Response 607508186

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About You

What is your name?

Name
Shelley Hutton

Are you responding as an individual or an organisation?

Please select one item
(Required)
Individual
Ticked Organisation

What is your organisation?

Organisation
Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association

Questions

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

Please select one item
Yes
Ticked No

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.

Please enter comments:
• We get a certain amount of Scottish Government/Edinburgh Council grant for some of our development work – but not all. If extended, FOI would cover all of our development activities including those privately financed. • Only 5% of our lets in 2015-16 were Section 5 referrals – this is not unusual for RSLs. (Source: ARC) • We are already regulated in terms of our RSL functions and status as a charity. The Scottish Government’s review of the Scottish Social Housing Charter earlier this year chose not to expand on the requirements of RSLs relating to accessibility of information. • The consultation paper correctly highlights where tenants already have the right to information. The paper omitted to mention Section 23 of the Scottish Housing Act (2001) – see below - which is very clear on the right to information for tenants. Tenants are already well served by existing legislation. Tenancy agreement and information 23 Tenant’s right to written tenancy agreement and information (6) The landlord under a Scottish secure tenancy must provide the tenant with information about its complaints procedure and must, if the tenant so requests, provide the tenant with information about— Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 (asp 10) 19 Part 2—Tenants of social landlords Chapter 1—Scottish secure tenancies (a) the terms of the tenancy, (b) the landlord’s policy and procedure in relation to setting of rent and charges, (c) the landlord’s policy and rules in relation to— (i) admission of applicants to any housing list, (ii) priority of allocation of houses, (iii) transfers of tenants between houses owned by the landlord, (iv) exchanges of houses owned by the landlord with houses owned by other bodies, (v) repairs and maintenance, (d) the application of Part III of the 1987 Act to the tenant, the tenancy and the house, (e) the obligations which the tenant is likely to incur if the tenant’s right under that Part to purchase the house is exercised, including any obligation to maintain any building of which the house forms part and any common areas, (f) where the landlord is a local authority landlord or a registered social landlord, the landlord’s tenant participation strategy, (g) the landlord’s arrangements for taking decisions in the exercise of its functions in relation to the management of housing accommodation and the provision of related services by it. • Tenants also receive annual performance reports distributed directly to them. If they are also members of the association, they receive papers – including financial – distributed prior to the AGM. Companies House is also a source of information. • Extension of FOI to RSLs gives additional rights to anyone and everyone with a notion to ask regardless of whether they are a customer or not. There is little value in this. • We anticipate that a significant number of FOI requests will come from customers who have exhausted the complaints process, including the SPSO and will use FOI for vexatious purposes. We are protected from this with the SPSO model and guidance on managing unacceptable behaviour. Any FOI extension erodes this protection. We foresee spending a disproportionate amount of time and resources on unreasonable behaviour, to the detriment of delivery of service to others. • The consultation paper is not at all clear on the status of subsidiaries. And not conclusive. We would expect any extension to be totally limited to the RSL.

3. The proposed order would be expected to come into force on 1 April 2018. Do you consider this a reasonable timescale, allowing for preparation for inclusion?

Please select one item
Yes
Ticked No
If not, you may wish to indicate what timescale you feel would be more appropriate and why.
• Our budget for 2017-18 is set (the rent increase was agreed in consultation with tenants) and our income level will not change. Preparing for the implementation of FOI will require either more resource or a different application of existing resource – we need to spend more or stop doing things we have in an agreed, budgeted business plan on which customers are relying. • We have a staff of 230 people. We would need until 1 April 2019 to fully understand the impact of FOI, develop internal processes and ensure effective learning and development required for the core staff and other staff. • We would also need to ensure digital accessibility and make sure that FOI requests could be made on all platforms. Digital and web development needs to be costed and timetabled. • Our tenants rent consultation will take place in Summer 2017. We are not sure if we will be able to take the extension of FOI into account when discussing new costs with tenants. • We are not able to discuss definitive costs with tenants – we would have to give estimated training, systems and staff costs.

4. We would welcome comments on the draft partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment provided at Annex A.

Comments:
• Re 2.2 (“…in respect of their public functions) – therefore if extended, FOI must only be applicable to the ‘public functions’. Clear guidance would have to be provided – RSLs operate very differently and will vary in the level of ‘public function’ and it will be confusing for staff and those making requests on what the FOI actually covers. • Re 2.7 – “…hold public services to account…” customers already have information and consultation rights. They also have recourse to the Scottish Housing Regulator. Why should a random member of the public be able to make information requests about our services when it has no impact on them? Where any of our services are detrimental to someone – they have a right to complain and for that to be heard by the SPSO if our response dissatisfied them. • 2.8 – “…extension equalises information access rights”. It is a moot point to compare social housing tenants in housing associations and councils as both are covered by the same housing legislation (access to information), housing regulator, and the complaints ombudsman. Housing association tenants can and should access information about council services because the council serves all its citizens. • Re 4.8 (“…in respect of the information they hold concerning their functions of a public nature.”– see comments relating to 2.2 above. • 4.9 – the paper acknowledges the additional costs that will be incurred and that these costs will be passed onto the tenants. If the extension is approved, we need to know before embarking on rent consultation in Summer 2017 – if implementation is to take effect 1/4/18. • 4.13 – where is the evidence for suggesting low requests numbers? What is this based on?

5. We would welcome comments on how these proposals might impact on ‘Equality Groups’ i.e. in respect of age, gender, race, religion, disability, sexuality, children’s rights etc. Comments will inform the Equalities Impact Assessment and Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment to be completed following consultation.

Comments
None