Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and Mr Speaker, for granting me this Adjournment debate and thus providing me with an important opportunity to try to hold the Sanctuary Housing Group, which I regard as a highly dysfunctional organisation, to account. As you will soon hear, Madam Deputy Speaker, my remarks have been born from over a decade of frustration in trying to deal with these people as a local MP. To put it bluntly, I have well and truly had enough.
To begin with, Sanctuary has consistently provided a poor maintenance service to many of my constituents over a period of many years. I have had numerous complaints from Sanctuary tenants about shoddy workmanship, missed appointments and a generally off-hand attitude towards them when they complain. To give just one example, a constituent contacted me a few years ago to complain about a broken lift in one of Sanctuary’s sheltered housing units. As my constituent put it in an email:
“I’m writing to complain about the fact that our lift has not been working for the past 10 days, effectively trapping my disabled wife in our first-floor flat. Today, I spoke with the Scheme Manager, who advised me there is no confirmed date for when this problem will be resolved. He also advised me that the service company assessed the lift a month ago and advised Sanctuary of repairs that needed to be done, and the lift broke down three weeks after it was assessed…My wife has been trapped in the lift in her wheelchair six or more times. Sanctuary has known there are issues with the lift and has not responded adequately.”
That is but one example of the poor level of service that Sanctuary provides, but I could spend hours reading very many others into the record. The company’s record is so poor that in March this year it was the subject of an absolutely scathing Channel 4 “Dispatches” documentary entitled, “New Landlords from Hell”. To try to summarise a half-hour documentary in one sentence, I would say that the group’s record is truly shocking. In many instances, it shows a complete disregard for the welfare, or even the safety, of its tenants. Sanctuary’s so-called board of directors should watch the documentary and then hang their heads in shame. Anybody who wants to know more about this organisation should watch the programme. I suspect they will be appalled, just as I was, by what they see.
It is not as if Sanctuary is a small or under-resourced organisation. I have carefully read its latest annual report. It currently has total assets under management in the order of £4 billion. It is one of the largest registered social landlords in the United Kingdom, with about 100,000 properties currently under management. It is, supposedly, a not-for-profit organisation, yet it made an operating profit of just under £200 million, as recorded in its 2017-18 accounts. The group’s previous chief executive served for some 27 years, but has recently been replaced by a new chief executive, Craig Moule, whose total annual remuneration, including pension contributions and so on, is now in the order of half a million pounds.