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AN APPRAISMENT OF CAERPHILLY HOMES TASK GROUP 

YEARS ONE AND TWO. 

EPISODE 1

 

I AM GOING TO TELL YOU A STORY THAT SOME OF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LIKE , BUT, NEVERTHELESS, I FEEL VERY STRONGLY THAT IT SHOULD BE TOLD.

 

FIRSTLY, LET ME REMIND YOU THAT THE TENANT COMPONENT OF THIS PURELY CONSULTATIVE  GROUP HAS ONLY EVER HAD RECOMMENDATORY POWERS FROM DAY ONE, UNLIKE THE COUNCILLOR'S SIDE WHICH HAS FULL COUNCIL STATUS. THIS, SO SAY, IN THE INTERESTS OF PROVIDING HOUSING WITH A JOINT SCRUTINY FUNCTION WHICH IS A LAUGH IN ITSELF. I AM TOLD, ON IMPECABLE AUTHORITY, THAT THE OLD SCRUTINISATION UNDER THE NOW DEFUNCT FORUM, WAS MUCH BETTER FOR TENANTS AND, INDEED, ACHIEVED MUCH THAT THE TENANTS DECIDED FOR THEMSELVES, AND IN PERSON. 

 

I DOUBT VERY MUCH IF MANY OF THE TENANTS OF CAERPHILLY COULD  BE INTERESTED IN, OR EVEN KNOW ABOUT THE VALUE OR OTHERWISE OF THE CAERPHILLY HOMES TASK GROUP, WHICH I WISH WASN'T THE CASE.

 

HOWEVER, THIS IS PERFECTLY UNDERSTANDABLE BECAUSE, TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, THE TENANT MEMBERS HAVE NEVER HAD A SINGLE INTERIM REPORT  PUBLISHED, OR INDEED, BEEN OFFICIALLY ASKED THEIR OPINION WITH THE INTENTION TO PUBLISH IN MIND. THIS I CONSIDER INEXCUSABLE ON THE PART OF MANAGEMENT AND IS AS OPAQUE AS IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE. 

 

I SAT ON THAT FIRST TWO-YEAR COMMITTEE BUT ALL IT IS, WHEN THE DUST HAS SETTLED,  IS NOTHING  MORE THAN A RUBBER STAMPING  OF THE JOINT DECISIONS OF COUNCILLORS AND CEO OFFICERS, PLACED BEFORE THE GROUP IN THE FORM OF HIGHLY INFORMATIVE REPORTS TO WHICH THE TENANTS HAVE HAD NO INPUT.  BEFORE ANYONE PIPES UP TO SAY THAT THE REASON FOR THAT IS THAT THEY HAVE BEEN GIVEN THIS GROUP OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS THEIR VIEWS. READ ON.

 

TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A SINGLE INSTANCE THAT ANY OF THE MEAGRE INPUTS THAT THE TENANTS MAY HAVE MADE AT JOINT GROUP MEETINGS HAVE EVER HAD ANY NOTICE TAKEN OF THEM  AFTER THE MEETING HAS CLOSED AND THE COUNCIL CONSOLIDATION MEETING, WHICH IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS THE JOINT MEETING, HAS TAKEN OVER . THEN, AGAIN, MAYBE, THIS WAS THE ORIGINAL INTENTION.

 

 IF I AM WRONG, I CHALLANGE THE TENANTS ON THE GROUP, OR THE COUNCILLORS FOR THAT MATTER, TO PROVE THAT THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE.

LIES AND HALF-TRUTHES, NOR WAFFLEING WOULD NOT BE ACCEPTED AS PROOF OF ANY KIND. ONLY CONCISE CONCRETE FACTS, PLEASE.

 

PERSONALLY, I STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT THIS IS THE WAY THE COUNCIL, AND/OR THE CEO, ALWAYS MEANT IT TO BE TO THE DETRIMENT OF TENANTS AS A WHOLE.

 

THE TASK GROUP IS ALL GUMS AND CERTAINLY NO TEETH. 

 

THE PRESENT SET-UP, INTENDED FOR SCRUTINY PURPOSES, DOES NOT HOLD A CANDLE  TO THE USEFULLNESS OF THE PREVIOUS SETUP AND IS,THEREFORE  VIRTUALLY A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME.   ALL THIS DOES IS BOLSTER FURTHER THE EGO OF THE TENANT COMPONENT OF THE GROUP.    

 

 

EPISODE 2

WE CAN NOW GET DOWN TO THE PRACTICALITIES OF THE EXPERIENCE.

AFTER THE BALLOT, IT WAS INTENDED THAT EXISTING TENANTS PANEL MEMBERS COULD OFFER THEMSELVES FOR ONE OF THREE POSSIBLE GROUPS IF THEY SO WISHED:

1.  IMPROVEMENTS AND REPAIRS: WHO WOULD MONITOR REPAIRS AND THE INTRODUCTION AND MAINTENANCE OF THE WELSH HOUSING QUALITY STANDARD (WHQS) OF WHICH I KNOW NEXT TO NOTHING. IT COULD BE ARGUED THAT THIS WAS THE MAIN GROUP OF THE THREE, IF YOU WEREN'T ON THE SHELTERED GROUP. 

 2.  SHELTERED AND OLDER TENANTS ACCOMMODATION:  TO OVERSIGHT THE REVIEW WHICH HAD TO BE ACHIEVED BY THE END OF THE FIRST YEAR AFTER THE BALLOT OF ALL THE SHELTERED ACCOMMODATION IN THE BOROUGH. THIS PROVED TO BE A FARCE IF EVER THERE WAS ONE. THE MAIN COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVE WAS ONE VALERIE PARSONS WHO TOOK EVERY OPPORTUNITY SHE COULD TO PREVENT THE LESSER EXPERIENCED MEMBER TENANTS ON THE GROUP, AND THUS THE WHOLE TENANTS GROUP,  FROM SECURING ANY OF THE ITEMS THAT THEY THOUGHT WOULD BE OF ADVANTAGE TO SHELTERED TENANTS AS A WHOLE.

THIS PERSISTANT ATTITUDE OF HERS PREVENTED ANY REAL IMPROVEMENT FOR THE SHELTERED TENANTS TAKING PLACE . HER FAVOURITE REMARKS BEING: 1. "THE COUNCIL HAS NOT DECIDED YET, OR 2. "THAT CAN'T BE DONE BECAUSE... WITHOUT KNOWING WHETHER IT WAS TRUE OR NOT.THE REASPONSIBILITY FOR PUTTING A CURB ON THIS OBNOXIOUS BEHAVIOUR RESTED SOLELY WITH THE LEADING TENANT. IF THE LEADING TENANT WAS CAPABLE AND STRONG WILLED,CAPABLE OF OPPOSING HER, THIS WOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED, BUT HE WASN'T AND WE  DID.

IF WE, THE TENANTS, AS A GROUP, DIDN'T ACCEPT WHAT SHE SAID AND WANTED TO PROCEED FURTHER, THE DOOR WOULD OPEN AND AS REGULAR AS CLOCKWORK, THERE WOULD BE THE COUNCIL WHIP KNOWN ALSO AS THE CHIEF HOUSING OFFICER, SHAUN, "CALIPH", COUZENS, WHO COULDN'T FAIL BECAUSE OF OUR PAINFUL WEAKNESS.  THIS WAS THE WORST COMMITTEE I HAVE EVER SERVED ON FOR TAKING SUCH LITTLE OR NO NOTICE OF WHAT,IN THIS CASE, TENANTS NEEDED. IT WAS DISGRACEFUL AND AT EVERY STAGE "CALIPH" COUZENS BACKED PARSONS UP TO THE TENANTS DISADVANTAGE.  THE WHOLE EXERCISE MIGHT AS WELL NEVER HAVE TAKEN PLACE. I HOPE COUZENS AND HIS BAND OF MERRY STAFF ARE PROUD OF THEMSELVES, BECAUSE NO-ONE ELSE IS.

 I WELL REMEMBER THE MORNING PARSONS WAS TOLD THAT THE FIRST TWO OF THE TENANT COMMITTEE MEMBERS HAD RESIGNED. SHE JUMPED UP AND RUSHED TO THE TELEPHONE AS IF ALL THE DEVILS IN HELL WERE AFTER HER SAYING "I MUST TELL SHAUN, I MUST TELL SHAUN". SHE MIGHT JUST AS WELL HAVE BEEN SHAUN'S SMALL DAUGHTER OR MAYBE HIS MISTRESS.

IT GOES TO SHOW THE EXTREME COUNCIL BIAS THAT THE SHELTERED GROUP WAS UNDER. WITH THE EXCEPTION OF MYSELF, AND ANOTHER, A KNOWLEDGEABLE LADY, I SERIOUSLY DOUBTED THAT THERE WAS A THIMBLEFULL OF EXPERIENCE IN THE TOTAL TENANTS SIDE,AT ANY TIME, WORTH A MONKEY'S DAMN, WORKING IN THE TENANTS INTERESTS.

 THEN IT WAS DECIDED BY THE TENANTS SIDE THAT THERE SHOULD BE A DEPUTY LEADING TENANT WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE ME. AND BECAUSE THE LEADING TENANT SUBSEQUENTLY  RESIGNED, DUE TO BEING INEFFECTIVE, I BECAME  ACTING LEADING TENANT FOR A SHORT TIME AND THIS WAS THE ONLY TIME THAT THE WILL OF THE PARSONS WOMAN WILL WAS OPPOSED AND NEGATED. THIS WASN'T DONE TO FURTHER MY EGO, IF ANY ONE READING THIS SHOULD THINK THAT, BUT IN DEFENCE OF THE RIGHTS OF THE TENANTS I WAS REPRESENTING. PLUS THE FACT THAT IT GAVE ME AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF SATISFACTION.  

THE WHOLE REVIEW WAS A FARCE FROM BEGINNING TO END TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE TENANTS. IT WAS SHAMEFUL.

3.  THE THIRD GROUP, A SCRUTINY GROUP: WHICH WAS TO OVERSIGHT THE HOUSING PROGRAMME IN GENERAL.WAS TO BE FORMED. HOWEVER, DUE TO A GLITCH WITH PERSONAL CONCIL STAFFING PROBLEMS, THIS THIRD GROUP WAS NOT ABLE TO BE FORMED UNTIL THE PROBLEMS WERE SOLVED.  SO, I JOINED THE SHELTERED GROUP, IN THE INTERIM, BEING A SHELTERED PERSON MYSELF, UNTIL IT WAS.

BEING ON THE SHELTERED GROUP WAS INTERESTING, IF NOT PRODUCTIVE. THERE WERE  ONLY ABOUT FIVE OR SIX ON IT FROM THE PRE-BALLOT TENANTS PANEL AND NO NEW PARTICIPENTS.

BEFORE THE STAFF PROBLEMS ON THE SCRUTINY GROUP COULD BE CLEARED, THE COUNCIL HAD DECLAIRED ITS INTENTION TO SET UP A NEW HOUSING TASK GROUP TO DEAL WITH ALL CAERPHILLY CBC HOUSING MATTERS. IT WAS GENERALLY THOUGHT THIS TO BE FORCED ON CAERPHILLY BY THE WELSH GOVERNMENT, WHO WERE SUPPOSED TO BE MONITORING THE TASK GROUP'S PROGRESS BUT OBVIOUSLY THEY WEREN'T AND NEVER HAVE SINCE.

THIS GROUP WAS TO CONSIST OF SEVEN TENANTS AND SEVEN COUNCILLORS'

IT WAS LAID DOWN INITIALLY BY THE CEO ANTHONY O'SULLIVAN THAT IF A TENANT BELONGED TO ONE OF THE ESTABLISHED TENANTS GROUPS, THEN NO SUCH TENANT COULD BE ELIGIBLE  TO SIT ON THE TASK GROUP.

THIS, APPARENTLY, WAS CONTESTED BY SANDRA JONES, A TENANT REP, ON THE IMPROVEMENTS AND REPAIRS TEAM BUT NOT BY ANY MEANS THE BRIGHTEST LAMP IN THE BOX, WHO WROTE A LETTER TO THE CEO, WHICH WASN'T A UNIVERSAL TENANT'S GROUP DECISION, NOR EVER DISCUSSED AS A UNIVERSAL GROUP PROJECT AND, FURTHER, I NEVER SAW ANY SUCH LETTER. I SUSPECT THAT IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN ALSO SIGNED BY THE OTHER FOUR MEMBERS OF JONES' IMPROVEMENTS AND REPAIRS GROUP OF WHICH SHE WAS THE LEADING TENANT. THIS PROVED TO BE A SERIOUS SET BACK IN MY CONSIDERED OPINION. IN FACT IT ENDED UP BY FIVE OF THE SEVEN TENANT REPRESENTATIVES COMING FROM THE  IMPROVEMENTS AND REPAIRS GROUP AND MYSELF ON THE SHELTERED GROUP, FROM WHICH I SUBSEQUENTLY RESIGNED, AND ONE VACANCY.

IT IS NECESSARY HERE TO MENTION, AGAIN, THAT OF THE SEVEN TENANT REPRESENTATIVES ELECTED, FIVE OF THE TENANTS BELONGED TO THE IMPROVEMENTS AND REPAIRS GROUP, THEN THERE WAS ME, AND A VACANCY, IN MY EASTERN VALLYS AREA AND I, WAS TEMPORARY ON THE SHELTERED AND OLDER HOUSING GROUP.

THE REALISATION OF THIS FACT IS IMPORTANT INSOMUCH THAT, OF THE TENANT'S SEVEN REPRESENTATIVES, THE FIVE OF THE TASK GROUP WERE ON THE SAME IMPROVEMENTS AND REPAIRS GROUP, THUS BOTH MAKING POLICY, AND, RATIFYING THAT SAME POLICY LATER AT THE TASK GROUP MEETINGS. THIS ISN'T DEMOCRACY WHATEVER ELSE IT MIGHT BE, AND NEEDED TO BE DISCOURAGED AT ALL COSTS WHEREVER IT IS FOUND.  TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE THIS IS LIKE IT TO THIS DAY. IT'S NOT LIKELY TO BE CHANGED

THUS WE RAPIDLY APPROACHED THE END OF THE FIRST YEAR OF THE TASK GROUP HAVING ACHIEVED NOTHING OF ANY VALUE NOR WAS EVER LIKELY TO.

NOT A VERY ENCOURAGING PROSPECT WAS IT? NOR, DO I BELIEVE THE COUNCIL MEANT IT TO BE. I BELIEVE THAT THE CAERPHILLY COUNCIL HAD NO INTENTION OF GIVING TO TENANTS A SCRAP MORE POWER THAN THEY ALREADY HAD. IN FACT, BEARING IN MIND THE RELATIVE SUCCESS OF THE PREVIOSLY MENTIONED  SCRUTINY ARRANGEMENTS UNDER THE THEN DEFUNCT FORUM, WHICH DEALT WITH THE FULL RANGE OF THE COUNCIL'S BUSINESS, EMITTED AN OBNOXIOUS AROMA WHICH IS STILL WITH US TENANTS TODAY.  THOUGH THEY PROBABLY DON'T REALISE THAT.

 

LOOK OUT FOR EPISODE THREE - QUITE SOON, WHICH WILL BE QUITE DIFFERENT IN CHARACTER.

 

 

THIS IS A LOCAL CONCERN, AND ,TO A DEGREE. PERSONAL, I, LIKE US ALL, AM NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER. BACK WHEN I TOOK THIS FLAT IN COUNCIL SHELTERED ACCOMMODATION, IT DID NOT HAVE A SHOWER, ONLY A BATH. FOR QUITE A FEW YEARS PRIOR TO MOVING HERE I HAD NOT BATHED BUT SHOWERED, BECAUSE THE LAST BATH I TOOK LYING FULL LENGTH, I HAD GREAT DIFFICULTY IN GETTING OUT. THERE WAS NO SHOWER IN THE NEW PLACE AND AFTER HAVING BEEN HERE A WHILE AND AFTER HAVING TAKEN ABOUT 25 MINUTES TO GET OUTOF A DRY TEST BATH, ALL FUTURE BATHS WERE ACCOMPLISHED BY SINKING TO MY KNEES AND WASHING LIKE THAT AS BEST I COULD. THAT WAS NEAR ENOUGH FIVE YEARS AGO AND RECENTLY, HAVING DETERIORATED SOME ,I APPLIED, VIA MY LOCAL COUNCILLOR, TO THE SOCIAL SERVICES FOR A WALK IN SHOWER TO BE PROVIDED. AFTER TWO MEETINGS WITH REPRESENTATIVES FROM THEM THE OUTCOME WAS THAT I WAS I WAS NOT DISABLED ENOUGH TO WARRENT SUCH LUXURY AND WAS OFFERED, WHAT CAN ONLY BE DISCRIBED AS A BATH LIFT, WHICH I LOOK ON AS AN INSULT TO MY INTEGRITY.I HAVEN'T DONE SO YET BUT I CANNOT, WILL NOT, ACCEPT THEIR ASSESSMENT OF MY PROBLEM AND WILL NOW GO ON TO THE FACELESS NON-COUNCIL WORKERS WHO COMPRISE STAGE TWO OF AN APPEAL. I HAVE NOT, TO DATE, BEEN ABLE TO FIND OUT ANY INFORMATION ABOUT THE CREDENTIALS OF THESE PEOPLE. IT SHOULD PROVE MOST INTERESTING.  I'LL LET YOU KNOW.