Your Voice is a guide to having your say on housing issues in Thurrock if you're a council tenant (this includes council leaseholders).
'Tenant participation' is the term used to describe the many ways that you can get more involved, either as an individual or as part of a group.
The Council is required by law to consult with you on decisions that are likely to affect you. Examples include major changes to housing policy, or substantial changes directly affecting your property. There is also a requirement by government for all councils to have an agreed contract called 'Tenant Participation Compact'.
In Thurrock, we go one step further and positively encourage tenant participation in all aspects of the Housing Service.
A Tenant Participation compact is an agreement between the Council (officers and councillors) and tenants.
As well as being part of your tenant handbook, Your Voice is Thurrock's tenant compact document. Including the compact within the handbook demonstrates a shared commitment between the Council and tenants that opportunities to get involved are a key right available to you as a Thurrock council tenant.
Your Voice has been agreed by tenant representatives working in partnership with the Council and has been independently validated by the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS).
Throughout Your Voice you will see a series of 'Compact commitments'.
These are minimum standards that have been agreed with tenant representatives.
To provide a working environment which actively seeks tenant involvement both individually and collectively in the housing service.
There are a number of opportunities for active involvement, both borough-wide and locally, meaning that you can get involved as little or as much as you want.
The main ways of getting involved are listed below, followed by further details of each of these:
Consultation Panels provide you with the opportunity to be involved in decisions on all aspects of the housing services.
This means that you can get involved with issues that may be important to you even if you do not have the time to attend regular meetings. Some examples of issues that have been discussed by consultation panels are:-
For complex projects such as the Tenant Handbook, a number of follow-up meetings may be necessary.
Other topics that may be discussed include
Suggestions for future Panel meetings are welcome.
We maintain a mailing list of interested tenants, and Panel meetings are also publicised in Local Offices. Please contact the Tenant Participation team for more information.
At least 4 consultation panels a year will be held.
Training and networking events take place regularly. Contact the Tenant Participation team for details of forthcoming events.
Training may be provided 'in-house' - by the Tenant Participation team for example.
External providers such as the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) are often called upon to deliver specialist tenant training courses.
TPAS has provided training to Thurrock tenants on committee roles, getting people involved, and Equal Opportunities. Other courses available include titles such as: Getting the best from the Internet; Strengthening your community; Finding the funds.
Events such as conferences and seminars provide a way for tenants to network and pick up new ideas. These may be held locally or around the country.
Attendance at training and networking events is free for tenants. Places are offered firstly to Consultation Panel and local tenant group members. Spare places may be allocated to interested individuals who aren't part of a group - contact the Tenant Participation team if you want to find out more.
Council leaseholders are those owning a property on a long lease from the Council. Thurrock recognises that opportunities for leaseholder involvement are just as important as those for tenants.
This forum has been meeting successfully since January 2001. The forum meets approximately 5 times a year, and 'guest speakers' are invited from various Council departments. Topics that the forum has discussed so far include care taking, upkeep of communal areas, insurance and major works programmes.
The Tenant Participation team will distribute minutes, publicise the Forum and ensure attendance by relevant officers as requested by the Forum.
The Council and the Leaseholders Forum have recently agreed a protocol for consultation on major works.
The Leaseholders protocol will be monitored via the Leaseholders Forum. Breaches of the protocol will be brought to the attention of the relevant council officer, who will then report to the Forum on measures being taken to rectify the breach.
Further details are contained in the booklet 'Being a Council Leaseholder'.
These are area - based groups which hold open meetings to discuss issues affecting the local area. Often, outside representatives are invited to attend to assist and advise:
We'll support any local group of tenants who want to get involved - but in order to access funds for the benefit of the local community you'll need to have a constitution. A constitution shows that your group is committed to being open and democratic.
A Constitution in its simplest form needs to state:
Remember - the purpose of a Constitution is to provide guidelines for the group to work with. It shouldn't be complicated or confusing!
If your group goes on to access external funds, it will need to have a more detailed constitution.
If you're interested in joining your local group, or setting up a new one, contact your local housing office or the Tenant Participation Team.
Thurrock Council has introduced an area governance structure with Community Forums.
Estate inspections were introduced throughout the borough in 2002. Inspections are carried out once a month, with residents and local Councillors encouraged to attend. Spot checks are also carried out throughout the year. The purpose of the inspections is to monitor cleanliness and environmental issues on an ongoing basis.
Dates of inspections are publicised in the Thurrock Gazette, Housing News, and in Area Housing Offices.
Contact your Local Office or the Tenant Participation team to find out more.
Each local office has a budget for small-scale environmental improvements. Tenants, either individually or as part of a local group, can put forward suggestions which would benefit their area via their local office.
The value of schemes can range from a few hundred pounds up to £10,000 - £15,000. Examples of schemes that have been funded from this budget in the past have included:
We can often increase the value range of schemes that can be funded to as much as, say £30,000, by trying to match-fund our budget against a grant from an external agency, such as the Cleanaway Trust in Ockendon or your Community Forum.
Any tenant can suggest a scheme to their local office. If you think your estate or block of flats could do with a bit of a face-lift, please contact your local office.
A start-up grant of £300 is available to new Associations. Top-up grants can be made, providing accounts have been kept, showing how previous income has been spent for the benefit of the local community.
Tenant participation is funded out of tenant's rents and so we can't usually fund a group that represents mainly owner-occupiers. In practice, most current associations represent a cross-section of the local community.
Thurrock Council will provide grant support to local groups that can demonstrate that Council tenants in the area have an opportunity to be actively involved.
If you need access to a computer, printer or photocopier, contact your local office or the Tenant Participation team and we'll arrange it.
We can also help with stationery, computer cartridges etc.
Tenant groups can access photocopying facilities via the local office or the tenant participation team.
Computer equipment (or a contribution towards running costs) will be available to tenant groups to assist with committee responsibilities.
If your group needs a venue to meet, we can arrange this for you.
No tenant should be out of pocket because of their involvement. We'll meet costs associated with attending events, meetings etc.
Whether or not you're actively involved, you have a right to be kept informed of issues affecting you as a tenant. These are the ways we make sure the best information is available to you at all times:
Housing News is a magazine provided for all council tenants and leaseholders. Articles included range from information a on initiatives in housing, reports from local groups, 'A Day in the life of' etc. A panel of tenants approves each edition.
Contact the Tenant Participation team if you have any ideas for an article on a particular housing topic, or if you'd like to be part of the editorial panel.
Housing News will be sent to every Council tenant and leaseholder at least 3 times a year.
Customer feedback will always be reported from the previous issue.
Information leaflets are currently available covering topics such as:
Individual chapters of the Tenants handbook are also available as stand alone leaflets.
Contact the Tenant Participation team if you have any suggestions for further leaflets, or have any comment on leaflets currently available.
Information leaflets will be available at the Civic Offices and all local offices.
The Council and tenant representatives have recently agreed a protocol for consultation on major works.
This includes major refurbishment schemes such as windows or roof replacement and relatively small schemes, such as re-laying estate paths, marking out new planting areas and closure of alleyways etc.
The responsibility for ensuring consultation takes place rests with your local office. If you or your estate expects to receive an improvement soon, you may want to enquire about the proposals at your local office.
We will consult with any tenants who are affected by an improvement scheme.
When information is produced we believe the best opinion of its relevance and suitability is that of tenants - so we make sure that tenants look at documents before we publish them. Points they consider include:
All information leaflets and documents (including Housing News) for tenants and leaseholders will be 'tenant-proofed' by a minimum of 6 tenants and/or leaseholders.
Thurrock uses the services of TPAS (Tenant Participation Advisory Service) and other organisations to gain independent advice on tenant issues. Independent advisors are employed to work directly with tenants, and to report back on tenants' views.
An independent advisor will be appointed to work directly with tenants when proposing major changes to housing policy. An advisor will also be made available on request - for example during consultation on proposed major works to an estate.
These may be held when proposals are put forward for an area. Examples vary from environmental improvement schemes to major changes like the provision of a concierge system.
The Landlord Service Group in Housing is responsible for delivering services to tenants. In doing this it monitors the performance of itself and provider agents. Some services are provided on behalf of the Landlord Service by other council departments or contractors. The repairs service is an example of this. All the local offices work within the Landlord Service Group.
Your local office monitors performance locally on your behalf. It will check how well the repairs; care taking; Street Services; and anti-social-behaviour services are being delivered. Tenants being involved at a local level in checking up on the performance of their services can have a very significant effect on how well such services are delivered.
As a result of this, your local office aims to interest as many tenants as possible in monitoring local performance, either through regular group meetings, or less formal ad-hoc arrangements, such as a site meeting with a group of residents. Whilst there are no specific targets for the number of local meetings with tenants, there is an expectation that local offices will meet with tenants in a variety of ways regularly. The average number of meetings held per office is 45 per year.
If you want to find out more about how your local office includes tenants in monitoring local services, please speak to your estate officer.
We encourage tenant involvement involvement in staff recruitment. This enables tenants to play an active part in ensuring that staff appointed recognise the importance of tenant involvement in housing services.
Full interview training will be provided for tenants interested in taking part in staff recruitment. Please contact the Tenant Participation team if you're interested.
The Compact commitments outlined in this document will be monitored, reviewed and updated annually.
If you want to find out more about how the Compact Commitments will be monitored, please contact the Tenant Participation team.
The Housing Department follows The Council's policy of promoting diversity - fighting intolerance:
Thurrock Council opposes all forms of prejudice and discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, gender, nationality, disability, religious belief, age or sexuality.
We aim to achieve our vision by valuing diversity in our communities, promoting an inclusive society and opposing all forms of intolerance and prejudicial discrimination.
We will strive to promote diversity and fight intolerance through our work with all partners in the public, voluntary, community, independent and private sectors, locally and regionally.
We will also take positive action to prevent harassment and victimisation of residents, service users and employees.
We expect tenant groups to observe Thurrock's diversity policy at all times. Any individual tenant who feels excluded should bring this to the attention of the Tenant Participation team.
We will provide Diversity training to groups and individuals, and will ensure that existing groups receive updates.
Participation doesn't just involve officers in the Housing Department. Key partners include
Other external Partners include
You can contact the Tenant Participation team at
Phone: 01375 413960
Mobile: 07884 483399
We want to actively encourage tenants to get involved. If you have any ideas on how we can improve our services, please contact us.