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By Dave

First of all, a guilty secret: I love Silk, the BBC show.  It makes my Tuesday nights.  It is completely and utterly implausible but take it for what it is – fiction and drama – and it’s a great show.  After a late Supper, my partner called me and said there was another programme which I must watch on BBC.  So I sat and shouted at “Neighbourhood watched” – a title which pretty much sums up much of the literature on the governance of social housing.  It’s a real-life documentary, apparently a series, following housing officers of two or three PRPs trying to manage their properties.  In the main, the housing officers appear to be true to type – committed and sensitive, trying to do their best for their residents.  But, by contrast to the fiction of Silk, there are some pretty appalling misrepresentations of the legal position of at least some of the occupiers.  Last night, for example, the voice over in relation to one such household said “Mr Ali and his wife have separated so his joint tenancy has ended”.  Well possibly, but the word “so” in the sentence hides a multitude of procedural steps before the termination of the joint tenancy, and advisers might have wanted to ask a series of questions about it all.  He was an over-occupier and the allocations officer was trying to do her best to re-house him but on the assumption that he would otherwise be evicted without question (setting up what for the PRP was a novel three-way domino allocation).  Then there was another situation where a grandma had been allocated a property on a warden-controlled estate and her grandson was causing hassle and nicking her money.  He was convicted for the latter but without a CRASBO having been applied for – or at least, it did not appear so as the PRP was going for an ASBI with power of arrest. So, one felt, this issue could have been resolved at an earlier phase.  Then there was the estate which was going to be redeveloped before the new government pulled the funding (I think I’ve got that right but, if that was the case, it might well have been a reviewable decision).  The remaining occupiers were living in HHSRS Category 1 properties by the look of it (subject of course to an assessment).  The housing officer held a meeting at which the residents rightly complained about the delay in their decanting, but there seemed to be issues over the transfer.  The housing officer was obviously trying to do her best, and really trying to do so, and had raised some money to partly refurbish the properties for the winter, but really …  I left the room after that for a long soak (alcohol) and rant.

What are we to make of it?




  1. house

    Not that I ever watch it but Eastenders makes me, rather nerdishly angry, when a character, who appears to be an Assured shorthold tenant, will say something like if we don’t pay the rent tomorrow the landlord will kick us out at the weekend.

    My partner usually just sighs…

    • NL

      Although, to be pedantic, that might be quite realistic. Not lawful, granted, but realistic.

    • Cait

      Emmerdale last night ….

      LL wants to show buyers around the property … Tenant says ‘you dont have a right apart from for repairs’ (I ooohed in appreciation)

      followed by LL ‘well if you’re going to rely on the law then I will point you to the term in the tenancy that forbids subletting which I’ve been turning a blind eye to’
      (something like that)

      cue me ‘hrrrm IS it subletting or does he have lodgers AND yeah but even if it IS a breach you’re still going to have to either rely on discretionary grounds or Section 21 which will take ages’

      So you’re not the only one who obsesses :D
      and to be fair Emmerdale seemed slightly less rubbish than Eastenders :)


  2. Richard Paris

    I agree with Dave – trouble is media generally don’t ever seem that worried about the lawfulness of what the hard-pressed and under-resourced housing people are suggesting and/or doing? That the PRPs involved would allow editorial freedom to the media to show potentially dubious advice/action is also questionable OR maybe the blurring between fiction and reality means it doesn’t really matter?

    ‘50,000 unlawful sub-lets in social housing’ – remember that number which has become accepted folklore – the hysteria whipped-up about sub-letting, unauthorised occupation and under-occupation promolgated by the government, their spin doctors and regulators makes media headlines and so-called documentaries. Maybe the reality is more nuanced and mundane?

  3. J Lam

    What i found amazing about silk is that a pupil would actually try to steal a wig and a copy of archibold. Surely if you are going to risk your career you must as well do it property in an Oceans 11 style heist.

  4. J Lam

    * properly

    • NL

      That was quite amazing, so amazing and unlikely that one would be tempted to think the whole thing was a poorly characterised fictional drama, rather than a gritty documentary.

      • Francis Davey

        From wikipedia:

        It is based on Moffat’s experiences at the Bar. In an interview with The Guardian, he said “I want to tell it as it really is. The extreme pressure, the hard choices, the ethical dilemmas, the overlap between the personal and the professional, principles fought for and principles sacrificed, the machiavellian politics, the sex, the drinking, the whole story—life at the bar is the richest possible drama territory.”

        Not the reality of the bar I know of course, but then, what would I know?

  5. dave

    All of this is fair comment on Silk – utterly implausible but I still think it’s great tv; but, if I could hark back to my point, isn’t “neighbourhood watched” in its own way also utterly implausible (to lawyers)? That the former is fiction (or faction) and the latter “real” was kind of my point

  6. S

    Agree with JS – North Square was great. Still a lot of dramatic licence, but at least some basis in reality. Quite good fun as well. It is on Channel 4’s 4OD.


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