Soggy canapés – the price of being involved

The considerable presence of housing associations at the Labour Party Conference I described in my last post has, I hear, been replicated at the other party conferences. What explains the new-found interest in public affairs from our big housing associations?

Housing Association Chief Execs assumed the ‘mad’ and ‘disruptive’ policies that would ‘never work’ coming from Policy Exchange and Tim Leunig and others would be dropped as Ministers got into office and saw how things really worked.

As it is, they find themselves with the New Homes Bonus, a planning system being ripped up, being pressured to conform to Freedom of Information and having their pay publicly condemned – not to mentioned affordable rent, welfare cuts and fixed term tenancies. And they labour under the misapprehension (in my view) that a few housing associations who engaged early with the Tories in opposition and quickly in government helped design the current framework.

This time they don’t want to be left out of the game and it’s a matter of extreme self-interest to be part of Parties’ policy-making.

Despite the considerable sums they are collectively splashing  on warm white wine, soggy canapés and sponsoring think tanks in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, it’s a good thing for them to be more involved.

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3 Responses to Soggy canapés – the price of being involved

  1. Pingback: A reminder of the key problem | Red Brick

  2. Andy Crowe says:

    I’d be careful not to stereotype all housing associations. As with council housing and cooperatives, there are good and bad. But there is no real correlation between what CEs are paid and the challenges they face – those working with service users such as entrenched homeless people and ex-offendors can be paid proportionately far less than those responsible for services in settled, crime free neighbourhoods. The least flashy organisations are often the ones that do get the basics right. With the demolition of national performance indicators and inspection the sector is less accountable all round, but there remain many who are committed to providing an excellent service. So, if you can find your way past the soggy canapes, you’ll discover some fresh and tasty BLT sandwiches.

  3. Dan Filson says:

    Never mock the nutritional qualities of the soggy canapé. It is good that housing association bosses realise the need to engage in debate (or PR, as I suspect they see it) even if they do not grasp the merit of chilling second-rate white wine.

    Labour should closely examine their (the HA movement) relative unaccountability, accentuated by deliberately crossing local authority borders. There is a widespread view that the top management of housing associations has become bloated and overpaid, and that HAs can reproduce all the ills of LA housing in the pre-TMO era. There was a golden era when – though nobody can quite pin down when – the staff involved in running housing understood the nuts and bolts of building maintenance, the value of cyclical maintenance and repairs, sensitive housing allocations, non-bureaucratic responses etc. It’s not rocket science.

    If Labour is to put housing up as a top priority for the next government, then where the investment goes will be highly important and set the pattern of public sector housing for the coming century. On present form, I’m not persuaded that the HA movement, as at present constituted, is the appropriate medium for that considerable injection of money. It’s too much of an arms-length agency of Tory government and would have some trouble changing mind-set to that of a Labour one.

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