Housing cash raided as we struggle to get basic repairs done

Islington Tribune Leaseholder’s Letters.  

Housing cash raided as we struggle to get basic repairs done

Published:15 July, 2016

• IF you are an ordinary, working-class council tenant who ever thought Islington’s Labour council was on your side, think again.

Our rents and service charges are supposed to be ringfenced for managing, maintaining and repairing our homes. They are paid into the council’s housing revenue account (HRA), as distinct from the general fund, which all households pay into (including council tenants) through council tax.

The council, though, has just been exposed (in Inside Housing magazine) for using a loophole to raid the HRA to pay for “democratic and corporate core services”.  

While other councils have likewise been caught out, Islington has taken much more from the HRA than others. In 2014-15, 44 per cent of the cost of its “democratic and corporate core services” was taken from its HRA, while the London average (still inexcusable) was 6.9 per cent.  

This has been going on for years, with the percentage hiked up six per cent from 2011-12 to 2014-15.  Presumably, at the very least, the outgoing Islington housing lead member, now Deputy London Mayor, James Murray would have to have been aware that our rents are being used to subsidise other households, including some of the country’s wealthiest middle class. 

All tenants’ and residents’ associations should demand that the HRA raids stop and that any money taken for “democratic and core services” be paid back, especially as many of us struggle to get basic repairs done on our estates and are told that the budgets which council TRAs might bid for (for estate improvements) could be cut.  

PHIL COSGROVE 
Finsbury estate, EC1

Councils step up raids on housing budgets

Councils step up raids on housing budgets

4 July 2016 7:30 am | By Keith Cooper ( Inside Housing)

Cash-strapped councils are increasingly drawing cash from their housing budgets to plug gaps in back-office costs, an exclusive Inside Housing investigation reveals.

This significant raid on their Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs) has been revealed by an analysis of financial figures from 100 council accounts.

HRA cash is derived from rents and service charges paid by tenants and is supposed to be ringfenced for investment in homes.

But town halls are able to use a loophole to use this cash to prop up general funds – by billing HRAs for ‘corporate and democratic core services’, back-office services such as finance and legal which are used by all council departments.

According to our analysis, the 100 councils’ cut the overall budget for these services by almost £90m between 2011/12 and 2014/15. But over the same period they hiked the HRAs’ contribution to this cost by £1.7m.

Just under a quarter of council landlords billed their HRAs for more than 15% of the cost of back-office services in 2014/15. The average contribution across all 100 authorities was 8%.

In extreme cases, councils billed their HRAs for close to half their ‘corporate and democratic core services’ costs.

Reading Council charged its HRA for 54% last year. Islington boosted its housing budget’s share from 38% of its total cost in 2011/12 to 44% in 2014/15. The average contribution in London boroughs was 7%.

While the Chartered Insitute of Housing and Local Government Association declined to comment on these findings, a public finance expert said they raised questions about the fairness of charges.

Ken Lee, chair of the housing panel at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said: “As social tenants tend to be the poorest and are a minority in society, is it right that they should be supporting the majority in the community?” he asked. “We should be looking at strengthening [the HRA] ringfence and bring it up to date.”

Checks on the patency of the ‘ringfence’ intended to legally protect housing resources, had been weakened since the abolition of the Audit Commission, Mr Lee added. “District auditors were keen on checking this kind of thing when the Audit Commission was around,” he said. “This role has now gone to private auditors.”

Islington said council housing represented 37% of total households in the borough. Reading declined to comment.

Islington Leaseholders ILA AGM Wed 13.07.16 – 7pm

Islington Leaseholders Association (ILA) Annual General Meeting, will take place in the  Council Chamber, Islington Town Hall on:
Date: Wednesday,    13th July 2016
Time: 7 – 7.30 pm.    AGM
Islington Leaseholders Monthly Wednesday Meeting will take place after the AGM Meeting
Time: 7.30 – 9.00 pm.   Islington Leaseholders Meeting,
Chaired by Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)
Dr B.S. Potter Chairman (ILA)

ILA meet Wed 8th June 2016

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 8th June 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: TBA

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave amessage here.

 You can join the ILA, or renew your membership here

ILA meet Wed 11th May 2016

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 11th May 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: TBA

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave amessage here.

 You can join the ILA, or renew your membership here

ILA Meet Wed 13th April 2016

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 13th April 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: TBA

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave amessage here.

 You can join the ILA, or renew your membership here

LBI Housing Scrutiny Committee – Mon 29 Feb 2016 – 7.30pm

This is an extremely important meeting for all leaseholders.

Dr Potter would like as many leaseholders as possible to attend this meeting, and question the need and validity of the outrageously high charges the council expects us to pay for exceedingly poor quality work to our homes.

The next Housing Scrutiny Committee will take place on

Date: Monday 29 February 2016

Venue: Committee Room 1 at Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, N1 2UD

Time: 7.30pm

To view the publicly available agenda information, which has just been published, please click on the link: Agenda details

The following items are included in the agenda:

No.         Item

Formal Matters

A1 Apologies for Absence

A2 Declaration of Substitute Members

A3 Declarations of Interests

A4 Minutes of Previous meeting

A5 Chair’s Report

A6 Order of Business

A7 Public Questions

Scrutiny Items

B1Responsive Repairs: Witness Evidence

B2 RSL Scrutiny

B3 Capital Programming: Final Report

Urgent Non Exempt Matters

Exclusion of Public and Press

B4 Exempt Reports ( if any )

 

Please attend the Scrutiny meeting on the 29th of this month, and ask them to explain their position regarding your roofing guarantee’s…REMEMBER…IF THE GUARANTEE LIES WITH THE CONTRACTORS/SUPPLIERS AND THEY GO BROKE/CLOSE DOWN/GO BANKRUPT…ETC…AND THERE IS NO INSURANCE BACKING…BANG GOES YOUR GUARNTEE’S
AND YOU WILL BE CHARGED AGAIN FOR ANY FUTURE REPAIRS, OR REPLACEMENT, TO YOUR ROOFING…!!!

ILA Meet Wed 9th March 2016

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 9th March 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: TBA

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave a message here.

 If you wish to join or renew your membership here

ILA Meet Wed 10th Feb 2016

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 10th February 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: TBA

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave a message here.

 If you wish to join or renew your membership here

Partner’s answers to questions raised by ILA leaseholders meet Wed 13 Jan 2016

Partner’s answers to questions raised by Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA) and Leaseholders at the ILA leaseholders meeting held on Wed 13 Jan 2016.‏

Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA) has asked me to forward this attachment onto you all from Partners regarding the questions Dr Potter and leaseholders raised at the ILA meeting on Wednesday 13 January 2016 and Partners answers. Please click on the attachment.

Please view below the questions raised by Dr Potter to Partners at the meeting

· When does rolling 5 years Cap run from end of works, end of snagging or making good repairing problems created?

· If the Cap is set when costs were incurred does that mean from when the first cost or last cost in a particular set of major works was incurred?

· Can you confirm that partners no longer make good any damage – created by poor major works? E.g. damp, blown plaster, ruined decorations?

· Can partners conform when the” making good” policy changed, as Partner used to tell Lease holders that they would repair all the damage that arose as a consequence of Partner Major works?

· What guarantee are partner giving these days on the major works they do on Roofs, Windows, damp works. Decorating before partners can rebill Leaseholder for repairing the faults?

· Partners have previously said that they’ll fix problems while they hold the street properties contract & that their roofs should last 30 years?

· Does that mean e.g. that if the 16 year PFI2 contract is terminated in 2022 that any roofs being repaired now are only in effect guaranteed for 8 years?

· Why do Partners never give us a copy of invoices of their expenditure despite it being the law and despite repeated asking?

· Why do Partners repeatedly hand out new bills for repairs to major works that have been badly done in the recent past?

Regards…

Dr Potter

ILA meeting 13.1.16 Partners Response

ILA meet Wed 13 Jan 2016 with Partners

 Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 13th January 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: The following Partners Islington representatives will be attending the ILA meeting

Shaun Holdcroft, Director of Resident Services, Hyde HA

Steve Blake, Director, Rydon Maintenance

Clifford Yeend, Divisional Manager, Rydon Maintenance

Tom Irvine, Service Improvement & Engagement Manager, Partners

Michelle O’Toole, Communications & Complaints Manager, Partners

We will attend the meeting between 7pm and 8pm, and will give a short verbal presentation on the services we provide to our leaseholders and areas we are currently working on. Following this, we will be pleased to take questions from the group.

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave a message here.

 If you wish to join or renew your membership here