The Mendacity of Russell Holland, or “If the ballot is successful…”

This was a piece written on the website Talk Swindon.

The idea that the Tory Party is not seeking to influence tenants is preposterous. In all sorts of subtle and crude ways, they and the senior officers on the Council are utilising all the resources at their disposal to win a yes vote. They are presenting ‘facts’ in a partial way, whilst desperately attempting to hide certain other facts from tenants.

At a Swindon Tenants Voice Meeting the other evening Russell committed a Freudian slip. Speaking about what would happen if the tenants voted in favour of transfer he began with, “If the ballot is successful…”

Even pro-transfer people on STV were complaining about the way they are being treated, for instance holding a “Shadow Board” meeting before the tenants are selected by the Council. Mr Holland’s contempt for tenants and even for the Residents Engagement Group was expressed by the fact that the Cabinet voted for Draft 3 of the Offer Document even though the REG had not yet finished discussing Draft 2!

At the full council meeting yesterday Mr Holland showed the degree of his mendacity in his answer to a question about the addresses of tenants which had been promised to STCG by Bernie Brannan and Brian Mattack on July 29th. At a previous meeting of the full Council I had asked if the Council would give us the list of addresses (not the names) of tenants. The reply from Brian Mattack was that legal opinion said that it would be in breech of Data Protection . In response I referred to the fact that the Information Commissioner has condemned a number of Councils for failing to give this information to campaigns against transfer.

An email from Bernie Brannan giving his and Brian Mattacks’ response to some questions I raised with them, said “Brian and I have drafted a response to your questions below”. No doubt there then, “Brian and I”. And this is what they said in relation to the addresses:

We are pleased to say that on further checking by our legal team, on whether we can release addresses of tenants to be balloted, they have now advised that this can be done.”

On further checking by our legal team…the second legal opinion.

On August 13th Bernie Brannan promised me the addresses in a couple of days. But there was a problem. Mr Holland took over from Mr Mattack.

When asked by myself as to whether this commitment would be honoured by them Mr Holland replied in writing:

I am not aware of any such commitment being made. At the time my predecessor held this portfolio the advice was that we could not release such personal information. We are evaluating the Data Protection implications of releasing such data and we will comply with all statutory regulations.”

Sitting 20 feet away from him was one Brian Mattock looking somewhat shamefaced, and no wonder. Did he not ask Brian Mattack and Bernie Brannan whether what I said was true? Had Mr Mattack developed a convenient case of amnesia? Mr Holland in reality has decided either not to give us the addresses or to give them at the very last possible moment – we shall see which. He wants to frustrate the efforts of the No campaign because he wants a Yes vote.

Yet in Housing Matters they could write that “To make sure everyone’s views are heard fairly the Councils hopes to work with…any interested groups”.

The Mendacity of Mr Holland was also reflected in another answer to one of my questions on the cost of the transfer of our housing stock. “How much private finance would be required to fund the transfer of our housing stock?” To which the extraordinary reply was given:

Private finance is not used for housing stock transfers.”

Let’s think about that one for a minute. So who pays for them? The government?

As I have said before on here, the Council’s own transfer document – the document it sent to the government to put the case for transfer – said that:

The funding section of the Tribal Transfer Valuation Model indicates that the private finance required to fund this proposed transfer is £197.5 million.”

Private finance, Mr Holland.

On this forum Mr Holland (Talk Swindon)  has said that he has accepted the veracity of the £197.5million. Yet in his written reply at the Council he refused to accept it, and in his reply to a question about interest rates, he shows that the debt that the Housing Association would have to take on is £67 million, though this is just the cost of flogging off the housing to the HA.

The Council officers and Mr Holland have fought might and main to keep the £197.5 million debt which the HA will have to take on, away from tenants eyes.

Mendacious is the polite word. How can anybody believe a word that Mr Holland says?

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