Tory blogger launches scathing attack on TPAS
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government
Tory blogger launches scathing attacks on TPAS
A Conservative councillor has launched the latest in a series of attacks on social housing bodies with a scathing appraisal of the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS).
Harry Phibbs, editor of the local government page on the Conservative Home website, has accused TPAS of spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on "lavish" awards and employing policy officers to lobby against government housing policy. He also criticised the cost of its annual conference and branded the performance of chief executive Michelle Reid a "farce".
Last week Phibbs, a Hammersmith & Fulham councillor, slammed councils "for pouring millions into the coffers" of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) through membership and conference fees prompting a robust defence from CIH chief executive Grainia Long.
The attack on TPAS, however, is even more vitriolic, adopting an incredulous tone at some of its work.
Phibbs writes: "Substantial taxpayer funding for social housing is being redirected from spending of practical benefit and passed instead to an organisation called the Tenant Participation Advisory Service.
"I couldn't find its accounts on its website but it has 23 full time paid staff which implies its budget is substantial. Funding would also seem to come overwhelmingly from the taxpayer - via housing associations and assorted council housing departments and "arms length" bodies.
"Spending transparency data shows the TPAS is paid thousands by, for example, Salix Homes, who manage Salford Council properties, for 'customer involvement'. Taunton Deane Borough Council has paid it £2,440.80 for 'supervision and management'. Hounslow Council has paid it £16,000 in a single month. Lambeth and Luton are among other coucils that splash out a lot of their residents money. North Lincolnshire Homes paid the TPAS for a report - which praised North Lincolnshire Homes for giving £500 to Unison for CRB Checks.
Phibbs continues: "TPAS held its annual conference last month charging delegates £599 each to attend the two day event at the Hilton Metropole, Birmingham. It was from July 16th-18th, a Monday to Wednesday. Nice work if you can get it. I say 'charging delegates' but let's take a wild guess as to how many of the 'over 500' delegates paid with their own money. How about none?
"What seems more plausible is that the taxpayer will have funded the great majority of these fees. Amidst the dinners and networking there were workshops on equality and diversity, assertiveness, opposing welfare reform, and, oh yes, 'value for money'. There was a session on 'tenant-led scrutiny' - the best strategy for avoiding it evidently being to zip off to a conference."
Phibbs was particularly scathing of TPAS chief Michelle Reid's "key message" to conference delegates.
"Michelle recognised that most people at the conference will have never used Twitter, but Housing Minister Grant Shapps does use Twitter, and has said that he reads every single 'tweet' he is sent (though he doesn’t always reply!).
"In an effort to ensure that he hears the views of tenants we’ll be asking people to create their perfect 'tweet' to Grant Shapps, using only 140 letters, writing it on a wipeboard, and then taking a photo of them next to our life-size (ish) pop-up of Grant Shapps. Michelle will then be tweeting a selection of the photos to @grantshapps throughout the conference. To do this, please visit the TPAS stand.
"What did this farce cost us? 500 people costing £600 each comes to £300,000. Add nearly the same again for the cost of staff time and travel expenses and we could be looking at more than half a million pounds of taxpayers money spent on swamping Mr Shapps with hostile tweets demanding the spending of still more taxpayers' money.
Phibbs also questions TPAS' use of policy officers to lobby against Government housing policy: "It opposes affordable rent and is also against offering new tenancies for fixed terms - even though this change is to ensure that help goes to those when they need it, rather than continuing for life regardless of whether circumstances change."
He saves his most vicious assault, however, for TPAS award ceremonies.
"There are categories such as 'Excellence in Equality and Diversity' and 'Excellence in Annual Reports'. To win an award it seems to help if your organisation pays to send lots of staff along to the dinner. Tables of ten are available for £1,795 plus VAT including two bottles of Champagne. Just the place to discuss equality while sneering at the economy £1,450 plus VAT tables.
"I am all in favour of Champagne when the taxpayer isn't picking up the bill. Naturally those attending, being on the Left, have less sensitivity about the level of public spending."
24dash has approached TPAS for a comment.