Sunday, September 02, 2012

"Isle of shattered dreams" ("One" Housing Group)

Check out this post by Cllr Marc Francis Tower Hamlets Labour Party on Housing Group blog "Red Brick". One Housing Group is trying to get out of an undertaking it made to residents and the last government to have resident led "governance" on the management Board of its subsidy "Island Homes" in the Isle of Dogs, East London.

This attempt to back track on promises is the sort of thing that gives the whole housing association movement a bad name amongst ordinary residents and politicians from all political parties. Good governance in many parts of the whole so called "not for profit" sector is frankly non-existent. Residents, clients and individual staff have little or no power and many very large organisations are run by self perpetuating oligarchies with no effective accountability or oversight.

While there is still many cases of good practise there is a huge difference between being "consulted" (but - we are going to do it anyway) to being part of the actual management process. You need people on Boards who have a real long term interest in the organisation since they live its homes, work for it, receive its services or are local elected Councillors. They are the ones who can challenge and ask the difficult questions that are needed to be said.

Huge amounts of public money has been spent on investment in these bodies and despite the cuts will continue to be spent on benefits and social care.  Who is making sure that this money is being well spent and that Housing Associations are being properly run? The Housing Regulator is now pretty toothless and will only step in when organisations have already failed and are going to the wall.

Unless Housing Associations get their act together and reform their governance practises and become more democratic and accountable to their stakeholders then they have in my view no long term future. While the Tories will try and turn them into quoted companies (even more of a disaster) I am sure a Labour government will one day have no choice but to get rid of them.
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