The Fed presented the EEH Democracy Report to Eastend Homes Main Board on 12th June 2017. Unfortunately Eastend Homes were unable to to distribute the report to board members for reading prior to the meeting so a lot of the allotted time allowed at the meeting was spent going over the report for the benefit of members who could perhaps have read it prior to the meeting.
Report For EEH Main Board
The Tower Hamlets Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations
Email – [email protected]
Website – www.th-federation.org.uk
A project by Tower Hamlets Federation of TRAs
Report For EEH Main Board
For presentation to EEH Main Board on 22 June 2017
- The Constitution
- The Survey
- Key areas to address
- Next Steps
The EEH:Democracy project came about after a number of Eastend Homes residents approached the TH Federation of TRAs in 2015.
They were upset that they had not been consulted properly - or at all - before the Membership of Eastend Homes voted to change the constitution in July 2014.
The residents had originally tried to overturn the vote by working with the former administration at Tower Hamlets Council, but those attempts ended when a new (current) Mayor was elected into office.
After hearing the residents’ concerns over the poor consultation and resident engagement in general, the Federation agreed to seek funding for this project.
The aim would be to listen to residents’ concerns first hand, look at potential solutions that could help address those concerns and work with Eastend Homes and TH Council to find ways to implement them.
- Why the fuss over the constitution?
Eastend Homes was brought into being in 2003 by TH Council, but while many housing associations claimed to be resident-led, Eastend Homes truly had residents at the heart of its being.
The original constitution provided for a membership scheme that gave eligible residents a scrutiny role: able to attend AGMs, question the Board and be presented with progress and performance reports, as well as attend EGMS to vote on changes to the constitution and Board Membership Policy.
Meanwhile estates could appoint Resident Board Members and re-elect them or nominate someone new every three years. It even allowed for EMBs to take on the management of assets and services with the support of EEH and return them if it didn’t work out.
However, this impressive set of constitutional rights and powers was lost in July 2014 without giving residents a genuine, say not to mention a vote.
Amid a backdrop of frustration over failed pre-stock transfer promises and then the failure to properly consult on such a major issue, it seems a group of residents were energised to act.
- The Survey
At the time of the change to the constitution Eastend Homes stated that they attempted to consult, but that there was little interest.
Early discussions with residents we spoke to revealed they were unaware of any campaign to inform people of EEH’s plans to change the constitution nor meetings or literature that explained the implications.
Some residents who attended EBM or TRA meetings in 2013 admitted it was mentioned, but never explained; instead the change to the constitution was linked to regulatory changes required by the HCA.
On the back of these discussions, our initial survey had two parts: one to ask if residents knew about the change to the constitution, felt consulted and understood its implications; and the other to enquire about engaging with EEH: if they felt informed, that they had a say and their enquiries were dealt with.
We held meetings on each estate, met individual residents and door knocked in each area to conduct our survey.
However, it seemed crass to meet residents with the aim of helping to improve the resident experience without asking if, as an EEH resident, they had any estate or landlord issues they would like to see addressed.
3.1 Our Findings
We completed 201 surveys in all. A more detailed breakdown and analysis of the results can be found in the appendices.
3.1.1 The consultation
It was very clear that the majority of residents we spoke to had never heard anything about the change to the constitution: before or after: 84%.
While 8% surveyed said they had heard about plans to change the constitution before the vote was taken in July 2014, only one percent said they were informed by EEH, felt consulted and understood its implications.
Residents who were on EMBs, TRAs and the Main Board at the time said there was no meaningful consultation or attempt to explain the implications of the constitution and the subsequent loss of resident and estate powers.
The Holland Estate EMB was told by EEH, according to the minutes, that the loss of rights and powers would have no negative impact on residents.
3.1.2 Quality of engagement
The questions ranged from how well residents felt informed, to how much of a say they have in how their estate is run to how well EEH responded to queries.
Unsurprisingly there were mixed responses. Many said they had little engagement with EEH or their estate resident groups and felt relatively informed by the newsletters delivered to their door.
Others were more cynical stating that EEH kept them informed on matters of their choosing, implying it was less forthcoming on issues that may be unpopular with residents.
But even those who felt informed largely said they had little to no say in how their estate is managed. Those who were involved in TRAs and EMBs clearly felt they had more of a say, although consistently reported frustrations in getting satisfactory responses to their requests for action or information.
More than two thirds of those asked said they would like a greater say in how their estate or EEH is managed. Of course this requires EEH to support opportunities for residents to have a say and for residents to take them up.
Again, there were mixed views on the repair service. On one hand there was satisfaction with repair work, but there were also some very serious complaints over getting vital repairs completed: leaks and floods, no gas or heating over winter, and an intermittent water supply for years. In each case the complainants reported being brushed off or EEH blaming third parties.
3.1.3 Summary of issues raised during the survey
There were many issues raised by residents both as individuals and representatives on TRAs or EMBs. Some of those most consistently raised, which by no means suggest they are true all of the time, can be summarised as follows:
- Perceived lack of respect for TRA and EMBs wishes.
- Lack of transparency in finances and expenditure.
- Lack of information and consultation
- Lack of trust in residents to contribute to decision making
- Dismissiveness of residents’ concerns
- Quality of regeneration and refurbishment work
- Broken and uncompleted transfer promises
- Key areas to address
After assessing the issues residents – both as individuals and as representatives of TRAs and EMBs – raised, we found eight areas that if addressed could help improve the resident experience and produce a more harmonious relationship between residents (and their representative groups) and EEH.
Some of these would take no more than simple procedural adjustments or greater trust and transparency while others require support and training for residents or opening up the decision-making process.
While we have stopped short of a proposal to attempt to reinstate the old constitution, elements of it could certainly help address some of the concerns.
These items were agreed with residents at a cross estate meeting and are currently being consulted on (see appendices for resident agreed proposals).
4.1 Vital Repairs
While this is not a universal problem, the accounts we were given warrant its inclusion and urgent procedural changes to ensure vital repairs are prioritised and quickly completed and unacceptable delays highlighted and reviewed.
4.2 Leaseholder Charges
One of the most consistently raised issues. Interestingly the lack of transparency and costing was raised before the size of the bills. A matter that could be easily addressed and prevent much angst and animosity.
4.3 Communication on estates
Aimed at helping TRAs and EMBs to better communicate with residents on their estates as well as increase resident participation in estate groups and affairs. EEH’s role would be to support and train TRAs/EMBs to do so.
While it is fair for EEH to say it cannot fully consult on every plan, it can discuss every relevant issue with TRAs and EMBs. The format for full estate-wide consultations should be discussed with TRAs/EMBs before implementation.
4.5 Community Centres
Every estate should have access to a centre, which is essential for an active community. Some estates have been deprived of theirs or have limited or uncertain access, which is sometimes down to EEH and sometimes due to dynamics between residents.
4.6 Stock Transfer Promises
While some estates have seen significant amounts of work done some have seen little in ten years. Given these were promises in exchange for transfer, the resultant frustration is unsurprising. Equally the Council is still responsible for pre-stock transfer qualifying works. A joint review by EEH and the Council should be set up.
4.7 Resident Empowerment
Supporting, training and developing residents to participate in their communities and EEH affairs is one of the few resident empowering aspects of the original constitution that remains. Needs should be assessed and a programme established to give residents the skills, confidence and interest to get involved.
4.8 Access to Main Board
Last, but certainly not least, is addressing the detachment between the Main Board and residents. We believe that giving TRAs or EMBs the chance to communicate with members of the Main Board would help the Board be more informed about residents’ thoughts on matters to be decided on and allow residents to feel closer to the decision making process.
Members of EMBs should also be allowed to attend AGMs as part of this process where they could be presented with and hear a summary of the annual report and key plans for the year. They should of course be invited to ask questions as shareholders are at AGMs.
4.9 Loss of resident rights (from constitution)
As the project was born out of the change to the constitution, we are also asking residents if they would have agreed to some of the key parts of the constitution that were dropped: membership scheme, the right of estates to take on additional powers and EEH’s duty to publish progress and strategy reports.
- Next steps
We hope that Eastend Homes and its Main Board welcome this report, will respond to it and are open to future dialogue on how these issues could be addressed and the solutions implemented.
This report is a summary of what we have learned and there are further details and testimony we could share to support it, but the eight areas listed above cover the majority of concerns raised.
If there are any questions or requests for further details we will be happy to provide them where possible, but please take a look at the consultation document in the appendices to get an idea of specific proposals.
We will be holding another cross-estate meeting in mid-July to report back to residents on our meeting with the Main Board and the results of the consultation.
We would welcome any formal response to the issues raised, openness to addressing them and prospects for working together.
A decision will then be taken on our next steps, but we hope to work with both EEH and TH Council to achieve what we hope are common goals: a healthy and harmonious relationship between EEH and its residents.
6.1 Survey results: constitution consultation
Sample : 201 completed surveys
Surveyed : 184 moved into their property before the change to the consultation.
- Did you know about the 2014 change to the constitution
- 84% said “No”
- 16% said “yes”
- One person said “can’t remember”
- When were you informed
- Of the 29 people who knew, only 15 found out before the change was made. That’s 8% of those surveyed.
- Nine could not remember.
- The remainder, five people, found out about it after the change was made.
- How were they informed
- Of the 15 people who were informed before the constitution was changed, only ten found out from EEH. That’s 5.5% of those surveyed.
- Of the other five, two found out from other residents, one from TH Fed, one through his own research and one can’t remember.
- Of the 14 who found out about the change after it was made, seven found out from other EEH residents, three at an EMB/TRA meeting, three couldn’t remember and one from EEH Democracy.
- Were they consulted on the constitutional change
- Of the 15 who found out before the change was made, only five said they were consulted by EEH. That’s 3% of our sample.
- Obviously the 14 who found out after the change were not consulted.
- Did they understand the implications of the constitutional change
- Of the five consulted, three said they didn’t understand the implications of the constitutional change.
- Two residents who did understand them, weren’t consulted: one had it explained by another resident, and another conducted his own research.
- Only two people (1% of our sample) were informed of the constitutional change by EEH, felt consulted and understood its implications before it was voted on.
6.2 Survey results: engagement with EEH
- How well does EEH keep you informed of the work it carries out?
- Out of 194 responses, 36% said they felt under or not informed.
- 38% felt informed or well informed.
- 26% said it varies.
- How much of a say do you feel you have in how your estate is managed?
- Of 193 responses, 61% said they had either little or no say.
- 14% said they had either a reasonable or a lot of say.
- 25% said it varies.
- How easy is it to speak to an EEH member of staff to report a concern or get info?
- Of 191 responses, 53% said it was a reasonable/easy .
- 23% said it was a struggle/difficult.
- 24% said it varies.
- How good are EEH at responding to your concerns or requests for information?
- Out of 189 responses, 37% said they were bad to very bad.
- 35% said they were good to very good.
- 28% said it varies.
- Would you like a greater say in how EEH or your estate is run?
- Of 193 responses, 69% said yes.
- 31% said no