Concerns linger over triple housing merger

Isos chair Jackie Axelby (centre) with the executive team (left to right) Mark Reid, chief executive Keith Loraine, Bill Tebay, Tina Drury and Richard Fryer.
Isos chair Jackie Axelby (centre) with the executive team (left to right) Mark Reid, chief executive Keith Loraine, Bill Tebay, Tina Drury and Richard Fryer.

THOUSANDS of tenants are entering a new era after waking up to a different landlord, but concerns remain about keeping local links.

Castle Morpeth Housing has now merged with NomadE5 and Milecastle Housing to operate under one brand as Isos Housing.

There will now be one board and one management team to oversee almost 12,000 properties across the North East, covering an area from Berwick to Stockton and across to Cumbria.

However, the Morpeth housing office will remain to deal with local inquiries and former Castle Morpeth Housing Managing Director Tina Drury will continue to work in the new Executive team.

Isos says the amalgamation, which formally came into force on Friday, will save around £500,000 a year to be re-invested in tenant services.

Chief Executive Keith Loraine said: “At a time when budgets for building new homes are getting ever tighter and there is less money available for public services, it’s vital we maximise the amount of money we can invest in providing for our tenants.”

The group plans to keep developing new homes, despite changes being made by the Government to financing social housing.

Isos Chairman Jackie Axelby said: “I am excited by the potential of what Isos can achieve now the group members have come together as one organisation.

“We can focus purely on providing the best possible services to tenants without getting caught up in the complexities of running our separate businesses.

“It’s a challenging time for all of us in the housing sector, trying to navigate a path through the new funding regime, but we are starting from a solid base and look forward to ever greater achievements.”

However, county councillor Peter Jackson, who was leader of the former borough council when it transferred its properties to Castle Morpeth Housing following a tenants’ vote in 2007, still has doubts about the merger.

“We have got no proof that the new arrangements are going to keep that local link that we thought was so important,” he said.

“The original promise to the residents of Castle Morpeth when the houses went over to the social landlord was that they would have local representation, with both tenants and locally elected councillors on the management board.

“Now that has all been taken away and we have got one promised committee for the whole of Northumberland. I have seen no evidence that it is going to work.

“Questions have also been asked about whether the financial savings that were promised have happened.”

He added: “We are talking about families and their houses, it is a fundamental part of people’s lives and that is quite a responsibility that Isos has.”

But Coun Jackson added that he hopes the merger is a success.

“I do wish Isos well now that it has chosen to go down this route and I want it to succeed. I have these reservations, but I do wish it all the best because it is so important that it works for the thousands of people living in these houses,” he said.