Dialogue with One Housing Group over their attack on SELMO (Residents Tenants Association of the Samuda Estate) E14

**URGENT ACTION – AN OPEN MEETING FOR ALL SAMUDA ESTATE RESIDENTS & SELMO USERS IS ON THURSDAY 30TH OCTOBER AT 6.30PM – PLEASE LET EVERYONE KNOW – PLEASE ATTEND – THIS IS IMPORTANT***

Last week I shared news of Samuda Estate Supporters, rallying against One Housing Groups (OHG’s) derecognition of SELMO – The Residents Tenants Association (RTA) of the Samuda Estate and their Notice to Terminate SELMO’s occupation of the SELMO (Samuda) Centre – a Community Centre on the Samuda Estate.

One Housing Group plans to takeover SELMO Centre
The SELMO Centre, Samuda Estate, E14 – Oct 2014

SELMO was formed in 1991 and in July 2013, the OHG’s Executive Management Team notified SELMO that they had been derecognised – citing ‘irreconcilable differences, non-cooperation and non-compliance with OHG’s policies and procedures’ as the reason.

On 10th October 2014, a 28 day ‘Notice to Terminate Licence’ was served by OHG on the ‘Occupiers of the Samuda Community Centre’.  A Centre run and managed by SELMO since approximately 2008.

The Notice says that OHG, as the freeholder of the Samuda Community Centre, are writing to inform and serve ‘a 28-day Notice to Terminate Licence to occupy’ and continues ‘It is our understanding that your organisation occupies the above premise pursuant to a bare licence, terminable at will …’.

The notice ends with a severe warning, that if vacant possession is not delivered – OHG will issue court proceedings and seek an order compelling ‘SELMO’ to pay all legal costs incurred.

I entered into dialogue with OHG about their actions and set out below an outline of our discussions – make up your own mind.

Dialogue with OHG

I emailed the author of the letter – the OHG’s Resident Involvement Officer, with a view to trying to enable parties to work together and resolve issues, saying:

‘Please can you confirm whether the Tenants and Users here are able to do anything, or take any steps to allow the Centre to continue to be managed by the Tenants?

If there have been any omissions or errors on the part of Tenants and Users, please can we enter into a dialogue to build bridges and communicate so that the proposed draconian action of eviction is not needed.

We are all here to build community.  I await your urgent response and am grateful for your assistance.’

Several days later she kindly replied to my email and subsequently a telephone conversation ensued:

On several occasions I asked if she would outline what the ‘irreconcilable differences’ including ‘non-compliance’ and ‘non-cooperation’ were, as the reasons cited by OHG for the derecognition of SELMO.

She explained “All reasons why have been passed onto the last known Chair, who was meant to give the reasons why to all Samuda Estate Residents – if they are a representative group.  OHG had been in talks with them (SELMO) before the derecognition to sort out issues.  All communication has been with the Chair.”  She confirmed she was not in her current post with OHG at that time.”  The 2nd time I asked, I was informed that as a Centre User, it would not impact upon me.  The 3rd time I asked, she confirmed she would get back to me on what the issues were.

I asked her about the impact of the proposed takeover on existing Users, she replied “we are not stopping your classes, we will work with you to ensure sessions will run.  We value the Community Centre and the positive impact that groups like myself do have on community like Samuda.”

She advised that she was “not aware of how much the hall is being charged out for” but “we don’t foresee an incredible change.  We don’t see a change in the price of hall hire.” I informed her of the hire costs. She replied “I cannot give any guarantees, as am not managing the hall at the moment.”

SELMO Centre Hall, bright, clean and airy - Oct 2014
SELMO Centre Hall, bright, clean & airy – Oct 2014

She confirmed that a “letter will be going out to all Residents of the Samuda Estate which will have more information – by the end of the week.” – Which I understand was delivered to all Residents of the Samuda Estate today.

She asked me who the key holders to the Community Centre were.

She confirmed “We have measures put in place regarding the takeover of the Community Centre.” And explained that this included “maintenance, health and safety, risk assessment and repairs to make sure it is safe and ready to be used by the community.”

I asked why these actions were only being carried out now and not before?  She replied, “We have tried to co-operate with the managers of the Community Centre to carry out these tasks since 2005 but have had no luck.” She informed me that the OHG have “tried to do these check but have not been able to gain access, not been allowed in.”  When I asked her for a date from which they have not been able to gain access to do such works she replied – “I can’t give you a date”.

She continued “We are working on the takeover as we speak.  Things will happen with minimal disruption to any Groups.  We will work around User Groups.  Making it safe is in the best interest of Users.”

I asked whether existing employees, such as those currently managing the day to day activities of the centre would be able to keep their jobs.  She replied “I cannot comment on whether we will be keeping existing staff at the centre”.

I asked her if we could work together to getting SELMO recognised again.  She replied “It has gone past that point.  SELMO has been derecognised and they are not going to be rerecognised.”  She confirmed that “a letter went to all Residents on derecognition, informing all Residents and if they had any issues to contact Susan Horely – Head of Housing Operations on the Island.”

She confirmed that she wrote to everyone, about Residents involvement – setting up a Residents Group and the different ways they can get involved and to that end there was a meeting attended by several at the SELMO centre on 31st January 2014.

She confirmed that Residents can get involved with the OHG in a variety of ways including setting up a traditional TRA (recognised & working Partnership Agreement with OHG); Steering Group; Special Interest Group and Estate Champion.  She continued “of course we are open to having a new TRA on the Samuda Estate – we are trying to encourage it.”

She confirmed that she’s “had interest from Residents in setting this up and has been in contact with Residents to do this.”  I asked her what stage this process was in, she replied “At early stages”.

I asked her if OHG had any rules that prohibit them from recognising a RTA that had formerly been derecognised by them.  She said she would get back to me.

She was then urgently called away to a meeting and kindly assured me, that she would reply to my outstanding questions the following day.  Shortly after, I emailed her all the outstanding questions we’d discussed.

SELMO Centre kitchen, always spotless - Oct 2014
SELMO Centre kitchen, always spotless – Oct 2014

The following day, I received an email from Rosemarie Munroe, Neighbourhood Manager, Island Region, saying –

‘Thank you for confirming that you hold activities at Samuda community centre.  I understand you had concerns that you would no longer be able to deliver activities from the centre following misleading information which you have received.

You had a lengthy conversation with the Resident Involvement Officer yesterday and I hope she has been able to assure you that we support the work of the groups using the centre and will not be making any changes to their use of the community centre or the fees currently paid.

You subsequently sent an email asking a number of questions regarding SELMO and I would like to take this opportunity to confirm that  One Housing Group no longer officially recognised SELMO which the last known elected chair is fully aware of.  However, it appears from your query this information has not been shared with residents or groups using the community centre.  We will be sending letters to all residents this week which clarifies matters.’

I replied to confirm that I had not been given misleading information and I was aware that SELMO had been derecognised – hence my specific questions regarding this.  I asked how long her assurance re hall usage and prices not changing would last for?  I confirmed that I would be grateful for a reply to all my questions as previously agreed.  I have not received a reply to the questions:

  1.  A list of what each and all of the irreconcilable, non-cooperation and non-compliance’ items were – as outlined by OHG as the reasons for derecognising SELMO?
  2. Confirmation of the date since when OHG tried to carry out maintenance, health and safety, risk assessment and repair tasks at the SELMO Community Centre but were unable to gain access or allowed in.
  3. Confirmation of whether existing staff employed in the running, maintenance and management of the Centre will be kept in employment?
  4. Whether there are any minutes of the meeting that you called at the SELMO Centre on 31.01.14?
  5. Confirmation of whether there are any rules that prevent OHG from recognising an RTA which had previously been derecognised by OHG? And if so, please can you provide me with a copy and reference to the relevant sections of such rules.

Today I visited the SELMO Centre and spoke to Debbie who manages the day to day running of the Centre.  I asked her if SELMO has ever stopped OHG from carrying out maintenance, health and safety checks, risk assessments and repairs?

She replied “No” and then took out the SELMO Centre diary and said: “Minor Service to Fire Alarm – October 2014; Fire Extinguisher Test – October 2014; Check to emergency Lighting System – June 2014; Gas Safety Check – January 2014; OHG Building Survey – June 2014.  Earlier this year I wasn’t supposed to be working at SELMO but I came in especially as I knew an OHG roofer was coming for maintenance works – I made him a cup of tea.”

If OHG are encouraging a TRA to be established – to my mind, it makes sense, and with respect to the work of those Tenants who founded SELMO – to keep SELMO going (in addition to other reasons).  I hope people can get together, communicate, take steps forward and work this out – politics should not defeat what love and the spirit of community created.  When speaking to Residents it is clear that they want SELMO to continue.

With thanks to all for their assistance.  #SaveSelmo – the struggle continues.

Peace and love.

 

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