Fact or Fiction: Hot at the top
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing
fact or fiction hot at the top
The vast majority of housing chiefs quietly get on with invaluable work. Enough of them. Here’s a noisy minority to make the headlines through colourful capers. As ever, one item is festooned with falsehoods. Can you find it?
1 Gallons of cash
Not many housing chief executives receive a personal farewell from the prime minister. Former Gallions boss Tony Cotter did. Sort of. In November last year, Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce helpfully raised Cotter’s reported £397,000 redundancy pay-off in PMQs, noting that Gallions was “landlord to some of the poorest people in my constituency”. Speaking generally, David Cameron said “some of these pay-offs really are completely unacceptable”. The HCA also wasn’t amused, downgrading Gallions for governance failures which included the pay-off. Gallions has since joined Peabody.
2 Maybe shout next time
In a valiant attempt to redraw the EU’s borders, the former boss of Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association accidentally destroyed 5,000 acres of Spanish forest during a memorable summer holiday in 2005. To be fair, Michael Hanks only started the re to alert rescuers (and anyone else within a 50,000-mile radius) after he and his partner got lost in the woods. For his troubles Hanks received a £9 million bill and an 18-month suspended jail sentence. He left the housing hot seat in 2008.
3 It’s a gas
Mock and be as anti-American as you like but defenders claim his intentions were noble. Gated community boss Orlando Harrison, of Harrison, Orlando, offered every one of his Florida residents $500 to let inspectors check their gas supplies. Previous efforts were stalled by savvy occupants (including an ex-judge) citing the Fourth Amendment which prohibits ‘unreasonable searches’. Splashing the cash spectacularly back red when one enterprising family brought an extensive stock of gas canisters to Harrison’s office, sparking an immediate evacuation of the building and a state-wide terror alert which briefly closed Miami International Airport.
Currently residing in the ‘where is he now?’ file is John Denny, the former Cosmopolitan chief executive, whose ranking at No. 16 in last year’s ‘Power Players’ list caused apoplexy among the UK housing community. The ‘Cosmo crisis’ (or ‘Cosmosis’ as no-one calls it) has entered social housing textbooks as a worst practice example of how to merge two apparently viable housing associations and bring them to the brink of collapse within a matter of months. Very few emerged with any credit from the sorry saga, except John who rose 23 places in the 2013 list and nearly destroyed our credibility as well.
5 Fill your own
Golden Rule No. 1 during floods: Zip it, especially if you’re the chief executive of a council called Three Rivers. The Watford Observer reported last month that Dr Steven Halls upset a councillor in flood-hit Rickmansworth by declining residents’ requests for sandbags. “This winter, they have had ample time to prepare themselves and buy their own,” said the good doctor, whose PhD is presumably not in flood PR management. Halls later announced: “I am considering carrying a stock to sell to residents out of hours.” Shipping charges were not specified. Halls gets £116,181 for four days a week but no free sandbags.
6 Here today…
A housing association chief executive quit his post after only 17 days in the role. Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association, or BPHA to those who like to save on their phone bills, hired ex-banker Kevin Turmore as top dog. He started on 6 January but had barked his last order by the 23rd. He left for “purely personal reasons”, the group said. BPHA added with a commendably straight face that no compensation was paid for early termination. Staff suspicions were first aroused when they noticed Turmore’s desk calendar only had one month on it.
7 Eyes down
A Manchester housing association sailed into a social media storm last year after appearing to mock bedroom tax victims. Eastlands Homes’ newsletter, ‘Streets Ahead’, asked tenants if they could “really afford Sky, cigarettes, bingo, drinks and other non-essentials?” The item was called “disgusting” on Facebook. Eastland Homes chief executive Sheila Doran apologised for any offence and said her group was trying to speak up for the victims. Doran pointed out the offending passage was a small part of detailed financial advice and that tenants should stay away from the bookies on Grand National Day (the last bit has been made up).
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