In April 2010, Norwich City Council awarded eight contracts to Connaught after the break-up of the CityCare contract.
The old CityCare contract had been plagued with controversy, with the Evening News revealing how 17,000 tenants and leaseholders had been charged over the odds for building and maintenance work on their homes.
After CityCare’s 10-year contract came to an end, the city council chose Exeter-based Connaught to take on responsibility for services ranging from fixing and repairing the city’s council homes to managing asbestos and recycling. The various parts of the contract added up to £125m in total, but eyebrows were raised that the amount Connaught said the contracts could be delivered for was so much lower than other bidders.
The city council also had to reach a financial settlement with Morrison, the parent company of CityCare, after it challenged the decision to award Connaught the £17.5m a year contract for housing maintenance in the High Court.
At the High Court hearing Mr Justice Arnold said Morrison had a “seriously arguable” case that Connaught’s bid for the housing maintenance contract was “abnormally low” and that the council had not properly investigated it.
There were problems with Connaught from the start, including missed appointments and workers not being fully paid, which were initially blamed on teething troubles.
However, Connaught’s share price tumbled and a profit warning was issued, before, in September last year, Connaught Partnerships went into administration, leading to the loss of 300 jobs. Connaught Environmental, which at that time employed 200 people, was saved by administrators KPMG and was rebranded as Fountains.
But the company, which also had council contracts with the London Boroughs of Wandsworth, Camden, Hillingdon and Tower Hamlets, continued to have problems.
It was taken over in March last year, in a move which bosses hailed at the time as securing its long-term future.
However, unfortunately for the Norwich workers, that turned out not to be the case.
While much of Fountain Group’s assets and contracts have been sold, securing more than 1,500 jobs, the Norwich contract is not among them.
That leaves the city council trying to find a way to provide services and the workers hoping their skills will be required by whichever company takes over the contracts.
Lovell has won three contracts to carry out housing repairs and maintenance work for Norwich City Council.
The housing refurbishment and regeneration specialist will deliver kitchen and bathroom improvements, disabled alterations to council houses, and electrical upgrading, over the nine months of the contract.
Lovell, part of the Morgan Sindall group and based in Norwich, took on emergency housing repair work for Norwich City Council after its previous contractor Connaught collapsed.
Lovell regional director Simon Medler said: “We would like to underline our continuing commitment to providing jobs for former Connaught staff wherever we can.”
We’re sure the people will of Norwich will hold Lovell to that…
A few members of Norfolk Community Action Group in noise protest outside City Hall, feet below cabinet meeting, gather in the pouring rain to remind Labour councillors of their responsibilities to the people of Norwich in respect of upcoming cuts…
Three activists went into cabinet meeting and leafleted councillors inside.
We are assembled today to give a list of three key demands to the executive of Norwich City Council which are asfollows…
• We demand the Norwich City Executive or Cabinetactively refuse to sit and conduct business that involves the cutting of public services.
• We demand that they cease all matters immediately to put pressure on the shadow cabinet in Westminster to publicly declare the destruction of the welfare state by the current government as being unlawful without at least a public referendum, or a new election, due to the lack of Equality Impact Assessments being carried out by the Treasury.
• Based on the seriousness of the attempted re-workings of the entire public infrastructure, nothing short of non compliance by Norwich City Council is appropriate when representing the health, peace and safety of the people of Norwich.
NORFOLK COMMUNITY ACTION GROUP
Lobby of Norwich City Council ‘Cabinet’ Meeting December 8th 4.30, front of City Hall.
Bring drums, pots n pans and grannies old bloomers as well as anything else loud!
DON’T IMPLEMENT THE TORY DESTRUCTION OF THE WELFARE STATE!
Prime Minister David Cameron has thrown out a threat to the securityof council tenants. Cameron said he wanted to time-limit allnew council and housing association tenancies to as little as fiveyears: ‘maybe in five or 10 years you will be doing a differentjob and be better paid and you won’t need that home, you will beable to go into the private sector.’ David Cameron (3 Aug 2010)
This makes a lie of the Prime Minister’s pre-election promisesthat he would respect tenants’ rights. It follows savage cuts to Housing Benefit announced in the June budget, and threats to slash spending on public services. Even if unscripted, this new threat steps up what is an ideological attack on a fundamental principle of council housing as a pillar of Britain’s welfare state. It is the latest in a long line of such attacks on tenants’ rights. It hits at the principles underpinning the post war consensus millions of people support. Will he also say people who can‘afford’ the private market will be forced to pay for their healthcare or kids education? We need publicly-owned, secure and affordable council housingas an alternative to the high costs, risks and insecurity ofbuying or private renting.
A home, not an asset
Council tenants need and have the same right to a ‘home’ asanyone else – not just a temporary place to put their head downuntil they find something better. Good quality council housing is vital to ensure that whatever we earn everyone – and our children, and parents – has a home that’s secure and affordable. The principle that needs defending is that council housingshould be a mainstream tenure of choice, available to all whowant to rent as an alternative to the private market. The solution to a shortage of decent, affordable, secure andaccountable council housing is to build more! That would also have the benefit of creating jobs and opening up council housingallocation policies to the wide range of people who used to live oncouncil estates re-establishing mixed and sustainable communities.
No transit camps of poverty
Means testing council tenants, to force out anyone who gets abovethe bread line, would destroy communities. It would turn council estates into transit camps, undermining any kind of social cohesion.If anyone whose income rises above the breadline is forced out or threatened with rent rises, it would reduce the mixture of incomes on estates and increase the concentration of deprivation.
Means-testing would intensify the poverty trap. And differing rent levels is a crude step to bring market forces into council housing.
The threat of losing a secure tenancy or having to pay higher rentswould increase the poverty trap and be a strong disincentive tofinding (better paid) work. It is wrong to force someone out of their home and into the privatesector because you judge they can afford it – they could beout of work tomorrow. Short term work and fluctuating incomesare a major cause of mortgage arrears. Means-tested benefits are already a major problem for millions in short-term or low-paid work or running small businesses, giving little alternative to flexible or part time ‘informal’ (undeclared)– and non-trade union organised – work.
These attacks on tenants’ rights and council housing are part of thepush for further deregulation and privatisation. Private developersand landlords want to get their hands on councils’ publiclyownedland, replace it with more high cost private housing, anddrive out those who can’t afford it. The right to a secure tenancy was won by tenants’ determined campaigning. This forced the Labour government to include ‘securityof tenure’ in the 1979 Housing Bill, which was then included in the Conservatives’ Housing Act 1980. Those who are opposed in principle to high quality public services available to all and who want everyone forced into the hands of the private market are determined to undermine and weaken the positionof council tenants. Stigmatising council housing as ‘housing of last resort’ is one method. Trying to take away our ‘secure’ tenancies or impose means testing or time limits is another.
Unemployment, on council estates as elsewhere, is the result of increasingly low-paid and insecure work. The problem of homelessness, overcrowding and long waiting lists are not caused by security of tenure, but by lack of investment and failure to build new homes. There are two million less council and RSL(housing association) homes now than 30 years ago, due to privatisation and failure to replace homes sold off. That’s why we have two million households on waiting lists.
Many on the waiting list are not judged in ‘priority need’ –they are the butchers, bakers, teachers and nurses who want a first class council home with lower rents, secure tenancies and a democratically accountable landlord. Investment in council housing is central to meeting this need.
Robbed – not subsidised
Government is robbing council tenants (not subsidising us) to the tune of £1.5 billion a year –while over the last twenty years billions of pounds of public subsidy has been poured into RSLs, and taxation has favoured homeowners and more recently buy to let landlords. The bank bailout is the biggest home ownership subsidyof all time.
Hands off our homes, our rents and our rights. Build more council homes
Cameron admitted in Birmingham that “not everyone will supportthis and there will be quite a big argument”. Simon Hughes MP and others have already warned the Government not to pursue this policy, mindful of the anger earlier attacks on secure tenure have provoked.
Tenants have fought determined campaigns against privatisationand to defend our homes and rights. This attack will provoke fury among council and housing association tenants. With the cuts in housing benefit, the Government is declaring war on tenants.
We will broaden and strengthen our united campaign. Together tenants, trade unions, councillors, MPs and campaigners have fought off previous attacks on council housing, and now the voice of protest needs to ring loud in the ear of every councillor and MP.
Belvedere Centre, Belvoir Street, Norwich, 15th Dec 7.30pm – 9.30pm.
Ian Gibson (former Labour MP Norwich North),
Ed Bober (tbc) and
Rick Dutton (NCAG)