IMPORTANT - Information for Tenants
19 March 2020
I’ve some important information that we (Bernicia) need to share with you.
Firstly, unfortunately PF Burridge have ceased to trade therefore Bernicia’s Property Maintenance Team will take over as your repair contractor with immediate effect.
Secondly and more importantly I need to tell you about what has been put in place with regard to service delivery as the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) develops.
First and foremost we want to assure you that the health, safety and wellbeing of Square Building Trust’s tenants and residents and our own staff is an absolute priority for us.
On a daily basis the government is issuing and updating information on how the spread of Coronavirus can be contained and delayed
In relation to your own wellbeing please follow the government’s advice which is always up to date and can be found on www.nhs.uk. Advice is also provided through a government media campaign so listen out for any new developments
As Square Building Trust’s service provider we need to make some changes to the way we do things. These changes will, understandably, bring some limitations to normal service delivery but are designed to ensure that we keep you and your home safe and that we are there when you need us. They are designed in accordance with government advice, particularly in relation to limiting social contact, as we all try to do our bit to help manage the Coronavirus outbreak. These changes apply to both Square Building Trust and Bernicia tenants.
The following questions and answers are designed to tell you about what’s been put in place and what you can expect during this difficult time. I must reiterate however that this is our approach at this current time, things are changing constantly in response to government advice and our staff resource levels, so you are advised to also check our website for the most up to date information.
Will your office still be open?
Our office in Ashington is now closed to the public. If you need to deliver something to us, for example a letter or you need to return keys, post box facilities are available at our Ashington office.
Telephone lines will operate as normal, so please either ring 0344 800 3800 or visit our website www.bernicia.com if you need to report something or require any information or help. As your Housing Officer, for anything urgent, you can contact me directly on 0191 238 3181.
What will happen with repairs service?
We are focussed on maintaining this critical service. For a period of time we will be scaling back on non-urgent repairs, but still operating an emergency and urgent repair service. Urgent repairs will be limited to things that might turn into emergencies if we don’t fix these.
Our emergency service will still operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
If you still want to report non urgent repairs we can record these but we’ll not be able to currently offer you an appointment or give you a timescale for completion.
What if my heating is due to be serviced?
Making sure heating appliances are safe is extremely important therefore we’ll carry on as normal with our servicing programme.
We’ll need access to your home so please continue to let us in and be assured we have taken every precaution to ensure our staff can work safely in your home.
Will I have to disclose if I am self isolating or have any symptoms related to the virus?
We’ll ask you a series of questions before and at the time we visit your home. Please don’t be offended by these, our only intention is to make sure risks of transferring the virus are minimised.
Will communal areas still be cleaned?
At present there will be no change to this service, our contractors will continue to visit with safe working practices in place.
How will I pay my rent if I can’t leave my home?
There are a number of ways to do this without having to worry about social distancing.
You can pay over the phone via the Allpay automated service by ringing 0330 041 6497.
If you don’t like automated services you can ring us and we’ll take your payment.
You can also make payments through the Allpay website www.allpay.com or by using the Allpay app or text messaging service.
The easiest and safest way to pay your rent is by direct debit, you can do this directly through Allpay or if you need any help just give us a ring.
What happens if my income is reduced?
We recognise the impacts of Coronavirus are far reaching and people may be affected financially, for example if businesses reduce services or close.
If you face such circumstances please get in touch, you may be entitled to help towards your rent or may need some advice on what can be done to help manage your payments. The important thing is that you keep us informed, we are here to help.
I’m waiting to move to another Square Building Trust property, will this still go ahead?
We’ll continue to repair and relet homes as they become empty. So if you are to move home this will still happen but with safe working practices in place.
What if I am a victim of anti-social behaviour?
Cases will be prioritised as we may be only able to deal with the most serious of these.
Face to face interviews will only take place in extreme circumstances, again with safe working practices in place.
Most information can be taken over the telephone or by email or letter therefore limiting interview situations will not stop cases being managed and progressed.
At this point no-one can fully predict how Coronavirus will develop therefore we’ll review the situation on a daily basis and make adjustments to manage this and restore business as usual when its right to do so.
We’ll update our website with any further changes and let you know personally if there is anything fundamental we need to tell you about.
The outbreak of Coronavirus is a very concerning situation and we are facing difficult times, rest assured we are, and will continue to do as much as we can to support tenants and residents of Square Building Trust.
We thank you for your patience and cooperation whilst we work through these difficult times and hope you take care and stay well.
Tenants Newsletter Competition Results
The question was "Which famous Scottish poet wrote the words to the popular New Years Eve song - Auld Lang Syne?"
The answer was Robert Burns (we also accepted Rabbie Burns!).
The prize of a £25 shopping voucher and goody bag went to a gentleman in Howdon Road. The runners-up, who both won goody bags, were a lady from Wheldon House and a lady from Howdon Road.
We hope you continue to enjoy reading the Tenants Newsletter.
90th anniversary competition
As you may recall we ran a special 90th anniversary competition on the back of the recent Square Building Trust tenants newsletter.
The question was - In what year was the Square Building Trust set up? - and the answer was 1929.
The first winning correct entry picked at random to win a £25 voucher and 90th anniversary goody bag was a lady from All Saints Court - so congratulations!
To thank everyone who took the time to enter the competition we gave them a Square Building Trust pen and post-it-note.
Trust celebrates 90th anniversary
The Square Building Trust, established in 1929 in response to poor housing conditions in the town, recently celebrated its 90th anniversary.
Pictured: Members of the Square Building Trust committee
The trust marked this significant milestone with a special service at St Columba’s UR Church in Northumberland Square on Sunday 24 March led by the Revd. Trevor Jamison.
The trust was started by the men and women of the Northumberland Square Presbyterian Church bible classes after hearing a talk about the terrible housing conditions in the town.
Under the direction of North Shields businessman and bible class leader, Rowland Lishman, they decided to have a fundraising campaign selling ‘shilling bricks’ and remarkably reached their target in only one week.
Six months later the first new family houses were built off Hawkey’s Lane and this was followed a few years later in 1936 by 48 flats and a nursery on Howdon Road.
The Trust has continued over the years to build several housing projects, including specialist accommodation for adults with special needs and for people with disabilities.
All of the properties are now managed by Bernicia which became the Trust’s managing agent in 2014.
Trust chair, Bill Southern, said: “It is remarkable what those men and women were able to raise during a time of extreme economic hardship and indeed many of them were themselves unemployed.
“In our 90th year we celebrate those pioneers of the past and also look towards the future. The Trust has remained true to those early ideals while still meeting the needs of our tenants in the 21st Century.”
Members of the Trust Committee, staff from Bernicia and descendants of Rowland Lishman attended the service with the congregation of the church.
Pictured: Peter Matthew (Vice Chair, SBT) cuts the anniversary cake with long-term tenant Lily Gardner
Trust shares its heritage on Open Day
The Trust was invited to put on a display at St Columba’s Church for the annual Heritage Open Day which took place over the weekend of 8th/9th September.
As well as the usual display stand, there were also archive documents and press cuttings from the last 80+ years since the trust began in 1929.
Also on the display was a photo of the Trust’s first Honorary President, the late Margaret Grey. After the open day this photo will be hung permanently in the Lishman Room at the church where the Trust meets every quarter.
Significant investment for historic flats
The 48 one and two bedroomed flats on Howdon Road in North Shields were some of the very first built by the Square Building Trust, being completed in 1936.
Although the Trust has had a long-standing scheduled annual maintenance programme in place for these popular properties, in 2016 it was recognised that a significant investment was needed to address some of the exterior and landscaping issues which had arisen over time.
In partnership with our managing agents, Bernicia, we undertook a tenant consultation process including an open day in July 2016 to collect views and ideas from residents on the various options as well as providing feedback forms to all residents with a specially produced newsletter to update on the programme.
A proposed budget of just over £200,000 was identified and this enabled us to replace all of the upper storey railings, refurbish the underside of the balconies and other external decoration and also significantly improve the door entry and stair areas in each of the blocks.
It also allowed us to improve the flat’s external environment particularly at the back of the properties such as putting in bin store screening, tidying up the gravelled areas and amending some of the planting alongside the adjoining land.
Bill Southern, Chairman of Square Building Trust, said of the improvements: “We pride ourselves on being a listening and responsive landlord, providing good quality homes which people want to live in. I believe these works at Howdon Road have been very much welcomed by our tenants and make the flats an attractive option for those seeking this kind of property.
“I am also very grateful to Bernicia for their project management and of course the tenants for their most valuable input.”
Trust celebrates success at 89th AGM
The Square Building Trust board celebrated another successful year at its 89th Annual General Meeting on 30th January.
Although our development ambitions are challenged by a number of factors, we have achieved a number of improvement and maintenance goals for the year.
Our continued investment in our major scheme at Howdon Road and improvement plans for other properties such as Wheldon House are progressing and we aim to ensure we are providing excellent quality homes for our existing and future tenants.
Our relationship with our managing agents Berncia continues to develop well and we have received first class support and advice from officers on a range of issues.
The board heard that our financial position was very healthy and we continue to look at opportunities to invest wherever possible.
The board also heard an interesting and informative presentation from Monica Burns, External Affairs Manager from the National Housing Federation. Monica outlined recent national initiatives and the challenges and opportunities for smaller housing trusts and praised the board for its good governance procedures and plans for supporting and developing the board’s roles and responsibilities.
The Chairman, Bill Southern, took the opportunity to highlight the recent sad passing of the Trust’s first Honorary President, Margaret Grey, who had served for over 66 years as a member of the committee. Her commitment and insight was particularly recognised.
Pictured: (back L-R) Jeanie McMillan (Director of Housing Services, Bernicia), Peter Matthew (Vice Chair, SBT) and (front L-R), Bill Southern (Chair, SBT) and Keith Armstrong (Treasurer, SBT)
Heritage Open Day display at St Columba's URC 9th & 10th September 2017
The Square Building Trust exhibition was on display as part of the Open Heritage events taking place all over the region on the weekend of 9th/10th September.
The display was seen by visitors and congregation members of St Columba's Church which was open to the public on Saturday.
As well as information about the Trust and its work, the Church also displayed photographs of the Men's Bible Class, which under the leadership of Rowland Lishman began the work of the Trust during the depression in the 1920s.
The Square Building Trust 88th AGM – 31st January 2017
Members of the Committee and representatives of our managing agent, Bernicia, attended the 88th AGM of the Trust.
A review of the Trust’s year including achievements and developments was presented at the meeting as well as the year’s accounts. We have had another successful year and continued to maintain our homes to high standards and achieved high satisfaction rates from our tenants. We have also strengthened our governance and business planning with the acceptance of updated Rules and Standing Orders and the development of a five year business plan.
We continue to be in a strong financial position and have invested significantly in a number of our properties over the last year, particularly the supported living units and at Howdon Road. Our Chairman, Bill Southern, praised the support and advice of the staff team at Bernicia and their on-going help in developing the skills of the Committee.
We look forward to the coming year and renewed our commitment to develop opportunities to meet the housing needs of local residents where it is most needed.