The 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.
ARCH 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
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
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
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
Andrew Dench, deputy director of The Social Housing Regulator,
gave a presentation on the future of the
social housing regulator from his organisation's
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,
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.'
There were four workshops:
- Open discussion forum - Jim Nicholl, Alison Moore, Marlene
Price, Peter Kirkpatrick
Download the opening
- The role of scrutiny
Download feedback from the
- Opportunities and bear traps: The government's plans for
reforming council housing finance - Graham Martin
Download feedback from
- Changing the image of council housing - Nicola Carroll and John
winners of the ARCH Awards 2011 were announced at the Tenants'
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
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
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
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.