On Wednesday 19 September, 'Getting a fair deal for tenants' was
the theme for the 2012 annual ARCH Tenants' Conference. This event
was organised by the ARCH Tenants' Group for tenants of the
62 ARCH member councils who have retained their housing
138 delegates and speakers met at the Kettering Conference
Centre on the 19 September. It is the 6th conference
that the ARCH Tenants' Group have been involved in organising. They
worked with Chartered Institute of Housing events team and
HouseMark to plan the venue, the programme and speakers, then
chaired workshops and registered delegates on the day to ensure
that the event ran smoothly.
The conference was a chance for tenants from stock retained
councils from across the country to hear about and discuss topical
issues affecting council housing including the challenges facing
the local authority sector and what this means for tenants. Topics
covered on the day included welfare reform, self-financing, value
for money, tenant scrutiny and community engagement.
conference was hosted by Kettering Borough Council. The Mayor
of Kettering, Councillor Jim Hakewill, presented two of the
ARCH awards at the event. The Excellence in Participation Award was
kindly sponsored and presented by Pinnacle psg. Click here for
information about the awards winners.
There was a buzz in the room as Peter Kirkpatrick, ARCH Tenants'
Group's recently elected chair and tenant of Great Yarmouth Borough
Council, opened the conference by welcoming delegates and thanking
Kettering Borough Council and Pinnacle psg for supporting the
The conference this year was supported by Kettering Borough
Council - Head of Housing John Conway welcomed delegates to the
borough with an overview of Kettering's housing challenges and how
the Council has addressed this, with particular reference to the
'homes for the future' programme to bring older properties up to
standard so that they are more energy efficient and cost effective
for tenants to heat.
told delegates about the life skills programme 'Move On, Move In'
to help ensure younger tenants are able to sustain their tenancies
and develop new skills.
'We have a good relationship with our council. We work in
partnership and tenants really do have their say in Kettering' said
Martyn Lund, from the ARCH Tenants' Group and involved tenant of
Click here to download John
Councillor Paul Ellis, newly elected Chair of ARCH and cabinet
member for housing at London Borough of Wandsworth said: 'ARCH
is there for the benefit of residents as well as the local
authority organisations who are ARCH members… residents have played
a key role as ARCH has developed over the years'.
Paul Downie, Deputy Director, Affordable Housing Management and
Standards at the Department for Communities and Local Government
addressed the conference.
'With just under 2 million homes the local authority sector is a
significant player in housing… there are a number of pressures and
challenges on the housing sector; financial pressures; just under
400,000 households are under occupying their homes; just over
quarter million households are overcrowding their homes in the
private rented and social housing sectors; we have increasing
numbers on the waiting lists with over 1.7 million households
registered on them in England with long waiting times.'
Paul went on to say that 'The Government reforms to address
these challenges include more financial flexibility for local
authority landlords; more effective use of social housing; fairness
and transparency for existing and new tenants and better
'Welfare reforms are starting to have an impact and we are well
aware that this will create pressures and difficulties for some… it
is going to be tough'… ' there are more opportunities for tenants
to take control though £1.3 million of new grant for tenant
empowerment and community cashback'.
Questions and comments from delegates included concerns
about welfare reform the bedroom tax and impact on pensioners; when
will the new building of homes be seen; right to buy and new owners
renting out at exorbitant rents compared to what social housing
neighbours are paying.
The six workshops at the event were very popular. Copies of the
presentations and key notes from the sessions can be downloaded
after each workshop description below. Here are some highlights
from the sessions shared in the closing session.
- For tenant scrutiny to be effective tenants need to know it has
made a difference. Feedback and communication are key and the
culture of the organisation will have an impact and trust as part
of the relationship is important.
- Effective community engagement at Kettering has resulted in
tenants now having a real 'ownership' of the area - talking to
people has been key to this and engaging young people.
- Welfare reform - payment online is causing concern as some
people can't access it or the internet. Because of the bedroom tax
some people will lose 25% of their benefit income and some
organisations do not have enough one bed properties available for
prople to move to.
- Open forum - the bedroom tax and how older people will be
penalised were key topics of discussion. Participants were
surprised that more lobbying wasn't taking place. The session also
discussed repairs cash back and health and safety issues and apathy
for tenant participation.
- Self financing - local authorities must now run as businesses
and have business plans which tenants need to be involved in
- Value for money - the group looked at what value for money
means and its alignment to the organisation's purpose. Wandsworth
shared the example of their asset management strategy for filling
in the gaps, eg developing homes in place of garages.
Challenges facing the
LA sector and what this means for tenants
Paul Downie, Deputy Director,
Affordable Housing Management and Standards, Department for
Communities and Local Government
1. What has been achieved
through tenant scrutiny?
Jennifer Holmes, chair person of
service evaluation group (Scrutiny) West Lancashire Borough Council
and Carole Halfacre, Assistant Director of
2. Effective Community
Linda Nash, Housing
Communications Officer, Kettering Borough Council and Martyn Lund,
Voluntary Member of Kettering Borough Council
3. Welfare Reform - How will
Colin Wiles, CIH Eastern
Regional Board and Jim Nicholl ARCH Tenants' Group
4. Open forum tenants
Peter Kirkpatrick, chair of ARCH
Tenants' Group; Alison Moore, chairperson of Tenants and
Leaseholders Committee, Exeter City Council; and Matthew
Warburton, ARCH Policy Advisor
5. Self financing -
what this means for landlord and tenants
Steve Partridge, Director of
Financial Policy & Development, CIH Consultancy; Carl Brazier,
Strategic Head of Tenant Services, Stroud District Council; and
Michael Hewlett, Chair Tenants & Leaseholders Panel, Borough of
6. Feeling the pinch -
Getting value out of money spent- what people out there are
Gez Kinsella, Assistant Director
- Consultancy HouseMark; Councillor Paul Ellis, Cabinet Member for
Housing London Borough of Wandsworth; and Kevin Lovatt, ARCH
On the afternoon of the tenants' conference, three awards were
presented to both organisations and individuals for excellence in
the sector. Click here for more
information about the awards.
tenants' conference report here