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Advertiser's report left a number of stategies unreported

PUBLISHED: 18:21 20 May 2008 | UPDATED: 13:18 05 October 2010

20 May 2008 Dear Editor East London Advertiser 138 Cambridge Heath Road London E1 5QJ Dear Editor Sons and Daughters – Choice Based Lettings Review Thank you covering the final report of the Choice Based Lettings Scrutiny Review Group; a cross-party g

20 May 2008

Dear Editor

East London Advertiser

138 Cambridge Heath Road

London E1 5QJ

Dear Editor

Sons and Daughters - Choice Based Lettings Review

Thank you covering the final report of the Choice Based Lettings Scrutiny Review Group; a cross-party group of councillors, RSL partners and other stakeholders that embarked upon a thorough review of the Council's Lettings Policy.

In an area such as Tower Hamlets, where demand for housing far exceeds the supply of housing, it is important that the Council has a Lettings Policy that is fit for purpose. It is also important to recognise that in the absence of a free market for social housing, it is only possible to let homes according to three criteria; these are waiting time, strict housing need or a banding system that comprises elements of both waiting time and housing need. In the current Choice Based Lettings Scheme, applicants are assessed according to housing need and then placed into one of 4 bands.

I was therefore disappointed that you only chose to highlight one aspect of a report that contained many important policy recommendations. The Scrutiny Panel met at least 6 times from September 2007 until April 2008 to consider the following areas:

* Customer Access and community cohesion.

* Improving quality and outcomes for community groups.

* Tackling overcrowding.

* Widening choice and access to social housing.

* Improving the transparency in decision making about how properties are let.

The panel made a total of 20 recommendations but only one of them is mentioned in your article - that is hardly a balanced piece of journalism particularly when you state that I was advocating the re-introduction of a 'racist' housing policy even though the recommendation specifically stated that any revised sons & daughters policy had to be non-discriminatory.

Some of the other 19 recommendations that did not feature in your article include the following:

* An exciting proposal for the Council to join the East London Lettings Company; a sub-regional lettings consortium comprising Newham, Hackney, Havering and Waltham Forest and allows some residents to bid for properties outside of their own local authority area.

* That RSLs use their own Right to Acquire Receipts to invest in new build or buy back properties from their own leaseholders who are selling on the open market; Tower Hamlets Community Housing already does this and it would be great if other RSLs could follow their lead.

* Improved financial incentives for under-occupiers to move to smaller properties, or purchase homes on the open market through the cash incentive scheme.

* To press the Mayor of London and the Housing Corporation to make funding available to expand the popular Seaside and Country Homes Scheme.

* That a review is undertaken of the medical assessment process to improve the transparency of the process, extending the time for appeals, researching other potential providers for the service, sampling a work undertaken by Now Medical and considering introducing self assessments.

* That Childrens Services research ways in which shared ownership might be used to assist foster carers where accommodation is a barrier.

* That the Council actively lobby the CLG to issue guidance and if necessary legislation, allowing local authorities to introduce the waiting time-based approach to lettings. LBTH should be prepared to campaign in support of these changes in partnership with other local authorities.

* That a full Equality Impact Assessment of CBL is undertaken in 2009/2010 including giving consideration to impact on community cohesion.

I would be grateful if you could properly reflect the broad remit of the Review Group's work by publishing a more balanced article which truly reflects the scope of the Choice Based Lettings Review Group. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Louise Alexander for her own contributions, as she was a member of the Review Group but had to resign from the Council before we made our final set of recommendations.

Yours faithfully

Cllr Alex Heslop

Chair of the Tower Hamlets Choice Based Lettings Review Group


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