Disband HFI correspondence from Islington Tribune 08.11

For those of you unable to obtain a copy of the Islington Tribune please see the
articles below to view at your convenience.

 

Dr B.S. Potter
ILA Chairman
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Petition a big success

Published: 26 August, 2011

1/ • ISLINGTON Council’s future of housing consultation, costing in excess of £50,000, finally generated fewer than 3,000 replies.

This total waste of public funds, particularly during a period of enforced austerity, effectively highlights the difference between the residents’ Disband HfI petition, which is a simple, one-question petition, costing practically nothing, and the council’s extremely expensive, ambiguous and deliberately irrelevant five-page questionnaire.

By its closing date on Sunday, 1,368 residents had signed the online petition to disband HfI.

However, many residents who were unable to sign online also voiced their support by filling in the petition in last week’s Tribune, which will, once collated, boost the figure even higher.

The addition of 283 paper signatures, gathered door to door, of residents on the Finsbury estate (more than 58 per cent of its residents) brings the total to 1,651.

This petition shows that residents are overwhelmingly in favour of disbanding HfI and placing all staff directly under the control of our elected council.

DR BS POTTER
N1

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2/ • I WOULD like to thank the 1,200-plus people who have already signed the Disband HfI (Homes for Islington) petition.

It’s impressive that so many people without access to the internet have taken the trouble to cut out newspaper forms, sign, pay for their own postage and dispatch, in order to make sure their voices are added to the online petition, hopefully listened to, and more importantly heard.

For a campaign put together at short notice, and with only the limited resources of a few volunteers operating and funding the petition, it has achieved a tremendous amount of support in a short space of time.

It is clear to us from the success of the petition already, and our interactions with tenants and leaseholders, that the majority of people living in council properties and on estates in particular are concerned about the future of their homes, and the poor quality but high costs of management offered by HfI.

The campaign volunteers have been overwhelmed by the similarity and quantity of the complaints from residents living in council housing.

It is simply implausible that councillors don’t share these experiences and incredible that so few councillors have expressed a view on behalf of their constituents.

If we allow the continuity of HfI, we risk potential privatisation by the back door, and allow even higher rent increases from April next year, by which time it may be too late to act.

For those wishing to sign the online petition, visit www.DisbandHFI.org.uk before midnight on Sunday.

THOMAS COOPER
Disband HfI petition creator

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 3) • ABOUT 12 years ago, when Islington’s Labour council was first pushing stock transfer of council homes, the tenant campaign Fight Against Council Tenancy Sell-offs made it clear the long-term aim of privatising our homes was social cleansing.

Large amounts of public land, including on council estates in Islington and elsewhere in London, were then, and still are, being handed over to build luxury flats on.

The process of social cleansing has, of course, shifted up a notch or two with the government’s introduction of council and housing association short-term (five-year) tenancies, so-called “affordable rented” homes at 60-80 per cent market rents and housing benefit caps.

We just need to be clear; for all the attempts to gloss over the debate on HfI with claims of “we manage better”, Islington’s arms’-length management organisation was set up explicitly as a halfway house to privatisation.

Islington’s Labour council’s aim of holding onto it is still about eventual full privatisation (made easier with proposed legislative changes), reducing security of tenure and making it easier to hand over our estates for luxury flat development. Councillors must be held to account for this.

PHIL COSGROVE
Finsbury estate, EC1

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4) • HfI is an overpaid luxury we can no longer afford or want.

It has failed in its management of Islington’s properties and allowed contractors to overprice much of the Decent Homes programme and major works, with poor-quality workmanship and no quality control.

I have seen pensioners brought to tears by sub-contractors.

It is time to take back control of the management of our homes and to work with tenants to make Islington’s housing the best it can be.

No more spin or smokescreens.  HfI must go now.

PJ LEAMY
Cowdenbeath Path, N1

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5) Estate has shown it wants privatisation threat lifted

Published: 2 September, 2011

• ONCE the contract ends with Homes for Islington (HfI), the majority of Finsbury estate tenants and residents want our homes managed directly by the council.

We see no benefit in having responsibility for management of our homes left with a mostly unelected board modelled on housing association structures.

We don’t want the threat of privatisation constantly hanging over our head. Clearly, this could happen with policy changes proposed by the coalition government.

We feel the council should be directly accountable to us on a range of housing management and policy issues.

Over a period of about a week, 283 residents from 236 households signed our petition. Only four household did not wish to sign.

We are aware of others, who we missed when we called, who have now signed the Disband HfI petition.

We find the views expressed recently by Councillor James Murray that “a residents’ panel will inform the review [of HfI] and ensure residents’ views are heard” an example of the disdain that he and the Labour council have for democratic accountability.

With the exception of Conservative-controlled Barnet, Islington is the only London borough that has no formal borough-wide tenants’ federation, council or forum where tenants’ representatives might come together to discuss collective issues of concern regarding local, regional and national housing policy and express a view, at the very least, on services provided by private contractors on behalf of the council.

The “residents’ panel” that Cllr Murray refers to is made up of cherry-picked or self-selected individuals who have not asked for the views of residents on our estate and have absolutely no authority to input into the review on our behalf.

The then Lib Dem council leader, Steve Hitchins, at the time of establishing the arms’-length management organisation was clear that the long-term aim was for it to become a housing association.

HfI’s board structure and its focus on tenant “engagement” being increasingly through its tenant company board members and cherry-picked “residents’ panels” rather than democratically elected tenants’ associations, mimics the housing association model.

HfI increasingly refers to council tenants and leaseholders as “their tenants” and the land that our estates sit on as “theirs”.

HfI’s private company branding adds to the attempt to make council tenants and leaseholders think of themselves as HfI tenants and residents and consider less the ultimate role of the council; presumably designed to make the final move to becoming a housing association so much easier.

We want the Labour council to organise reasoned, open and rigorous debate brought to a local level, where tenants and leaseholders on all estates may have full access to hearing and contributing to discussion on the pros and cons of retaining HfI – rather than continuing with this sham consultation process that Cllr Murray suggests will represent tenants’ and leaseholders’ views.

MICHAEL TURNER
Chair, Finsbury Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Association


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