JP writes to Crosswhatfields:
At the AGM of the Crossfields Tenants and Residents Association, held on Thursday October 27th at the Pink Palace there was an interesting turnout.
Among the twenty or so in attendance, there were only two Council tenants; I was one of them. The remainder were three officials and more than a dozen leaseholders or 'residents', i.e. people who lived in flats that had been bought from the council at some stage.
This turnout in no way parallels the composition of who occupies the flats. I do not have access to the figures but I think at least 50% and maybe 70% still house council tenants. The questions I want to pose are, 1) Does it matter? 2) Why does this imbalance exist? and 3) Is there a way of increasing tenant participation?
1) I feel it matters a lot. All the 'Elected Posts' except Gardening Rep are now held by leaseholders, i.e. Chair, Treasurer, Secretary and their deputies as well as our voice on 'Lewisham Homes Committees'. Although our interests coincide on many fronts, surely property owners have different principle interests (some might even say different principles) than tenants. Think about it. I fear to go further and don't want to antagonize people some of whom are my friends but will offer just two examples. Why should leaseholders be interested in Cameron's mooted scheme on under-occupation? Why should tenants care about rising maintenance charges?
2) Are council tenants apathetic by nature? Some certainly are, though myself and at least a few others are not. Are they made aware of the TRA and what it does other than by brief notices posted monthly, in English only, at the bottom of stairwells? Most regular attenders of TRA meetings, whether tenants or residents, have been living here for twenty or thirty years; do we do enough to attract more recent arrivals or is the TRA becoming a cosy club for old timers. I remember that a few years ago when the baseball court by Farrer House was an issue, several teenagers came along and at least one was extremely articulate and would have been a considerable asset to the TRA but they have long gone; was anything done to keep them interested and will anything be done if a similar situation recurs? (e.g.explain about public speaking experience, CV points etc.)
3) Please try to spread the message to tenants that they do have a role to play and they should have an interest in their immediate environment and by participation that they can help to improve it. Individually, we must encourage people to attend and if they do come, make them feel welcome and comfortable and part of something worthwhile. Ask yourself, what can I do?