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Gateway Housing is failing to engage large East End ethnic communities

PUBLISHED: 14:17 20 April 2011

Open Letter to Gateway Housing Association from its Independent Residents’ Organisation:

Gateway has relied on a self-selecting group to make decisions affecting its estates, predominantly ‘white’ residents who actually attended their meetings. I attended several meetings and can confirm this.

We as residents have repeatedly asked Gateway to use a more-inclusive process rather than what they claim is 160 residents they normally notify regarding meetings.

Since July, Gateway has imposed a Code of Conduct which effectively barred anyone that did not sign it from taking part in these meetings.

Gateway has since convened meetings where fewer than 10 residents have attended, meetings that make important decisions on behalf of 2,800 households, involving 7,000 people.

Most residents are from one ethnic minority group or another, the majority Bangladeshi, Somali and Black African-Caribbean.

I find it surprising Gateway uses a self-selecting group to draw on for their meetings, which must breach the Race Relations and Equality Acts.

I am now making a formal complaint to the Equality Commission about the process Gateway is operating under.

Gateway Shareholder board and senior management are predominantly ‘White’ and do not reflect the families they serve.

I find this anomalous for a housing association in Tower Hamlets.

One would think more ethnic minorities would have made it up the management structure to more senior posts in the organisation. But that is not what has happened.

Gateway will claim it has appointed a new chief executive who is ‘Black’ to show it is more enlightened than I am describing.

Better late than never, but until she is in position next month, we cannot be sure the organisation is truly trying to employ a staff that reflects the community it serves.

Gateway is a long way from trying to involve all residents in running the organisation and is particularly failing to engage the large ethnic communities. Its approach is fundamentally most likely to isolate those minorities from taking part.

Gateway recently reduced its translation services, for example, saying any ethnic minority may ask for a translation of Gateway documents. This I believe was done to save costs.

Yet it seems Gateway could carry on with this service, as part of its ‘charitable’ remit. I cannot consider the provision of housing is ‘charitable’ and particularly since Gateway generally charges more for a ‘like’ home than Tower Hamlets council does. I do not hear the council claiming its housing provision is ‘charitable’.

Basically, Gateway benefits from tax advantages because of this ‘charitable’ status. But effectively, it puts little or none of the money saved from the taxman into charitable services for the families it provides housing for.

Damian Chittock

Interim Secretary

Gateway Independent Residents’ Organisation

Brunton Place

Limehouse


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