Council tenants to be given ‘stronger voice’

New strategy for council housing agreed by councillors, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Council housing in Carterhatch Lane, Enfield
Council housing in Carterhatch Lane, Enfield

A plan to help residents become more involved in Enfield’s council housing services will go out to consultation after town hall bosses defended their approach.

Enfield Council has drawn up a strategy designed to strengthen the voice of tenants and leaseholders – particularly underrepresented groups – in the provision of housing services.

It includes the creation of eleven new residents’ groups that will provide feedback on issues, such as building safety and repairs.

The strategy came under the spotlight at a meeting of the overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday, 21st July, after it was called in by members of the Conservative group.

Concerns raised by the Tories included a lack of information on whether recruitment to the new residents’ groups will be by appointment or election, and on the risks of being unable to fill the roles created by the new system.

The opposition also raised concerns over a failure to include residents’ views on the current arrangements, as well as changes to the council’s housing advisory group that they claimed would downgrade its status.

Edward Smith, shadow cabinet member for housing, criticised several of the arrangements over what he claimed was a lack of transparency and called for his points to be “taken on board” and not “brushed under the carpet”.

Cabinet member for social housing Gina Needs said the council was transparent, adding that points raised by Cllr Smith would form part of an upcoming consultation with residents.

Under questioning from Conservative committee member James Hockney,  the council’s director of housing and regeneration, Joanne Drew, said the membership of the new structures would be subject to consultation.

In response to a concern that changes to the housing advisory group would reduce its ability to provide independent advice, she said residents would be able to write to the chair of the housing scrutiny panel with their concerns.

Joanne told councillors the strategy was also about the council’s culture and “making sure staff put the thoughts and views of residents at the centre of their day-to-day work”.

Tory committee member Lee David Sanders asked how the council would ensure underrepresented groups became involved. Joanne replied that the council was holding surgeries and working alongside community organisations and charities.

Following the debate, Conservative members of the committee voted to refer the strategy back to cabinet, but Labour members and Community First’s Derek Levy agreed to confirm the original cabinet decision.