The housing minister has confirmed he plans to abolish the Tenant Services Authority.
In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Housing’s conference in Harrogate, Grant Shapps told delegates a concrete decision to abolish the regulator has been made, and a review is underway on which agencies will take over its functions.
He said he places a ‘huge premium’ on tenant empowerment, but does not believe a ‘large national quango’ is the best way to achieve this.
He said he wants to see ‘a system that puts tenants fundamentally in the driving seat for the first time… real tenant empowerment’.
He confirmed that the Homes and Communities Agency will stay, but he said it would be more locally focused and much leaner.
Speaking before his address, he told Inside Housing that the ‘TSA is toast’, and said the government was considering handing oversight of the social housing sector’s governance and viability to another body, such as the HCA.
He will also give local authorities powers to refer complaints about individual landlords to the housing ombudsman, which he believes will simplify the way grievances are dealt with.
‘I fear that we are on the list of expensive public services that at best don’t deliver value for money and at worst are part of the broken Britain story.’
Sarah Webb, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Housing
Mr Shapps said: ‘The people side of regulation could just be done so much better. We have effectively got democratic standards set up in this country which are able to deal with this.’
Mr Shapps unveiled his plans for the TSA in an interview with Inside Housing published last week.
During his speech, Mr Shapps promised to put more power in the hands of housing professionals.
‘You’ve seen a lot of housing ministers coming and going, after each reshuffle they tell you about their new targets that have to be reached, the way they want money to be spent and the latest pet project that’s going to come out of Whitehall,’ he said.
‘I’ve shadowed these ministers and I’ve seen while they have been pulling levers and pushing buttons and blowing whistles not much has necessarily happened at the other end.
‘So what do I want to do now that I have these levers? I want to hand the levers over to you.’
Mr Shapps defended the government’s housing benefit reforms, which include reducing housing benefit awards by 10 per cent after a claimant has been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for 12 months.
He said some claimants want to work but choose not to because it’s better for their families financially if they don’t.
He said: ‘We don’t want that situation to continue, to have a situation where if you are in a position to work and choose not to work you are always worse off than if you decide to work.’
He said the measure will come into effect by 2013/14, when growth of around 2.9 per cent is predicted.
Earlier Sarah Webb, chief executive of the CIH, presented Mr Shapps with a pact of suggestions from conference delegates of possible policies.
These included reforming the housing revenue account, scrapping complicated funding programme streams and ensuring a housing presence on the long-term care commission.
Ms Webb said she feared that the sector had been put on the ‘wrong list’ by the government.
She said: ‘I fear that we are on the list of expensive public services that at best don’t deliver value for money and at worst are part of the broken Britain story.’