Housing Minister Grant Shapps has today announced some (limited) government funding to train tenant panels to hold their respective housing landlords to account. On the face of it this is good news, but as ever, we need to delve a little deeper in order to gauge the true merits of this announcement. Clearly, any government funding towartds the training and development of tenants has to be welcomed. As someone who has spent many years working with tenants in raising their skills and knowledge so that they can take more of an active part in how services are provided, I believe that any money to develop this further has to be a good thing. Now I have to admit that I haven't yet seen the small print, but it may be that the devil will be in the detail. I hope that Mr Shapps will adhere to the governments mantra of localism and allow social landlords to deliver the training for their tenants in the way that fits their local needs. Any attempt to overly prescribe how the money is spent should be resisted.
Other concerns have been raised about how tenant panels will be constituted. How will they be selected? What powers will they have? Will there be any legal basis for their power? Since Mr Shapps announced that the TSA was 'toast' there has been speculation about what would replace it as an effective regulator. Whilst we should not dismiss the idea of tenant scrutiny - in fact there are many advantages to this - we must also be sure that the scrutiny is genuine and does not let the poor performers off the hook. The TSA was becoming a sound regulator - let's not lose the good work that has been done by landlords and the TSA by jumping onto the tenant panel bandwagon without proper thought and careful planning for specific and tangible outcomes.