Response 701615405

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Wyndford Residents' Association

Questions

1. Do you agree that freedom of information legislation should be extended to Registered Social Landlords, as proposed in this consultation paper?

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2. Freedom of Information can be extended to organisations that undertake ‘functions of a public nature’. You may wish to provide comments on how you consider that RSLs undertake functions of a public nature, for example, with reference to the factors referred to earlier in the consultation paper.

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The Wyndford Resident's Association is genuinely thankful that the Scottish Government is considering the option of making Registered Social Landlords(RSLs) such as Cube Housing Association, and the Wheatley Group, comply to the public inspection of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. We feel that this might help solve some of the problems our members have been experiencing with our RSL for a number of years now. Both tenants and homeowners. As a matter of current issue with our homeowner members, we hope this will include property factors of RSLs. In some situations a property factor is compulsory[1], and the RSL can often decide who this factor will be. This might be through 'right to buy' terms, or through the property voting powers of the RSL. It could be argued that this creates a monopoly on these services within certain communities across Scotland. From our members experiences it seems to have created a monopoly in the Wyndford Estate. As an example of monopolistic behaviour, with issues around factoring fees: Recently a resident of the Wyndford Estate, after many attempts to solve the matter themselves by phone calls, sought the services of the the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic. Multiple requests for information from the factor, even when requested by a Member of the Scottish Parliament, failed. An apology was only obtained when the issues was brought before the Housing and Property Chamber. The representative of the RSL factor admitted that, "Communications had not been as they should have", and that the Wyndford resident had been overcharged twice. These admissions only came after being brought before the the Housing and Property Chamber, and before the Chamber had even considered their own opinion on the matter. The Wyndford Residents Association finds that our members are unanimously fierce in their suspicions of any attempt to avoid legislative openness of RSLs like Cube Housing Associations, and the Wheatley Group. On the website of the Scottish Housing News, on the 1st of December 2016, the director of Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations (GWSF), an organisation that has previously stood against extending Freedom of information... is quoted as saying... “... FOI(Freedom of Information) isn’t at all about helping the community – in practice it usually ends up as being ‘helpful’ for a small minority of external enquirers who in most cases could have got the information without the rigmarole of FOI." [2] The Wyndford Resident's Association has noticed that under Part 2 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, RSLs can reject a request for information that can be obtained without the power of this legislation, as it would be classed as 'otherwise accessible'. Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations has previously argued that this proposal would result in additional costs too, but it will be the residents who will have to meet these costs through rent and factoring fees. We are unaware of any attempt to gather the opinions of residents on this. We are also unaware of anyone being asked for their opinions on this the last time the Scottish Government held a consultation. [1] http://scotland.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/advice_topics/repairs_and_bad_conditions/repairs_and_maintenance_in_common_areas/property_managers_and_factors [2] http://www.scottishhousingnews.com/12710/government-opens-consultation-into-extending-foi-to-social-landlords/#