Posted by: sammycoop | February 13, 2009

Greenfield Court – Lancaster

Local Conversation with Tenants of Greenfield CourtLancaster

Held at the Community Centre

Facilitated by Dave Murphy and Toni Nugent


The residents of Greenfield Court volunteered to undertake their local conversation in the style of a Philosophical Enquiry. The style of this method is as follows and due to the positive feedback received, it is the style we shall use when we try the Philosophical method of engagement.



We show the TSA’S DVD, which we advise residents that once they have viewed the film we are going to split people into pairs or groups of four and get them to discuss their first thoughts and share them with the whole group.


(2)       QUESTION

We then show the group six questions which are listed below and ask them to vote on the question they would like to discuss in depth, in their smaller groups and then share the comments with the whole group. We also advise that the group will have an opportunity to comment as a whole on the remaining questions. This is in addition to putting forward their individual views on the TSA questionnaire which we would like them to complete.

(A)       What are the common views around what makes a good service?

(B)       What are the common ideas around the three best and three worst things that Contour do?

(C)       What services that Contour currently perform should we do differently?

(D)       What are the group’s ideas on what makes a good landlord?

(E)       What could Contour do to improve our services and what are the top 5 things that would really impress you?

(F)       What choices do tenants currently have and what choices would they like to have in the future?



Following the discussion regarding the chosen questions, in small groups, and the sharing of those ideas and opinions with the whole group, we then request that individually or in small groups that people put forward their final thoughts on the question, which may have differed from their previous ideas following their discussions.


Below are the findings from the Philosophical Enquiry at Greenfield CourtLancaster.



  1. The DVD did not give very much detail about the topics that were to be discussed.
  2. The TSA sound like they are just a talking shop.
  3. Is this just lip-service and will they really take on our views?
  4. How can they consider the views throughout the country?
  5. Will our views matter?
  6. This seems a really good idea.
  7. We want to see actions and results.
  8. What is the cost of this exercise and who is paying for it?
  9. It’s about time that someone from the government actually asked us.




The group chose the following question.


(F)       What choices do tenants currently have and what choices would they like to have in the future?


The tenants addressed the question of what choices they currently have and would like to have in the Philosophical Enquiry format. The group came to the following conclusions after their debate.


Existing Choices

  1. The tenants recognised that they have a number of choices expressing that they currently enjoyed the opportunities to get involved and appreciated the support that the tenants association received from Contour.
  2. They recognised that they had a good and active community with regular contact with each other and their landlord with various ongoing activities.
  3. They were aware of their choices in methods of paying their rent and they felt that they had adequate choices when improvements are made to their homes and around the scheme.
  4. The group felt that since the introduction of Supporting People Charge had been introduced, the choices of services and how they were provided had been reduced and the services were a lot less flexible, less transparent and therefore difficult to assess value for money.
  5. A number of tenants believed the landlord offered enough choices currently and more choice may be confusing or difficult for both the tenant and the landlord to manage fairly.


Choices for the Future

Following the enquiry into existing choices, an interesting discussion took place in the Philosophical Enquiry format that led to a number of new services or choices that tenants would like to be able to meet.

Tenants recognised that this was a mixed scheme of general needs and sheltered housing tenants, with tenants of varying needs and levels of support. They were concerned whether Contour would be able to deliver a variety of services that would be tailored to meet the various individual requirements, however suggested the following additional choices they would like to have in the future.

  1. Existing tenants to re-housing priority to transfer into different/more suitable properties when vacancies occur.
  2. More flexibility for local staff/scheme manager to be able to undertake different or additional duties as required, such as spreading rock salt when icy or snowy conditions make footpaths dangerous and not hiding behind health and safety policies.
  3. Having local staff to be able to change bulbs, etc. so they can respond to dangerous lighting failures, also having a stock of replacement bulbs on site.
  4. For tenants to be able to insist that Contour can use local contractors with the availability to buy parts for repairs at local shops or depots, which would enable repairs to be completed the same day. This would save time, provide better value for money and reduce carbon footprint due to less travel being necessary.
  5. To be able to choose the type of window cleaning service, so we can return to ladder and a proper clean, not the pole cleaning system.
  6. More access to the scheme manager, using existing IT to help tenants who do not and cannot use internet to acquire services. Tenants would like Contour to enable or allow scheme managers to order shopping or other services on the internet on their behalf.
  7. Services that are currently provided by Contour but funded by Supporting People Charge need to be more flexible so they reflect the needs or aspirations of tenants not the regulator’s of Supporting People. Some of the requirements by Supporting People are important or valued by the tenants. Supporting People Charge needs to reflect costs so that tenants can assess value for money and make informed choices.
  8. Services provided by Contour need to be accurately described and displayed as to the true cost so that tenants can take an informed choice whether they are value, e.g. gardening and window cleaning, etc.




This session enabled the group as individuals to put forward any new or different thoughts that may have become apparent as not considered by them or others, prior to this enquiry. Those comments are as follows:

  1. Residents would like to have more choice about the design of their properties when improvements are taking place.
  2. Some type of choice whether to join some type of loyalty bonus scheme or discount for prompt rent payers.
  3. More choice and funds for disabled adaptations.
  4. Local regulations to meet local requirements.
  5. Local staff to have different job descriptions to meet needs of local tenants as “one size does not fit all.”
  6. Only have Nation Standards where local standards for service have not been set and tenants should advise and agree local standards.



Answers from the group of the other remaining 5 questions.


(A)       What are the common views around what makes a good service?

Ebay – provides a quick service and enormous choice of services. You can decide what price and the standard of service you would like to receive. They provide the opportunity for feedback that is easy to access so you can assess the probable service before you buy.



  1. Helpful staff with a personal service.
  2. Products delivered on time and what you expected.
  3. Good record keeping.
  4. Communicates well between different staff and departments
  5. Value for money.



(B)       What are the common ideas around the three best and three worst things that Contour do?


  1. Listened and improved the gardening service.
  2. Listened to resident concerns about car parking and improved the spaces.
  3. Good at looking after the local area and maintenance of common areas.
  4. Supports Tenants Associations.



  1. Poor back up service throughout the organisation when staff is on holiday.
  2. Poor communication between staff and other departments leading to service failure or delays.
  3. Unable to provide the out of hour’s emergency warden service as described.
  4. Feedback inconsistent.



(C)       What services that Contour currently perform should we do differently?

  1. Window cleaning needs to revert to ladders and get rid of the pole system.
  2. Provide an appointment system for repairs.
  3. Ensure the contractors are capable of doing the repairs and that they carry spare parts so jobs are done on the same day or visit.
  4. Contractors and gardeners should remove all waste rubbish from the site and clean up.
  5. On site staff should check jobs are complete and contractors should have to get jobs signed off, e.g. gardeners.



(D)       What are the group’s ideas on what makes a good landlord?

  1. Reasonable rents.
  2. Well kept and maintained properties and grounds.
  3. Good repairs service with appointments.
  4. Good relations and contact with tenants.
  5. Be sympathetic to tenant’s local requirements and understand and listen to their views.
  6. Provide a service that they say they will.
  7. Spend tenant’s money wisely and be accountable.



(E)       What could Contour do to improve our services and what are the top 5 things that would really impress you?

  1. Deliver an appointment system that is adhered to for repairs and gas services.
  2. Provide a free phone number for mobiles and landlines.
  3. Provide a loyalty/bonus scheme, e.g. discounts for holidays.
  4. Explain service charges better by giving us a breakdown of the services and what it costs so that tenants can assess value for money.
  5. Breakdown of how the net rent is spent provided annually.
  6. Reduce rents.

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