Follow the dig – i – tal road from the Swizzard of Boss

Altogether now

Follow the dig – i – tal road, follow the dig – i – tal road, follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the dig – i – tal road.

If ever a swizz of a swizz there was, the Atkin plan is one because, because, because, because, because because…because its an OCD plan of boss….

We’re off to see the lawyers to outline the swizz here of boss!

Communication is a one way street according to Nick Atkin the Chief Executive of Halton Housing Trust and only applies in his bizarre thinking between tenant and landlord.  How the tenant contacts us (and not how we communicate with tenants whom he calls customers too!) has been uppermost in his geeky-gadget-fixated-digital-media-is-the-universal-panacea-and-they-can-even-cure-cancer mind for a long time now.

You cannot fail to see how Nick is all over Twitter extolling the praises of the latest bit of kit that allows the HHT tenant who is a one-legged Peruvian glue sniffer off on a sojourn to discover the last remote tribe in inner Borneo to pay his rent or report a repair and how this method is £0.0000005p cheaper per decade than him using a satellite phone or even coming into the offices of HHT; which, by the way, are on a remote industrial estate and as far away from HHT tenants as they possibly could be and only accessible by car!

Yet is all too easy to parody Nick Atkin as the Darling Advocate of Facebook and Twitter, or DAFT or as a technology geek or as much of a zealot for gadgets as IDS is a zealot for the bedroom tax or even the latest in a long line of housing CEOs who deliberately create a cult of personality around themselves and seek to portray how innovative and radical they are.

Take away these dazzling clothes and we see the reality of what is underneath – a landlord seeking to deny tenants their rights and a landlord seeking to blame tenants and a landlord trying to force through his will onto his tenants.

Inside Housing reports on Nick’s wheeze which is to give 250 tenants the cheapest tablet possible so they can ONLY contact the landlord this way.  These 250 tenants or less than 4% of all HHT tenants will ONLY be able to contact HHT via these devices.  They cannot write or email or phone or come into the (remote) HHT offices they can ONLY communicate with HHT via these devices.  HHT presumably are able to still contact the tenant by mail or email or letter or phone call or by suitably HHT liveried carrier pigeon.

HHT are seeking to make it conditional for the receipt of one of these tablets that tenants can ONLY communicate that way and I would strongly question the legality of that.

HHT cannot undermine or override the tenants rights they have under the contract that is a tenancy agreement. Tenancy agreements contain the rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenant and they cannot be ridden roughshod over by this gimmick called the Digital Deal.  In fact I would strongly advise any tenant to use 40% of their digits on their preferred hand as a communication to this offer.

However should HHT agree to only communicate with tenants this way – which of course they have not – then tenants could simply sign up and not bother paying any rent as HHT could not serve a Notice Seeking Possession this way!  I’m not advocating that of course but it explains the crass thinking behind this scheme.  When we recognise that landlords have to communicate in non digital ways such as the NSP example then we have to recognise that so do tenants.  Yet this bizarre ill-considered plan seeks as a precondition to deny the tenant their contractual and legal rights.

If the tenant wishes to make a complaint I am sure HHT has a digital or online complaint method yet the tenant has an absolute right to file a complaint to its landlord in writing and it is good practice to make a complaint in writing so that you have a copy of it and you don’t get embroiled in the “I don’t recall that conversation” deflection and other similar matters.

Here is what Nick Atkin says about the tenants who he refers to as customers in the IH article published today:

“If somebody is just saying they can’t be bothered to go online, we won’t take their enquiry, because it means to do so would take resources from somebody else who is vulnerable and needs support.”

The first thing that came to mind when reading that was who the hell does Nick Atkin think he is!  Yet this is not personal and that is a perfectly valid statement.  Nick Atkin is saying the landlord of which he is the Chief Executive will DENY the right of the tenant to contact their landlord in whatever way they see fit.  Such a statement and so assertively stated to, seeks ONLY to deny the tenant their right and nothing is more revealing of his blind zealous adherence to the digital only route.

The tenant may love the idea of a free tablet and may also love the idea of being trained on how to use it and will love the idea of HHT paying for the internet access too.  However, and as much gloss and spin as Nick Atkin puts on this and as much as the theory behind it to educate tenants on digital matters is to be welcomed, Nick Atkin cannot deny the tenant their absolute rights to be able to communicate with their landlord through whatever means they may wish to do so, reasonably or even what may be considered unreasonably by paying their rent by writing a cheque on the side of a cow should they wish to do so!

This is all about HHT saving money and preparing for Universal Credit as Nick Atkin explains in the article that “...the initiative will enable the trust to collect £20m or rent payments that wlll go directly to tenants under as part of universal credit, without hiring significant numbers of extra staff.”  (Yes that doesn’t read well at all but is what the article says!)

I have no problem whatsoever with landlords seeking to make plans to deal with the vicissitudes of Universal Credit and particularly the nightmare direct payments of benefit to the tenant and not as now to the landlord this creates.  Halton neighbours Warrington where this has been in place for some time and so Nick Atkin will be well aware of the horrors this creates from Peter Fitzhenry his counterpart at Golden Gates Housing in Warrington in an article here which reveals that two full-time staff were needed just to chase the pig’s ear that the DWP made of just 40 tenant UC accounts – or an additional £1500 per year per tenant in rent collection costs!!

Yes that’s £30 per week per tenant and Nick Atkin is seeking to give tenants a £30 tablet to avoid this cost.

Yet what happens when HHT tenants see that DWP UC’s up their rent payments which they will?  Will tenants stressed to buggery with the constant ineptitude of this and constant time this takes to sort out because of that ineptitude and because UC is a huge UC-up even in theory, end up throwing the tablet against the wall and telling HHT to shove them where the sun don’t shine?

I suspect this possibility has not gone through the gadget-fixated head of Nick and his fellow Yellow Brick Roaders clutching at straws and having the brains of the scarecrow.  Nick is seeking to click his red heels more in line with Il Duce rather than Dorothy here in enforcing the panacea of digital change -that’s Universal Credit Universal Panacea or UCUP – onto his ‘customers’ and seeking to hide that this is all about denying tenant rights of communicating with HHT which of course is decidedly very dodgy in legal terms too.

If I appear to be the Luddite Wicked Witch of the East here reader but there are some very genuine concerns for tenants in this which Nick Atkin and HHT are attempted to wash over.  Still at least HHT tenants get a good song out of it all eh?

Follow the dig – i -tal road, follow the dig – i – tal road and follow the Pied Piper of Halton on his merry way too!

The article also says that 14% of HHT tenants do not have internet access yet HHT revealed yesterday in a ….yes you’ve guessed it reader… a tweet!… that this is in fact much higher at 33% or more than double what they are saying today!!


That graphic exposes the reality.  HHT as landlord will give the HHT tenant a free tablet so that HHT can take your full rent out of the UC payment you receive.  I would imagine the probable 1500+ bedroom tax affected tenants HHT has out of the 2,148 across Halton will be disturbed at this thought as many are what landlords calls ‘cant payers’ and not ‘wont payers’:

Yet if you dear tenant do not allow your benevolent landlord to do this then he will take back his benevolent gesture of allowing you to watch cats fart as they go round on a turntable on YouTube to which you have become so accustomed thanks to this wondrous benevolence of your landlord!

Follow the dig – i -tal road…all together now!






2 thoughts on “Follow the dig – i – tal road from the Swizzard of Boss

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