Our regular readers will recall the controversy over the contents of our recent posts ‘Something Rotten’ and ‘Who Killed Bambi. They may be somewhat surprised, therefore, to learn that the Director of Housing at RBKC has at last acknowledged on 19th August, via an open letter to all Lancaster West residents, that the criticisms we had repeatedly made of the EMB were in fact well founded and the Council has at last acted to address some of the problems we identified in those posts. LINK – Johnson Letter
In some respects Ms Johnson’s exocet appears to be right on target and must have beeen uncomfortable reading for EMB members. It acknowledges that the recent practices of the EMB have not accorded with its’ constitution; and that decision making and governance procedures have failed to meet acceptable standards. Consequently the Council demanded in June that the EMB adopt an ‘Improvement Plan’ which Ms Johnson’s staff had prepared, and when the EMB failed to comply with this demand, the Council was forced to impose, or has threatened to impose, a ‘Supervision Order’ on the EMB. This is serious business which reflects very poorly on the current membership of the EMB, and shows what a dire and disgraceful mess they have presided over. We greatly regret that such exceptional measures have become necessary, but we have no doubt that they have indeed become necessary.
However, there is little evidence that the discovery of these gross failings, and the EMB’s casual indifference to its’ own rules and protocols, arose in any way from the review of the MMA, as Ms Johnson would have us believe. On the contrary we are quite sure they arose from the barrage of complaints and challenges which we had directed towards Ms Johnson and her colleagues during 2012, including evidence of gross abuse of office by the current interim chair of the EMB, Robert Bryans. The claim made by Ms Johnson that the EMB crisis was uncovered during a review of the EMB Management Agreement appears to be no more than a convenient fiction designed to serve her own ullterior motives.
The process of reviewing and redrafting the MMA’s of both the TMO and the EMB involved Council and TMO officers working intensively together over many months, throughout 2011, 2012 and 2013, but the EMB was entirely excluded from this process. The sole exception to this was a couple of meetings attended by Robert Bryans, one in May 2011 and a second in March 2012. Mr Bryans gave no indication in these meetings of any problems at the EMB. Meanwhile, other EMB members were aware that a review was underway but were given no detailed feedback or briefing on the process, and had no idea what was discussed in those rare meetings with Bryans.
The Head of Housing Commissioning, Amanda Johnson, answered a query from us in May 2012 with the following:
“Many meetings have taken place and there have been specific meetings that have focused on finance, housing management, insurance, legal aspects. Where these have taken place the officers with the lead responsibility for these areas in the TMO have attended….The review has taken place at an operational level…and the next stage will be to take the draft reviewed MMA through both the Council’s and the TMO’s governance processes in the coming weeks”
In other words the Lancaster West Management Agreement underwent a detailed radical review lasting at least two years, which resulted in significant changes to the content of the Agreement, but from which the EMB was completely excluded. This was because the main focus of the review was, of course, the TMO Agreement. The Lancaster West Agreement, the poor relation, was treated as a minor and somewhat inconvenient diversion from the main task, deserving only the bare minimum of time and effort. In our view this is typical of the utter contempt with which the Council and the TMO routinely treat the EMB and which is, in our view, largely responsible for the decline, demoralization and breakdown which the EMB has suffered in recent years, and the paralysis to which it has now succumbed.
Unfortunately, having in no uncertain terms indicted the incompetence of the current EMB regime, the bottom line of Ms Johnson’s letter then inexplicably delegates the necessary remedial actions to that same regime, which has shown itself beyond all doubt to be utterly incompetent and unworthy of such responsibility. Hence Ms Johnson’s closing paragraph states:
“The EMB is working towards holding a Special General meeting at which it will elect new board members and the Board can become fully operational again. It is hoped that residents will support this meeting and become involved. The current board members will be writing to you separately to provide you with details of the forthcoming SGM.”
In other words business as usual and Ms Johnson herself does not come out of this smelling of roses either. We had already complained to her about December’s flawed and unprecedented EMB postal ballot and the inadequate attendance at the subsequent AGM, but she threw out our complaints and perversely approved both the ballot and the AGM. In our considered opinion she is therefore directly implicated in the subsequent collapse of the EMB and has a lot of explaining to do.
In her letter she speaks of ‘supporting the EMB at this difficult time’. We think she would be better advised to offer her support to the Management Association and to the wider Lancaster West community, rather than to these inept and self-serving petty dictators who have already run the EMB into the ground. We would therefore question her true intentions, and suggest these may be more sinister than she, or her colleagues, would care to admit.
In any case the supposed rescue process has already begun. The EMB sent out a formal notice of an SGM to be held on 23rd October and are attempting, true to recent form, to pull another rabbit from their decidedly grubby hat via another postal ballot with a deadline for nominations by 9th September. It is noteworthy that, until recently, these postal ballots were completely unprecedented in the history of the EMB, are of questionable constitutional legitimacy, and have not been approved or sanctioned by the Management Association. It is equally noteworthy that on the single previous occasion when this electoral mechanism was used (in December 2012) it failed badly and led directly to the subsequent collapse of the board which has been unable to function since.
Perhaps we should take this opportunity to also remind our readers again of the controversy surrounding the current EMB Chair, Robert Bryans, to which Ms Johnson’s letter makes no reference whatever. Given that Bryans was the only EMB member to have any involvement in the review, it would make perfect sense to examine his credentials, and we would be remiss if we did not do so.
Bryans was co-opted onto the EMB in 2010 having been obliged to resign in 2008 because he was no longer a resident of Lancaster West Estate. As a co-opted member he was not, and is not, eligible for election to the chair, nor to any other office. In exceptional circumstances the board can, however, appoint any of its members to office as a temporary emergency measure, and this is precisely what happened on this occasion. Bryans was appointed as emergency interim chair following the sudden resignation of Dougal Steward who had served as chair for just a couple of months, during which time he proved to be totally inept and a disastrous appointment. Board members could hardly wait to be rid of him.
The thing is this – as an interim appointment Bryans should only have served until the next AGM, at which point the board should have again elected a new chair from amongst its eligible (ie elected) members. It would seem however that no eligible board members had the courage and/or confidence to shoulder the responsibility of leadership, and so Bryans was allowed to continue in the chair unchallenged from that time onwards.
We would argue therefore, that quite apart from his brazen betrayal of the trust placed in him with respect to his occupation of 36 Baseline Studios, the legitimacy of his continued occupation of the Chair, from 2010 until the present time, is highly questionable in constitutional terms. The role he played in the so-called MMA review, as the sole representative of the EMB, is therefore no less questionable, and may even be more questionable, as it has direct implications for the future of the EMB and of the Lancaster West community
There is, unfortunately, a strong sense of of deja vu about all this. Let’s not forget that these are the same board members who have already run the EMB into the ground and completely failed, when required to do so, to implement the ‘Improvement Plan’ designed to get it back on track. That’s how incompetent they are. They also deliberately withheld from the Management Association, and the community generally, all information relevant to Bryans misconduct and the investigation thereof. Why should they now be trusted to preside over a special general meeting at which they will presumably expect to be re-elected to the board, and to the senior offices of the board? In our view they deserve instead to be disqualified from any future membership of the EMB and from any future role in the management of Lancaster West.
Unfortunately the sting in the tail of Ms Johnson’s letter is, of course, the implicit threat of the continued, and perhaps final, disempowerment of the EMB, of which we have repeatedly warned in our recent posts. The shame and the irony of this is that the Lancaster West community, as ever, will pay the ultimate price for these machiavellian intrigues, without ever having been properly informed or consulted on the implications of what has been happening in recent years, or on the fate that may now be about to befall them.