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Housing boss quits ahead of major review

Labour call for closure of CityWest Homes as controversial chief executive goes following three years at the helm

29 June, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Jonathan Cowie oversaw a policy of replacing estate offices with call centres

A TOP council homes boss quit this week as the whole of Westminster’s housing service was put under review.

Jonathan Cowie is this weekend leaving CityWest Homes after three years at the helm while overseeing a policy of replacing estate offices with ineffectual call centres.

CityWest, which manages 21,000 properties in the borough, has also announced this week that it is reletting all its contracts for estate services, cleaning, maintenance, concierge and security.

Opposition leader Labour’s Cllr Adam Hug has welcomed “the belated recognition” of CityWest Homes’s failures that he said were the product of council cut-backs and “deeper structural issues”.

But he added: “The council must not try to pin the blame onto outgoing members of CWH staff. The problems at CityWest are the result of wrong-headed changes and cuts, combined with deeper structural issues.

“The council should bite the bullet, use this opportunity to close CityWest, and bring the service back in-house, while reversing some of its disastrous changes by putting housing officers back on the ground changes by putting housing officers back on the ground in local communities.”

Alida Baxter, who lives in a CityWest Homes-run block in Soho

CityWest is an arms-length management organisation (Almo) that took over control of Westminster’s council housing in 2002.

Alida Baxter, who lives in a CityWest Homes-run block in Soho, said: “This was once, for all its flaws, a responsible organisation with an accessible management, which has been destroyed by Jonathan Cowie, a new CEO who came in promising improvements but who has actually stripped CWH not only of its estate offices but the managers in them, and the entire contactable, responsive, middle and upper management whom residents could reach for assistance, leaving us with only a call centre who know nothing and do less.”

Mr Cowie was unavailable for comment. CWH directed the Extra to the council for comment.

Andrew Smith, the council’s new cabinet member for housing and customer services, said CityWest Homes needed a new leader who could take forward the council’s “new vision” for its housing service.

Cllr Smith said: “During his tenure as chief executive, Jonathan has taken the organisation through an important period of transformation and has shown commitment to delivering innovation in the way in which we serve the needs of our residents.

“These have not been without their challenges, but Jonathan’s professionalism and commitment to go the extra mile have been evident throughout.”

The council said its review would assess whether the “shape and size of the organisation” was the right fit for Westminster.

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