Creating sustainable communities
Dame Mavis McDonald DCB
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Tel: 020 7944 8965 Fax: 020 7944 8966
4 October 2004
Mr T Harding
115 Goathland Avenue
I am writing in response to your faxed letter dated 14th September. I am also taking the opportunity to refer to other issues that have been raised over the last month. I note that you are dissatisfied with my letter dated 7th September and you have highlighted again a number of aspects to the option appraisal process in North
Tyneside with which you take issue.
I do not intend to reply in detail. We have responded to you on many of these issues before and have now received the PCA report. This letter will however bring you up to date on some progress which has been made. I am confident that officers from the Government Office for the North East (GONE) and the Community Housing Task Force
(CHTF) will continue to maintain contact with North Tyneside Council and monitor the progress that is being made in delivering a robust and open option appraisal.
In specific response to the points you raise in your fax:
You say that you think the Office is unaccountable. Our actions are accountable to Parliament through the
Minister and your local MPs are also taking an interest in this matter. We have also been investigated by the
Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.
You again bring to my attention the matter of the percentages used in the stock appraisal process and claim that there is no evidence that we expressed concern in July 2002. My letter refers to July 2003. By then, we were having quarterly meetings with NTC and the status of their SCS was discussed. A report is due on the Stock Condition Survey and the methods used for its procurement shortly and I cannot pre-empt those findings. I therefore have nothing further to add until we have received this report and considered its content.
You ask me what the tenant involvement is. Following recent dialogue we have had with the Head of Housing we are awaiting the Council's plans for tenant involvement in the coming months and are pressing them to share these local plans with tenant representatives and indicate how other tenants will be brought into the process. ODPM will continue to press for evidence of appropriate tenant involvement and this will be an integral part of the consideration before the options appraisal is signed off. We would expect these to include active involvement of an ITA and the types of activities outlined in my previous letter. This is an ongoing process.
You again bring to my attention the matter of the companies involved in the stock appraisal process and the methods by which their services were contracted. You also state that we will not get an answer from the Council. In fact a letter has been received from the Chief Executive and we are in dialogue with him on a number of points to ensure that the tender procurement process can be considered robust. I consider that we are taking these matters seriously and have nothing specific to add to what I have said earlier.
The composition of the steering committee is another area I have addressed
before and I would argue that a different interpretation could be placed on the minutes of the meeting in December 2003 that you refer to. I am not persuaded by your argument that our approval of the initial proposals for the Steering Group then prevented other options from being considered by Council or the Cabinet. I have addressed your point about the need for a public enquiry and have nothing to add to that.
There is no question that ODPM, through GONE, will agree to sign off the option appraisal unless and until it is satisfied that the second stock condition survey is a robust piece of work and that tenants have had a central role to play in making a final decision. The Council will not be able to progress any specific option without such a
As regards the issues and complaints you have raised with us subsequently in correspondence, I am completely satisfied that the Office has properly considered all of the issues raised by you and has provided you with a comprehensive response to each of them. If you wish to pursue new issues with the PCA then you have the right
to do so, but for the time being I am satisfied that we have addressed your complaints and issues fully. As is noted in his report, many of the issues you raise are the concern of the Local Govemment Ornbudsman and should be pursued through that route.
ODPM are of course happy to deal with queries from the public and welcome feedback on its role in the Stock Options Appraisal Process. Our role in the process is limited to offering advice and support and checking that the requirements in the Guidance are being followed. We cannot be expected to engage with tenants on an individual basis to resolve issues that are
essentially for the Council to resolve in partnership with its tenants groups.
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