Saturday, 3 December 2016


Sarah Paton
Exclusive Relationship

and a meaningful relationship in the Flensburg Room 

It`s all about new relationships…Teresa May getting a new relationship with Europe after the Brexit upheaval, and here in Carlisle, Riverside Housing Association`s Sarah Paton getting a new relationship with the city after an upheaval on Merseyside.

The Prime Minister is keeping her cards close to her chest in her negotiations to get a good deal for Britain. No such luck for Ms Paton who is Riverside`s North Region Director. Her cards have been marked  by her bosses in the Liverpool head office.

Her cards are not a pretty hand.

Ms Paton, six weeks into the job learned this when she left her base on Tyneside and travelled 60 miles  to the Flensburg Room in  Carlisle Civic Centre to talk to city councillors  about those marked cards and the Riverside  plans they indicate. It was a meeting of the council`s Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel.

The plans are designed to save money- £30 million a year. The Carlisle operation-involving 6,000 city tenants and leaseholders- is being cut back as part of the Merseyside upheaval and city is planned to have its Riverside governing board removed following the recent abolition of the post of Carlisle regional director.

The  board- and the regional director-  have existed for 14 years, since the time that Riverside took over the city`s council houses. Among  the board`s members are  four city councillors. Getting rid of that board is not going to be easy, Ms Paton learned.

Not easy because as far as the council is concerned, the four councillors  will continue to sit on that board until  something is in its place. And the city council it appears does not want that to happen.  So the board at the moment is in limbo.

In limbo too is the relationship between the council and Riverside because the Flensburg Room meeting settled nothing except a decision to hold another meeting in January.

The council hopes that the January meeting will result in what  it calls a “meaningful relationship” with Riverside following the fractious relationship of the last couple of years.

Ms Paton left the Flensburg Room after her power point presentation and headed back to Tyneside with echoes in her ears of that fractious relationship that had  surfaced in the meeting.

These echoes included:

1, many tenants` problems that Riverside had failed to address;

Councillor Raynor Desmond Bloxham2
Community failure- Coun Bloxham
2, Riverside deciding in Liverpool on structural Carlisle changes without consulting either  its Carlisle board or the city council (particularly the recent withdrawal from running the Careline helpline for the old and infirm.The first that councillors heard of this was in the Press);

3, and Riverside`s failure to engage with local  Carlisle communities.

This community failure was the subject of much  criticism, particularly from Councillor Ray Bloxham who led the council house handover operation to Riverside 14 years ago. He said: “The one thing we were impressed with about Riverside at that time and the crucial factor in  our chosing Riverside was its  commitment to community involvement.”

Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation publishes this blog. Information about the Federation is available on 01228 522277 or 01228 532803.