" spring to mind.

    What exactly do posters think will be classed as public money? -- it cannot be Housing Benefit as that is given to the individual (albeit in many but not all cases) on their behalf straight to landlords.

    So, as my knowledge is somewhat limited, would it be taken to mean grants for new build and/or that sort of thing?

    On the "Council housing is not subsidised" thread it is apparent that 3 in 4 council landords is paying into the Treasury.

    So, what is public money? Does it include MPs' salaries, expenses, administration/staff payments, 'grace and favour' accommodation, etc?

    Does anyone really think that landlords will be rushing and falling over themselves to say a resounding YES, YES, YES!!!" to voluntary adopting the FOI ethos?

    At which point would a tenant's or leaseholder's requests be deemed to be a nuisance -- 52 per annum, 520 per annum?

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  • Rick Campbell

    My 'offer' for the caption to the new picture --

    I got to 99 so I change hands now?

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  • McMadman

    RSL's, as private companies, should not be subjected to FOI's. Simple as.

    By the way - not all RSL's have received public funds for development, so what about them, are they to be covered ?

    Why not make all companies in the private sector subject to FOI's ? Perhaps then the private sector would not have spectacularly imploded, causing the current recession that the public sector and the poor are being expected to pay for ?

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  • Chris

    An interesting discussion point McMadman.

    As the majority of private companies operating in the UK are either foreign owned or foreign subsidiaries, would they come under UK FOI law for the majority portion of their operations (and indeed for their profit destination) which are not in the UK?

    For instance, Google pays virtually no tax in the UK because it hosts all of it's UK operation in Ireland. Therefore there would be little FOI data which could be applied for in the UK.

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  • The Appellant High Court in the case of Weaver v London and Quadrant in 2009 has already ruled that Housing Associations are in fact public bodies and in so doing are subject to the Human Rights Act and requests made under the FOI.

    This would allow council tenants who oppose stock transfers to request details of all a council's tenants in order to write to tenants with regards to their opposition to any stock transfer.

    I would like to be able to request exactly how much my not for profit making landlord had lost in the failed Icelandic banks saga.

    A legal report from my landlords legal advisers in 2011 in to what is a repair and what is an improvement when our communal fire doors are being ripped out this year and replaced with new fire doors that comply with the the 2005 Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order. Its only taken a serious fire in Camberwell and six years after the legislation came in to law to finally getting around to complying with it.

    How much Government grant money was given to my landlord to build new affordable part buy part rent homes for key workers, only to see the properties sold on the open market as they were pitched too high for key workers to buy, and how much of the grant money they were allowed to retain.

    The list of requests residents could make under the FOI Act is endless and good luck to them why shouldn't they be able to after all these associations are exempt from most UK taxes, receive UK taxpayers funding in terms of grants and snap up large swathes of former council housing stock under lucrative Stock Transfers.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Interesting or not from the CLG website via the Coalitionwatch website? :-


    contactus@communities.gov.uk

    Grant Shapps calls for more transparency in social housing
    Published 23 June 2011

    Housing Minister Grant Shapps today announced plans to consult on a new way for tenants and members of the public to scrutinise how housing associations are run.

    The Government will consult with housing associations later this year on whether to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to include housing associations, many of which receive substantial public investment.

    Housing associations provide the affordable housing that millions of people across the country rely on, and Mr Shapps believes bringing housing associations under the Freedom of Information Act could make it easier for tenants and the public to find out more about how their landlords work, and what their taxes pay for.

    Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Housing conference, Mr Shapps called on housing associations to follow the Government's lead and open up to more public scrutiny to help them drive efficiency and provide a better service to tenants.

    Mr Shapps said the Government had put its own house in order by opening up to public scrutiny like never before, and it is now the turn of housing associations to embrace the new spirit of openness and become more transparent and efficient. He reminded housing association boards that, as social businesses, they should keep the salaries of their chief executives and senior officers under tight scrutiny in order to squeeze the maximum efficiency and value from shrinking resources.

    The Ministry of Justice is currently consulting on potential inclusion of a range of further bodies under the Freedom of Information umbrella, and will now draw up plans to consult with housing associations on their possible inclusion in the proposals.

    Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

    "Housing associations have a long and distinguished track record of providing the affordable homes the millions of tenants rely on. But with more pressure on the public purse than ever, all organisations that receive public investment should become more transparent and open to the taxpayers who put the pennies in the purse. Tenants should also be able to scrutinise and understand the way in which their landlords take decisions.

    "That's why I'm delighted that housing associations will soon be consulted on whether they should be included under the Freedom of Information Act. Transparency is not just a nice-to-have, it is vital for driving down costs and ensuring more is achieved with every taxpayers' pound. Over the last few decades large amounts of ordinary peoples' cash has been invested in social housing, and the public now deserve to know if there are opportunities for efficiencies that can be exploited, so the very most is made of their past, present and future investment.

    "The public want to see value for money in organisations which receive significant public investment. So senior staff in housing associations who are earning high salaries should ask themselves whether they are justified, and whether it is a good way for a social business to spend money that is provided through the hard work of taxpayers, and the rents of tenants."

    Ministry of Justice Minister Lord McNally said:

    "The public deserves a Government that is open and accountable for its actions, and the Coalition believes that the same should apply for any organisation that performs functions of a public nature.

    "This consultation with Housing Associations is linked to a wider programme of work that the Ministry of Justice is undertaking to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, which already provides a vital tool for people to find out whether thousands of UK bodies are acting in the public interest and providing value for money.

    "We are already consulting a variety of additional bodies, such as the Local Government Group and Harbour Authorities, about their possible inclusion. We will also be bringing forward soon legislation to bring the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service within the scope of the Act."

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  • Excellent idea Mr Shapps its about time there was more accountability in these giants.

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