There is still time to save Welsh Tenants, but we need your support now
Welsh Tenants will shortly celebrate 30 years since it developed its national federal constitution in 1987-88. However, it is set to close at the end of March unless one of our alternative resource plans can substitute our funding. The immediate prognosis is, that while there are a few housing associations and local authorities that have said they will subscribe, clearly this will not be sufficient to maintain a half decent service for tenants.
It is ironic that it’s not a case of wasted money, of poor governance, of morality or anything else that has ever been brought to our attention. We have a complaint record that would be the envy of the best providers of any service in Wales. We are repeatedly told that we consistently punch above our weight. We have dedicated thoughtful and knowledgeable staff and volunteers who are passionate about the representational and advocate role we provide. The amount of money we receive, which is small in comparison to some landlord tenant involvement budgets, represents value for money, with efficient and effective use of resources. For every £1 we receive from Welsh Government we receive 65p in volunteer and free access to resources.
AN INDEPENDENT REPRESENTATIVE VOICE
The issue was, and is, in our view, about a failure to grasp the difference between an independent representative voice, and one that promotes and provides training for a specific model of involvement. Despite which side of the fence you are on, and it’s perfectly legitimate to be on both, the decision has been reached to provide funding to only one organisation.
Yes, we have argued for the bedroom
tax to be fully mitigated in Wales, as in Scotland. Yes, we challenge transparency in the social housing sector. Yes, we have argued that it’s not the role of the representative voice for tenants to advocate for tenants to be our landlords, but to scrutinise and challenge landlords on delivery of services. Yes, we have argued for the private rented sector voice to be strengthened in Wales. Yes, we have argued for ground 8 mandatory eviction and section 21 to be abolished. Yes, we have argued for rent caps. Yes, we have argued for a right to participate and for collective tenant representation to be recognised. And yes, some of these issues have not endeared us to some audiences, even among some tenants.
LOSING THE BALANCE
Over the years, however, we have
either advocated or joined voices to improve services, introduce smoke alarms, fit carbon monoxide detectors, introduce mandatory five-year electrical safety checks, sprinkler systems, landlord registration and licensing, stronger consumer rights, abolishing fees and re-charges, and occasionally questioned or exposed failings. But we have also provided praise where praise was due, celebrated the good that has been achieved, campaigned alongside the sector for more homes and for better more inclusive, accountable, and transparent forms of involvement than we currently have. We were heartened to learn of the support for and acceptance of the role the tenant’s movement has and does play in the housing sector and that without us a certain balance could well be lost.
There is yet time to save the Welsh Tenants from closure, so if you are able to support the principle of an independent national voice for tenants, that preserves not just local involvement but the opportunity to work at regional, national and international level, then we urge you to get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in WHQ Jan 2017