A controversial panel tasked with improving how the council communicates with tenants and residents has published its first recommendations – including some big shake ups in tenants’ funds and area housing forums.
The resident involvement review aims to bring what the council says is a 30-year-old structure up to date with online tools and social media.
The review panel has now published a report outlining recommendations for the public to share their views on until the end of January.
Key recommendations include making sure all tenants and residents, whether on an estate with an existing TRA or not, have a face-to-face meeting with council housing reps at least once a year, with at least fourteen days’ notice given beforehand.
The panel also wants to scrap area housing forums, saying the current set-up is out of date and requires residents to attend dozens of ‘off-putting and and unsustainable’ meetings a year to take part.
It recommends that five new area housing forums are set up mirroring the council’s own housing management areas, claiming this would reduce meetings from 96 to 20 per year across the borough and save time and money. It also wants TRAs constitutions revised ‘to reduce jargon’.
A previous report was critical of how tenant and leaseholder funds – a percentage of collected rent and service charges put back into tenant and leaseholder groups – has been spent.
The panel backed up these findings, saying there was not enough evidence of outcomes and opportunities for local communities from funded work.
And Southwark Group of Tenants Organisations (STGO), the main critic of the review, was described as having ‘weak’ outcomes by the panel, though it conceded ‘this is not necessarily a criticism of performance just that performance is not clearly captured’.
The panel wants local and borough-wide funding pots set up, with a community and TRA funds focused on supporting individual TRAs, digital training, welfare signposting, and anything that improves quality of life and togetherness on estates. Smaller groups who are not formally established as TRAs or TMOs would still be eligible to apply.
Councillor Stephanie Cryan (pictured), cabinet member for housing management and modernisation, said: “Any change can be difficult, but our 2017 review told us that our existing arrangements weren’t working for everyone, and that we really need to bring our resident engagement into the 21st Century; something the panel has grasped and made some clear recommendations about.
But STGO criticised the consultation process, with a spokesperson telling the News this week: “The Resident Involvement Review Panel Report was uploaded to the Southwark Council website just before 5pm on January 4.
“We have been told that consultation will close on January 31. This leaves under four weeks to respond.
The report was circulated via email on January 4, with around 50 per cent of Southwark households not on the internet and information not received in the post this is not sufficient time to respond.
“Tenants and residents were also unable to prepare an informed response until today as one quarter of the panel meeting notes were missing from the Southwark Council website.
“Which leaves even less time to make comments on the future of resident involvement across Southwark”
The consultation ends of Thursday, January 31. For more information and to have your say, visit southwark.gov.uk
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