Planning for Destruction: Corruption and Criminality in Social Housing

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When former Chair of Durham County Council, Alderman Andrew Cunningham, was jailed for his part in the Poulson Corruption Scandal back in nineteen seventy two, a key factor in the bribes for contracts scam that was eventually to send him to jail had been the so called ‘Category ‘D’ Demolitions policy, initiated by Durham County Council back in the nineteen fifties as part of a professed initiative to improve social housing. In reality, however, a great deal of sturdy well built nineteenth century housing stock, which could have been upgraded and improved for a fraction of the cost that demolition and new build always entails, was designated as unfit for human habitation and subsequently bulldozed instead. And, as one would expect with any scam that had principally been designed to put large sums of money in the top pockets of the councilors and civil servants directly involved in the commissioning of the new build projects intended to provide replacement housing stock for the communities that they supposedly served, much of what was subsequently thrown up to replace the long since flattened terraces that had previously been laid out by conscientious and God fearing Quaker mine owners, whose community minded approach to the work force that they employed is a well known fact of historical record, was little more than sub standard architecturally flawed ‘Jerry Build’.

Interestingly enough, many similar flaws to those known to have been inherent in the County Durham Category ‘D’ initiative, with particular reference to the wholesale reorganization of communities and the lack of proper compensation to those owners and occupiers ultimately destined to lose their homes, were to be built into the system once again in relation to many of the so called ‘Pathfinder Schemes’ initiated by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott‘s lumbering Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions during the early years of the Blair government. One vital fact in relation to this similarly flawed scheme for supposedly regenerating communities, at vast cost to the tax payer in relation to what was actually provided, is that at the time when much of what Prescott was involved with was actually being implemented and followed through, Tony Blair’s Cabinet ‘Enforcer’, Jack Cunningham, was none other than the son, and ultimate successor, of ex-jailbird and disgraced former Chair of Durham County Council Andrew Cunningham.

In addition to the implementation of the highly controversial Pathfinder Schemes, in which former Northern Rock Chief Executive Leo Finn appears to have played a pivotal role, Prescott’s office were also responsible for the national upgrade of the entire social housing stock as part of the last Labour Government’s ‘decent homes standard’. This considered, it is perhaps significant that in Andrew Cunningham’s native County Durham Teesdale Housing Association appear to have been involved in a similarly corrupt scam of their own every bit as criminal in intention as the one that sent the former Chair of Durham County Council to jail back in nineteen seventy two.

According to the current Chair of Etherley Parish Council, he and his colleagues were informed that Teesdale Housing had planned to demolish a block of twelve flats on High Etherley‘s Red House Estate well before it had taken the funding to have eleven of them fully upgraded. As one would expect with a project of this kind, much of the money spent on the upgrade was to involve the installation of brand new gas fired central heating systems; complete with large quantities of copper piping of a specific quality and quantity to be of particular interest to professional criminals engaged in the kind of wholesale metal theft that has become an every day part of life in contemporary Britain. Given the alleged links between Andrew Cunningham’s one time Criminals’ Mayorality and a number of top level gangland hoods, it should come as little surprise that just over two years on from the 2010 upgrade of 56-67 Red Houses two sections of the block are completely uninhabitable as a direct result of the wholesale stripping of boilers, metal, fixtures and fittings by a network of criminals allegedly linked to a former Head of Housing at T.H.A.

Of further significance still perhaps is the fact that the current Head of Housing at Teesdale Housing Association, Diane Smith, was not only fully aware as early as July 2008 that a number of known criminals, who had been allocated properties in the block in breach of locally adopted housing policies previously implemented by the now defunct Teesdale District Council, were directly involved in the wholesale theft of metals from the surrounding district a full two years before the upgrade, but neither she nor the then Housing Officer responsible for the Red House Estate took any action whatsoever to ensure that tax payers’ money was properly protected. A digital sound file of a discussion between Diane Smith and Suzanne Bellas of T.H.A. in the company of a local resident activist, which took place on 1st July 2008 in relation to the above referred to matters and is currently lodged with Clark Willis Solicitors, Darlington, would appear to constitute incontrovertible evidence that this is indeed the case.

Given the fact that the Independent Housing Ombudsman Service has seen fit not to take any action whatsoever against Teesdale Housing, in spite of the large sums of money that appear to have been deliberately wasted by a number of key players within its management structure, it is perhaps significant that the previously referred to sound file was one of the pieces of hard evidence that the I.H.O.S. refused to look at. In a future posting we shall examine some of the proven links between Teesdale Housing Association and its parent organization Endeavour Housing with Cherie Blair; with particular reference to the legacy of Andrew Cunningham’s Criminals’ Mayorality in the former Bishopric. And, in so doing, we shall present hard evidence of Housing Association Staff providing cover stories for known criminals provably involved in metal theft from the vandalized flats at Red Houses.

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