**URGENT ACTION – An open meeting for all Samuda Estate residents and SELMO Centre users is on Thursday 30th October at 6.30pm at the SELMO Centre – Please come along.***
Labour Councillors for Blackwall and Cubitt Town, Dave Chesterton and Candida Ronald have come out in strong support of the Samuda Estate Tenants and Residents Association – SELMO (Samuda Estate Local Management Organisation) in its ‘properly constituted form’ against One Housing Groups (OHG) actions of de-recognition and attempt to remove SELMO from occupying and managing the community centre at the heart of the Samuda Estate – The SELMO Centre.
I have previously written about this on 17th October, where I shared residents and users (of the SELMO Centre) views on OHG’s actions. On 23rd October, I shared dialogue which took place with OHG, in an attempt to communicate – to identify and resolve issues. OHG have confirmed, that they are in the early stages of attempting to form a new Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) on the Samuda Estate.
The Samuda Estate on the Isle of Dogs in London, is home to over 1500 people and has been represented by SELMO since its formation in around 1991. The SELMO Centre has been occupied and run by SELMO for the benefit of local residents. OHG is the landlord of the Samuda Estate. The estate was initially part of the Tower Hamlets Council Housing Stock before it was transferred to Toynbee Island Homes in 2005, under privatisation measures – this was subsequently taken over by OHG in 2007.
In July 2013, OHG notified SELMO that they had been de-recognised and on 10th October 2014, OHG went further by serving the occupiers of the SELMO (Samuda) Centre with a ‘28-day Notice to Terminate Licence to Occupy’.
I asked local Councillors, Dave Chesterton and Candida Ronald whether they felt that Samuda Estate residents should accept the de-recognition of SELMO by OHG and whether they support that SELMO should continue to occupy and manage the SELMO Centre? I questioned whether they supported a new TRA on the Samuda Estate or felt that SELMO should stay? I asked about the legality of the OHG’s 28-day Notice to Terminate Licence to Occupy and if they were aware of OHG de-recognising other TRA’s locally?
Councillor Candida Ronald kindly replied:
‘SELMO is mentioned in the transfer documents from Tower Hamlets to One Housing and, as such, has certain rights that a new TRA would not have. I do not therefore believe that the residents of Samuda should accept the de-recognition of SELMO.
You say that OHG have suggested to residents that they move to a new TRA which OHG would recognise. I am a resident of Samuda and do not recall any such communication from OHG. I personally do not support this suggestion as my understanding is that new TRAs set up under the aegis of OHG do not have many teeth. I don’t have the specifics of why SELMO is better than a new TRA but I do believe this is the case.
I’m not aware of OHG derecognising other TRAs but I know that the TRA on the Kingsbridge Estate fell into disrepair and is no longer in existence. St John’s is still going strong and taking the fight to OHG. I’m not sure what the situation is on the Barkantine.
I think SELMO should work towards getting its house in order with a new board and operating in compliance with its rules. It should then approach OHG to be recognised. When the idea of de-recognition was first mooted I asked OHG about their policy and procedures for de-recognition to ensure they were complying with them. They admitted that they had no formal policy or procedures so I’m sure that re-recognition shouldn’t be out of the question.
I also believe that SELMO in a properly constituted form should continue to manage the community centre.’
Councillor Dave Chesterton confirmed that he agreed with Candida’s response to my questions. In relation to SELMO’s occupation of the SELMO Centre, he kindly added:
‘SELMO exists, it was registered as an Industrial & Provident Society in 1991, it holds funds in a bank account and it employs staff. SELMO has occupied the community centre for many years; certainly predating the stock transfer to Toynbee (OHG). It has enjoyed unfettered access and in recent time’s exclusive occupation, it is the only key holder. SELMO has almost certainly acquired occupation rights.
OHG suggests in its notice that SELMO’s occupation is a licence at will, this is among the least secure forms of tenure. SELMO’s history of occupation almost certainly means it has acquired rights to a lease, a much more secure form of tenancy.
OHG attempted similar action in relation to the other community centres which it became responsible for under the same stock transfer. The other community centres successfully challenged OHG, which was forced to accept the centres had rights. There would appear to be no reason why a similar challenge shouldn’t be made in relation to SELMO’s occupation of the Samuda community centre.
The key point however in answer to your question is that any acquired rights belong to SELMO; it is probably entitled to a lease for the community centre.
I want the Samuda community centre to continue to be managed by the residents of the Samuda Estate; not by OHG. As far as I can see the only way this can happen is if SELMO continues to occupy the community centre and SELMO continues to manage it; yes, I support SELMO in this regard.’
To my mind, it is a terrible status quo, when large corporate landlords like OHG are permitted and feel entitled to intimidate residents by issuing draconian legal notices on mootable points of law – intimating that residents have a licence when it can clearly be argued that they have a lease – which confers more rights – and on top of that – to then threaten a legal costs bill if residents fail to comply with their Notice and instead seek legal redress at Court. Principles of equity are based upon people being on an equal footing.
The Samuda Estate was formerly Tower Hamlets Council Housing Stock. Subsequent landlords who care about social housing should be working with residents to make it a better and safer place to live. The residents I spoke with on 17th October 2014 – identified a deep mistrust of OHG and highlighted their failure to carry out reasonable and basic safety maintenance works on the Estate.
When I spoke with OHG, their representative informed me, they were unable to carry out “maintenance, health and safety, risk assessment and repairs” to the SELMO Centre because they “have not been able to gain access, not been allowed in.” – by SELMO managers. When speaking to the manager of SELMO Centre, she took out a diary and gave me a list of numerous dates when maintenance workers have attended the Centre and completed works. Why would OHG need to misrepresent this?
The users of the SELMO Centre and Samuda Estate residents whom I have spoken with, have told me how clean, helpful, and well managed the Centre is and what a lovely space it is to be in.
A recent letter sent out to all residents of the Samuda Estate by OHG on 23rd October, engages in personal attacks and fails to address any amicable solution to working together to resolve issues.
Below I share messages of support received by SELMO from local residents and Centre users. If you have a message you would like to share, please add it as a comment below. SELMO has a facebook page which you can like here.
With thanks to all for their contributions.
Peace and love, Sky