Sunday, 11 May 2008

£1.5m HRA Reserves Project launched at HFTRA Conference

A radical initiative to empower communities living on estates managed by Hounslow Homes was formally launched at the Annual Conference of the Hounslow Federation of Tenants' and Residents' Associations (HFTRA) today (May 10th).

The scheme will make up to £1.5m of capital money from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) available to tenants' associations around the borough to spend on estate improvement projects of their choosing, which they will then take ownership of. The project is the first of what will be a series of bold initiatives to empower residents in the borough following the passing by Borough Council of an enabling motion which committed the new administration to a new way of thinking in the way in which we engage the communities we serve.

Delegates were asked to choose a name for the project, with the winner walking away with a £50 gift voucher. In the end we decided upon the Rainbow project, appropriate not only because of the colourful variety of estate-based schemes which will benefit from this allocation, but also because the award represents a pot of gold which awaits at the end of what has been something of a journey.

At least 200 people attended the Conference, and in spite of the rocky relationship which I "enjoyed" with Hounslow Homes and with some sections of HFTRA during my early tenure as Lead Member for Housing & Community Safety, and particularly while the Hounslow Homes Management Review was in progress, I have begun to pick up a real sense of warmth and of sincere affinity in my dealings with these organisations and the people who work so hard for them as they have come to understand just what it is that I am trying to achieve on behalf of our long-suffering tenants and leaseholders. Where there was once suspicion, if not in places downright hostility, a real united sense of direction and commonality of purpose has emerged in its place.

There are clearly still issues to be resolved before we can turn a very good service into a truly exceptional one, but just the fact that we know we are all striving for the same goal helps us to resolve difficulties as they arise. Exciting times.

3 comments:

meredith said...

What a bunch of baloney.

Many residents feel that all these words are nothing more than hot air.

Has anyone actually asked the residents of Hounslow Homes how they think things have got better or deteriorated over the past couple of years?

Yes, there maybe resident associations in place in many areas. But do the residents know about them? Do they hold regular meetings to let residents voice their concerns? Are these properly minuted and documentated? If these meetings do take place, how are the residents informed? Do the existing RAs hold proper AGMs or just cling to power from a lack of apathy from all the other residents and uniforming them all their rights as tenants?
How do you know you what is actually going on by only listening to a bunch of words?

What about staff at Hounslow Homes? OK, I'm not mentioning any names but most are surly at best. Also there appear to be far more senior level staff around these days than there used to be. But what do they do? Do estate managers even go onto the estates they are supposed to manage these days? I think you'll find some don't!
And what about the estate monitoring managers? What do/should they be doing? What that's all about?
Then of course, there is the estate participation manager. And then management level that is supposed to oversee the cleaning of the estate. What happened to the old caretakers that used to live on site? TBH they managed to keep on top of disasters before they happened but now?

Of course the new style of things, regardless of political party, is all talk and no action, and everyone is so worn down by it.

So instead of actually doing anything, this is just another example of appeasing the general public with words instead of actions, which in turn tries to make you look like you're actually do your job.

Or will all this be deleted because it asks to many quesions?

auld faithfull said...

I think you need to cut Councillor Andrews some slack here Meredith.

"Many residents feel that all these words are nothing more than hot air". Really Meredith? He only posted them a few hours ago, did you do a tour of the boro this morning asking all the residents what they feel? Or are you speaking for people you haven't even asked?

I don't think the Hounslow Homes service has got markedly better in the last couple of years (why specifically two years?), but then they haven't got worse. When you consider that Councillor Andrews spent his first year doing the Hounslow Homes Review and explaining to certain people what one-man one-vote actually means, then the second year came the reduction in government subsidy and the inevitability of service charges, bear this in mind and he has done rather well to keep things on the level.

I don't think most Hounslow Homes staff are surly either. Some certainly are, most of them are decent ordinary people trying to do a difficult job.

From what I have learned his new project was well received at the HFTRA conference. What exactly's wrong with giving the tenants something back?

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

Meredith

If your gripe is that some of our tenants' groups are unrepresentative, or undemocratic, or operating unconstitutionally, then you are hitting out at the wrong person.

When I took up the baton to become Lead Member in 2006 I spent a year arguing for a more democratic and inclusive process, sometimes in the face of considerable hostility from the Old Guard who viewed it, quite correctly as it happens, as a lethal assault on one of their most important political power bases.

On the one estate where we had long had a particular problem the issue was resolved, albeit with a few niggling after-effects which will, I'm sure, prove to be temporary.

As far as I am aware there were no problems of the same magnitude on other estates, but if you know of an association which is excluding people or operating in an undemocratic fashion then please let me have the details and I promise you I will look into it.

What I want, and what I have always wanted, is a vibrant tenants' movement across the borough in which every citizen who wishes to play a role is free and able to do so.

Obviously there will some associations which are better than others, and some which are not as open or approachable as they ought to be or perhaps even than they would like to be. But constitutions, openness, communication and properly-held AGMs are crucial to the legitimacy of our tenants' groups.

So Meredith, brickbats are fine but actual facts and information would be much more useful.