By Carl Davis
L&Q chief executive Fiona Fletcher-Smith must be hoping that the long bank holiday weekend has induced collective amnesia over the damning report in Sunday’s Observer (here) on the persistence of appalling living conditions in L&Q homes originally exposed by the paper in 2018.
The ongoing scandal of disrepair continues, despite L&Q commissioning an independent investigation – named the Tickell review – in response into the original exposé. See the Tickell Review here.
The review prompted promises of reform from the serving chief executive at the time, David Montague, but neither Montague nor his successor Fletcher-Smith have delivered on those promises.
SHAC’s ‘Fix Our Broken Homes‘ campaign was initiated by tenants and residents to expose the horrific conditions in L&Q homes, and highlight mistreatment of tenants and residents. To join SHAC@L&Q, please register here.
Montague Moves On
Montague now chairs the board of Joseph Homes, described as a small “ambitious housing provider [that] recognises that people want more from their homes than they are perhaps used to”. His departure left Fletcher-Smith to deal with the horrific and dangerous living conditions and disrepair that many L&Q residents are all too used to.
David Mongague commissioned a
report from Campbell Tickell but
failed to implement its
The raft of problems experienced by L&Q tenants were in part driven the executive’s expansion obsession. Montague left in his wake a dysfunctional 116,000 homes housing association.
The Tickell Report makes interesting reading, and its conclusions could be applied to many large and growing associations. It concludes that under Montague’s leadership, L&Q went through the bureacratic motions of dealing with tenants complaints without actually trying to resolve them. Fletcher-Smith seems determined to continue this tradition.
In response to growing criticism of L&Q, and the more generalised media exposés of conditions for social housing tenants L&Q has announced the appointment of Fayann Simpson OBE as its Senior Independent Director (here) to “draw on her passion expertise and knowledge of the social housing sector and further strengthen the voice of residents at board level”.
The problem is that unelected L&Q board member Simpson already chairs both L&Q’s Resident Services Board and its South Neighbourhood Committee. She is a member of both L&Q’s Audit and Risk Committee and its Governance and Remuneration Committee. The term “Independent” in her title can therefore be interpreted as largely decorative. L&Q tenants are rightly concerned that L&Q is continuing to just going through the motions.
Simpson, like other L&Q board members, has done nothing to raise awareness of or tackle the deep rooted problems around disrepair and discrimation such as the Lara Tate case that took place under her watch. Their response is a superficial reinvention of an already multi-conflicted role and present this as the solution to the weak residents’ voice. As such, the announcement is at best insulting, and at worst, a sign that L&Q management under Fletcher Smith still inhabits an impregnable corporate bubble.
Unapproachable, Uncontactable, Unaccountable
For most L&Q tenants and residents struggling to get L&Q to meaningfully deal with their complaints or housing issues, Simpson has been as unapproachable, uncontactable, and unaccountable as every other L&Q board member. She may well baulk at the idea of being labelled a ‘ useful idiot’ but tenants and residents are fed up with L&Q treating them as such.
L&Q still isnt listening. Fletcher-Smith needs to stop trying to create a false impression of tenant engagement and responsiveness. Window dressing won’t solve L&Q’s deep rooted problems. Nor will it address L&Q’s current reputation as one of the worst housing associations in the sector, nor strengthen the residents voice within the organisation.
Instead, L&Q needs to commit to an independent commission to increase executive accountability. There needs to evolve genuine mechanisms for enabling tenants and residents to have a real say in how the housing association operates and how the maintenance and repair of their homes is managed.
There is no one resident voice that will serve this purpose, and to impose Simpson on L&Q’s long suffering, disrespected and ignored tenants and residents in another role isn’t a workable solution at all, it is merely an act of contemptuous corporate ventriloquy.
31 August 2021
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.