Sheffield Tenants & Residents Alliance meets 5th March

Sheffield TARA is a fairly new group campaigning to give tenants a better voice in how their tenancies are run.

Next meeting – open to the public – is Friday 5th March from10am to 12.-00 noon.

The venue is the Quaker Meeting House on St James Street, S1.

(If you are unavailable, please email: r1chard.parry@yahoo.co.uk, or phone: 22 15 135)

This is what the minutes of the February meeting look like. If anyone can provide a more useful account that anyone not attending can make sense of, please pass them to us and we will find the stories therein and publish.

Tenants & Residents Alliance of Sheffield

Public Meeting

5th February 2010

Present: R Wildgoose, J Kite, Winnie Smith, S Pendlebury, A Howard, M Wilson, B Glenwood, J Winn, D Fisher, D Pearce, P Nicholls, P Page, Jack Bate, Richard Parry.

Apologies: Mrs Marriot, Valerie Rains, Roger Monk, Ben Duke

The Secretary opened the meeting, explaining the the Chair, Trevor Bamforth had resigned and that it would be impossible to chair the meeting and take minutes at the same time, and that absent the Treasurer, and having no elected Vice-Chair it would be necessary to elect a new Chair.

  1. Election of new Chair.

A Statement from Trevor Bamforth, giving his reasons for resigning as Chair, read by Paul Page.

-Good idea due to changes in Housing to have a City wide alliance.

-People have been struggling for a while, we need an alliance.

-We need a voice in the city.

-Have a rotating Chair.

-We need a permanent Chair, if he has jobs to do.

-Until the constitution is ratified there are only temporary positions.

-Previous meeting was a free for all. We need more notification.

-Secretary called for volunteers. Paul Page was elected, to chair for the duration of the meeting.

  1. The Chair called for a change to the Agenda, moving Constitution and Governance and Accountability up.

-What is Governance and Accountability?

-Goes back to who is in the chair, pressure from Sheffield Homes and how members are held accountable. Also need to make alliance as broad as possible, by ensuring that people have ownership of the alliance and control of it. Areas in the constitution are still vague. We need to focus on the constitution. There are things that need to be discussed.

-Article 7e: Would exclude people from voting as representative of tenants if the representative is not themselves a tenant.

-TARA representatives represent all, tenants and residents alike.

-May come up because if tenant rent goes up, tenants feel it more than a representative who is a resident.

-Delete 7e? Vote unanimous in favour of deletion.

-Does the constitution need to be so long?

-Alliance must be open and transparent, need to have rules so everyone knows how the alliance works.

-10i should also be deleted as it is almost identical to 7e.

Vote called. Unanimous in favour.

-6e: why is the quorum 5(?)

-Only a suggestion. Need input from others.

-Quorum needs to be an odd number, to avoid tied votes.

-Quorum to be 5? Vote unanimous in favour.

-Traditional role of Chair is to cast deciding vote in the event of a tied vote.

-7c: is confusing.

-Have to decide when at a General Meeting how TARAs are represented. Others Sheffield Homes, Councillors etc. have no automatic right to attend meetings.

-Problem of a TARA with 100 members and a TARA with 2000 members, not having equal representation.

-It is a question of proportionality.

-Unfair—why should smaller TARA have the same representation as a larger TARA?

-2 members fair. Most meetings only have 2 TARA representatives anyway.

-Can we table this discussion for later?

-We need to report at some point.

-Vote on it?

-Vote called. It was unanimous, in favour of 2 delegates per TARA.

-2c: remove the word ‘united’?

-Vote called. It was unanimous in favour of removing ‘united’.

-2d: insert ‘to defend and promote the interests’.

-Vote called. It was unanimous in favour.

-3a: ‘Membership is open to all tenants and residents associations’–who does this include?

-There are opposing views on that, it is very contentious, with many people fixed in their opinions.

People in Housing associations are still tenants.

-What about Registered Social Landlords? Their tenants need support and are very isolated.

-If Housing Associations are involved would they represent their tenants?

-Vote called. It was unanimous in favour of ‘associations’ becoming ‘organisations’.

-3a(ii): This is covered by the equality statement.

-Leave it.

-Should be an insertion for membership fees.

-From delegates?

-Alliance needs money.

-Fee has to be on a sliding scale, due to the different sizes of organisations.

-Fee should be appropriate to the size of the organisation.

-Should be left until we know what we are doing.

-3a(ii): Tabled for later discussion.

-We need to re-draft the constitution—maybe a couple of people to take responsibility?

-5b: One delegate only is to be elected from each organisation.

-Vote called. It passed in favour.

-6a: to be changed to ‘subject to any guidance from the General Meetings’. Vote called. Unanimous in favour.

-7c: Only one voting delegate per organisation? Vote called. Passed in favour.

Chair closed discussion of constitution to allow time for other Agenda items.

  1. Homes Budget

-Report in ‘Star’ about rent increase not true—tenants did not vote for a rent increase.

-The way Sheffield Homes leaked this is just not right.

-The Budget Game was not to be a basis for rent increases, but was used to justify them.

-Delegates were making decisions on behalf of members without consulting them first.

Sheffield Homes being very snide about this and have their own agenda.

-Sheffield Homes redundancies—40 jobs gone or a pay freeze. Sheffield Homes is being very dishonest and taking us for a ride.

Budget Game came from another ALMO. The Council of buying the rights to it, but would not pay for it.

-Some decisions coming from the Game will appear before the Council.

-Need to change relationship with Sheffield Homes, and make sure people get information in advance of any meetings.

-People have to remember that they are there to represent their TARAs not Sheffield Homes.

-Some TARA representatives get confused and think they are representing Sheffield Homes.

-Rents will rise even more, due to convergence with private rents.

-We must resist this at some point.

-Do we go along with everything?

-Funding comes from Government—there will be consequences.

-By 2013 rents will be at the same level as the highest Housing Associations rents.

-At TSA we were told that Government has guidelines for Housing Association rents, but continually break them.

-Councils will have total control of money, due to reforms to the Housing Revenue Account, deciding how they want to spend the money.

-The alliance should vote against the 3.6% rent increase.

-Vote called. Passed unanimously.

  1. ALMOs

-There is Decent Homes money for this year, but the budget has no mention of next year. Raises the question of the ALMO’s future.

-Martin Brightman at the Council Meeting on 22nd December 2009 asked why the Agenda item on Stock Transfer was removed. The reply was that the decision was to be made by the tenants alone.

-The Housing Finance Review will offer Councils the option of managing rents locally. This includes Sheffield Council. Self Financing is not always the best option—1/5 go bust.

-Can we bring in someone knowledgeable about this to explain it? To give us the big picture, and tell us honestly?

-Vote called. Passed in favour.

  1. Any Other Business

-There is a Defend the Welfare State March and Rally in April.

-There was a victory over the TSA on regulating housing, rents and standards. A consultation document sent out to all those interested. Under Secure Tenure, the TSA wanted there to be less secure, if the needs of the local market made it desirable. The TSA was evasive about the proposal. TAROE agreed to oppose it vehemently, and Clive Betts, MP supported TARAs in their opposition. The TSA dropped the proposal.

-Need to discuss funding from Sheffield Homes for room hire and mailing of minutes and Agenda/Notice.

-Ask TARAs to send out mailing on our behalf, via email.

-Any disagreements? None

We should also contact local Councillors about the alliance, and get them on our side.

-Cut off date for constitutional amendments: 19th February 2010, to allow the Secretary time to incorporate them into a new draft and get them sent out before the next meeting.

-Next meeting: 5th March 2010, 10am-Midday

Meeting adjourned

To defend their rights

Statement of Intent:

To bring the tenants and residents of Sheffield together

To have a voice in all matters pertaining to them

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