Shelter in a storm after MP blasts new chair
Published by Brian Church for 24dash.com in Housing
A London MP has slammed the appointment of Derek Myers as the new chair of Shelter's board of trustees, claiming "this appointment will undermine their good reputation".
Andy Slaughter, Labour MP for Hammersmith and the shadow justice minister, wrote to Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb after the housing charity chose Myers, a former joint chief executive of Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea. Myers is scheduled to start at the end of November.
Slaughter wrote: "As I am sure you are aware, over the last few years Hammersmith & Fulham Council has radically changed its housing rules, and has introduced some of the most punitive housing policies in England. In April of this year, the council kicked over 9,000 households off the council’s housing register, ending any chance those families had of accessing affordable housing in their Borough. Every day my office is contacted by family after family who live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions, and who have been told that they are no longer able to access social housing. Many hundreds appealed the decision to take them off the register; very few were successful.
"For those in Hammersmith & Fulham who find themselves homeless, the situation is equally bleak. If you are one of the lucky few whom the Council agrees to help, you can expect to be placed in poor quality temporary accommodation many miles away from the borough. Some of my constituents have been forced to take their children out of school, or have been forced to give up paid employment, after being placed in temporary accommodation on the other side of London.
"Even those who are placed in temporary accommodation in the borough may find themselves placed in uninhabitable flats, which are unsafe and infested with vermin."
Slaughter also attacked the council's actions in increasing "the rate at which it sells off its stock of housing, all the while giving priority to developers who plan to build luxury housing, which is totally out of reach to the vast majority of local residents. Whole estates are being demolished, blocks of council flats stand empty awaiting private development and developers are typically asked for 5% or 10% affordable homes against a target of 40%.
"All of this has happened under the stewardship of Derek Myers, and I am astonished that he is seen as the right person to head your board of trustees.
"I have worked with Shelter in the past, and I believe that you do a fantastic job in advocating for housing reform. It is a very well-respected charity, and I regularly advise constituents to read your website, or call your helpline to seek advice. I am worried that this appointment will undermine the good reputation that Shelter has built up, and will reduce the effectiveness of your campaigning work."
Shelter confirmed it had received the letter and that chief executive Campbell Robb would be responding to the MP.
Myers was chair of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives for four years until autumn 2012. He was also chair of Capital Ambition, the improvement and efficiency partnership for London, for four years when London councils went from sixth best performing region to best performing. He was also on the Department of Health board for four years.