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Changes to DGHP membership cause anger

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By Donald Turvill
Changes to DGHP membership cause anger

AN EX-council leader has accused Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership (DGHP) of “purging” local members after it took the decision to revoke the membership of non-tenants.

John Dowson was one of 30 DGHP members who received a letter last month which stated that, following a consultation on how the group should be governed, it found tenants were “strongly of the view that decisions about the organisation (in this instance by the membership) should be taken by those who are impacted by them.”

It continued: “As a board, we have reflected on this feedback, agree with it and feel that, as a tenant-focused organisation, we should act on it. It is on the basis that, other than board members for the period of their board tenure, we believe membership of the company should be available exclusively to tenants in future.

“We proposed these changes to Wheatley Housing Group and they have agreed to exercise their power to do this. For and on behalf of the Parent, I am therefore formally notifying you that, pursuant to Article 9(7) of the Articles of Association of DGHP, your membership of DGHP will cease with immediate effect.”

Mr Dowson, leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council in the 1990s and a key figure in the inception of DGHP in 2003, said the idea that tenants are now in control of DGHP is “not correct.”

He added that until the Glasgow-based Wheatley Group took over control of DGHP last year, the former council houses were “under the control of local people.”

“If you look at the current board make-up,” he said, “you’ll find there are only three tenant positions on the board allowed by DGHP, I think there are seven other positions that are appointed by Wheatley.

“They’re not elected by local people, they’re not elected by the tenants. Wheatley now effectively owns the properties and controls them and appoints the seven members to the board.

“They are now purging the membership of local people to secure total control for Wheatley. I have been a member of DGHP over the 20 years of their existence and I was the councillor who led the housing stock transfer of these 12,000 houses to DGHP with a commitment that DGHP would be under local control.

“That has now been destroyed by this action and Wheatley are now getting rid of anyone that might challenge them.”

Responding, the partnership’s managing director, Matt Foreman, said Mr Downson’s claims “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

He added: “We’re grateful for the contribution all members have made over the years. But our board unanimously believes tenants should have even more control, power and influence in our decision making. And we make no apologies for that.

“The change, which affects a small number of members, means 632 of our remaining 639 shareholding members are all tenants. This underlines our commitment to putting the people we serve at the very heart of all we do. We also hope it encourages more tenants to become members.”

Mr Foreman said the benefits of having Wheatley as a parent company are “there to see already,” adding that with nearly £200 million of reserves, the company can “accelerate investment in existing homes and begin building new homes on several sites across the region, including Lincluden, Sanquhar and Monreith.”

He concluded that DGHP are “fully committed to delivering 1000 new affordable houses and improving the homes and lives of all of our tenants.”

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