Monday, 29 November 2010

Greenwich Council criticised by tenants watchdog

Greenwich Council have been criticised by a tenants watchdog for failing to properly communicate with residents being evicted from the Ferrier Estate.

In a letter to the Council and FRAG, The Tenant Services Authority commented that:

"we feel that any uncertainties and distress for tenants that have arisen could have been mitigated by earlier and clearer communication and action [from Greenwich Council]"

Housing association Southern Housing Group were also criticised for "serious administrative errors" which resulted in "incorrect and inconsistent" information being issued to tenants.

The correspondence seen by the Kite reveals that Greenwich Council have "accelerated" their eviction process in the last year as a result of funding pressures.

According to the TSA:

"LBG has acknowledged to us that it has accelerated the decant programme in the period since June 2010, in line with a cabinet decision to complete the decanting of the estate by October 2011.  The decision reflected the council’s concerns about the implications for health, safety of those residents remaining in occupation of increasingly empty vacant blocks.  It also took into consideration the cost of maintaining adequate services to the estate and its diminishing population within the wider economic background."

The TSA judged that Greenwich Council had not breached any regulations but added that there were "important lessons to be learnt from this experience."

They have told the council to review their eviction plans and to draw up a "clear timetable" of evictions in consultation with residents.

Of the 31 tenants currently being taken to court, the TSA state that any attempt to recover court costs from them would constitute a "disappointing failure" on Greenwich Council's part.

Last week the leader of Greenwich Council responded to the report by saying that they have been "too tolerant" of residents.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Andy Murray vs Raphael Nadal - Where's the legacy?

Those of you lucky enough to head down to the O2 today will get to see a World class British sportsman playing in the finals of a major international tournament held in our very own borough.

What an opportunity for Greenwich! Surely the council have secured a major Olympic-style legacy from these games?

Well if they have then there's not much sign of it here in Kidbrooke Green:

Fancy a game?

Perhaps not eh? 

The tennis courts on Kidbrooke Green have been left to rot for years now and no amount of World class tennis tournaments taking place down the road seem to have any affect.

The Council did draft a plan two years ago to have the courts either re-laid or "developed for alternative visitor and community facilities."

But two years have passed and the only sign the council are even aware the courts still exist is this brief message from the council dogwatchers.

No dogs allowed. And no tennis allowed either.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Greenwich Council: We have been "too tolerant" of Ferrier residents

Greenwich Council leader Chris Roberts said today that residents of the Ferrier Estate have a "stigma" attached to them and that the council has been "too tolerant" towards them through the eviction process.

As the council takes 31 of the remaining residents to court Roberts told the News Shopper:

"We’ve probably been too tolerant. People have turned down seven to ten offers. That slows the process down.”

Before adding that:

“There’s a stigma attached to the estate and the people that live there.”

Which is a pretty extraordinary statement for a politician to make about their constituents at the best of times let alone when they are being evicted from their homes.

Talk about adding insult to injury.

The News Shopper also carry a quote from the Tenants Services Authority in response to a complaint by residents which states that:

"We feel any uncertainties and distress for tenants that have arisen could have been mitigated by earlier and clearer action."

I've since contacted the TSA asking to have a look at the full ruling but apparently it is confidential. 

Hopefully the complainants can send me a copy at the usual address.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Ferrier Estate: official views

After having a bit of a dig at them recently, It's good to see The News Shopper covering the evictions currently taking place at the Ferrier Estate:

"Greenwich Council has been accused of “bullying tactics” after 29 households were threatened with court action if they do not vacate their homes.

The court orders were delivered last week to families in the Ferrier Estate’s Gallus Square area, giving them a Woolwich County Court date of November 16 and threatening to hit them with the council’s legal costs."

It's a balanced in-depth piece of journalism, expanding on the ground we've covered here, and is exactly the kind of thing a local paper should be doing.

Greenwich Council's propaganda rag on the other hand has no such intentions, judging by their front page tomorrow:

According to Greenwich Time, the new homes built beside Sutcliffe Park "means Greenwich is playing a key role in helping to reduce the chronic shortage of family homes in this country."

Although for some reason the council's "key role" in turfing out another 29 families from their family homes doesn't warrant a single mention.

It's also unclear to me why the new homes are suddenly front page news when people moved into them some time ago.

It couldn't just be to counter the growing bad press about the evictions could it?

All of which makes me think that the paper's imminent demise cannot come soon enough.

I've written more on the many problems facing the Ferrier development over at my other blog.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

A Ferrier Estate resident writes

I received the following email earlier this week. I hope they won't mind me quoting it in full:

Dear Adam

I have lived on the Ferrier since 1975 have always paid a full rent and not in rent arrears. When we were first told about the demolition of the estate we said we would to go in the new property's and they agreed. This year my wife has been undergoing chemotherapy and also had a replacement hip in august. One of the council employee's visited us about 4 weeks ago and told us that we would have to go in temporary accommodation which we agreed with. Me and my wife come back from the hospital today and have a letter from the council saying they are going to take us to court and evict us we have gone along with the council all the way and this is how they treat us.  We have not been offered or  turned any offers of over property down.

Tony [name changed]

It's a worrying tale and one which bears a striking similarity to those reported by the BBC last month.

According to the BBC a complaint was referred to the Tenant Services Authority which promised to make a judgement on Greenwich Council's behaviour by "the end of October."

Well the end of October has come and gone and I've jut got off the phone to the TSA.

A man with a rather sad sounding voice told me that the press team were out of the office "for the next two days at least" while they finalised restructuring the organisation.

Restructuring? Ah yes it seems that the TSA is to be thrown on the bonfire of the quangos by the government, with it's duties either being transferred or scrapped.

Unable to speak to the possibly defunct press team, I asked the sad-sounding man whether the investigation into Greenwich Council's treatment of Ferrier residents had been completed.

He said that he was pretty sure it hadn't and that even *if* it were to be finished in the future the results may not be made public.

It's not a terribly encouraging sign and suggests that criticisms of the organisation made by the Tories and the Murdoch press may have at least some justification.

But without the TSA in place, and with Greenwich Council ignoring them as well, what hope have the soon to be evicted Ferrier residents of getting their voices heard?

Are you a resident on the Estate? Would you like to speak out about your treatment by the Council? Please leave a comment or get in touch here.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Kidbrooke regeneration at risk from government cuts

Latter phases of the Kidbrooke regeneration could be delayed or not go ahead at all following cuts to affordable housing, experts have warned.

The chancellor announced last month that subsidies for affordable housing would be cut by 50%.

In order to keep building new homes viable the government said that social rents would be allowed to rise to 80% of the normal rate.

However tenants at the Ferrier Estate have been promised new housing at the same rent as before, which could make building these new homes not cost effective.

According to a report by

"Housebuilders and the [Chartered Institute of Housing] have expressed concerns about the ability of large estate regeneration projects, such as Elephant & Castle in Southwark, Kidbrooke in Greenwich and Park Hill in Sheffield, to proceed. Previous tenants had been promised new homes at the same rent, but lower government subsidy may make this unviable."

Berkeley Homes recently admitted that land intended for the latter phases of the Kidbrooke regeneration had been placed into its "land bank" because of uncertainty over its future.

On page ten of their annual report they state that it is now in the "long-term pipeline" because "the development outcome is uncertain due to planning policy, viability or issues surrounding vacant possession."

Now it's clear that the later phases of the regeneration could be at risk altogether.