Last night the directors of the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations reversed the appointment of disgraced former LEASE chair Roger Southam as an “esteemed honorary consultant”.
The appointment, which appalled many leaseholders, was made by FoPRA chair Bob Smytherman and announced in the latest FoPRA newsletter.
It prompted LKP to sever all connection with FoPRA and for Martin Boyd, LKP chair, to resign as an “honorary consultant”.
The astonishing misjudgement of Mr Southam’s appointment has divided the FoPRA board of directors and the open question now is whether long standing chair Bob Smytherman steps down. The organisation has its annual general meeting in Novermber.
Sebastian O’Kelly, of LKP, said:
“Bob Smytherman should stand aside.
“It is appalling given the disastrous position of so many leaseholders caught up in the building safety scandal, and the important business of substantive reforms to leasehold law, that there is a purportedly leaseholder organisation apparently eager and willing to be manipulated by the commercial interests in this sector.
“Shula Rich has the authority and respect to lead FoPRA forward: if it does not change, another organisation needs to be set up to replace it.”
Veteran leasehold campaigner, and FoPRA vice-chair, Shula Rich was aghast at the appointment of Mr Southam – and that of other sector figures such as solicitor Cassandra Zanelli and online property guru Bernie Wales, who advices freeholders on monetising their assets, although a former “honorary consultant” he seems now to have no formal role with the organisation.
Shula Rich has told the FoPRA board:
“If we use people such as Southam, Zanelli, Wales etc they use it to legitimise themselves in leaseholder circles. That’s why they ‘volunteer’.
“As a genuine volunteer I’m then working for them. So the objection to allowing them to be associated with us is (1) we legitimise them; and (2) I’m giving my volunteer time for them.”
The UK Cladding Action group and the National Leasehold Campaign shared LKP’s concerns about the direction of FoPRA.
Ritu Saha, co-founder of UKCAG, told Mr Symtherman:
“I have previously raised concerns about FPRA claiming they are ‘the voice of leaseholders’ but acting in a manner that is detrimental to the interests of leaseholders … These concerns still stand and have now become more pronounced than ever.
“Instead of standing up for the rights of leaseholder directors in RMCs and RTMs (such as myself), FPRA seems more interested in ingratiating themselves to government bodies and stakeholders that are actively looking to harm leaseholder directors, by making them responsible for building safety defects that are not the fault of these leaseholders.
“Please would you let us know why you claim to be ‘the voice of leaseholders’ and how you claim to represent the interests of leaseholder directors of RMCs and RTMs, when your actions to date, as given in the email below from Mr Boyd and my email dated 25 April 2021 (see below) suggest otherwise. It would be incredibly irresponsible for FPRA to say in government led working groups that they are representing the interests of the victims of the building safety crisis, when this is categorically not the case.”
Katie Kendrick, co-founder of the National Leasehold Campaign, was also extremely critical:
“The decision for the FoPRA to appoint Roger Southam as “an esteemed honorary consultant” is not welcomed by many of our members and is quite simply a wholly inappropriate appointment …
“He is an expert only on exploiting the leasehold system and using the system against leaseholders to maximise his own profit. For over 40 years he has milked the system. He ran Chainbow Ltd – a management company that were embedded into many leases resulting in greater expense and headaches for leaseholders. Is this someone who you really want your organisation to be affiliated with?”
On April 25 2021 UKCAG wrote a highly critical email to Bob Smytherman over FoPRA’s decision to break ranks with other leaseholder bodies to participate in the government working group,