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Agenda item

Call in: Brickfield Site

To follow


The Chair invited Cllr Hall and Cllr MacArthur to introduce the call in.


The reasons for the call-in are:

·         Respect for human rights and equalities.

·         Consideration and evaluation of alternatives.


Cllr Samatha Macarthur spoke to the point around consideration and evaluation of alternatives.

Under Section 6.1 of the management agreement, it states: The Council will set a weekly licence fee to be payable by the occupants of the Site provided that such fee shall be no less than such amount as may be recommended by the Company (acting reasonably).


No evidence provided to show that Merton Council has attempted to ensure that Clarion have ‘acted reasonably’ in their setting of the fee. We do not, therefore, agree that alternatives have been properly considered and evaluated. The decision merely accedes to Clarion’s recommendation as set out in the report – which is to increase fees by the maximum permitted amount – without properly reviewing and scrutinising the fees they have suggested.


Service users in Brickfield Road are also still experiencing unresolved issues, including inadequate equipment and training for fire protection, rat infestations, and broken waste bins.


Cllr Jil Hall spoke to the point around consideration and evaluation of alternatives:

The assertion in the Equalities Assessment that “All households on the Traveller site are affected equally by this increase regardless of their ethnic group” does not show that an assessment of the possibility of indirect discrimination has been completed. An equalities assessment comparing the impact of these changes on Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers at Brickfield Road with other Merton residents beyond the Traveller site has not been completed. The Council’s Corporate Equality Scheme requires departments to consider other relevant groups or issues in their assessments such as looked after children, carers, gypsies and travellers, and community cohesion where appropriate.


Cllr Andrew Judge replied to the call signatories as follows:

A range of issues were considered on our site visit - Some of these have been resolved, and some are still in progress.

The Council organised an independent fire expert to assess fire safety on the site, checking and locating fire hydrants, and further to this a Clarion representative will be talking to tenants about fire safety. If tenants are not reassured after this, we will seek to negotiate further training with Clarion for residents.

Lots of work has been undertaken to tackle rats, not all of it successful, with bins exacerbating the issues.

The proposed increase is commensurate with other social housing stock.

There is no service charge charged to residents, however there are significant responsibilities for the Council.


In response to questions, the Cabinet Member confirmed that whilst the data of comparison of charges was not included within the decision report, the decision was based on the inherent reasonableness, and awareness, that there was a lot of work being done on site.


·         The Housing Officer has visited the site, with Clarion, four times since the previous call-in last year.

·         Meetings with the Head of Housing at Clarion occur on a six weekly basis.

·         The amount proposed is the maximum and has been deployed across housing stock.


A Panel Member queried the definition of indirect discrimination and whether it had been considered. The Cabinet Member stated that there does not appear to be indirect discrimination as the 7.7% is applied across the whole of the Clarion housing stock. There is no evidence that residents are at a disadvantage or indirectly discriminated against.


The Chair moved to vote on the recommendations and reminded the Panel of the options:


B: That the Panel refer the decision back to the Executive Director of Housing and Sustainable Development for reconsideration, setting out the nature of the Panel’s concerns; or


C: Decide not to refer the matter back to the Executive Director of Housing and Sustainable Development, in which case the original decision stands.


The Chair called a vote on recommendation B. There were 3 votes for, 9 votes against, with 1 abstention. Motion fell, therefore the matter was not referred back to the Executive Director and the original decision stands.




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