The pugnacious leadership of the National Leasehold Campaign, a Facebook group with 1,300 members, has demanded that Roger Southam step down as chairman of the Leasehold Advisory Service.
His place should be taken by Sebastian O’Kelly, trustee of LKP, the group has told housing minister Gavin Barwell. The National Leasehold Campaign represents leasehold house owners and those facing onerous ground rents,
Mr O’Kelly’s application to the LEASE board was rejected out of hand in January. It was the second time he had applied to the LEASE board and been rejected. On this occasion, it was felt that he had failed to provide a sufficiently full covering letter.
Bob Smytherman, chairman of the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations, the only democratic grouping of leaseholders, was turned down on the third occasion. (LKP is a registered charity, but its trustees who are not elected.)
The call form the National Leasehold Campaign echoes a similar appeal by Sir Peter Bottomley in the Commons in April 2013, when he urged the appointment of both Mr O’Kelly and fellow LKP trustee Martin Boyd to the board of LEASE.
Mr O’Kelly said:
“I pay tribute to the women behind the National Leasehold Campaign – Katie Kendrick, Clair Scott, Lisa Chapple, Louise O’Riordan, Jo Darbyshire and many others – who have made this campaign so effective. Their good opinion is worth having.
“Mr Southam, a career leasehold sector professional, is an implausible figure in charge of LEASE and, of course, he should stand down.
“The organisation should do its job in putting leaseholder interests first. And second. And third. The housing minister said this at the LEASE annual conference, which was a humiliation for the organisation’s current leadership.
“The housing minister also pledged sufficient funding for LEASE to do its job without dependence on commercialising its services for the benefit of freeholders and the professionals employed by them.
“A more fundamental question is whether it is realistic for a taxpayer-funded quango to operate in this murky and highly lucrative area of residential property.
“The leasehold housing landscape is completely different to what it was in the 1990s when the Leasehold Advisory Service was founded; the number of leasehold properties has doubled, with 43 per cent of all new-build registrations being leasehold.
“It is very optimistic – to put it at its mildest – to offer a neutral advice service for both the owners of leasehold houses with crippling ground rents, and the anonymous freeholders and their hired professionals who profit from them.
“How can that possibly work, and should public money be involved in this?”
“It is disgraceful, surely, that a leasehold game-player like Martin Paine, who trips up ordinary families with lease deeds of variations leading to ground rents of £8,000 a year, should have honed his low skills at paid-for conferences and seminars hosted by LEASE.”
Sir Peter Bottomley also referenced unacceptable commercialising practices when he spoke at the LEASE conference on February 1. http://www.leaseholdknowledge.com/fail-offend-anyone-will-next-time-bottomley-tells-appalled-lease-annual-conference
“It is improper for anyone to stand in front of a conference such as this and give advice to freeholders on how you can hide your profits with insurance commissions.
“It happened but I hope it never happens again.
“I hope that one of the results of the minister saying that LEASE will in future be funded properly is that LEASE will not be forced to raise money in a commercial way that leads to dodgy things happening.”
The National Leasehold Campaign letter:
Dear Gavin Barwell,
We are writing to you on behalf of the above campaign requesting:
1) A ‘’full and frank’’ explanation for the appointment of Mr Roger Southam as the Non Executive Chairman of ‘LEASE’;
2) Asking that you investigate the relationship between ‘Chainbow’, whose Chairman and CEO was the same Mr Southam up to 2016, and Taylor Wimpey;
3) Why did ‘LEASE’ whose object is to support leaseholders, reject Sebastian O’Kelly’s application to sit on the board on two separate occasions.
What follows is an explanation as to why Mr R. Southam is a wholly inappropriate candidate to chair ‘LEASE’ due to his overriding conflicts of interest and track record of private interests on the side of the landlord. This especially as LEASE receives taxpayer-funding year on year in order to help alleviate TENANTS issues.
1) & 2)
Mr Roger Southam was appointed non executive chairman of ‘LEASE’ for a five-year term starting in January 2015 by Mr Brandon Lewis MP.
At that time Mr Southam was Chairman and CEO of ‘Chainbow’.
What questions were asked by those who were responsible for this appointment at that time of Mr Southam’s suitability for this role? EG His involvement with ‘Aberdeen Lane Ltd’, a management company embedded in the lease of a Taylor Wimpey site in London over which the leaseholders had no control at all.
‘Aberdeen Lane’ was wholly owned by ‘Chainbow’, whose advertising boasted the following: “Clients use Chainbow Consultancy to determine the best means of selling developments including: lease clause considerations, maximising ground rent opportunities”.
Clear evidence of the landlords’ interest being paramount.
As a result, leaseholders at Taylor Wimpey properties in London were reluctant to contact LEASE for help since the landlord was ‘’judge and jury’’ in its own case through Roger Southam. This was clearly a conflict.
Chainbow was subsequently sold to Savills in 2016 for a substantial sum and Roger Southam was quoted at the time as saying: “We are very excited to be joining Savills and looking forward to the opportunity to expand which will create a formidable force.”
Indeed, such sentiments from the perspective of ‘LEASE’ reek of bad practice.
We as taxpayers, helping to fund this organisation, think you should act at once to rebalance the current one-sidedness [that is] in favour of landlord developers. Mr Southam should, like Caesar’s wife be above suspicion.[The letter then considers the role and business career of Mrs Southam, who is employed by a ground rent investment fund tasked with building up a residential freehold portfolio.]
… This is another clear conflict for The Chair of ‘Lease’ when it comes to resolving Landlord and Tenant issues within the organisation. As a result Roger Southam cannot possibly claim impartiality when considering such matters. Impartial he is required to be as an officer of an organisation set up with taxpayer monies. As a result, he should be asked to step down and The DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) should act accordingly.
Sebastian O’Kelly of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership (LKP) was rejected for the second time to sit on the Board of ‘LEASE’. It should be noted that (LKP) have complained to the DCLG in the past, raising their concerns over Roger Southam’s appointment to Chair LEASE and these continue to be ignored.
Mr O’Kelly was informed that his application did not proceed as it failed to include a covering letter.
This pathetic excuse simply does not pass muster when you look at the LKP website and see the tens of thousands of words which amplify Mr O’Kellys suitability for office with the LEASE organisation.
This is a “stitch up”, and as leaseholders we will take it no longer.
This wrong needs to be righted without tenant members being fobbed off with inadequate excuses. The cosy vested interests represented by Robert [sic] Southam, and the powerful housebuilder companies backing him, requires rebalancing so that residents are given a proper platform from which they can air their grievances. This means that the Board of LEASE must be properly constituted and “fit for purpose”, which it is not at present.
We will campaign energetically and through all media outlets in order to draw attention to the distortion of leaseholder obligations being foisted upon leaseholders until we have reached a satisfactory solution. The “Rachman” style is obsolete and has to stay so.
We noted you stated at the LEASE annual conference that you reminded the taxpayers-funded agency that it was “to be solely, unapologetically on the leaseholders side”.
A first step would be the review of Mr O’Kelly’s application and his subsequent appointment to the Board of LEASE.
THE NATIONAL LEASHOLD CAMPAIGN (over 1000 members).