The £50 Adventure: Chapter 4

We finally ‘went live’ in April 2003, but we were still negotiating the MMA (Modular Management Agreement) and it would be a further 2 years later before this was finally signed off.

I thought we were continuing to cope with the day to day demands on our time and resources until out of the blue – I received a letter from the bank saying our account was in the RED and they would not honour our cheque to Viking Office supplies for £1,990.64. This was entirely my fault as I had taken my eye off the financial ball, in just assuming that the Council would have credited our account when the allowance was due on the 1st April. I had no alternative but to complain to the council about their total disregard of their financial responsibilities but my call was treated with utter disdain. It was difficult for me to convince Jan that I needed to raid our private savings account of a further £2,000.00 in order to keep PETRA solvent. At that time £2,000 was, and still is, a lot of money. To add insult to injury it wasn’t until the 14th of that month our allowance was finally received.  At the time we were  gradually bringing the grounds into a decent state by regular grass cutting, planting bulbs and shrubs and installing new benches for residents to sit on in the grassed area.

In the July of that year we commissioned “Paul Walker Associates” to carry out a professional survey on the condition of the estates blocks and communal areas and the likely cost of carrying out the remedial work identified. The work identified included new roofs and stairwell windows as well as patching up the Spalding concrete on the outside walls. We were all a bit shocked to see the bottom line for essential works referred to £3.2 million pounds. When I forwarded the report onto the council’s “Capital Works Director” he acknowledged that the work was essential but explained the council budget could not meet that sort of cost. So it was ignored for the next eleven years.

We earmarked some of our surpluses to carry out a number of the smaller works such as decorating the stairwells, ground floors and basements and looked at what we could do to improve the general look of the blocks by putting together a 3 year business plan.

We sent our staff on a number of training sessions to do with manual handling, COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health), and also a session to deal with ‘Pyro-shield’ paint. This was needed as all communal areas would need to have 3 coats of this paint before two top-coats could be applied, (this requirement was an outcome from the disastrous fire at Kings Cross station)

We set about an expensive project, to set up and install a workshop in the basement area of Parkview House. However, once again a council officer decided to throw a spanner into our plans by insisting that the walls of the workshop area we had identified to install the workshop ‘probably’ had an asbestos element in the paint the council used at the time of the buildings construction. Of course I immediately questioned why (if the council were aware of this asbestos) they had ignored it for 30 odd years? Only to be told, ”you lot have no business in interfering with council buildings, without asking us first!” So, at our expense we had to call in an expensive independent analyst to take a sample of the wall paint. The real upset a few weeks later was the results of the test came back as negative, but the same council officer insisted that we have all the paint on the workshop walls removed before any work was undertaken. That unnecessary requirement cost us over £1,100.00 and was all because we wanted to our caretakers to be able to deal with the bigger building jobs we needed to undertake. After five guys dressed in space suits ‘cango’ed’ all the walls naked. At the same time we installed a state of the art shower and other washing facilities such as a washing machine, in case staff were involved in ‘dirty working’. The workshop was equipped so that residents who wanted to take on some minor repairs or small woodworking projects.

With prudent management of our finances we continued to make surpluses that year  of £41,938 that year..

 

(Mike)

 

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