Sunday, 5 February 2017

RIVERSIDE IN THE DOCK AT LAST




A 14-year fight against Riverside Housing Association`s failures and abuses is at last being won by Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation and its supporters.

At last, the city council  is  acting to curb Liverpool-based Riverside as the Federation has urged it to do since 2002.

It was in that year that Riverside moved into the city  and took over the council`s 7.000 council homes, a property estate it  took the council more than a century to create.

Riverside`s shocking management of that estate  and its abuses of power are at last being tackled by the  council in an historic turnaround.

The story of that historic turnaround is told in the Federation`s 2016  chairman`s report  which was recently presented at  the annual meeting.

That report is reprinted here:


Federation links with city council strengthened  as councillors up the pressure for major changes at Riverside Housing Association

The Federation has had another very successful year with  regular  monthly meetings and committee meetings held in Eastern Way Fire Station. All our meetings have been stimulating and enjoyable and have attracted people from other groups in the city.

The following are the highlights of the year:

Open-ness and accountability: . A gigantic increase of open-ness and accountability is sorely needed  in the Carlisle area as far as the principal landlord, Riverside Housing Association, is concerned. Riverside, in the view of the Federation is accountable to no one but itself.  It is no longer a housing association but is a profit-making  property development company.

Links with other campaigning organisations: The Federation has continued to strengthen working links with the North West Tenants` and Residents` Assembly. Nationally, housing stock transfers continue to be questioned and successfully challenged, Locally, questions  persist in the city and  district about the wisdom and legality of the Carlisle transfer of its housing stock to Riverside fourteen years ago.

City Council and questions for Riverside:  The Federation has continued to hold Riverside to account through meetings with Councillor Colin Glover, Leader of the city council  and with other councillors and officials. The meetings together with other campaigning against Riverside abuses probably played a part in a complete change around during the year in the  council attitude to Riverside. The council` s relationship with the council is no longer passive and tame but is now very pro-active and critical  when necessary.


Riverside campaign of hostility to the Federation:  The Federation has continued to challenge Riverside`s  campaign of hostility to the Federation which started  when Riverside provocatively and outrageously told the city council that the Federation would cease to exist. This  statement was noted  by the council and entered in the minutes.
Riverside followed this  statement by twice attempting to block the Federation `s participation in the business of the city council`s Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel. Riverside has  still not explained why it wishes  the Federation`s demise and how it proposes to ensure that demise. Nor has Riverside explained its frequent  use against the Federation of its obnoxious Persistent Complaints Procedure.

 Riverside`s  Carlisle governing board:The board was abolished by Riverside a few weeks ago as part of an apparent  reconstruction of the housing association. The Riverside  decision has been challenged by the  city council which claims it is invalid because the council`s agreement to it was necessary.

The tenure of Mr Dean Butterworth as regional director of Riverside Carlisle:  Mr Butterworth resigned  a few months ago as Riverside`s Carlisle regional director and was succeeded by Ms Sarah Paton who was recruited from outside the organisation. She has the role of Northern Regional Director based in Newcastle upon Tyne and including Carlisle. The post of Carlisle regional; director has apparently been abolished. Hopefully Ms Parton will have more success than   Mr Butterworth. He  arrived from Sheffield  three years ago and made various promises about improving Riverside Carlisle, Up to now there have been none of the promised improvements.

Mr Butterworth inherited a very difficult legacy from his predecessor Mr Patrick Leonard, a fact which has been  recognised  by Ms Carol Matthews, Chief Executive of Riverside . Mr Leonard`s   legacy  persists through Riverside`s continued deplorable use of incomprehensible gobbledegook in communications with tenants and others. His legacy also persists in  Riverside`s failure to  adopt an acceptable effective complaints procedure and its failure to to have any democratic arrangements available for effective tenant and leaseholder community representation on the Riverside board. It is a scandal that all the previous tenant  and leaseholder community groups which existed before Riverside  arrived on the scene were abolished at the takeover and their grants terminated.

Mr Leonard`s very difficult  legacy also persists through its deplorable bossy culture which has been publicly criticised by a Carlisle city councilors.

Riverside`s excessive rents and unfair charges: A lot of time has been spent challenging Riverside about its excessive rents,  unfair charges and its incomprehensible chaotic business practices.  Riverside imposed  greatly increased service charges which are currently being challenged by the Federation.