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National Tenant Voice


National Tenant Voice

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									National Tenant Voice
Sheila Adamson
                                         National Tenant Voice

Key points

The creation of a National Tenant Voice (NTV), with an annual budget of £1.5m, will be a
significant moment in the history of social housing, as it is hard evidence of government
recognition of a central role for tenants in housing decisions nationally, regionally and
locally. It will, for the first time ever, introduce systematic funding geared towards enabling
tenants to influence the shape and quality of services they receive.

We have come a long way since the 1980 Housing Act (and the Tenants Rights (Scotland)
Act 1980) introduced a duty on social landlords to consult their tenants before making
decisions to change how housing management services are delivered.

A requirement to reach agreement with tenants, enshrined in Tenant Compacts, was
introduced in 1999 and should have resulted in clear arrangements. This was followed by
a much higher profile for resident involvement promoted by the Housing Corporation and
importantly, a focus on evidence of tenants shaping services. More recently performance
indicators and the Audit Commission’s Key Line of Enquiry on resident involvement have
levered up the importance of involving service users and empowering residents to shape
services, monitor service delivery and review policy. We have moved on from simply
requiring an involvement process to judging real outcomes for residents and making the
results public in the form of Audit Commission Housing Inspectorate reports.

Add to this the Elton Report, the Cave Review, the National Housing Federation’s Tenant
Involvement Commission, CLG’s 2007 consultation on tenant empowerment, the creation
of the Homes and Communities Agency and the proposed NTV, the White Paper
Communities in control: real people, real power launched in July 2008 – and we have a
considerable body of evidence that there is real government support for the notion of
tenants being at the centre of shaping and monitoring delivery of social housing in

This briefing looks at how proposals for a NTV are developing.

  •   The proposal for a government-funded NTV to provide a tenant voice and expertise
       at a national level came from the Cave Review Every Tenant Matters

  •   The NTV is likely to play an advocacy role, representing tenants’ interests in
       discussions with the government, commissioning research to inform its agenda and
       providing support to the representative tenants’ movement in England

  •   The NTV would employ professional staff delivering services in line with
       democratically developed NTV business and annual plans

  •   A high level of support for an NTV was evidenced through the Cave Review,
       Communities and Local Government (CLG) consultation on tenant empowerment,
       NHF Tenant Involvement Commission and other related activities

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  •   The NTV is expected to work alongside the government, and with the new housing
       regulator (the Tenant Services Authority) and the new Homes and Communities

  •   An NTV Project Group comprising representatives from national tenant organisations
       (NTOs), and relevant public and voluntary sector bodies (see appendix 1) has been
       meeting since February 2008 and has developed the consultation paper on creating
       NTV, which ended on 12 September 2008

  •   The name ‘National Tenant Voice’ is a working title and may change following current
       consultation process

  •   A set of recommendations about the NTV’s vision, values, roles and governance
       arrangements are likely to made to ministers in late autumn 2008

  •   The NTV is expected to be fully operational by summer 2009.


Tenant organisations have been lobbying successive governments for funding and
recognition for the last 28 years, following the 1980 Housing Act which formalised a
number of tenants’ rights (most famously the Right to Buy). In particular it introduced a
landlord duty to consult and take account of tenants’ views before changing its
arrangements for housing management.

CLG and its predecessors have been actively in discussion with tenant representatives
looking for the most effective way to ensure that tenants can contribute to housing policy at
a national level. This discussion has been ongoing since the mid 90s and alongside other
fundamental reviews has led to the current consultation on creating an NTV.

There is widespread acceptance in government and across the social housing sector that
an NTV body should be created; the debate now is around its remit, role, relations with
government and its own governance arrangements.

The NTV Project Group issued a consultation paper in July 2008 laying out its emerging
ideas on NTV, in relation to:

  •   Vision and values statement

  •   Roles and remit of the NTV

  •   Organisation and governance.

There are well-formed proposals, providing a considerable amount of detail and should
enable the Project Group and ministers to assess the level of support for these before
decisions are reached in late autumn 2008. The consultation period closed on 12
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NTV vision and values statement

This draft clearly identifies the NTV as a professional organisation for tenants, accountable
to and rooted in the democratic tenant movement and makes strong links to the 2006
Local Government White Paper Strong and prosperous communities with an emphasis on
empowering people.

The draft vision statement talks about transparency, accountability, roots in the tenants’
movement, professionalism, diversity and partnership – suggesting a robust organisation
that has strong plans for building tenant capacity to take part in discussions with
government and other key players.

The statement, if achieved, will bring a degree of professionalism and clarity to the tenants’
movement that has been elusive, mostly due the practical difficulties involved in
communicating across complex and numerous topics and geographical challenges, all of
which has so far relied on voluntary effort and very little money.

Importantly, the NTV sets out to improve the profile of tenants and turning renting into a
tenure of choice.

The NTV’s roles and remit

With an overall objective of improving the quality of services and community wellbeing, the
Project Group sees the NTV:

  •   Creating toolkits to drive forward tenant influence, locally, regionally and nationally

  •   As a collective advocate – making it possible for tenants to access quality research
       and information and articulate their views directly at all levels

  •   Strengthening and growing tenant networks especially regionally and nationally,
       building on existing tenant organisations and directing funds and resources to do so

  •   Securing views from tenants who are not actively involved through opinion research

  •   Formally being consulted by the government, Homes and Communities Agency,
       Tenant Services Authority and Audit Commission on policy matters

  •   Working closely with government, but always ensuring that it is enabling NTOs to
       make their own case by providing high quality support

  •   Influencing the standards and procedures set by the Tenant Services Authority

  •   Supporting tenants who wish to challenge poor landlord practices, including potential
       funding for legal services on issues which affect tenants as a group – this could lead
       to precedents being set that enable other tenants to challenge poor practice

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  •   Improving communication of tenant issues and raising the profile of tenant
       representatives whilst providing good quality communication to tenants

  •   Undertaking research to inform discussions with key agencies that reflect tenant

  •   Working on behalf of anyone receiving services from a social landlord, including
       leaseholders, shared equity tenants, tenants of ALMOs, co-operatives and tenant
       management organisations.

The NTV’s organisation and governance

The Project Group has reached the view that the NTV should be an independent stand-
alone organisation with partnership status (as a Non-Departmental Public Body) as this
strengthens its position as a key player and partner of government whilst allowing the
highest levels of independence from government. CLG is examining whether legislation is
required to enable government funding of the NTV with the powers it needs.

One of the options explored by the Project Group was to have the NTV joined with any
existing similar organisation; however, it was felt that direct accountability to the tenants’
movement would be compromised by joining with an existing body. In addition this is
expected to enhance credibility with tenants, better enable an independent tenant voice
and be more focussed on developing the tenants’ movement across the country.

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The NTV Project Group is proposing a governance structure with three main elements:

    NTV NATIONAL COUNCIL                                 NTV MANAGEMENT BOARD
   Approximately 50 tenants from                          Approximately 15 people –
    national, regional and local                          majority tenant membership
      tenants’ and residents’                             plus independent members

                        Majority nominees from national and
                         regional tenant organisations plus

The Council will be the legal shareholding membership of the NTV, meeting quarterly,
advising the management board of preferences and priorities. In addition to the quarterly
meetings there will working groups and policy forums addressing priority topics.

The management board will be the directors of the NTV, guided by the policy board’s
decisions and responsible for producing the business plan and annual plans of delivery.

Membership criteria remains fairly loose at this stage, but the overwhelming emphasis is
on tenants speaking and acting for themselves, so the National Council will be made up of
tenants and the management board will have a clear tenant majority and independent
members to ensure the correct range of necessary skills is secured.

The accountability committee would have responsibility for:

  •   Selecting members to the National Council where there is no obvious nominating
       body in place

  •   Pursuing balanced representation across the organisation in diversity and
       geographical terms

  •   Scrutinising the NTV’s accountability.

Membership of the accountability committee will be from national and regional tenant
organisations plus nominees from CLG – however membership is not open to serving
members of the National Council or the management board, to guard against conflicts of

The Project Group is proposing that members of the NTV are compensated for expenses
incurred, but should receive no other remuneration.

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The Project Group will begin work on an NTV staffing structure after the consultation
period ends in September 2008. Funding provision has been made up to April 2011 when
the current spending review period ends.

The Project Group is continuing to work on more detailed aspects of the NTV, including
where it should be located (with an initial preference of maximising use of existing tenant
network premises) and how to secure a range of professional services for the NTV.

In particular much work has yet to be done on the range of relationships that the NTV will
have with government and other agencies.

Interim plans aim to establish a shadow board by January 2009 and this board will have a
tenant majority and places for CLG, the Tenant Services Authority, the Homes and
Communities Agency, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Housing Federation,
the Audit Commission and the Local Government Association.


The creation of the NTV is an important development that will enable real tenant influence,
across tenures, as it makes it possible for tenants to be consistently well informed and
provides a seat at all of the right tables where important decisions are made – nationally,
regionally and locally.

In particular the potential for tenants to initiate housing service inspections holds much
promise as there are circumstances where, for instance, a local authority housing service
may be relatively poor within an ‘excellent’-rated council.

The relationships and agreements of principle that the NTV develops with key bodies such
as the Tenant Services Authority could have far reaching consequences for landlords.

The ability of the NTV to have legally binding precedents set could be a powerful lever for
service improvements and attitudinal change – reducing or removing real or perceived
stigma from the social housing sector.

The empowerment of tenants through high quality information, research and
communication networks could transform landlord/tenant relations into a constructive,
challenging phase securing real progress in the NTV’s aims to improve services, tackle the
negative profile and turn social rented sector into a tenure of choice.

Will we all despair that ‘tenant apathy’ will mean this radical opportunity will be a missed
opportunity? Or will we recognise the resilience of the tenants’ movement and how
powerful the promise of real influence can be – as the government appears to have done?

Whatever your view, tenants are about to be better informed and supported than ever
before. If a landlord is providing a quality service this should bring recognition of that; but
where service quality is lacking, tenants will be able to recognise it and will soon have the
tools they need to know what ‘a better service’ looks like.
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Appendix one

Composition of the NTV Project Group:

• Michael Gelling –Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisations of England (TAROE)

• Cora Carter – Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisations of England (TAROE)

• Brian Pordage – Tenants’ and Residents’ Organisations of England (TAROE)

• Terry Edis – The National Federation of Tenant Management Organisations (NFTMO)

• Roy Read – The National Federation of Tenant Management Organisations (NFTMO)

• Nic Bliss – Confederation of Co-operative Housing

• Christine Winstanley – Confederation of Co-operative Housing

• John Conroy – Dorset County Tenants’ Federation

• Allan Harley – North East Council of Tenants and Residents (NECTAR)

• Phil Morgan – Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS)

• Richard Sorensen – Housing Corporation

• Wendy Walsh – National Community Forum

• Roger Jarman – The Audit Commission

• Richard Capie – Chartered Institute of Housing

• Ruth Lucas – Local Government Association

• Helen Williams – National Housing Federation

• Anne Kirkham – Communities and Local Government (non-voting)

• Richard Crossley – Communities and Local Government (non-voting)

• Lesley Storer – Communities and Local Government (non-voting)

• Steve Hilditch – independent chair (non-voting)

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