Wednesday, 21 March 2018


The cost of a challenge to Chairman Costello          


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 Housing Association boss Mark Costello hit out and attacked some of his critics in the latest episode of the planned merger  of his Impact association and the  Liverpool-based Riverside association.

But why only some of his critics?And why is Mr Costello putting a "cost" on any challenge to his decisions.

These question puzzled many people as they read the Costello attack. It was given top-of the page billing in  a recent edition of the Carlisle weekly newspaper, the Cumberland News. That newspaper had earlier featured serious criticism of Mr Costello for his alleged secrecy.

The Costello salvo was aimed at Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation which publishes this blog and at Adrian Waite, Mr Costello`s predecessor as  chairman of the Workington-based Impact. Both had hit out at Mr Costello  with the accusations of secrecy.

Disgracefully, the Costello salvo also tried to deny the Federation the right to criticise his Impact association on the grounds that the Federation is not recognised by Impact.

About this  non-recognition ruling, the Federation had this to say: “Impact, like  other housing  associations gets
millions each year in housing benefit and has also received millions in social housing grant.

Taxpayers have a right to  challenge how that money is spent.

“And they do not expect to have a cost to pay - some recognition qualification- in order to  mount a challenge.

“We expect this sort of undemocratic bossiness from Riverside because we have had  undemocratic bossiness from Riverside for many years. Mr Costello  should beware of taking  a lead  from that flawed Merseyside organisation which he seems so keen on joining.”


“Your  correspondent Mark Costello Chairman of Impact Housing Association last week reprimanded some of those people who accused him of secrecy about plans to merge his association with Riverside Housing Association.

“Secrecy? Me? How dare you make such a shocking accusation was his message to his critics

“Mr Costello went  on: the accusation is unhelpful and unfounded.

“But his message was directed to only two of the critical people. Not everyone got a reprimand. One notable critic escaped.

“Adrian Waite, Mr Costello`s  predecessor as chairman got a reprimand as did the campaigning group, Carlisle Tenants` and Residents` Federation.

“Strangely, the influential Workington Allerdale councillor Barbara Cannon who was equally critical of Mr Costello was  not reprimanded. There was not a word said about her in his letter. I wonder why?

“Nor, strangely, has a word been said by Mr Costello  about why the planned merger was thought about in the first place.

Members of the Impact board. Mr Costello is front, centre.

“At that time Impact spoke in an article in the News and Star(Jan 10) of the need “to improve long-term  prospects for their homes, tenants and staff.”

“Mr Costello talked in the same article of “challenges that have led us to seeking a partner association”.

“What were those “challenges”? Until now they have never been spelled out as far as I know. I wonder why?.

“The “challenges” are certainly very embarrassing for Mr Costello and the other members of the Impact governing board. Possibly Mr Costello wanted to keep them secret.

“Whatever the reason, here are the the “challenges”, revealed I think for the first time to the Impact tenants and to other local people:

“In May of last year, Impact was inspected by the social housing regulator (the Homes and Communities Agency now renamed as Homes England) and downgraded to non-compliant.

“That downgrading was for both governance and financial viability and was issued following an in-depth assessment.

“The regulator said there was not sufficient “headroom” in Impact`s business plan should things go wrong.

“The regulator said it had not had the assurances that the board of Impact was managing its affairs with “an appropriate degree of skill, diligence, effectiveness, prudence and foresight”.

“After that pretty damning report Mr Costello has a few months left  to continue his policy of selective reprimands to his critics before  the planned merger, assuming that does go ahead.

“But Mr Costello should think very hard before launching another attack.

“Impact like every other housing association receives large amounts of public money. And he should be aware that taxpayers everywhere have a  right- and in some cases a duty- to  hold his association to account and challenge how that money is spent”.

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