Monday 5 February 2024

Michael Gove warns one of Brent's leading housing associations over 'severe maladministration' findings


Wembley Matters was contacted by a Sovereign Network Group (SNG)  leaseholder in Brent who was at the end of his tether because, despite  appealing to the recently merged housing association (Sovereign Housing Association plus Netwrok Housing), his MP and others, has been unable to get satisfaction with a series of complaints about the state of his building, service charges and a £800 excess.

He is clearly not alone. Michael Gove's letter above shows equal frustration and there are clearly other cases.  SNG also features in Barry Gardiner's documentary on leasehold released today LINK.

Closer investigation reveals many complaints over the last year or so LINK:


Utterly poor service by this company, it does not care for its clients. I ordered fob keys a month ago and paid for them but they still have not produced them. incompetent staff and a lot of useless bureaucracy to get simple things done. Any new customers avoid this company


Missing CCTV cameras for four months. Still paying full service charge for CCTV. Network Homes refused to take accountability for it. And said "it's a mystery". Quick to take the service money though.


I would not recommend Network Homes. In the past week we have had no water at all. The fobs haven’t worked in months, homeless people are gaining access and sleeping in the stairwell and service charges have gone up thousands of pounds within a year.

When you call the ‘emergency line’ nothing is done.

They are incompetent.


Disgusting organisation, demanding money for services not carried out or carried out in a totally unacceptable way. Check your service charges, they try to charge for things that dont apply. Threaten with court action to force payment out of you, yet are in breach of their own lease for refusing to show proof of work carried out. Avoid buying or renting a home under their management at all costs.



Network homes have been withholding information on the estate accounts for 4 years. I chase and I’m ignored. What are you hiding, over charging lease holders for work that has not been carried out seems to be a favourite.


So it is puzzling that SNG is so well embedded in Brent with the biggest project 1,600 homes in Northwick Park, 654 of which are in phase 1. They also have properties in Electric House in Willesden, Rosemary House, Wood Court and Greenfield  Court;  Print Works in Neasden and Wembley High Road.

In Northwick Park they are partners with Brent Council, Westminster University and the NHS through the government sponsored 'One Public Estate'. LINK

Brent Council used them for feasibility and design processes in Kilburn Square, Windmill Court and Watling Gardens. LINK

Current leaseholders ask if they are fit partners for the Council given the above issues.

 Network Homes moved out of their building at the junction of Olympic Way and Engineers Way into a new HQ  closer to the London Designer Outlook. The vacated building will house a new building for the College of North West London.  The College of North West London Olympic Way/Bridge Road site will be redeveloped as will their Dudden Hill site. Brent Council did a financial deal with United Colleges (who own the college and its land) by offering a bridging loan of £50 million in 2019 LINK.

Since then a rather cryptic note has appeared on Brent Council's Forward Plan indicating a revised sum but that is restricted.  Decisions are left to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Deputy Leader of the Council.

 Note. My ward map indicates that the Wembley Park campus of CNWL is in Wembley Park ward


Whether SNG is embedded or enmeshed with Brent Council there are clearly questions to be answered about the Council's involvement with an organisation that is under such heavy criticism.


Philip Grant said...

One of the reasons that what has now become Sovereign Network Group seems to be embedded in Brent is that Network Housing (the local partner in this new entity) has its roots in Brent People's Housing Association.

BPHA was set up in 1973, and was the brainchild of a Labour Mayor of Brent, Bill Dromey (William Dromey Court in Kilburn is named after him). It was based in Harlesden, and I worked for it for 15 months in the mid-1970s, as an Assistant Housing Manager covering the Willesden Green and Cricklewood areas.

It was already becoming more difficult for local Councils to provide social housing then, and one way that Councils like Brent could get more homes available was by working with Housing Associations, which were registered charities with the sole aim of providing social housing.

BPHA did this, in the early days at least, by buying up older properties, sometimes in poor condition, or partly occupied by sitting tenants, and modernising and converting them, often into several flats or maisonettes.

To be continued ...

Philip Grant said...

My comment continued (sorry for the delay!):

The finance for BPHA's work in providing homes to modern standards, in mainly Victorian or Edwardian buildings, came mainly from borrowing on 60-year loans for each project. The money came from Government funding (the Public Works Loans Board), via either the Greater London Council or Brent Council, who added 0.25% to the interest rate they were charged, to cover their admin. expenses.

In return the Council received the right to nominate tenants from their waiting list for half the properties. The other half were either used for rehousing sitting tenants decanted from houses acquired for renovation, or other people in housing need, nominated by Social Services or local charities.

All of the rents charged for the homes let by BPHA were "fair rents", fixed by the Rent Officer. [It is a great shame that fair rents were scrapped in the 1980s, apart from homes with secure or regulated tenancies which began before 1989!].

That is the background to BPHA, eventually becoming Network Homes, and now part of SNG. The "old fashioned" Housing Associations becoming bigger, and merging, is a major reason why the more local, and personal, service provided to tenants has disappeared.

I had an early example of the effects of a merger, when the first association I worked for (in Brixton), the London Housing Trust, was forced into a merger its staff didn't want by its Trustees. The merger was with Quadrant Housing Association. Current tenants or leaseholders of what is now L&Q will know how that has ended up!

Michael Gove's letter is to the CEO of Sovereign Housing Association, about maladministration by Sovereign which occured before it merged with Network. But Network's own recent record, together with that of its new bedfellow in SNG, do not bode well for the future, unless pressure from the Gove-rnment and others brings about some genuine improvements in the service they provide.