May 24 2013 Latest news:
By JON DEAN
Thursday, September 13, 2012
The town hall has been criticised for plans to spend £6,000 of taxpayers cash sending the new residents champion and housing executive on a countryside “jolly”.
Elections for the seven controversial new roles are set to end next week and the successful candidates, along with some councillors will spend an “away weekend” at Trafford Hall conference and training venue in Cheshire.
The Grade II Georgian listed building is set in 14 acres and features an organically managed garden.
In total, the elections for the residents champions and housing executive will cost almost £40,000.
Cllr Terry Stacy, Islington Lib Dem housing spokesman, said: “How can the Labour executive member justify spending up to £6,000 on a jolly in a hotel in the north west of England in the current financial climate?
He added: “The council’s new housing executive members do not need to travel all the way to Chester to discuss the borough’s housing service issues. It is not as if we are short of venues here in Islington.
“It is hardly the best start for the council’s directly-managed housing service if this is their first decision.”
The council have written to more the 30,000 tenants and leaseholders with voting papers for the roles which are designed to act as a middleman between residents and the council, following the disbanding of arms-length organisation Homes for Islington in April.
But concerns have been raised about the candidates being hand-picked by the council, so the electorate haven’t had an open choice.
Critics also argue the new organisation will just deflect accountability away from the town hall.
Vicki Leonard, a director of the Islington Leaseholders association, said: “The candidates have been vetted – why curtail the choices people make?
“There are already existing groups like the ILA and many tenants and residents associations. Why disregard this whole band of grass roots groups?
“No one will go to these forums – they are one structure too many.”
Cllr Barbara Sidnell, Islington Council’s executive member for communities, defended the Cheshire training session.
She said: “Trafford Hall came highly recommended by residents and housing activists and is a leading housing training venue recognised for its expertise in tenant engagement and social housing issues.
“It also provides an opportunity to meet tenants from elsewhere.”
A drop-in session to meet the candidates is on Wednesday at St Luke’s Community Centre, Central Street, Finsbury from 5.30pm.
n The closing date for votes to be cast is September 21 at 5pm. Visit www.islington.gov.uk/housingelections