What’s going on in the Oval Quarter?
PACCA became the tenant management organisation for Patmos area in 2009. But it is already in trouble. This is Lambeth, so it is difficult to work out what is going on. However the report by auditors is pretty clear.
It says PACCA:
- took out £300,000 in cash
- allowed a member of staff a 6 months paid sabbatical
- had two board members who were also paid officers.
Lambeth now want to put PACCA under supervision for 6 months but PACCA are challenging this in court. They argue that Lambeth never gave them proper support and that they have done nothing wrong. They are backed up by a housing scrutiny report from Lambeth which just last January more or less gave every TMO, including PACCA, a clean bill of health.
So what has gone on in the intervening months? The most obvious thing is that Adeline Aina, the director of PACCA, has been selected as a Labour candidate for the local elections in May. Nothing wrong with that you say, but Ms Aina did beat the sitting Councilllor Pete Robbins for the seat. And Robbins is the cabinet member for housing.
There is also a rumour that Lambeth have lined up PACCA, Cowley and other estates in ‘the Oval Quarter’ for stock transfer and that they plan to bring in the private developers who are already doing extensive regeneration work in that area. It is to stop this, that PACCA say they want to explore a ‘third way’ by transferring out of the council to become a co-op.
Looking at the way developers have been allowed to take over the neighbouring Myatts Field North estate, as part of a council PFI scheme, it is no wonder some residents see the council as the enemy, rather than the champion, of good quality, affordable and democratic housing.
But it seems likely that some residents may also want to transfer out of council ownership because they stand to make personal gains.
Last year Cowley EMB (a TMO) conducted a survey of their estate designed to deliberately scare residents into supporting their plans to transfer the estate to a housing association by dishonestly claiming that Lambeth is cutting funding for council housing (omitting to mention the £500 million allocated for decent homes work on Cowley and other lambeth estates).
But there was absolutely no intervention by the council to stop residents being misled in this way. When Lambeth Housing Activists circulated a leaflet encouraging residents to query the information in the survey at the next Cowley board meeting, the meeting was mysteriously ‘rescheduled’ with no public notice!
So there seems to be a poisonous combination of ‘pulling away’ from the council by certain TMO board members and estate directors who see housing associatons as a route to more money and gentrification of their estates – and a ‘pushing away’ from the council of TMO board members who have been alienated by the lack of support and supervision offered by lambeth.
So if Lambeth do really intend to invest in these estates to bring them up to decent homes standard, and do not have secret deals with developers or housing associations, they need to say that publicly now and support those residents who want to keep their estates in the council. They also need to ensure that TMOs are run democratically, and are fully accountable to their own residents as well as to the Council. Where they are not, residents should be given a clear option of returning to the council.