Published: 27 April, 2012
• WRITING in the wake of the massive judgment in favour of the leaseholders at Tremlett Grove, Archway, against Homes for Islington (HfI), Chris Graham calls for a “thorough investigation” by the council (We need inquiry into the money wasted on repairs, April 20).
This is an absolute must. I think the budget for the Decent Homes programme and allied maintenance was close to £600million.
The leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT) slashed some leaseholders’ bills by 60 per cent, deeming work unnecessary and management oversight poor.
Were anything like that to be replicated on other contracts, we’d be looking at wasting something like £360million.
Now, I’m sure the actual figure wouldn’t be anything like that and I doubt that one could work out a correct figure.
However, looking at the figures presented in the LVT judgment, it’s clear that HfI was absolutely hopeless at budgeting. Let’s take a couple of examples.
“Preliminaries” rose from a budgeted £60,397 to £122,363, a rise of more than 100 per cent at Brennard Court. At Merryweather Court, they went up from £89,327 to £180,994.
Or take “windows”, where there was a similar increase of more than 100 per cent.
At Brennard Court the figure went from an estimated £43,252 to an actual cost of £90,413 while at Merryweather they went from £48,715 to £149,543.
Okay, there were some offsetting savings.
In the end, though, the cost for both blocks was more than 20 per cent overbudget.
So bad were HfI’s budgets that the chief executive had to make emergency payments, or variations, on 79 occasions.
In some cases, the amounts were very significant: £436,800 and then a further £366,789 at Spa Green, or £548,473 at Tremlett Grove.
There is a further worrying element of the tribunal’s judgment when it says of the surveyors employed by HfI: “Moreover, of course, the report is from the very contractors who, if their recommendations are accepted, will be awarded the contract for carrying out the work. Accordingly, it cannot be regarded as an impartial conclusion.”
Need I say more? Of course, it was HfI that banned our estate from electing the caretaker’s partner as our chair… in case there was a conflict of interest.
Highbury New Park, N5
• JUST what does the council’s decision to challenge the findings of an independent tribunal say about its priorities regarding resident satisfaction, and who in reality it prefers to support… its contractors or its tenants?
That it is openly prepared to question the merits of allowing the judgment of a tribunal to stand, as opposed to challenging, on behalf of tenants, the much larger issue of contractors’ charges, speaks for itself.
Does this council seriously believe that members of an independent tribunal, who are legally trained or highly qualified professionals in the building trade, are either totally incompetent or incapable of assessing the merits of this challenge impartially?
Given the blatant disregard of “value for money”, “quality and necessity” and “good practice”, as identified in the LVT adjudication, I am astonished that the council dares to appeal its findings.
Surely councillors’ time would be far better spent ensuring that million-pound contracts are always awarded on merit and provide true “value for money” rather than simply allowing their assigning to be little more than a matter of convenience?
In September, all council tenants are to be balloted to appoint a “tenants’ champion”.
But we elect and pay 48 “champions” already – they’re called councillors. Assuming they are capable of doing the job for which they are (very well) paid, why would we need to employ another one? If not – why are we employing them at all?
We are told council spending has to be drastically reduced. Why not, instead of raising rents, cutting services and sacking staff, just control the contracts properly, and reclaim/eliminate any unwarranted payments to private contractors?
DR BS POTTER
Chairman, Federation of Islington Tenants’ Associations
Chairman, Islington Leaseholders’ Association