The lack of democracy within the governance of NHG. Fourth report back of the February 19 negotiations between the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Executive Team of NHG.
The Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents met with representatives of the executive team of NHG on 19 February.
We had three people on our side – two members of the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Chair of the UNITE housing workers branch as an external observer.
For NHG, Carl Byrne, Group Director of Housing and Jeremy Stibbe, Group Director of Regeneration and Strategic Asset Management attended.
After this meeting we wrote to Carl Byrne, on 3 March, setting out the issues on which we had agreed – and those which were still in dispute or which we had not the time to discuss at the meeting. Carl Byrne replied in a letter which arrived on 29 March.
(You will find the two letters attached to the first post in the ‘Negotiations’ drop down menu called, ‘Rents. First report back on the February 19 negotiations between the Joint Committee of Notting Hill and Genesis Residents and the Executive Team of NHG.’)
This report is the fourth of six report backs we are publishing on various aspects of the negotiations We are in the process of arranging general meetings for residents across NHG to discuss these negotiations and consider how to carry forward issues which are of concern to residents (which may not have appeared in these negotiations).
The lack of democracy, transparency and accountability within the governance of NHG
There is a lack of democracy, transparency and accountability within NHG.
The Board of NHG has two residents on it who have been ‘selected’ by the NHG management. The ‘Residents Services Committee’ also has selected residents on it only – not one is directly elected by residents.
Residents cannot directly contact any of these ‘selected’ residents – you can only go through the NHG management to do so. Residents have no way of knowing what decisions these ‘resident representatives’ make, nor how they vote. The ‘resident representatives’ do not report back to residents about what they are doing.
All the local meetings which residents are invited to are run by the ‘resident involvement’ NHG staff. NHG staff write the ‘minutes’ and reports of these meetings. Often any minutes or notes of these meetings are not circulated.
1. The failure to democratically involve 170,000 residents in the selection of a new chair for NHG (see point 4.1 in both letters).
We raised the point that 170,000 residents of NHG had absolutely no democratic input into the selection of the new chair of NHG.
NHG response: They said: “each member of the Board has a duty to direct our business and therefore needs to make decisions as an individual not as a representative of others.”
NHG also say that “It is important that we benefit from a wide range of backgrounds and skills.”
However of the 11 board members, on is a senior member of the Executive Team of NHG, two are residents ‘selected’ on unknown criteria by the Executive Team and the remaining 8 are from the financial and real estate sectors.
So, there is no ‘wide range of backgrounds and skills’ at all.
The majority of the Board represent financial and real estate interests and have absolutely no believable interest in social housing nor with the battle to solve the housing crisis (although they often claim they are worried about the housing crisis).
Indeed, as representatives of financial and real estate interests they have strong reasons for making the housing crisis even worse for ordinary people; the sectors they work in make huge profits out of the housing crisis and the so-called ‘financialisation’ of housing
2. Why not have directly elected residents in the new ‘Residents Involvement Model,’ the Residents Services Committee and Board (see points 4.2 and 4.3 of both letters)?
We say there should be directly elected residents on any committee within the resident involvement model. The Resident Services Committee has residents on it – but they are selected by NHG.
Residents cannot contact resident members of this committee except through the management of NHG.
Resident board members are ‘selected’ not elected
NHG response: NHG are unwilling to move on this point. They argue that: “The new involvement model allows residents to participate as much or as little as they wish to. Those residents wanting to come along to meetings and give us their views can now do so.”
The problem with the NHG position is that there is no continuity – so concerns of residents get lost. Also there is also no accountability – no one ‘carries the can’ for any particular issue. And most importantly this ‘resident involvement model’ means that residents have no power at all. Residents just turn up every few months, complain to NHG staff (often in tense and difficult meetings) and very little actually happens.
The Residents Involvement Model must be changed. It is deeply compromised, because of the lack of democracy, and it is completely out of date. Ironically, it is in the interests of NHG to change and move forward by actually giving residents a real say in the governance of NHG. This will lower the temperature in residents/staff meetings and allow issues to be followed through and resolved.