Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Sarah Paton
and the
unanswered questions
Sarah Paton started work with Riverside Housing Association yesterday  as boss of  its  Carlisle operation. But it was all something of a mystery.

Riverside wasn`t saying who Sarah Paton is. Nor did they say where she comes from. Questions about this by the media  were met with  a brief  statement from Janine Goodison, Riverside`s media relations adviser at its Liverpool head office.

The statement said:

“Please be advised that Riverside is not issuing anything external relating to Sarah’s appointment. Dean Butterworth has spoken to key stakeholders and Sarah will do her own one to one introductions when she is in post.”

Dean Butterworth of  course is the man Ms Paton` has succeeded as Carlisle regional director. Riverside  has been equally secretive about him and why he  has left Carlisle after three years in the job.

Only those odd-sounding people referred to in  the statement  as “key stakeholders” have been let into the secret  of Mr Butterworth`s departure. Key stakeholders are also to be let into the secret of Ms Paton`s arrival in Carlisle.

But what about Riverside 6,000 Carlisle tenants? When will they be  let into the secret? And the 60,000 citizens of Carlisle. Surely they are entitled to know all about Riverside ( which after all is city`s biggest landlord) and who  is in charge of its operations.

Those 60,000 as national and local government taxpayers  are also entitled to know how their money is spent- Riverside gets  many thousands of pounds of public money every year.

The reasons for Riverside`s secrecy are not hard to find.

Riverside is currently re-organising its governing  boards
and Carlisle councillors are not happy about what is planned in the city. The councillors want  assurances from Riverside that the Carlisle board-if it continues to exist- will be accountable to Riverside`s tenants and to the city council.

 If past Riverside form is anything to go by, this inefficient and bossy organisation is not likely to give those assurances, particularly after the embarrassment when the last change of regional director took place. It followed  the resignation of the then director, Mr Patrick Leonard .

 Mr Leonard had earllier stood for election as Cumbria Police and Crime commissioner claiming outrageously that he  was some sort of superman… able to continue as Riverside  regional director while also working as police  and crime commissioner.

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

Friday, 7 October 2016


Sarah Paton
and more

Theresa May  told the Conservative conference this week that the housing market is dysfunctional and she wants to step in and repair it.

 A  key part of that dysfunctional market is of course, the dysfunctional  housing association sector,  notably here in Carlisle in the shape of the bossy and inefficient Riverside Housing Association of Liverpool.

Riverside is the city`s biggest landlord. It has just lost its boss, the regional director Mr Dean Butterworth, head of the Carlisle divisional board. He has resigned after his  three years of empty promises.

 His successor Ms Sarah Paton is due to make her pitch  to the city council` Overview and Scrutiny Panel next month. Councillors want to know what is happening to the divisional board which Riverside wants to abolish.

Ms Paton`s address follows criticism of Riverside and  the  divisional board by councillors, particularly criticism  by the council Leader Councillor Colin Glover.

Councillor Glover   wants to see how Riverside intends to develop positive relationships with the council and its 6,000 Carlisle tenants in the future, he told the  campaigning group Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation.

He  went on: “ In particular, if there are to be changes to the Riverside board structure, that should be discussed with council members through our scrutiny processes to ensure accountability and provide a platform for genuine dialogue in the future”.

What happens now? The omens for that Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting are not good if past experience is anything to go by.

The last Riverside boss to address the panel was Ms Paton`s predecessor, Mr Butterworth  who was challenged about  just how independent were the members of Riverside`s own scrutiny committee.

Mr Butterworth  was emphatic that the members were completely independent. Not so, said members of the council panel.

Nodding on the beech at Blackpool                                            
Carlisle Tenants and Residents Federation went further than that  and declared that members of the Riverside committee were nothing more than stooges. Nodding donkeys was the description of them on this blog.

Mr Butterworth objected to the nodding donkeys description and was annoyed. So he banned the Federation from any future contact with Riverside. (The ban could not be treated seriously – Riverside in recent years had imposed  more than one similar ban on the Federation.)

Now the Federation is wondering whether that nodding donkeys description should be resurrected, particularly after a recent  message on the Riverside web site.The message had the following headline:

A chance to shape your services

The message went on:

Would you like to play a role supporting Riverside’s Board improve services for all our tenants, residents and customers?

Remuneration £3k

The message continued:

Riverside is establishing a new committee, entitled the Neighbourhood Services Committee. Its purpose will be to support the Board of the Riverside Group Limited by undertaking detailed consideration and monitoring of services. This will involve overseeing the performance and customer experience nationally of all Riverside’s social housing and home ownership services.

It will have particular responsibility for improving our customers’ experience of services and ensure they are well managed and deliver value for money. It will facilitate comprehensive customer feedback about the quality and nature of services and make sure that this feedback has a real influence on decision making.

There will be three places on this committee for representatives nominated by the Riverside Tenants and Residents Federation Executive, two of whom must be Riverside tenants. The nominations for these vacancies will be agreed by the Riverside Tenants and Residents Federation Executive Committee and forwarded to Riverside’s Governance and Remuneration Committee of the Board for final selection.

The term of office will be for three years from October 2016 and the Committee will meet, during normal working hours, a minimum of six times a year. There will be £3,000 remuneration for serving on this committee, and this may affect any working-age applicants currently claiming benefits.

Ms Paton may wish to tell the Overview and Scrutiny Panel how  this message relates to the important issues of accountability and transparency raised by the council Leader Councillor Glover.
The panel hopefully will consider that the cash offer, plus all the meaningless mumbo jumbo in the message is all Riverside has to offer in  answer to these issues.

In other words, more nodding donkeys.

The £3,000  salary of course will attract a better class of donkey.

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

Tuesday, 20 September 2016