Former Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe has begun a new role trying to repair the reputation of the country’s biggest housing association.
Clarion was featured in a BBC Panorama investigation in November 2020, revealing service charges of over £4,300 per year on a shared ownership home in Battersea. Clarion said at the time that it would be reviewing its policy on service charges.
The group was also forced to apologise last year after an ITV News investigation found Clarion tenants living in damp and mouldy conditions on a rodent-infested estate in Mitcham.
More recently, Clarion’s residents have also faced disruption after a cyberattack damaged its IT systems. Residents say they have been bombarded with phishing scams, although Clarion insists that customer data was not accessed.
Thorpe had led Greenwich Labour to its biggest ever win at the polls in May, winning 52 out of 55 council seats. But he then lost the internal vote among Labour councillors to be the new leader and was replaced by Anthony Okereke.
He had returned to his old job as a primary school teacher before securing the role with Clarion, which has no substantial presence in Greenwich, although it manages the Leybridge Court estate, former Lewisham-run blocks on the borough boundary at Lee Green.
“As someone who grew up in social housing and who has worked to deliver the largest low carbon council house building programme my borough had seen in generations , I know what a transformational difference housing can make to people’s lives,” he said on his LinkedIn page.
“With over 119,000 homes across the country, and with plans for more than 20,000 new properties in the pipeline, there’s a lot to do in this exciting role. I’m really looking forward to working with everyone in the group, and with our partners across the country, to deliver the best possible services for the 350,000 Clarion residents we serve.”
The scale of the task ahead of Thorpe was hinted at in a response from Leonie Cooper, the Labour London Assembly member for Wandsworth and Merton, which includes the Eastfields estate in Mitcham that featured in the ITV exposé.
She said: “Congrats, Danny – a lot of reputational work required (plus more repairs) required round my way, you’ll be busy!”
Thorpe, who remains a backbench councillor for Shooters Hill, oversaw most of the first phase of the Greenwich Builds programme to build 750 council houses, nearly all of which are now either built, under construction or have got planning permission – the borough’s biggest council homebuilding programme for decades.
More than half will be on Kidbrooke Park Road, close to the site of the former Ferrier Estate. Before leaving office he committed the council to 1,000 more homes, more than a quarter of which will be on the site of the old Morris Walk and Maryon Grove estates on the Woolwich/Charlton border.
However, a month ago the borough’s new cabinet member for housing, Pat Slattery, told councillors that there had been “a lot of complaints” from locals about the state of Greenwich’s estates, and that rents may need to rise to fund improvements.
While Thorpe moves from local government into lobbying, his successor, Okereke, moved the other way, giving up a job at the agency Planning Potential when he became council leader.