Thursday, 30 July 2009

20/20 - Visions or Illusions? (Part 2)

There is an interesting third sector debate rumbling in the public housing sector at the moment.

Housing Associations have for many years been deemed to be third sector organisations. One of the implications of that is, because they are not full blown public bodies but 'independent', they are not subject to the same legal and public scrutiny processes as a Council Housing departments. For instance The Freedom of Information Act for instance does not apply to Housing Associations.

Well a tenant has managed to persuade the Courts that because her landlord receives public money and works so integrally with the public housing process they should be subject to a thing called Judicial Review - This is the legal process for challenging the lawfullness of a public body's actions. (See for instance 'Inside Housing's coverage)

The intertesting point to me in that story is that the landlord is considering issuing an appeal to try to avoid being subjected to judicial scrutiny.

The Housing world has split on this one. The landlord was most recently taking the view that they could not afford the expense and trouble of even the possibilty of allowing of their actions being scrutinised in this way and was last I heard, trying to persuade other landlords to join in an appeal.

The opposing view and one which I ascribe to, is one of deep disgust that they should fear being subject to this level of scrutiny when their decisions can have such an impact on people's lives. Housing people of a more radical view like me take the view, if your policies and procedures can't stand up to this sort of public scrutiny when the sector is in receipt of millions of pounds worth of public funding a week, and has a huge impact on the lives of so many people, then we (and you!) should be worried!

This illustrates one of the potential down-sides of letting BW go third sector. The already weak accountability processes in BW when it comes to policy decisions may be further weakened and that is in itself enough of a reason not to endorse BW going third sector?

(First published by me as a comment on Narrowboatworld, earlier today

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