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Hometalk Summer 2011

The magazine for Cannock Chase Council tenants Aelfgar House resident Jennifer Booker prepares a tasty dish in the flats’ new cooker. Turn to Page 2 to find out what makes this kitchen so special

Inside: Deb t pa y plans warning - Page 6

a ÂŁ50 gift voucher

-see P8


Can cook, will cook!

Young people living at Aelfgar House in Rugeley are cooking up some real treats, thanks to the generosity of the Housing Service’s contractors, Lovells, and their suppliers. The company recently fitted a brand new kitchen at the property, which offers supported accommodation to vulnerable young people in the 16–25 age group. The 24 self contained flats, managed by the YMCA, come with an individual support package, to enable residents to achieve greater independence. Their new kitchen was supplied by Lovells, who fit new kitchens in Chase tenants’ homes, as part of their Community project work. Many others gave their work and products for free, among them R & N Electrical, Symphony Kitchens, Midas Plumbing, Croft who carried out minor structural alterations and CLM who provided tilers and joiners. Mel Bond, the YMCA Manager at Aelfgar said: “Our young residents have a fantastic training kitchen which is designed to enable them to learn and to improve how they cook and prepare food together. They enjoy sharing cooking skills and recipes and, of course, eating the food they cook.”

We’ll pay for Bright Ideas! ���


f you’ve got a Bright Idea, to benefit the Housing Service, contact Trish Griffiths. Call: 01543 464757 Call / text 07 814 758558

������� 2010 HEALTH CHECK 2011 Your guide to the performance of the Council’s Housing Service




% of repairs appointments made & kept

% of repairs done as emergency jobs






March 2010


March 2010




March 2011


= Target met


�� �

call: 01543 464757; e-mail: trishgriffiths@


March 2011

NB: Longer bars = Better performance

Did you know: the Council’s Housing Services made and kept 8,627 appointments in the last year?









= Target missed


NB: Shorter bars = Better performance

Did you know: 3,896 jobs were done as an emergency in the last year?

A LLOCATIONS % of customers satisfied with the Council's allocations service ���



% of customers satisfied with the condition of a property on re-let ��

March 2010 Target March 2011

Did you know: we currently have 1,685 people registered with UChoosehomes


March 2010 March 2011

�� �� �

NB: Longer bars = Better performance


Rent money owed to the Council

Longer bars = Better performance

£263,682 March 2010

Did you know: we relet 340


properties in the last year.



These included 85 houses, 144 and 111 bungalows.





flats (including sheltered flats)

In the next edition we will be featuring here YOUR views on the Housing Service, on Hometalk magazine and any other matter of interest to tenants. Have your say by: text 07814 758558;

March 2011

������ �� ����� ���� ��� ���������� �






NB: Shorter bars = Better performance

R ENTS Did you know that you can now pay your rent online? Log on to the Council’s website and click on “Pay”


Contacts by tenants January 2011 to March 2011 ����������� ����������  Contacts �������� ������ ����� with the Housing ����� �������� � �� �� Department are logged according Justified complaints 2 �� Unjustified complaints �� to type. This 19 Total complaints information 21 is now being BREAKDOWN OF COMPLAINTS provided to tenants. � 0

�� �� �� � �







Say ‘hello’ to new Housing Portfolio Leader, Cllr Frank Allen, pictured here presenting the Estate Walks winner’s gift voucher.

Walk this way for a prize The first winner in Housing Services’ Estate Walks Prize draw is Ronald Ghent from Rumer Hill.

gardens, fly tipping, and damaged garages. Remedies are now being looked at by the Council.

He is pictured receiving his gift voucher from the Council’s new Housing Portfolio Leader Cllr Frank Allen (right). Mr Ghent has been a regular on his estate walks for the last few years and even does a bit of litter-picking on the way. The last Rumer Hill walk was in May this year, when the group reported several issues, including potholes, overgrown trees, overgrown tenants

If you care about your neighbourhood and want a direct line to improving it, join in on your next Estate Walk. A full list of dates for Estate Walks is available from the Council’s Estate Management Team. You could also be the next £25 Prize Draw winner! • Note - winners are drawn quarterly at random from all Estate Walkers who take part.

He will be a familiar face to many tenants, Cllr Allen was previously Housing Committee Chairman between 1990-94 and has been a member of Cannock Chase Council for 35 years during which he has twice been Chairman. An ex-miner, Cllr Allen has lived all his life in the Chadsmoor-Broomhill area and represents the Cannock North ward. He said: “There are many challenges facing tenants and the Housing Service over the next few years, in particular the introduction of Universal Credit which will replace Housing Benefit. I am looking forward to working with tenants to help ensure the Housing Service changes to meet both the challenges and the needs of tenants.”

Gas service reassurance Grass cutting: Cannock Chase Council has recently reviewed its policy for the Vulnerable Tenants’ Grass Cutting and Internal Decoration Schemes and has made some changes to the eligibility criteria which will enable more tenants to qualify for free grass cutting and internal decoration services. There are separate leaflets enclosed with this edition of HOMETALK which explain the new criteria and include application forms. Make sure you read these if you think you may qualify for them.

The Council’s Gas and Solid Fuel Servicing and Maintenance Contractor, P. H. Jones Ltd. is now owned by British Gas Community Energy.

The sale follows the retirement of the family firm’s owners, Phil and Brenda Jones. Cannock Chase Council tenants can be reassured that they will not be affected by the sale of

the company, which has given excellent service over the years. P H Jones’s teams of engineers will continue to work in tenants’ homes and British Gas say they intend to invest in the business to deliver ongoing improvements in quality and customer satisfaction. Tenants will be kept informed of any future developments regarding the service.

Get rid of pesky pests Pest control services provided by the Council have been extended to cover a wider range of household and garden pests. In addition to the usual suspects, like rats and mice, fleas and wasps’ nests, the contractors will also be able to target ants, flies, moles - and squirrels! It’s the first time these services have been included. In setting this year’s budget for a financially viable service, the Council has introduced charges for all types of pests, including rats and mice. From 1st April, the previous charge of £45.60 (inc. VAT) to deal with fleas and wasps’ nests has been reduced to £40. Dealing with rats, mice, ants and flies will also cost £40. Tackling squirrels and moles will costs £75. The Council’s new Cabinet will be reviewing the current charging policy and Hometalk will bring you all the up to date news in the next issue.

Minor works



eighbourhood improvement schemes suggested by tenants have been given the green light by the Minor Works Focus Group. Among those approved by the panel made up of tenants and residents, is the replacement of fencing at the Oxford Green play area in Cannock. The existing wooden fencing has been broken and repaired a number of times, but now a more durable material is being sought. ‘No Ball Games’ signs are backed by many residents across the district and they will be going up in Mary Street and Clarke’s Avenue, Hednesford. New wall signs are on the way for Hannaford Way and Wessex Drive to replace the unsightly and short-lived wooden block number boards. If YOU’VE got an idea for improvements that will benefit your neighbourhood (not just for your own benefit) - get in your application. The Council allocates an annual budget to the Minor Works Group, who decide which schemes merit money being spent. Their next meeting is on 25 August, but the deadline for applications to be considered is 5 August, so get moving! All information is on the application form included in this edition of HOMETALK.

Opening hours

The opening hours of the Council’s offices in Hednesford and Rugeley have changed.

From 5th June, Rugeley office will be open 9am - 5pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays it will be open 9am - 1pm. Hednesford Office will now be run on an APPOINTMENT ONLY basis for council tax and benefit enquiries. Tenants should call 01543 462621 to make an appointment or email counterservices@

Payments can still be made by cheque at all offices.

Meet the members of your Estate Management team‌

Edenlei Hipkiss: Estate Management Officer for Hednesford and Chadsmoor (East)

ESTATE M Belinda Wildey, Estate Management Team Leader, who manages and co-ordinates the team, works with partner organisations and authorises enforcement action if it needs to be taken.

Tom Mountford: Estate Management Officer with responsibility for Cannock and Chadsmoor (Central & West) areas.

Looking after you effort. Hometalk find out w

Above: Part of the job for EM overgrown gardens. This one and will be on her priority li

Below: The start of the recent Rumer joined on this occasion by new Housin

The Rugeley-Heath Hayes-Norton Canes- Rawnsley areas have TWO Estate Management Officers Carolyn Storer (left) and Julie Scott (above right) are job-sharers, who between them cover the patch. There are four other members of the Estate Management Team: Housing Assistants Tracey Baggott and Lisa Harvey, who deal with the front line service. Estate Caretakers Neil Deakin and Brian Gold (affectionately known as Goldie).


ur neighbourhood is a team k goes behind the scenes to who, what and where.

MO Edenlei Hipkiss entails dealing with e is an eyesore and a breeding ground for vermin, ist.

r Hill Estate Walk for EMO Tom Mountford, ng Portfolio Leader Cllr Frank Allen.

Estate Caretaker Neil Deakin and Fireman Wes Southall get ready to inspect a block of Council flats for any fire safety issues. These are some of the tasks the Estates Management team deal with in looking after their tenants: ● Estate Walks ● Dog & pet issues ● Anti-social Behaviour ● Neighbour disputes ● Tenancy Management ● Fire safety in flats ● Rubbish dumping ● General appearance of estates ● Grounds maintenance contract\grass cutting scheme The Team also works closely with many other agencies to prevent problems and sort out those that do arise. Partner agencies include: Police, Fire & Rescue, Victim Support,Youth Service, Environmental Health and Waste ManagementServices and County Highways. Estate Management is sometimes a tough job, but a very satisfying one when tenants see the benefit.

Estate Caretaker Goldie gets a hedge at Caxton Court sheltered scheme in to shape.



M ney m a n a gement M - spe cia l fe atu re

oney management was the theme of a free training session for tenants and Housing staff held recently.

warning has gone out to Cannock Chase tenants to be wary of “debt management” schemes operated by private finance companies.

One couple had a lucky escape after being talked in to signing up for a repayment plan to pay off £3,000 worth of debts that included Council Tax arrears. They paid £50 in cash up front to a rep, with a further 49 monthly payments of £100. By chance they turned for further advice to their Rent Officer, Joanne Dowling. She Joanne gets on the phone to cancel the read the small print and noted couple’s debt repayment plan that from the couple’s first five the couple could have had better debt instalments, £320 would be taken advice FREE OF CHARGE from the CAB. by the company in “administration” and Joanne could have got them a priority “set-up” fees. appointment with CAB. After that, for every £100 instalment, Nigel Haywood, Tenancy Services £20 would be taken by the company in Manager, said: “Our advice for tenants is: fees. never pay for debt advice before talking Joanne said: “I have already written to to the CAB. Think carefully before signing the company cancelling the plan on the up to a debt repayment company. Contact tenants’ behalf, as they were still within your Rent Officer if you are worried about a 30-day “cooling off” period, so fingers your debts, even if it’s not rent that you crossed they will get their £50 back.” owe, to get sound advice from the CAB.” The point of this cautionary tale is that

Tackling anti-social behaviour V

ictims of anti-social behaviour in Cannock Chase now have a new champion - Oliver Greatbach. The Council’s Housing Estate Management Team is now working with Staffordshire Victim Support to reassure and protect those prepared to stand up against the troublemakers & the neighbours from hell. The Team is referring incidents of anti-social behaviour to Oliver, the Council’s Victim Support Champion. As his title suggests, his job is to give support to victims of Anti-social behaviour. But he is not on his own - for back-up he can call in Victim Support experts specially trained to deal with specific problems.

They have their methods, which we won’t disclose here, but the troublemakers will find out soon enough. The Council link with Staffordshire Victim Support is designed to help witnesses and victims of anti-social behaviour to report their problems - and stick with it through to giving evidence if needed to sort it once and for all. The new partnership was launched at a

meeting of the Council’s Anti-Social Behaviour Focus Group. The group meets regularly and members, including tenants and residents from across the District, help the Council to fight the problem. “The evidence of victims and witnesses is essential in dealing with anti-social behaviour. This service will provide extra support and assist early intervention,” said Belinda Wildey, Estate Management Team Leader.

Experts from the Money Advice Service were there to give guidance on how to manage household budgets - and what to do if friends, family or neighbours want advice about their money issues. The seminar was held at the Civic Centre on May 18th and all those who attended rated its contents and presentation very highly. Free booklets are available on things like dealing with banks and family finances. Log on to Don’t forget - Council tenants with money troubles can get a priority appointment with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau through their Rent Officer.


ometimes it is necessary to take tenants, who do not pay their rent, to the County Court for a judgment to enforce payment. The work that has been done over the last year by Cannock Chase Council Rent Officers and Citizen’s Advice Bureau fast track appointments has seen Cannock Chase buck the trend in these cash-strapped times. Rent arrears are down nearly 20%, the number of evictions down by more than 20%, court cases cut by a quarter and court costs nearly halved. When taking a tenant to court because they owe money, court costs only pile on the agony for them. To help ease that burden, the Council is

Court costs cut now using an online court application system which reduces the bill for the tenant by £50. It may seem a small gesture, but .... every little helps. Dianne Johnson, Team Leader for the Rent Section said: “Dealing with rent arrears is never easy. We have to keep it under control and court action is a last resort. We would like to thank all our tenants who make sure their rent is paid as a priority. “For tenants who do get in to difficulties, we will do what we can to help. Don’t wait, it’ll only get worse - speak to your Rent Officer right away!”

Victim Support - a Case Study

Here’s a real example of Victim Support in action.

Cannock Chase Housing Services had a report of criminal damage and vandalism to a Council flat on the Springfields Estate in Rugeley. Investigations revealed the tenant was experiencing threatening behaviour, harassment and intimidation from a gang of youths. The Council, acting swiftly, discussed it at the ASB Action Group. A plan was drawn up to

support the tenant and tackle the perpetrators.

The Estate Management Officer referred the tenant to Adullum Homes, for Intensive Support, and to the Staffordshire Victim Support Scheme. In this case, supporting agencies, including Housing Services and the police, are now working closely with the tenant to improve their quality of life, look after any individual needs, such as installing any necessary security measures.

Right Stuff packs a unch Sheltered life & style


t was seconds out, round one for visitors and VIP guests at the official launch of the Right Stuff Boxing club in Chadsmoor .


he Right Stuff Project was set up to tackle anti-social behaviour in the Chadsmoor area. So many young people have signed up and thanks to additional funding from the Chase Community Safety Partnership, more The event was held in May at Coniston clubs will soon be on the way, with sections Hall, Chadsmoor, although the club itself was for eight to 12-yearstarted in January. olds, 13 to 19-yearAnd it has already olds and one just proved to be a huge hit for females. with local youngsters, PC Andy with 33 of them taking Whitehall from part. They were Staffordshire presented with medals Police, the Right and certificates as Stuff Project part of their Preliminary Leader, said: “I am Award and they also put extremely proud of on a boxing display to all the young people show guests their new who gained their skills. Preliminary Boxing The Council’s Award.. It was also Resident Champions’ nice to see parents Group – which is made Pictured with PC Andy Whitehall are (from left) Adelle Jones, Connor Clifton, showing their up of residents and Holly Mills & Joel Clifton (all aged 8-11) youngsters support.” works to tackle and Belinda Wildey, prevent anti-social Estate Management Team Leader, Cannock behaviour – donated £10,000 of Government Chase Council said: “The Right Stuff Project funding to get the project off the ground back has been significantly effective in the in January and many of them attended the launch event, along with local people, officers Chadsmoor area so far. It is great to see how many young people are getting involved in from Cannock Chase Council, Staffordshire the club. Police and Staffordshire County Council.

Getting their Easter treat were: Brie Walker (11) from Rawnsley; Sophie Haywood (8), Cannock; Natalie Elliott (8) Hednesford; Ellie-May Jukes (6) Cannock; Ebony Graham (7) Rugeley and Katie Cattell (7) from Norton Canes. Here are the Council’s other prize draw winners: Housing Repairs Satisfaction Winners March: Mrs J Hall, Hednesford; April: Miss M Whitehouse, Cannock; May: Mr C Brewer, Rugeley. Wordsearch Winner: Mrs J Smith Rugeley.

Gas Servicing winners: February: Mr G Stephenson, Norton Canes; Mr S Gallett Hednesford. March: Mrs D Roden, Hednesford; Miss C Russell, Cannock. April: Mr K Taylor, Cannock; Mrs P Ryan, Rugeley.

An old storage room has been converted as part of the scheme’s bathroom modernisation, at the request of residents. It means that residents can get their hair done by a professional without having to travel - and the salon can also be used for other treatments such as nails, as well as chiropody appointments. Resident Eileen Gooch is pictured getting a shampoo from hairdresser Michaela Rowley in the new salon.

The Royal Wedding was celebrated in style in the Council’s sheltered schemes. Grace Moore Court residents got out the flags and the bunting, the tea and the cakes and had a good ol’ knees up to toast Kate and Wills tying the knot. Pictured enjoying the day are Josie Day (left) and Beattie White.

Everyone a Winner!

Congratulations to the winners of HOMETALK’s Easter Egg competition for identifying correctly all the flowers and trees in the pictures.

A new hairdressing and treatment salon has recently been installed at Grace Moore Court, one of the Council’s sheltered housing schemes.

Get ready for TV switch!


V is going digital, so tenants and leaseholders in the Council’s communal blocks of flats need to know what’s happening and what to do.

The switchover to digital for the transmitter covering Cannock Chase takes place in September.  People with old (analog) tv’s receiving just the five main channels need to convert the set to digital or get a digital tv.  For those already with digital Freeview or Top-Up TV, the tv set needs to be retuned on September 7th and again on September 21st, to avoid losing channels.  If you have Sky TV, Freesat, Freesat from Sky or Virgin Media TV you need do NOTHING. Special help is available for the over 75s

and the disabled from the Switchover Help Scheme. Those eligible should be automatically contacted, but for queries call 0800 408 5900. For more information about the tv Switchover call 08456 50 50 50 or log on to  Don’t forget - any Council tenant or leaseholder thinking of getting satellite tv (Sky or Freesat) MUST get permission from Housing Services BEFORE the dish is installed. Write to: Housing Services Maintenance Dept. PO Box 28, Beecroft Road, Cannock WS11 1BG.  Tenants are responsible for the maintenance of their own tv aerials and satellite dishes, NOT the Council.


Tenants who suspect their electricity meter box may have a fault or is damaged in any way, are urged to report it to the Council as soon as possible - phone 01543 456861. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.

CHECK THOSE ALARMS! Tenants & all other clients using Cannock Chase Council’s alarm system are reminded to carry out their monthly check: ONCE A MONTH pull the cord to alert the call centre. This will test the alarm is working and reassure operators that you are all right.

CCentre ontact

Emergency Repairs…

All areas outside office hours: Tel: 01543 456816

Repairs Reporting…

All repairs: Tel: 01543 456816 or Online: - ‘Report it’

Housing Enquiries… General enquiries: Tel: 01543 462621

Nuisance Hotline… NUISANCE HOTLINE 01543 462621 now operator answered 24/7

Hometalk is available Benefits Enquiries… in LARGE PRINT and Housing and Council Tax Benefits enquiries: 01543 464292 ON TAPE. Contact Trish Rent Paymen ts… by Phone: 0845 2340080 Griffiths 01543 462621. Pay Online: - ‘Pay it’

A £50 gift voucher

exclusively for tenants! Find these items in the WORDSEARCH grid: Basketball Hopscotch Rounders Golf Netball Rugby

Badminton Football Hockey Tennis Cricket

Tiebreaker: Hidden in there is another name for the Beautiful Game:

_ _ _ _ _ _ Send entries to: Hometalk Wordsearch The Civic Centre Beecroft Road Cannock

(or hand it in at your local

S N O T N I M D A B R F G G O L F H A H E O R E C C O S E C D O B J L C K T N T N T L A K E E R E O U B S E T K U N T C O A Y B C G N C B S R L A I B I W D A P H L R Y S M R L L O L C N R T F K D L H Your name ................................................. Your address ............................................ ................................ Post Code ............... Tel. ............................ I am aged over 16

Council Office). NB Closing date is: Fri. 26th August. First correct entry drawn (Employees of the Council and their families not eligible to enter) out wins the prize. Housing Services may wish to contact you concerning housing matters. If you do not wish to be contacted, tick this box Published by: CANNOCK CHASE COUNCIL HOUSING DIVISION

Council Online…

Cannock Chase Council website:

Opening Hours…

The Council’s Housing Office at the Bungalow in Beecroft Road, Cannock, is open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The Local Council Office in Anson Street, Rugeley is open the same times EXCEPT Wednesdays, 9am to 1pm. The One-stop Shop at the Library in Market Street, Hednesford is now

APPOINTMENT ONLY for council tax and benefit enquiries. Call 01543 462621.

Writing to us… Cannock Chase Council, Civic Centre, P O Box 28, Beecroft Road, Cannock Staffs. WS11 1BG.

Diary Date… Minor Works Applications must be submitted by: Friday 5th August. (Application form is inside Hometalk).

Editorial Consultants: MID STAFFS NEWS AGENCY 01785 823489

Printed by: GEORGE ST. PRESS LTD. STAFFORD. 01785 258226


Hometalk - Summer 2011  

Hometalk magazine is Cannock Chase Council's Tenants' Magazine.

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