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Under-fire landlord slaps ban on press

PUBLISHED: 14:29 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 09:32 12 August 2010

HOUSING authority bosses accused of ignoring tenants complaints have barred the Times from a meeting called for residents.

HOUSING authority bosses accused of ignoring tenants' complaints have barred the Times from a meeting called for residents.

Communities manager Wendy Mason led the meeting for residents of Calverley Close Estate in Beckenham, on behalf of landlord Riverside South East (RSE).

But when she realised a reporter was present she refused to continue until we left, prompting a walkout of several furious residents. The meeting had been called by company bosses after Calverley Close Forum members were told they were no longer recognised.

It follows years of complaints by forum members, who claim that Riverside South East is slow to carry out basic repairs and fails in its duty to make basic improvements to the estate. One resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "Our repairs are in an awful state, but we never get a response from the landlord. They seem to be full of promises that things will happen, but they never materialise."

Before the meeting last Wednesday, acting divisional director Anna Bishop wrote to the forum, saying: "I have decided that Riverside South East will no longer engage with the Calverley Forum or the Service Review Panel."

Following the snub to the forum, housing officer Edwina Campbell advertised a meeting to discuss the future of tenant involvement. But as it was about to start, Mrs Mason prompted the walkout after excluding the press and asking forum chairman Dr Maurice Breen to leave or remain but not take part in proceedings.

Resident Gillian Eisele, a member of Calverley Close Forum, asked: "What are your reasons for excluding the Times reporter? What have you got to hide from the Press?"

Ms Mason replied: "Our director has told me to exclude all members of the Press. If the reporter stays, I cannot carry on with the meeting."

Dr Breen added: "I am a democratically elected chair of a tenant body, and I have a right to be here. You have caused offence."

About six residents left the meeting, with only three remaining, including an on-site caretaker employed by Riverside South East. After the meeting, Dr Breen said: "It is completely unorthodox practice for any housing association to disengage with well-established tenant groups."

A spokesman for RSE said: "Tenants from the estate have contacted staff regretting the consistent negativity of forum meetings. So much so that they will not be attending any more.

"We decided to look for other ways to more positively engage with tenants and the meeting last week was to discuss their preferred options. We wanted everyone to feel they could say what they wanted without it being reported in a wider forum."

tim.dickens@archant.co.uk

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