Annington Homes in Private Eye Again.

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by Adjutant, Feb 28, 2012.

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  1. From Private Eye No 1308 (24 Feb - 8 Mar 12)

    Mortar attack

    THE government's much-heralded "armed forces covenant" is already being broken by the failure to address the dismal condition of military families' homes, the Commons defence select committee has heard.

    While the covenant was brought on to the statute book last year with great fanfare - David Cameron declaring that it was "now part of the law of our land and the value we place on our armed forces is clear for all to see" - the Ministry of Defence was announcing first cuts and then, from 2013, a three-year "pause" in funding upgrades of dilapidated accommodation. This means clapped-out kitchens and bathrooms and endemic damp problems will stay.

    Having described how forces personnel see housing as "a staunch pillar of the covenant", the chief executive of the Army Families Federation, Julie McCarthy, told Colchester Lib Dem MP Sir Bob Russell that "in terms of housing, it is probably fair to say that most families feel [the covenant] is
    failing". Dawn McCafferty, chair of the RAF Families Federation, reported how, when the funding pause was announced just months after the covenant, "we got feedback immediately from families to say 'that's the covenant broken, then'."

    The spending freeze will immediately save the defence budget amounts in the low tens of millions per year - peanuts next to, say, the £14bn spent on equipment. In the long run, as housing deteriorates, many suspect it will prove a false economy anyway. But that's not the only absurdity.

    Military accommodation can be upgraded at public expense - but only when the military no longer uses it. Russell has pointed out that housing on his Colchester patch has been sold by the company that owns service families' accommodation, Annington Homes, to a local housing association that has upgraded it for social housing tenants using money from the Department for Communities and Local Government budget. This might be reasonable in isolation, but it's galling to military families living in worse housing on the other side of the road.

    Annington, meanwhile, sails on. As Eye 1303 reported, chief executive James Hopkins trousered £2,632,000 (over two "Hesters") last year for doing very little apart from managing a captive portfolio of houses and selling a few, while two of his colleagues shared £3.3m. By siphoning its ample profits offshore as interest payments to its private equity investors, Annington itself pays no tax.

    Whether the defence select committee takes a closer look at broken covenants for some and unimaginable riches for others will depend on chairman James Arbuthnot - which poses a dilemma. In 1996 he was the junior minister, under defence secretary Michael Portillo, who was given the task of flogging the defence housing estate to Annington!
     
  2. At the risk of annoying people is service housing poor value for money, in a terrible state and worse than council housing?

    My answer to all is probably no. The national average rental cost of a 3 bed semi is 750 quid but even at Grade 1 for Charge the serviceman is only paying 256 per month and as most houses are Grade 3 for Charge are actually only paying 130 a month. This is at minimum a 65% discount and is not a bad deal. All Service Personnel should get a discount as SFA is there to support accompanied service, they have no choice where they live, cannot buy their SFA, or modify or redecorate it. But 65%!

    Grade for Charge is always lower than Standard for Condition as the former takes into account not only condition but locational and environmental factors and is set by the Chain of Command. I bet you could build a brand new house and get it down to Grade 4 for Charge due to the other factors.

    Condition is generally good but there are some bad ones out there. Yes wood chip wall paper and 1980s kitchens are poor but lets not forget how little rent is paid.

    Council housing and Housing Associations also work to different maintenance standards as set out in the Govt' Decent Homes Standard. You really don't want the MOD following that pattern as response times would at best be down to 15 days for an emergency and longer for routine maint.

    Annington's take a bashing but it was the best deal on the table in 1996 and the Govt of the time both Con and Lab must also shoulder some of the criticism. Have a look in their annual report and see how much the MOD pays for its 40,000 SFA its a good deal, but we are hooked into it for up to 199 years which was the lease back.

    the Families Feds do a great job but SLA is in much worse condition and who is standing up for that lobby? Consistent complaints about housing and its cost is probably one of the reasons why the NEM is looking at reducing entitlement. Housing is required to support accompanied service and when we are all back in Super Garrisons in a stable environment much of the reason for service provision might fall away - see the No More MSQ thread.
     
  3. Where's your quarter? They might be cheap but far too many of them are ******* slums you couldn't keep animals in legally. And probably far worse than most council housing.
     
  4. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    The major difference is if the council do not keep the council houses in their area up to a fairly reasonable standard then they stand the risk of being given the bum's rush by the electorate; if Annington do not keep service accommodation up to a fairly reasonable state they will run the risk of increased profits!!
     
    • Like Like x 4
  5. I know that there are some poor houses out there, 5%, where I would not won't to live but I sense a grand generalisation.

    I'm only on my 7th SFA and all have been good, particularly the one on an old RAF base. I can get over wood chip wall paper and put rugs on the carpets but its the curtains and kitchen that annoy the Mrs. But I keep coming back to the great deal that we get. Much is low density housing with gardens which you don't get in civi street and safe areas for your kids to play.

    Once we are all back in UK in stable super garrisons what is the requirement for SFA? It won't be to support accompanied service. I fear that we are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

    Go on keep saying its all crap and see how quickly the MOD gets out of housing. Then reality will hit and I'll give you an example. In High Wycombe there are 3 bed semis that were returned to Annigtons and are now on the civi market. These families are paying over 1100 a month in mortgage fees, council tax and maintenance costs yet on the other side of the street the same house is being rented to a serviceman for no more than 256 per month.

    So you can swear and shout at me all you like but you have yet to demonstrate and prove to me the facts of your case. Sorry to get hard nosed about it.
     
  6. Its the MOD's resoponsibility to maintain and upgrade SFA not Annington. That is the reason for most of the rental discount. Lots of myths out there.
     
  7. Where do you get 5% from?

    That's going to happen anyway whether I say it's crap on the internet or not. The MOD wants out of housing full stop. It costs money and they don't want to spend it.

    Who's shouted or sworn at you? In eight years of married life I've yet to be in a quarter that I'd have accepted as a civvie. They're cheap and that's all they had going for them. I've taken over houses with major safety flaws, I've taken over houses that stink so badly that you could smell them from forty feet away, I've taken over houses that have been so old, dirty and badly maintained that the wife's been in tears while we moved in.

    Christ, the quarter horror stories have been done over and over and over again on here. There might be some nice ones out there but there appears to be a hell of a lot that aren't as well.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  8. Trax you make some valid points and I agree with some of them but please stop referring to the ridiculous concept of 'super garrisons' as it completely undermines everything else you say. They don't exist yet and they will never work for the vast numbers of personnel. Even if the concept sounds great the complete inability of Glasgow to manage peoples careers beyond the end of their nose would see it doomed to failure.
     
  9. I'm very sorry that your experience has been so bad and the impact on your wife, my experience has been different. We all dislike moving, leaving friends behind and setting up house yet again and this can colour views. Oddly I have found the older red brick houses to be much better than those from the 70s.

    I hope you complained and refused the SFA that were unsafe or stank. I've seen unoccupied houses with cracks and those with alleged electrical faults and I'm surprised that any such house would be allocated. The CoC should have supported you.

    The 5% comes from reading things that I should not have.
     
  10. Oh but they do. There are 2 Base Ports and several RAF MOB (Brize Marham etc) as well as Salisbury Plain, Catterick and Colchester. The next Army ones might be the East Midlands (in old RAF bases on the A1) and possibly in the West Midlands based around Cosford, Stafford and Lichfield.

    Actually I agree that from an Army perspective the don't yet work and will not do so until we are back from Germany and in our new Army Structure 2020. I'll be long gone by then - thank goodness.
     
  11. What's the point? I'd have been stuck in a hotel that I couldn't afford until they offered me a quarter thirty miles from where I work that I couldn't have commuted to (the wife needs the car for her work) without serious financial problems. We've moved in, we've cleaned up as best as we could and we've made the best of it that we could. Just like so many of our friends have with their sub standard quarters.

    After one quarter dispute where my CofC washed their hands completely of me and sided with a clearly bent liar from DHE I wouldn't trust any of them as far as I could throw them.

    I'd be very surprised if only 5% of current Army quarters are substandard. Either that or what's considered standard is a joke.
     
  12. The last time we were in SFA which had a cracked DPC and made the entire ground floor carpets wet for 50 weeks of the year growing mould on my furniture, we were told that it would cost too much to repair after spending 18 months of a 2 year posting trying to get someone to do something. Complaining and refusing SFA isn't as easy as you might imagine when you arrive at your quarter after travelling halfway across the world with the movers sitting outside on a Friday afternoon. The phrase 'that's your allocation, if you don't want it you can go to the back of the queue' is mumbled more often than not.

    On one patch they were handing back SFA to Annington for sale. It's a bit gutting to see MOD spending thousands just to get the properties up to the right standard so Annington would accept them yet leaving the neighbouring MOD-dwellers festering in properties which apparently aren't good enough for civvies.
     
  13. Annington was such a false economy, look at the 2 estates in Catterick (Hambleton & Cleveland) 130 homes in decent nick handed back to Annington and sold to the odd squaddie but mostly civvys. Then they realise there a housing shortage in the Garrison, followed by its enlargement to a Super-garrison but no extra homes built.
     
  14. Look at the "Pirbright 50" - seriously poorly maintained SFAs on the doorstep of the ATR which were allowed to fall into disrepair en masse so that Annington could dispose of them. Leafy Surrey commuter belt, anyone? Meanwhile soldiers who could have lived in them were quartered upto 50 miles away. Stupid, pointless and flawed... unless you are Annington homes.

    I have also lived in houses with signs nailed to every wall which said "do not put nails in these walls as they may contain asbestos". Nice.
     
  15. The worst houses that I have seen are the prefabs. They probably only had a 25 year design life and upgrading them is a waste of time and money and should rather be knocked down and rebuilt but where is the money to come from.

    Its stories like yours that make me think that the MOD should review housing provision but that must be considered along side that other major changes that are on the horizon. It will not make much difference to my generation but could impact those that follow on who may very well have to fend for themselves after a limited period of entitlement. Will this be a better solution?