July 2004, the Audit Commission published a damning indictment on Pavilion Housing Association. It was one of the most damning reports ever published on a housing association.
Following publication of the Audit Commission report, Mervyn Jones, Pavilion chief executive, was hauled before a committee of Rushmoor Borough Council to give an account of Pavilion's piss-poor performance. He gave a presentation which was nothing but a load of bullshit. Apart from a few critical comments from one councillor, he had a very easy ride.
Jones then pulled a fast one. He invited the councillors back to his place for the next meeting. An informal meeting behind closed doors, out of public gaze.
Invites went out, not only to the committee, the entire council were invited, senior Rushmoor officials were also invited
This meeting took place Monday evening (23 August 2004) at Pavilion's head office in Aldershot. No expense was spared, the food and wine was laid on. The board of Pavilion was present. It was to be Jones' finest hour, this was where he answered his critics. Only it did not go quite as Jones had expected.
One of those councillors who turned up was Peter Sandy. A community activist who for years has been fighting the worst excesses of Pavilion. A new councillor who was elected June of this year.
Prior to taking office, Peter Sandy had been threatened by Pavilion with eviction and the serving of ASBOs for daring to speak out. Since taking office, he has had calls from across the borough from people seeking his help. He is widely seen as the only councillor who is doing anything on behalf of the local community. Which probably explains why he has been prevented from sitting on all council committees bar one.
Every time Jones or one of his henchmen opened his mouth and a lie poured forth, it was challenged by Peter Sandy, every time a councillor or council official opened their mouth to support Pavilion, it was challenged by Peter Sandy.
Jones did not like it, nor did John Edwards (Rushmoor official), nor did John Marsh (Rushmoor Tory leader), nor did Peter Moyle (Rushmoor Tory deputy leader).
They had all hoped to have a cozy little chat, to once again stitch up Pavilion tenants and the local community, only for once it did not go quite as planned.
Jones came out with the same crap as in July, that repairs get done on time etc etc. Asked to define emergency, which gets done in 24 hours, examples were given, then he was told we will expect to see them done tomorrow. That's unreasonable said Jones. The same was exposed for their routine repairs (ten days). We try to do within the time scale, was Jones' response, but it was too late, he was already exposed, by his claim that repairs, as defined, were done within the time frame.
Jones said Pavilion tenants sit on the board, ergo, tenants are represented. No, countered Peter Sandy, they have to act for the Association, that is the law. Err, yes Jones was forced to admit, you are correct. Jones was also forced to admit that he had acted to remove tenant representatives who were giving Pavilion a hard time.
And so it went on. Jones was hammered, all his sidekicks were hammered, his apologists on the council were hammered. For once, the boot was on the other foot.
Peter Moyle did not like it when he was told his ward would be leafleted as to how he 'helped' Pavilion tenants.
For many of the councillors, who have not got a clue what is going on, it was an eye opener. A few councillors tried to shut Peter Sandy up, but he was not having it. Several of the neo-Labour councillors even backed him up.
It was great. Pavilion expected an easy ride, expected once again to hoodwink the council and get away with it, but thanks to one councillor doing his homework and actually acting for the local community, in itself a novelty for the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, the tables were turned, Pavilion got a good kicking, and were exposed for the Rachman landlords they really are. And to top it all, it was all at Pavilion's expense.
Poetic justice indeed!
It was just a pity Pavilion tenants were not present to see Pavilion get a pasting, nor the press to report on behalf of the local community.
Pavilion are expecting to merge with Atlantic Housing Group based in Eastleigh (Hampshire). Another example of empire building by RSLs. A meeting is being held at the Lakeside Club (Frimley, Surrey) in the near future to discuss this. Councillors are invited to attend, but no tenants, no public. Pavilion cannot even run their own housing, God help RSL tenants down in Eastleigh (Hampshire).
Last Saturday, a couple of Farnborough LibDem councillors were shown around one of the Pavilion slum estates in Aldershot. The only two who could be bothered to turn up. They were given a hard time by the aggrieved tenants, and it came as a shock to them what they saw. Only one of these two could be bothered to attend the Pavilion bean feast.
Last Sunday, Peter Sandy and fellow councillor David Welsh (Tory cabinet housing portfolio holder) were called out to a house of an elderly Pavilion tenant. What they saw had to be seen to be believed. A badly installed central heating system had caused the pipes to bang and crash. So bad was the vibration that it had cracked all the walls, thrown everything on the floor, nothing was left standing, the whole house was smashed up. It was as though a poltergeist had gone mad in the house. Pavilion refused to respond, no one answered their 24 hour emergency help line. The response of Jones the following day, and that was only after media attention, was to send a bunch of flowers. If he thinks he has got off cheap, he had better think again. As Peter Sandy told him Monday night, you will pay and you will pay very dearly.
Pavilion are due next to appear before the community panel of Rushmoor sometime in September. We hope to see the public gallery packed with Pavilion tenants. Neighbouring Waverley council tenants (Farnham and Godalming) should try to attend to see how bad the private sector is as they are currently going through the privatisation ballot farce.
Check out Rushmoor website for details.
The local community is openly calling for Jones to be fired, for the board that is backing Jones to be fired, and for the industry regulator, the Housing Corporation, to take over the running of Pavilion, for all Rushmoor grant aid to Pavilion to be suspended, and for Pavilion to cease to be a strategic partner in any new housing development. Privately, many councillors are saying the same thing, but only Peter Sandy has had the guts to stand up and say so publicly.
Inspection report: Pavilion Housing Association, Audit Commission, July 2004
Keith Parkins, Privatisation of council houses in Waverley, Indymedia UK, 17 February 2004
Keith Parkins, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Indymedia UK, 28 June 2004
Keith Parkins, Misuse of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, Indymedia UK, 5 July 2004
Keith Parkins, Audit Commission savage Pavilion Housing Association, Indymedia UK, 27 July 2004 http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/07/295403.html
Keith Parkins, Social housing under attack, Indymedia UK, 5 August 2004
Keith Parkins, Social housing crisis, Indymedia UK, 12 August 2004
Keith Parkins, Privatisation of council housing, Indymedia UK, 16 August 2004
Keith Parkins, What a load of gibberish, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 20 August 2004
Pavilion criticised, Aldershot Mail, 27 July 2004
Karen Waller, Disgusted and astonished at Pavilion, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 29 July 2004