Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Roddons - Delivering for Fenland Tenants

According to the Cambs Times, Robert Pinnock is to launch a campaign against the closure of two residential homes in Fenland by Roddons. In the same article he, apparently, challenges the success of Roddons. 

I wonder if Mr Pinnock has been to see the two homes in question (which are The Dales in Elm and Napier Court/Elizabeth Terrace in Wisbech)?   I suspect not.

I am a member of the Roddons Board that took the decision to support closure.  A decision that I did not take lightly and nor did any other Board Member (which you should remember includes a mix of Councillors, independent members and, importantly tenants).  I went on to Roddons Board to act in the interests of Fenland residents and tenants and, I have to say that I did exactly that in contributing to the decision to close these two homes.

Firstly, let’s make it plain.  These buildings are no longer fit for purpose.  As a board we went to visit both locations on the night we made our decision and that was absolutely clear from the moment we walked into the first bedroom, this is reinforced by the fact that Roddons have struggled to find tenants to take up places in both locations.

Secondly, the homes are also not capable of refurbishment because of the nature of their design.   I actually don’t believe the Board would have supported the proposal to demolish (which was only put forward to us after a full and open 12 week consultation with residents and stakeholders) if that had not been the case.

But, there is an important point here, which is that the nature of care for older people has changed.  The focus now is on enabling people to stay at home for as long as they can - in fact designing homes for life is an important principle, making sure that wherever possible, adaptations that may be needed in future are built into homes at the design stage.  This inevitably means that the focus returns to the shortage of social housing rather than a demand for residential homes.  So I strongly suspect that these now out-dated and not fit for purpose buildings will indeed be replaced by much needed social housing.

Let’s get something else straight. One of the other issues that the board considered was where this sits alongside the promises that were made at transfer.   I was absolutely assured at that meeting that there was no breach of promises - not least because, whilst refurbishment of residential homes was a priority, these two homes were not capable of refurbishment at that time.

I am very proud to be a Board member of Roddons, they have achieved a great deal since the transfer.  As an example, they have already reached the Decent Homes standard and are now heading towards achieving Decent Homes plus, which is what was promised at transfer.  Under Fenland’s control this would not have been achievable - not because of any failing of Fenland’s but because of the financial circumstances that surrounded council housing.  Robert Pinnock has raised this, but talks about how things should have been.   The problem with that line of thinking is that they were absolutely not the circumstances then.  Tenants already have better homes than they would have had if they had listened to Robert Pinnock when he opposed transfer - and standards are destined to improve even further. 

Another question that Mr Pinnock raises is where Roddons stands with regards to its promise to distribute £1million worth of community grants.  Well, Roddons have already distributed £400,000 and will start with the process of distributing even more in April 2011.

Another aspect that Robert Pinnock raises is the relationship with Circle Anglia group.   The success that Roddons have had in delivering its promises is down to two things - the first is that Roddons as an organisation have been focussed and determined to be successful from day one.  The other is the advantage of belonging to a group structure, such as that provided by Circle Anglia, not least because of the extra financial leverage that creates.

I recognise that the number of times I mention Mr Pinnock in this post suggests that I am having a go.  That is not the intention, it is just that it is his contact with the Cambs Times that has forced me to respond.   I recognise that his campaign is very well intentioned and also that campaigning can be of real value when it is done sensibly and is based on good evidence.  I dealt with many, many examples of good campaigning as Chairman of Planning.  My disappointment with the sort of approach being adopted in this case is that the only thing that can come out of it is to wrongly undermine residents’ confidence in Roddons, an organisation that I believe is really delivering in Fenland.  The facts behind the challenges he makes could easily have been found out through a quick email to Roddons, it didn't take a press campaign.

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