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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Hackney Homes - We've Done Nothing Wrong

I want to make it absolutely, totally, cystal clear on behalf of Hackney Council that there is probably no truth at all in the allegations made this morning in the programme "Rising Damp, Rising Profits", the "Five Live Report" on BBC Radio 5Live's "Worricker On Sunday". These allegations are that there has been systematic manipulation of the data selected for use in customer satisfaction surveys of Hackney tenants. According to the BBC report, Repairs Manager for Hackney & Islington Paul Stewart resigned from specialist social housing repairs and maintenance contractor Mears Group Plc, after blowing the whistle on his company.

Some of our loveliest homesThis relates to major maintenance contracts awarded by Hackney Homes partner Family Mosaic for the upkeep of properties in Hackney and Islington by Mears Group. According to Stewart, senior management fiddled the repairs data, claiming that work that had never been done had actually been completed, and insisted that he reported the fiddled data: "Either you give these figures or we'll find someone to give them for you." Mears call centre worker Alastair Fraser recently quit, claiming that his work for Hackney & Islington was quite unlike former employments: "I've never had to do anything where you lie on a consistent basis day in day out to tenants about why someone hasn't turned up, why this hasn't been done."

The relatively inexperienced Cabinet Member for Housing StrategyAccording to the report, dissatisfied tenants have been identified at high level and weeded out from lists of tenants selected for survey. The edited list of tenants - designated "the final one" - was then passed down to the researchers for them to conduct their telephone surveys. This resulted in customer satisfaction figures of 90%, when the true figures were far lower.

Let me repeat that these allegations are mischievous and unwarranted. I do not anticipate the resignation of the member of my team responsible for housing, Deputy Mayor Jamie Carswell.
In any event, Jamie has only been a Councillor for eight years and was only twelve and a half years old when first elected (see photo right). It would not be at all right for someone so relatively inexperienced to take responsibility for something like this.

P.S. Everyone named in this article and lots of others not named in this article completely deny everything as well.

Grovellerlink - helping the local paper to discover the news.


Ethel Barracuda said...

What a lovely looking young boy. I hope he's careful when out on the streets because lots of teenagers get beaten up and stabbed these days. A pretty face like that doesn't deserve a thumping.

Luke Akehurst said...

The company you name is a contractor for a housing association that happens to be a big landlord in Hackney and NOT for Hackney Homes or Hackney Council. So whilst interesting it's not a council-related story. Also, on a factual point, Carswell isn't the cabinet member for housing.

Luke Akehurst said...

Mears Plc is the maintenance contractor for Housing Association Family Mosaic, whose website includes the statement:

"Family Mosaic has consolidated its position as one of Hackney’s main RSL [Registered Social Landlord] partners, having recently obtained planning consent for a further three new developments at Britannia Walk, Oak Wharf and Wharf Road." So much for not being Council-related.

Jamie Carswell is, of course, Hackney Council's Cabinet Member with Lead Responsibility for Housing Strategy (unless, of course, he has been sacked during the weekend and nobody told). So your comment is pedantic and pathetic. I would never attempt to wriggle out of a genuine criticism of my fellow Councillors.

As for Jamie's responsibility for Hackney Homes and social housing strategy in the Borough, I refer you to his own PR bragging.

And a little credit is due for my not having mentioned the word "cruising" once. You may be prepared to say anything you find convenient, but I like to protect my members.

BBC Radio5Live is repeating its malicious programme right now, as I write.

Luke Akehurst said...

Exactly -

partner - not contractor - in the same sense that the police and Homerton Hospital are partners of the council. We work alongside them but don't control them.

and in the case of Jamie - housing STRATEGY not housing management - which is Alan Laing.

This is a - admittedly very interesting - story about a sub-contractor to a partner (the RSL) of Hackney Homes, which is itself Arms-Lengthed from the council. As far as I know Hackney Homes does not use this company to service it's own homes.

There are several dozen RSLs operating in Hackney - each of them probably has a different arrangement or contractor for repairs & maintenance - that's their business not the council's.

Luke Akehurst said...

Alan Laing is much older. He might be found sufficiently experienced to be responsible for something. You are right, though - our arms are very long. So long that we can't smell anything we squeeze. That after all was the whole point of arms length management, as sponsored across the Borough by Jamie. I appreciate your defence of the young boy, but I'm afraid it all comes down to whether Julian wants to defend him or not. He may prefer to have his Deputy at arms length. Very long arms length.

Luke Akehurst said...

Now I understand your confusion. You've been reading The Hackney Groveller too much. That probably includes this letter dated 22 March 2007, "No Growing Housing Crisis", in which my Deputy Mayor claimed credit for all social housing, including housing association homes, most of which of course attained this status after being handed over by the Council as part of our privatisation strategy.

"Lastly, it should be pointed out that, far from a "loss" of council homes, new and existing housing association homes are put forward into Hackney Choice for residents to bid for. I hope this sorts out any misunderstanding.

Cllr Jamie Carswell,
Deputy Mayor of Hackney and
Cabinet Member for Housing."

Note the signature. It's no wonder you are confused if Jamie is confused also. Thanks for pointing out his error - I'd better have a word with him. I can fully understand his state of confusion, though. Having such a prolonged argument with oneself is enough to get anyone confused.