January 18, 2021

Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation and LEASE thank DCLG civil servant for helping leaseholders

PaulaHassallgroupCampaign against retirement leasehold exploitation and LEASE jointly held a party last night to thank Paula Hassall, a DCLG civil servant, for her contribution to helping leaseholders.

Paula was appointed to the leasehold section 13 months ago and helped bring about significant improvements to the leasehold sector.

Sadly, she leaves at the end of this week to join the DCLG devolution team, which is in preparation for the post-election political landscape.

Jim Fitzpatrick (left) and Sir Peter Bottomley (right) raise glasses to toast the achievements of civil servant Paula Hassall

Jim Fitzpatrick (left) and Sir Peter Bottomley (right) raise glasses to toast the achievements of civil servant Paula Hassall

Paula’s contributions include encouraging DCLG statisticians to examine LKP analysis of the leasehold sector’s size – it is now accepted as 4.1 million leaseholders, not 2.5 million – easing the formation of officially recognised residents’ associations (which have the power to employ an auditor to examine accounts) and ensuring that retirement leasehold exit fees are now under examination by the Law Commission.

It is in no small measure thanks to Paula that the evidence of LKP concerning widespread abuses in the sector are now considered seriously by government.

In the past, officialdom had largely closed its ears to leaseholders’ concerns, and drew information and insight from insiders employed by the leasehold trade bodies.

The reception was attended by LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation patrons the MPs Sir Peter Bottomley (Con, Worthing West) and Jim Fitzpatrick (and his wife – Labour, Poplar and Limehouse) as well as Roger Southam, the chairman of the Leasehold Advisory Service, and Anthony Essien, its chief executive.

There was a generous turnout of DCLG and LEASE officials.

Roger Southam, chairman of LEASE, offers his thanks to the DCLG civil servant

Roger Southam, chairman of LEASE, offers his thanks to the DCLG civil servant

Paula attended with her husband, Terry, and her daughter Maisie, 11, also made a speech applauding her mother’s work – encouraged by a recent tour of the Palace of Westminster.

Sir Peter and Jim Fitzpatrick expressed their appreciation, as did Roger Southam, who is giving every indication of confronting flaws and injustices in the current system.

This was particularly useful in a meeting today at Westminster with the Financial Conduct Authority over unjustified insurance commissions – about which Roger has long been indignant (more in a separate post).

The work of LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation in driving a narrative for reform was recognised and applauded.

The following could not attend but sent the following statements:

Ian Fletcher, policy director British Property Federation, praised Paula Hassall’s work and made a plea for commonhold:

“My apologies I am unable to attend tonight – family duties call. However, I am pleased to see that the efforts of the small team at DCLG on residential leasehold are being recognised.

“This part of the Department’s remit is often undervalued and yet is so important to the millions who own or live in flats. Please pass on my thanks to Paula with our best wishes in her new role and my hope that her successor will continue to drive the important housing issues that she has worked on, and also finally make commonhold work.”

Joe Oldman, housing policy advisor AgeUK, said:

“Age UK is particularly pleased that DCLG has recognised the needs of vulnerable older people, as well as the leasehold retirement industry.

“In the long term this balanced approach will support the expansion of the sector by giving older people more confidence about getting a fairer deal and gaining protection from bad practice.”

“Over the last year DCLG has demonstrated that they want older leaseholders themselves to be engaged in much needed reform of the leasehold sector.”

Steve O’Connell, Greater London Assembly member Croydon and Sutton, said:

“I very much welcome the recent new initiatives that have come out of the residential leasehold policy team at CLG, particularly the reassessment of the scale of the sector in London and the progress being made on the recognition of the role of tenants’ associations in the management of service charges. I look forward to further progress being made by Paula Hassall’s successor.”