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Peabody's CEO leaves staff and residents unimpressed

FEBRUARY 14, 2020

Businesses "driven by money concerns"

Last week’s column by Peabody Chief Executive, Brenden Sarsfield (Inside Housing 29/11/2019) makes the call for change many in the social housing sector would want.  But staff and residents are not impressed.

Mr Sarsfield writes, “Some say we have become businesses driven by money concerns, developers driven by the number of homes we build rather than those who can afford them.  Or that we have become agents of the state, afraid to call out what is wrong for fear of annoying important “stakeholders”…

.. I’d love to scratch the surface, rediscover the moral compass of the sector and not be afraid to fight for what is right.  We must have a business head, but show our social heart…

…We’ve argued for low rents and better wages and put that into practice in our own organisation”

Cuts without proper consultation

Unfortunately, this clashes with the experience of Unite members working for Peabody and tenants and resident groups that Unite is in touch with. Let’s hope the article marks a change of direction and that Peabody management will respond positively to the reasonable concerns of our members.

Neighbourhood managers in Peabody have coped with unrealistic workloads and weak management for an extended time.  Now, as part of an ill-considered cost cutting programme, vital specialist teams are being scraped and the total number of Neighbourhood Managers reduced.  The loss of valued domestic violence and community safety teams is tragic. The number of Neighbourhood Managers is being slashed from 80 to 65.  For these reasons and more, Unite members have voted 88.9% for strike action.  The cuts are being imposed without proper consultation with staff, residents, local authorities or communities.  

Zero hours contracts

Unite has submitted a claim for a 7% pay increase for Peabody care and support staff. That might sound like a lot but some of them have had no pay increase for six years and a quick look at the organisation’s website will confirm that they are recruiting at £9.30 per hour.  While Mr Sarsfield has spoken out against the effect of zero hours contracts Peabody is hiring care and support staff on zero hours contracts.

Peabody have sponsored excellent research highlighting the impact of in work poverty but the claim that they are doing something about it for their own staff rings hollow. Let’s hope that Peabody accept the claim in full.

In mid-November Peabody announced an increase in its surplus and rising margins yet cuts continue. It’s time for Peabody to put fine words into action.

The response above was submitted to Inside Housing as a 'letter to the editor' by Paul Kershaw, Chair, Unite housing workers LE1111 branch on the 2nd December 2019.


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