England’s four million council housing tenants hold the key to improving their own neighbourhoods, Housing Minister Grant Shapps has said today.
Mr Shapps argued that some of the best examples of people contributing to the Big Society can be found on England’s council estates - looking out for their neighbours and making efforts to make their streets better places to live. Yet only two per cent of council properties are run and managed by the tenants themselves.
So the minister has today backed tenants looking to build the Big Society in their neighbourhoods with up to £8m government cash.
This money will be used to set up Tenants Panels where the key decisions to improve the local area can be made - such as how quickly repairs should be made, measures to make their streets safer and children’s play schemes. The panels can also be used to hold landlords to account.
The Minister is also planning to reduce bureaucracy and red tape to make it easier for tenants across the country to use their Right to Manage their council-run properties, take responsibility for managing their home from their landlords and take control for themselves.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:
The Big Society is alive and well in many housing estates across the country - but I want to make it easier for those who want to build the Big Society in their own back yard to do so. The Right to Manage gives council tenants the opportunity to take power back from their landlords, and take control over their own homes and to make the changes they want to see.
There are inspiring examples across the country of where tenants have taken control. But at the moment, only two per cent of council properties are managed by their tenants - I want to see that figure increase substantially. That’s why I’m backing tenants to the tune of up to £8m, and looking to cut the red tape and bureaucracy that stop so many people from coming forward.
Council house tenants know the small changes that could make a big difference to their local community. They know the improvements that need to be made, and what local people want to see done. I want to see more tenants able to act and take control for themselves. But for years these tenants have felt powerless to act. From today, that can all change.
Notes for editors
- Examples of communities taking up their Right to Manage include:
Bloomsbury Estate Management Board, Birmingham: Members of the board have focused on transforming the 1960s estate, with measures including demolishing a number of maisonettes and houses to rebuild them with low-rise flats; the building of a new leisure complex with funding from a successful Lottery bid, and setting a local “Bloomsbury Standard” for improvement to the properties that exceeds the Decent Homes Standard. Since taking responsibility for the estate, the Board has boosted rent arrears recovery and saved £750,000 over five years through better productivity.
Childwall Valley Estate Management Board, South Liverpool: Set up in 2000 in response to the council’s ‘emergency repairs only’ policy, the board have worked to transform the estate by measures including introducing community wardens to work with local young people, the police and Citizens Advice Bureau to reduce anti-social behaviour and a major redevelopment involving the demolition of unpopular high rise blocks to make way for new homes. Over 90 per cent of residents are satisfied with the services provided by the board, and demand for properties on the estate now far exceeds supply.
New Barracks Tenant Management Cooperative, Salford: The cooperative manages 115 houses on an estate of six streets, and have raised funds for installing play equipment, have maintained the local park area, contributed half the cost to installing CCTV on the estate and introduced community activities including street parties and children’s playschemes.
Pembrooke Estate Management Board, Plymouth: Set up in 1994, the Board manages the estate of 13 blocks of flats housing around 500 people, and has taken charge of a £5million refurbishment programme. Since doing so, crime rates have fallen, a Youth Service has been set up to encourage training for excluded school pupils and other vulnerable youngsters, and residents’ surveys consistently show that local people consider the estate to be well managed, clean and safe.
Funding for the Tenant Empowerment Programme (TEP) is £8m over the Spending Review period (£2m in each of the next four financial years).
This programme is managed by the Tenant Services Authority on behalf of DCLG. It provides information, training, and capacity building to enable social housing tenants to challenge, influence or control how housing services are delivered to their communities, in order to improve the quality of life for residents. The programme supports activities over and above the activities that landlords’ should provide as part of their regulatory responsibilities.
Local authority tenants currently have a statutory right to take over the management of local housing services. The Housing (Right to Manage) (England) Regulations 2008, together with statutory guidance, set out the procedures to be followed where a tenant management organisation proposes to enter into a management agreement with a local housing authority.
The importance of local solutions to tackle tenants’ problems, including an enhanced role for tenant panels, was identified in the Government’s Review of Social Housing Regulation - www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/socialhousingregulation.