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Home talk Spring 2014

The magazine for Cannock Chase Council tenants

Inside: a

great Easter competition 4 kids!

Yes, Hometalk is celebrating its 25th Anniversary and looking over that very first issue of 1989 are four employees from the Housing Department. Turn to the centre pages to find out their connection to the celebrations

P4 & 5: a

look back at Hometalk’s 25 years.

Word Search Page 8


Quids back in

Look out for the latest edition of ‘Quids In’ magazine, included with your Hometalk. It features bedroom tax loopholes; top money tips - and a tasty recipe. Enjoy!

Damage report Tenants hoping for a transfer to another property have been reminded that their current home must be in an acceptable condition before the move can go ahead.

And Cllr Frank Allen, Housing Portfolio Leader, added: “I am delighted that three local young people have gained apprenticeships in Housing. They will gain skills and experience that will set them up in their future careers.

Cllr Allen is pictured (far left) with the three apprentices and Cllr Gordon Alcott (second right) and Mac Mason, Principal Maintenance Officer (on the right).

We’ll pay for Bright Ideas!

Wishes come true for tenants

C

hase tenants are reaping the benefits of the Council’s “Make a Wish” Minor Works scheme.

We our block T

he Council’s “Love your block” scheme has been hailed a roaring success after no less than 23 people came forward as volunteers to be “Resident Champions”.

Resident champions in the picture are (from left to right) Gavin Hillman, Helen Smallman, Matthew Davies and Danielle Haywood – all from the Moss Road and Carfax Estates.

Area

Over the past 12 months, 15 estate improvements have been carried out as a result of suggestions from tenants; many of ������������� them are put forward during an Estate Walk. ������ These walks enable local residents and Housing Officers to get together and see for themselves the state of a particular estate - and what needs doing. They are an ideal opportunity for tenants to “Make a Wish” to improve their neighbourhood, the main criteria being that it must be of for general benefit to the estate and not just ������������� any individual. ������ The new programme of estate walks starting from 1st April can be obtained now from the Housing Office or you can download it from the Council’s website. You can send a Tweet to ‘@cannockchasedc’ to join the walk for your estate and discuss any problems you may ������������� have. ������ Note: details of the estate walk traffic light system evaluation results for last year can be obtained by contacting the Housing Office or from the Council’s website. Alternatively, call the Estate Management Team on 01543 462621 or email them at

Neighbourhood Three

2

Housing ‘surgeries’ with no appointments needed are open to tenants to discuss any housing matters. They are held once a fortnight at: Cannock area office on Wednesdays, 9am-1pm. Next one: 23rd April. Rugeley area office, Anson St. Thursdays, 9am1pm. Next one: 1st May. Norton Canes Library, Thursdays, 9am-1pm. Next one: 24th April. Call 01543 462621 for more information.

The trio have earned apprenticeship places with the Council’s Housing Department to learn a recognised trade and to study for qualifications. For 18 year old Elliott Norwood, Thomas Pearse also 18 and Mark Griffiths, 23, it will also mean hands-on work helping to maintain and repair tenants’ homes. Elliot and Mark both have apprenticeships in carpentry, while Thomas’s is in painting and decorating. Financial help in paying them has come from an Apprenticeship Grant for Employers, available as part of the National Apprenticeship Service, providing apprenticeships for 16 to 24 year olds. Businesses can claim a £1,500 grant per apprentice on completion of a 12 week period.

Cllr Gordon Alcott, Economic Development and Planning Portfolio Leader, said “The Council would like to encourage local businesses in the Cannock Chase District to consider taking on apprentices. By taking on apprentices, the Council are in a win-win situation - we get fantastic apprentices who are enthusiastic and can bring the new skills they are learning at college and in return they get paid work and experience.”

Neighbourhood Two

Just drop in

T

hree local young people have their first foot on a career ladder - thanks to Cannock Chase Council.

Neighbourhood One

A Housing Officer will carry out an inspection and any damage - either deliberate or through neglect - must be repaired at the tenant’s expense. Tenants unable to carry out the necessary work will be charged at cost and no transfer will happen until it is paid. Only when the work is fully and satisfactorily completed will tenants be considered for a transfer. This lettings rule may sound harsh, but it aims to ensure that safety is not compromised and that the property remains empty for the shortest time possible before the new tenants move in.

A step on the career ladder

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E-mail them at:

Write to them at: The Civic Centre, The Bungalow Annexe, PO Box 28, Beecroft Road, Cannock WS11 1BG.

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The campaign was launched in November to encourage residents in flats on the Carfax and Moss Road estates to help maintain the improvements brought about by refurbishment. ‘Love your block’ aims to maintain the standards of these improvements by encouraging tenants to get involved and become resident champions to help keep the appearance of the internal communal areas clean and tidy. Following a recruitment drive on the two estates in Cannock and Chadsmoor, 23 residents nominated themselves as champions for their block. Cllr Frank Allen, Portfolio Leader for Housing said “This campaign has been extremely successful. I am delighted that 23 residents have nominated themselves as champions of their blocks. We hope that residents will look after and take pride in the communal areas which have been refurbished into clean, bright and welcoming spaces.” The resident champions were given the opportunity to meet each other together with representatives from the Council and other local organisations, at a meeting recently when they were presented with a certificate and a shopping voucher to say thank you for their support. Each resident champion also received a vacuum cleaner for their block which they will look after and use to keep their block clean and tidy.

…but safety is still key

Tenants living in the Council’s blocks of flats or maisonettes have been given an important fire safety message regarding communal areas. Carpets, potted plants, chairs and pictures on the walls look very nice, but on landings and in corridors they are a fire risk and could hinder a quick evacuation. Cannock Chase Housing chiefs are asking tenants to follow these simple safety rules: 1. All fire escape routes should be easily accessible and have nothing that may create tripping or fire hazards; things like doormats, curtains, furniture, pictures etc.

must be removed. 2. Electrical cupboards sited in a fire escape route must not have any combustible material stored inside, e.g. newspapers, cardboard. 3. Communal areas are now NO SMOKING zones, by law. 4. Please ensure that rubbish including bulky items are disposed of and recycled properly and not left in the fire escape routes. “Not only are these precautions for your own safety, they are also required by law to comply with the Fire Safety Order,” said Belinda Wildey, Estate Management Team Leader.

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There’s a handy rent calendar for you in this issue

Check your rent statement or the next letter you receive from Tenancy Services. If your name is not correct, mis-spelt, or you spot any other errors, contact Joanne Ravenscroft on 01543 464375.

RENT REMINDER

DON’T FORGET YOUR ANNUAL RENT IS NOW DIVIDED OVER 52 WEEKS AND YOU WILL NO LONGER HAVE 2 ‘FREE WEEKS’ AT CHRISTMAS. HOWEVER, YOU CAN STILL BUILD UP CREDIT TO COVER THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD OR ANOTHER TIME DURING THE YEAR - SPEAK TO YOUR RENT OFFICER WHO WILL BE HAPPY TO CALCULATE THE AMOUNT YOU NEED TO PAY EACH WEEK.

www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk

Right to buy The Government is proposing, around May this year, to introduce measures designed to make it easier for tenants to buy their council house or flat . The maximum discount for a house will increase from 60% to 70% of its value, with the £75,000 cap increasing in line with the consumer price index rate of inflation. A £100 million fund will improve access to mortgage finance and new ‘Right to Buy’ agents will guide people through the buying process. The Government says the money raised from sales will be ploughed back into delivering new homes for rent. • Anyone thinking of taking on a mortgage to buy a property should seek professional advice before signing up to anything. Your home could be repossessed if you fail to keep up repayments.

3


Celebration time!

He was there at the start

Nigel Haywood was on the editorial team which put together that very first edition of HOMETALK back in 1989. Now, as Tenancy Services Manager, he reflects on what’s happened in the intervening period. their housing stock to few editions of HOMETALK, you could Housing be forgiven for thinking that little has Associations. changed… There was little - warning tenants about conmen appetite for it - benefits advice Cannock - the Council’s modernisation programmes Chase - news about rents. then, But you would be mistaken. We’ve all and a come a long way in those 25 years. For vote by a start, the improvement in the standard you in 2007 of Chase tenants’ houses, flats, bungalows confirmed that and sheltered schemes is there for all to you wanted the Council to remain as see. your landlord. Most importantly, we Good communication would like to think we between the Housing have developed and Department and our maintained a personal tenants, together with a relationship with our Good Service probably tenants. Whereas with helped people make up some social housing their minds. providers, the only HOMETALK over the point of contact is with last 25 years,has played a remote call centre, an important part in Chase tenants can maintaining a partnership drop in at any time between landlord and tenants at The Bungalow, or a vital link - building the Rugeley office or Spring 1 9 relationship with young and 90 one of our regular are bi and Rents old. HOMETALK has been both g new Housing Surgeries to s. the voice-box and the ears of the sort out issues problems or find out Housing Department. If we more about housing matters - and many need to let you know about important of you do just that! changes that affect you - Choice-based Back in 1989, “Tenants’ Choice” opened Lettings recently springs to mind the doors for many councils to transfer - HOMETALK can bring you up to speed. So, congratulations and well done to everyone connected Summer with HOMETALK for standing 1995, a new the test of time, and thank masthead you to you, our readers for and inside reading and responding a story of to what has been fig trees in written on the pages of Hometalk over the Hednesford! past 25 years.❞

❝Leafing through the pages of the first

It’s 25 years since HOMETALK first came through your letterbox. We take a trip down Memory Lane with a look back at some past issues - and speak to someone who helped to get that first edition to the printers! Have you guessed what our PAGE ONE employees have in common? Well, they all started work for the Council just as HOMETALK’s first issue was coming out. And they are still working for the Housing Department 25 years later. Each of them has a wealth of memories, and some stories to tell, about their time with the authority, from giant snowballs to wheelbarrows of pennies! or relief sheltered scheme manager Pam Corbett reading again that first HOMETALK issue was a real trip down Memory Lane, especially the centre page feature on the Council’s ‘new’ alarm system for the elderly. “I knew all the ladies featured in that article and I still see one of them, Elsie Chesworth, who does some voluntary visits at Caxton Court. “At that time the alarm system was based in one of the flats in Grace Moore Court. And the handsets the residents used to have were the size of housebricks. Looking at the pictures of the computer system in HOMETALK, they look like museum pieces!” Pam’s first job back in 1989 was as a cleaner, but she now steps in as relief manager at any of the Council’s sheltered schemes when the regular manager is on holiday or away. “It could be a couple of days or a couple of months. I really enjoy it, because I get to meet all the residents in all the sheltered schemes. We have a lot of giggles,”

F

Spring 1999 Introductory tenancies get the nod.

Summer 1999 - the first FULL Colour issue as advances in print technology cut costs.

B

oth Dianne Johnson and Joanne Ravenscroft are both now members of the Housing Rents’ Team - but their starts with the Council back in 1989 were very different. For Dianne it was as a trainee and it was three years before she got a permanent position, in Housing as an Estate Management Officer in Rugeley. She is now Team Leader in the Rents Section, heading a dedicated team of six colleagues. She now sees their task as trying to ensure that tenants don’t get in to trouble with their rent payments. “We’re doing a lot of work to help tenants get the benefits they are entitled to and to get those who need it proper debt advice. We don’t want tenants to lose their homes if at all possible. “It’s working - the number of evictions we’re forced into is now only about one third of what it used to be and the results are down to

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a dedicated, hardworking team. back payment of Housing Benefit and the possession claim was withdrawn. I was “I’ve been working for the Council for 25 really pleased to help her, but I just wished years and I’m still here, so I must enjoy it. I she’d come to see us sooner. do like meeting our tenants, face to face.” “I’ve worked at all three area housing Joanne’s first job with the Council was offices and I remember someone coming as a receptionist in to Rugeley with a wheelbarrow of at the old coins to pay their Poll Tax. There were Hednesford Area photographers and tv cameras there and Housing Office. I remember the counting of the 1p and 2p For ten years, coins. part of her job was handling “It’s never a dull moment when you are emergency out of working with people. I can honestly say I hours emergency calls. have never been bored working at the Council.” “Some of the calls I had made me smile. One night a gentleman rang to fter setting off as says some local youths had rolled up a an administrative giant snowball in front of his door and he assistant, Sarah couldn’t get out of his bungalow. It was Evans’s job now true, so I sent a workman round involves dealing to break up the with right-to-buy snowball and let applicants and the him out!” leaseholders, those tenants who have bought their Moving on as flat, but still live in a block a repairs clerk, managed by the Council. later an allocations and homelessness Leaseholders too, are officer, Joanne is HOMETALK readers. �� � � � �� � �� now a rent officer, a Like the other three � �� � � �� �� job that has some employees, Sarah has �� �� � �� � � �� �� � �� surprisingly upbeat stayed with the Council for �� � � � � � moments. �� 25 years. � �� “I had the case of an “I do love working here elderly lady who was the people, the tenants, r e t n Eas behind with her rent. a they’re just great.” , 1 1 g 20 on She wouldn’t answer any Sprin ompetiti c letters, phone calls or egg s. visits to her home. In the end for kid we had no option but to take her to court. She was very upset when she eventually came in to see us, and it soon then became clear that she was ������ living off the basic pension ����������������������������� �� with no pension credits. She ������������������������������ ������������������������������������ �� should not have been paying �������������������������� � rent at all. When we sorted �� it out, she got a £2,000

Hometalk Meet the team at the Councilʼs new Repairs Call Centre in Hawks Green. ALL repair requests now go there. The number is: 01543 456816

Hometalk

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New Year 2004. The Housing Department launches its new Repairs Centre at Hawks Green.

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You are what you eat!

W

e’ve all heard about eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Not many know that maintaining healthy cells in our bodies is vitally important. In order for cells to work correctly certain minerals are required: sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, lettuce and savoy cabbage all boast high levels of these minerals. In addition, two essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6, are needed for cells to communicate with each other. Our bodies can’t produce essential fatty acids - they have to come from food. Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame are a good choice, as are oily fish like salmon,

Doing things online is becoming second nature for many people and Cannock Chase tenants can now sort out much of their Housing business without leaving home. By logging on to the Council’s website;

www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk

tenants can:

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mackerel, tuna and sardines.

Don’t forget about water! Water carries oxygen to every cell in our body to keep everything working as it should. However, did you know that water can reduce tiredness, help blood pressure, prevent headaches and reduce stress. Incidentally, fruit is 70-90 per cent water!

Exercise The benefits of exercise are well documented but did you know that regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers? Seated exercises or swimming offer alternatives for those with limited mobility.

 pay their rent  report repairs  apply for a tenancy  look for a homeswap  make a complaint, or give a compliment  ask a question. The Council’s home page will direct you to the right area - just follow the on-screen prompts!

The Council’s financial help for tenants affected by the under occupation charge also known as the ‘Bedroom Tax’ will be reviewed over the next six months.

Housing help under review

It aims to ensure that tenants receiving a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) to meet the shortfall in Housing Benefit imposed by central government, are still entitled to it. The DHP was introduced by Cannock Chase last year, subject to strict conditions: 1. An application to transfer to a property that would not attract an under occupation charge must be registered with Cannock Chase Homes. 2. For tenants in rent arrears, a repayment agreement had to be made and maintained. 3. An expression of interest must be made for all suitable available properties. 4. When a suitable offer is made, it must be accepted. The Housing Benefit Department will be checking all DHP claims and tenants who have failed to keep their side of the bargain will have it cancelled. (NOTE: Tenants awarded DHP on medical grounds or because their property has been adapted for their needs will NOT be affected.) “The Council has only a very limited amount of money to help over this issue and tenants must adhere to the conditions,” said Dave Willmore, Benefit Manager.

Calming the storm Neighbour disputes are corrosive and can turn nasty if left to fester unresolved.

Focus on: Recycling your rubbish

What ’ s in your blue bin? The good, the bad - or the ugly?

C

annock Chase tenants and residents are doing a grand job helping the Council recycle more and more waste.

During January this year a record amount of material was saved from the dump via the blue bin: a whopping 1,104 tonnes of paper, cardboard, glass bottles & jars, tins & cans, plastic bottles & tubs and plastic bags will be put to further use; saving resources and energy. More than half of Cannock Chase’s household waste is now recycled or composted. In 2010 the Council made it easier for households to recycle by introducing a single blue bin.

Unfortunately, a few householders are letting the side down. They either don’t know the rules, or couldn’t care less about fouling up the collections, by putting in the wrong Items/materials in the recycling bin; such as foodstuffs and disposable nappies. Contaminated blue bins can’t be emptied because the waste will

contaminate the “good” recyclable stuff. The collection team will put a tag on a “bad” bin with an explanation. Householders who persistently ignore the advice can have their “ugly” bin taken off them. It’s happened already to a few. Take a look at an “ugly” bin pictured above. Now see some “good” ones below. See the difference? “If only all blue bins were like these ‘good’ ones,” said Anthony Morris the Council’s Recycling Officer. “Good quality materials are easier to recycle and are worth more.”

Two good bins!

Fly Tippers: £100

REWARD The Council is offering a reward to vigilant tenants and residents who spot and report fly tippers doing this disgusting and anti-social practice in the Cannock Chase district. “We are urging people to come forward to shop the fly tippers who think it’s acceptable to dump their rubbish and unwanted bulky items illegally– you could get a £100 reward for your efforts.” Council chiefs are now urging anyone tempted to dump fridges, furniture, rubble or any other waste to think again: You never know who may be watching and £100 is a big incentive to report the offence! Anyone seeing fly tipping taking place anywhere within the District should report it immediately to Cannock Chase Council: by calling 01543 462621 (24 hours a day) or on the internet at: www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk/ reportit Just complete a short form.

Prize winners:

When the Council is asked to intervene, mediation is an effective option in sorting out problems, such as late night noise, lifestyle differences and anti-social behaviour. If the parties agree, Cannock Chase refers them to the Wolverhampton Mediation Service, where trained mediators arrange a meeting on neutral ground, so that everyone has the chance to discuss their concerns and air their views. This meeting is quite often the only thing needed to resolve the situation. Over 12 cases have been resolved this year and those residents who have taken part are now getting along much better, thanks to mediation.

www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk

WANTED

Gas Servicing Draw October Mr J Yates, Heath Hayes; Mrs J Smith, Norton Canes. November Mrs C Tindill, Rawnsley; Mr M Pitchford Chadsmoor. December Mr C Tonks, Hednesford; Mrs C Griffiths, Cannock. Repairs Satisfaction November: Mr J Hyden, Pye Green. December: Mrs J Price, Rugeley. January: Mrs S Parker, Chadsmoor. Wordsearch Autumn Edition Mrs M Miles, Chadsmoor; Christmas Edition Miss C Adams, Rugeley. Alarm Pull Cord Draw Mrs A Akers, Rugeley. Estate Walk Draw Mrs B Hayward, Cannock. Quick Quiz Question How many requests for a Mutual Exchange have been processed since April? Answer: 103. Winner: Ms K Robinson, Rugeley

www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk

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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 the 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.

CContact entre

Emergency Repairs…

All areas outside office hours: Tel: 01543 456816

Repairs Reporting…

All repairs: Tel: 01543 462621 or Online: www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk - ‘Report it’

Housing Enquiries… General enquiries: Tel: 01543 462621

Anti-social behaviour Out of hours service…

Hometalk is available in LARGE DON’T LIVE WITH IT - REPORT IT! Tel: 01543 464657 PRINT and ON TAPE. Contact ONLINE: www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk the Service Improvement Team Benefits Enquiries… Housing and Council Tax Benefits enquiries: 01543 464292 on 01543 462621.

A £50 gift voucher

exclusively T D L S H O W E R E for tenants! T U N S L O B G M A

With Hometalk’s

Sunshine Easter Flower Shower Windy Kite

WORD SEARCH

Butterfly Bunny Ducks Gardens Insect Blossom

Springtime Tiebreaker: Find a colourful spectacle.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

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

(or hand it in at your local

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

Council Office). NB Closing date is: 30th May. 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

Rent Paymen ts…

Pay by Phone: 0845 2340080 Online: www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk - ‘Pay it’

Council Online…

Cannock Chase Council website: www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk

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, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The One-stop Shop at the Library in Market Street, Hednesford is now open for general inquiries 9am - 5pm (closed 1pm - 2pm). Appointments can also be made.

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

Editorial Consultants: MID STAFFS NEWS AGENCY 01785 823489

Printed by: RENFOR, Watling Street, Tamworth B77 5AE.


Hometalk spring 2014