Tenants' conference 2011 19/05/2011 Labelled as Tenants

Tenants conference 2011The 2011 ARCH Tenants' Conference was very much led by council tenants for council tenants.


A total of 135 delegates met at Milton Keynes Dons stadium on 19 May for the ARCH Tenants' Conference 2011, which was the fifth such annual event. The ARCH Tenants' Group, a network of tenant representatives from ARCH member councils across England, decided the programme and venue for the event, chose the speakers and led workshops on the day.


The conference was a chance for tenants from stock retained authorities around the country to get together to hear about latest developments impacting on council housing and give their views, which will inform future ARCH policies.


Tenants at the conference, which was organised by APSE, were urged to get involved in shaping the future of council housing at this crucial juncture.


Tenants taking the lead


Jennifer Holmes 2ARCH Tenants' Group chair, Jennifer Holmes, a West Lancashire District Council tenant, told delegates: 'There are a lot of changes going on. We are all concerned about where our future lies. As tenants, now is the time to take note of what is happening, become involved and try and shape the future as we want it to be. I encourage you all to get involved as much as you possibly can and comment on new government proposals and discussions that are arising.'


ARCH's national chair, Cllr Milan Radulovic, leader of Broxtowe Borough Council, said: 'ARCH wants to make sure tenants are really at the heart of council housing and we are delighted that this fifth annual ARCH tenants' event has been led by tenants for tenants. The Localism Bill will impact on housing, changes to the self-financing system come into effect next April and there are concerns about flexible tenancies and where funding for new build is coming from. Local authorities and tenants must be part of that debate. While there are concerns, this is also an opportunity to shape the future.'


He added: 'At national level, ARCH is  looking at the apportionment of debt under self-financing arrangement and trying to get the best deal we can for stock retainers and their residents.'


This year's conference was supported by ARCH member authority Milton Keynes. Mayor of Milton Keynes, Cllr Alan Richards, welcomed delegates and said: 'Challenges facing Milton Keynes include developing a strategic partnership that delivers the supply of housing we need, continuing regeneration of specific areas, making sure the housing service is prepared for changes to the way the HRA operates, responding to the challenges of the localism bill and welfare benefit changes. I wish you all a successful and rewarding day.'


Phil Morgan, consultant on tenant involvement, discussed the implications of the localism agenda, affordable rents proposals and the future of regulation.


Tenants reacted strongly to what they regard as the weakening of regulation under current government proposals.


Tenants from Lewes and Cornwall expressed worries over what affordable rents will mean in areas with high market rents such as theirs.


The shortage of affordable housing remains a grave concern for council tenants across England. ARCH Tenants' Group member, Jim Nicholl, a Birmingham City Council tenant, commented: 'We are concerned about the future of council housing nationally. The quality and quantity needs to be addressed at national level.' A Birmingham tenant said: 'I want to know where the next generation is going to live. We must get more young people involved and fight for that.' A Birmingham tenant said: 'I want to know where the next generation is going to live. We must get more young people involved and fight for that.' A tenant from Slough agreed. She called for an end to Right to Buy to prevent further depletion of council housing stock.


Andrew Dench, deputy director of The Social Housing Regulator, gave a presentation on the future of the social housing regulator from his organisation's perspective.


Home Truths - new publication tells 'tenants' tales'


The new ARCH publication Home Truths: Tenants' Tales of Council Housing was launched at the conference. Tenants from across England tell their stories in the booklet.


These include: an 82-year-old community champion from Birmingham; a woman who runs a charity for terminally ill people from her South Derbyshire bungalow; a school cook from West Lancashire; a young man preparing for life in his first home; and families in North Kesteven, who are overjoyed to move into new, eco-friendly houses.


Launching the booklet, Jennifer Holmes, said: 'As someone who lives in a council home and is proud to do so, I get sick and tired of negative media stereotypes of council tenants. Home Truths challenges that image. Resources are scarce and there are tough issues facing councils and their tenants. But local authority tenants are no different to anyone else and we wanted to show the positive side of life in council homes.'


Workshop sessions


There were four workshops:


  1. Open discussion forum - Jim Nicholl, Alison Moore, Marlene Price, Peter Kirkpatrick
    Download the opening presentation
  2. The role of scrutiny
    Download feedback from the session
  3. Opportunities and bear traps: The government's plans for reforming council housing finance - Graham Martin
    Download the presentation
    Download feedback from the session
  4. Changing the image of council housing - Nicola Carroll and John Ranshaw
    Download the presentation



Winners of ARCH Awards 2011


ARCH awardsThe winners of the ARCH Awards 2011 were announced at the Tenants' Conference.


Cllr Milan Radulovic, chair of ARCH and leader of Broxtowe BC, announced the winners and commented. 'The annual ARCH Awards showcase the achievements of retained council housing and the standard and volume of this year's entries was more impressive than ever.'


Exeter City Council won the ARCH Award 2011 for Innovation and Sustainability. Exeter successfully bid for grant funding to build 21 new homes and worked closely with tenants to understand their preferences in relation to sustainable housing.


Birmingham City Council and North Tyneside Council were short-listed for this award.


Norwich City Council won the ARCH Award 2011 for Excellence in Participation. Since 2009 Norwich has had a robust housing improvement plan with a particular focus on tenant involvement across the service.  Through a number of different approaches, the council has increased the number of tenants who are involved in influencing services and they now make a systematic contribution to service design and delivery.


North Tyneside Council and Warwick Council were short-listed for this award.


For the first year ARCH has introduced a new category Tenant of the Year.  Cllr Radulovic said: 'This is for any tenant, not just tenant representatives, who have gone above and beyond to improve the lives of their neighbours and local community.'


Nikki Plummer, Lewes Council won the ARCH Award 2011 for Tenant of the Year. Nikki has been instrumental in campaigning for, setting up and helping to run a Credit Union/Debt Advice Surgery on the Demontfort estate.


Paul McGregor of North Tyneside Council and Michael Hewlett of the London Borough of Croydon were short-listed for this award.


 Slideshow of photos from the conference


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