It was good to see several sites being developed by Gentoo as reported in the Echo (September 10), along with others previously.
Why the traditionally-built ex-council houses were demolished in the first place, leaving vast open grassland and resulting in a massive loss of rental income, is a matter of continued controversy.
Indeed, the company has also caused great concern by diversifying into many other areas outside social housing.
While there is a great regard for the work the Gentoo employees carry out, countering that is the reputation the company has for the high level of pay granted at executive level.
Concerns over the performance of Gentoo were highlighted in 2014 when it was downgraded over value for money by the Home and Communities Agency. The HCA had found that the company had failed to identify tax liabilities, nor adequately identified the extent of the risk exposure from all its business activities. The HCA flagged up the nature and scale of losses being incurred in some of the unregistered subsidiaries, with non-social housing activity as a whole producing a “substantial net deficit”.
The lack of success and hence cost of diversity of its various enterprises beyond the remit of providing social housing, was a key issue here.
The downgrading, despite some positive comments, was disappointingly retained in early 2015, when the HCA still noted several important weaknesses, including “the lack of experience or expertise at board level to influence decisions taken at group level”, so the next step is when Gentoo presents a revised business plan to the HCA next month.
It has to be hoped that the HCA finds that the issues which concerned them at Gentoo until relatively recently, have been suitably and correctly addressed.
Coun Michael Dixon
Deputy Leader of the Group of Conservative Councillors