With Swan Housing Association in the media spotlight over the current government investigation into embezzlement of Housing and Communities Agency grant funding, another aspect of the Swan Housing Corruption Scandal that has received somewhat less attention than perhaps it should have done, with particular reference to its dealings with the Independent Housing Ombudsman Service, has been the alleged ability of Swan Housing to make false and unsubstantiated allegations about its tenants which, when eventually proven to be false, it has not so far been forced to acknowledge or even address. Given the fact that housing associations have been granted a wide range of powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 which have the potential to enable them to take out injunctions against tenants who they deem to be troublesome, which can actually result in those tenants being deprived of their liberty, the case of a provably rogue housing association, which has been caught red handed falsifying documents in relation to Homes and Communities Agency Grant funding, but which has effectively escaped censure in relation to false and unsubstantiated allegations about its tenants which were later proven to have been unfounded, is an interesting case for examination indeed.
Given the potential for abuse in such matters, in a situation in which a corrupt housing officer was attempting to have a tenant unlawfully evicted by having them imprisoned, or, in a worse case scenario, having them locked up so that the property at which they resided could be plundered of their personal possessions whilst they themselves were incarcerated in relation to some trumped up charge, the failure of the Independent Housing Ombudsman to provide a proper series of checks and balances in relation to such matters appears to have exposed an unfortunate consequence of the winding up of the now defunct Tenants’ Services Authority in which Tenants Rights have been seriously compromised; as a direct result of what may well be widespread corrupt practice within the system right the way across the board. With housing association staff effectively being given a free rein to fabricate evidence against tenants and falsify documents in relation to grant funding simultaneously, as a direct result of the Housing Ombudsman’s failure to take appropriate action, Grant Shapps’s role in the affair should not go unnoticed: particularly as his own personal business dealings have come under such widespread public scrutiny in relation to some apparent corrupt practice of his own. And, in view of the additional the fact that it was his decision that led to the winding up of the Tenants’ Services Authority in the first place, an organization which had previously kept housing associations on the straight and narrow, it is worth asking the question as to whether or not the entire Social Housing Sector has since potentially been opened up to the possible depradations of organized criminals; both at national and local level.
It is fact that the situation with Swan Housing is not a single isolated incident. It is also fact that in Teesdale in County Durham the area has had an historic link with organized crime operating within local government since the nineteen fifties: a situation that was to result in the jailing of former Chair of Durham County Council, Andrew Cunningham, for his role in the Poulson Corruption Scandal, back in the nineteen seventies. It should therefore come as little or no surprise that Teesdale Housing Association, which succeeded the now defunct Teesdale District Council as the principal provider of social housing right the way across Teesdale back in 2006, can be proven to have been involved in making similarly false allegations against its tenants when the issue of complaints to the Housing Ombudsman Service has come to the fore. In a recent letter to a serial complainant dispatched in January 2013 the Housing Ombudsman related allegations that had been made about a tenant, in relation to what they are alleged to have said, as if they were actually true; whilst simultaneously making no attempt to investigate the the actuality of what had or hadn’t been said.
‘At a meeting on 5th September 2012 you stated ‘I get what I want,’ the Ombudsman falsely alleged, ‘by constantly harassing, bullying and being a nuisance until I get my own way….that is how I get my own way.’ In reality, however, what had been said during the course of the above related conversation was something entirely different and related to a question that a member of Teesdale Housing Association Staff had asked in relation to another complainant. The member of staff in question had asked why a number of related agencies had successfully managed to sideline an attempt by an old age pensioner, himself a repeat victim of crime, to have a CCTV camera, that he had bought at his own personal expense, installed at the rear of his bungalow to prevent his garden shed from being broken into. What was in fact said related to the accused telling the previously mentioned member of staff that the reason he had managed to get cameras installed at his property related to his ability to use e-mail and other modern methods to communicate with the correct government departments or else expose corruption or general lack of co-operation within those elements responsible for dealing with such matters within the system. A sound recording of what was actually said, to which the Chair of Etherley Parish Council and other interested parties have been given access, is currently lodged with Clark Willis Solicitors, Darlington, and is likely to be referred to a number of other relevant individuals and organizations, both at national and international level, in due course.