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Tower Hamlets Council votes to block closure of Old Ford Housing

PUBLISHED: 20:20 24 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:49 27 November 2017

Cllr Marc Francis wins vote for Tower Hamlets Council to back Old Ford families' campaign. Picture: Mike Brooke

Cllr Marc Francis wins vote for Tower Hamlets Council to back Old Ford families' campaign. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Legal action could be taken to block the controversial closing down of Old Ford Housing by its social landlord parent company following years of complaints by families of bad repairs.

“This doesn’t tell families what safeguards are being lost,“This doesn’t tell families what safeguards are being lost," Cllr Francis warns. Picture: Mike Brooke

Any attempt by Clarion Housing to shut down Old Ford’s local board without residents’ consent could be stopped by Tower Hamlets Council.

The authority has voted unanimously to object to the Housing Minister and Social Housing Regulator and use “legal means” if the closure goes ahead.

“This council has an obligation to these families,” Cllr Marc Francis told Wednesday’s council meeting.

“We collectively got the residents into this mess and we have to protect them—that means challenging Clarion and if necessary asking the Housing minister to intervene.”

The Parkside estates in Old Ford, Bow and Hackney Wick were transferred by Tower Hamlets to Old Ford Housing in 1997 on a promise of refurbishments within five years.

Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali addressing protest meeting of Old Ford Housing tenants in October 2016. Picture: Mike BrookeBethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali addressing protest meeting of Old Ford Housing tenants in October 2016. Picture: Mike Brooke

But Old Ford was taken over by Circle Housing which has since merged with other organisations which councillors and tenants say is too remote from the community.

Circle Housing has a bad record on repairs, councillors were told. The Social Housing regulator found “serious detriment” to tenants and downgraded the organisation. It responded with plans to close its subsidiaries including Old Ford, moving staff at Bow to a call-centre in Kent.

Circle merged with Affinity Sutton last year “to create the largest housing association in western Europe” now known as Clarion, which led to a petition from 1,000 households protesting at the threat to Old Ford.

The super merged organisation was also downgraded last December, following a Parliamentary debate led by Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali which resulted in a second investigation by the regulator confirming “serious detriment”.

Clarion put out a consultation to residents, but Cllr Francis claimed it was “just propaganda” selectively sent only to tenants—not leaseholders.

'Propaganda' questionnaire from Old Ford Housing that Cllr Marc Fracis waved at councillors. Picture: Mike Brooke'Propaganda' questionnaire from Old Ford Housing that Cllr Marc Fracis waved at councillors. Picture: Mike Brooke

He waved the questionnaire at the council meeting and snapped: “This is the biggest pile of propaganda I have ever seen, an absolute farce and absolute nonsense that doesn’t tell the families what powers and safeguards are being lost.

“We will not stand by and allow the promises made to our tenants to be swept aside with the loss of local accountability.”

The authority is backing a campaign for Old Ford to remain as an independent housing organisation within Clarion—or be allowed to combine with another local association “which has good repair services and respects its tenants”.

Councillors voted unanimously to block any attempt by Clarion to close Old Ford Housing without residents’ consent.

Old Ford has concluded a six-week tenant consultation on “merging with Clarion Housing Group”, the company said today.

"We will not stand by and allow the promises made to our tenants to be swept aside with the loss of local accountability"

Cllr Marc Francis

It was now considering residents’ views from speaking to 800 tenants and calling on 3,000 households “before making any final decision” on the future of Old Ford.

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