Sunday, 16 April 2017


Wednesday, 15 March 2017


Sarah Paton
 and Riverside`s

great escapes

Sarah Paton will again meet critical Carlisle city councillors next month as the council tries to keep in check her Riverside Housing Association.

Keeping in check because many people say that Riverside is flawed in its culture and in the way it deals with its 6,000 tenants and leaseholders in the Carlisle  area.

The meeting will be the third the council`s Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel has arranged  following the recent appointment of Ms Paton as Riverside`s north regional director.

Councillors are hoping for ideas from these meetings that will help them to come up with a new checking system to put an end to the apparently endless  series of complaints  about Riverside`s dictatorial  culture and its gross inefficiency.

A starting point for the councillors in their search is a comparison ot Riverside`s methods and culture with the methods and culture of two other housing associations operating in Carlsle.

The two, Impact and Two Castles are not at all like Riverside … they are  highly respected in the city.

Representatives of the two have addressed the councillors and answered searching questions relating to what Ms Paton told the councillors a few weeks ago and relating also to the apparently endless series of complaints about Riverside.

Hopefully after all of that a new checking system will be formulated. And hopefully that will be the end  of the matter.

But critics of Riverside should  not hold their breath. Riverside have been here before.

Riverside spin and Riverside gobbledegook ensured that things never changed in the 14 years since the Merseyside- based Riverside took over the city`s former council houses.

There never has been an effective checking system. Riverside remained a law to itself.

How did this come about?

Like all the other housing associations, Riverside escaped being included with other public bodies in Tony Blair`s freedom of information legislation. Lucky for Riverside, its dark corners remained hidden away.

The one hopeful check during those 14 years was a government checking system, the Audit Commission.

 The Audit Commission was a statutory corporation whose main objective was to appoint auditors to  local public bodies in England, set the standards for auditors and oversee their work.

The commission had Riverside`s Carlisle operation in its sights and produced reports on its inspections there.

Riverside became very much on the defensive  but  fought back and managed to get at least one Audit Commission report watered down. That made made the report ineffective, said critics at the time.

An ineffective report was bad enough. But a fatal blow came in 2010 when David Cameron`s coalition government abolished the commission. It was one of that government`s first acts. The commission was in effect privatised.

Lucky once again for Riverside. The dark corners continued to remain hidden.

The abolition of the commission was bad for tenants recalls Jimmy Devlin a veteran tenants` champion and chairman of the North West Tenants` Assembly.

Jimmy told this blog: “We`ll never understand why the Audit Commission was scrapped. It was a great friend of  housing association tenants. The Assembly says bring back the Audit Commission“.