Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Scandal Exposed - The abject failure of Barnet Homes

There are massive regeneration projects going on all over Barnet. One of the most important pieces of work in this program is (supposedly) to replace clapped out sub-standard accommodation blocks dating from the 1960's and 1970's with modern decent housing. Many of these blocks have become prohibitively expensive to maintain and tenants have to suffer virtually permanent problems with lifts and other items failing. Barnet Council responded to this by creating an Arms Length management Organisation (ALMO) called Barnet Homes to refurbish or replace this stock.

The ide a of the ALMO is that it is not bound by the red tape which affects councils and can move quickly to address issues. A recent council document has revealed the abject failure of this strategy. The Barnet Eye is calling for the Council to admit that the Barnet Homes ALMO experiment has failed, and to bring all council housing back in house. This will bring democratic control back into Council housing and end the policy of neglect for the people living in the worst estates on the Borough. The game has been given away in a DPR entitled - Regeneration estates essential lift works leaseholder charges -

Section 2.2 tells us that the worst estates were not included in the "wider Decent Homes programme". So let us assume that there is a parallel "Barnet Homes Crap Homes programme", for those estates most in need of regeneration. Here's what the report says.
Most properties on the priority regeneration housing estates were not included in the wider Decent Homes programme which was successfully completed by Barnet Homes in 2010. This is because these homes are due to be demolished and replaced with new homes over the next 2 to 15 years. However, the Council has a duty to ensure that homes are maintained to a reasonable standard whilst they are still occupied and awaiting demolition.
Section 8.1 explains further :-
The Council has developed plans to demolish the four largest council housing estates- West Hendon, Grahame Park. Stonegrove/Spur Road and Dollis Valley- and replace them with new homes as part of its regeneration plans.
And then it gives the residents of the "Crap Homes programme" the bad news in section 8.2.
There has been some slippage in the regeneration programme and it is expected that many of the properties will remain occupied for a number of years. The Council has a duty to keep these properties in a habitable condition for as long as they remain occupied.
In section 8.4 they let the horrendous state of these blocks completely out of the bag. Barnet Homes has been in existence since 2004 and yet it has taken 8 years to start to address "management systems which are unable to report emergency alarms". This to me is truly shocking.
The existing lift units have outlasted their useful life. The units have become unreliable and have a tendency to breakdown. This is because of material fatigue, increased mechanical failure of the moving parts and systems failure due to old legacy control and management systems which are unable to report emergency alarms.
Perhaps the most shocking statement in the whole report is in section 4.1, the revelation that the tenants of these blocks have a "Higher proportion of Households with disabilities". Is this how Barnet Council and Barnet Homes look after the most vulnerable people in their care? Put them in clapped out buildings, with lifts that are prone to breakdown, with no management systems in place to rescue them when they get stuck? The answer is clearly yes, because it says so in the Council's own report, in black and white.
Demographic analysis has shown that a higher proportion of households on the regeneration estates are from Black and Minority Ethnic household than for the council housing stock as a whole. In addition, more households are families with children and there are higher proportions of households with disabilities.
Is there anyone in the Borough, who can disagree that this is a scandal? Is there anyone who can argue that we are failing our most vulnerable neighbours? I cannot hide my disgust at this whole issue and I call for the resignation of Tracey Leese and her management team and the immediate abolition of Barnet Homes. I suspect the only part of the "Arms Length" strategy that has worked for Barnet Council is to keep the most vulnerable people in the Borough at "Arms Length" from the Councillors who are meant to represent them.

Here is the full, shocking report.
DPR-6 - Lift Maintenance


baarnett said...

There is an additional issue the council has to take up.

To quote from another authority:

"The Government has introduced reforms which will radically change the way social housing is developed, allocated and managed. Changes originally proposed in the Comprehensive Spending Review of 2010 and the White Paper, Local Decisions, have now been enacted through the Localism Act. Most of the changes will come into effect from April 2012. Existing tenants are not affected directly; however, the changes may affect all prospective and new social housing tenants.

The Act requires local authorities to publish a Tenancy Strategy which sets out how they will respond to the reforms. It is important to note that housing providers operating in the borough are obliged to have regard to anything the council sets out within the strategy.

Local Authorities have considerable freedom in terms of what is agreed as part of the Tenancy Strategy and therefore we wish to ensure that the council and its partners make use of the opportunities offered by the reforms in a way that suits the needs of the borough and its residents.

We are, therefore, seeking your views regarding:

· Affordable rent
· Fixed term tenancies
· Housing applications and allocations
· Homelessness and the use of the private rented sector
· Links between housing and employment.

So: is Barnet doing this?

Moaneybat said...

More than a few people in Barnet stated all this 10 years ago. It's documented in the archives of both the local journals.

Barnet Homes should be returned in-house to full council control like a few other councils whom have done so with their Housing ALMOS'Ts.

Should there be in the Near future, any plans to FULLY Privatise Barnet Homes by Barnet Council and Central Government,then Tenamts should also be given a a "ballot" if they wish to remain council tenants with secure tenancies.

"housing providers operating in the borough are obliged to have regard to anything the council sets out within the strategy."

Housing providers in Barnet do have regard to council policy. NO MORE COUNCIL HOUSES IN BARNET"

Have a good look around New Hendon Village and it's neighbour New Graham Park Palaces, same old but new bricks and "private" Genesis and Notting Hill Housing Trust landlord whom receive taxpayer subsidy to deliver much of the Conservative Housing strategy of Market Rent being Affordable Rent. They're hardly building council homes on the Tory premise of, "for each one sold under Right To Buy, they will build one to replace it." Who will get the receipt and who will build? Theyr'e building more homes for sale than rent

How does that work on minimum wage or low paid who will only have enough to afford "one rung of the ladder"?