The Dartford Tenants' and Leaseholders' Forum is a group of tenants who help to monitor the services offered by the Council to its tenants and leaseholders. Members hold portfolios for various aspects of the services such as repairs and maintenance, gas servicing and communal cleaning and gardening services. We hold regular meetings with housing managers and contractors, and are encouraged to ask questions if we feel the services are lacking in any way. We are fortunate that our concerns are always listened to and acted upon.

Of course, since the middle of March life has not been 'normal'. The Covid-19 outbreak hit all of us, and life became very, very different. All meetings were put on hold, all contractor meetings, management meetings and Forum meetings came to a sudden close. However this does not mean that we have been idle. We’re pleased to have been consulted on the Repairs and Maintenance Policy, which has now been approved. Forum members are monitoring social media and keeping in touch with our local communities via phone or with social distancing. Where there have been questions or issues, we have directed people to the right information. We’ve been updated by the housing department on a regular basis, and have been discovering the delights of online meetings. Zoom used to mean going fast, now it means chatting to fellow Forum members by using my laptop screen and headphones.

Our recycling project undertaken by Forum members has now ended, and feedback is being collated as we speak. The project aimed to improve recycling within a block of flats where communal bins are used. Forum members supported tenants with information leaflets and posters about waste and recycling, do’s and don’ts, posters to get all family members involved, alternatives to ‘binning’ items including donating items, or details of the Bulk Collections service from the Council. Bins had new signage to highlight which bins were for general waste and which were for recyclable waste. Improvements and issues were feedback to the Council, and changes were made to the information leaflets available, and to bin signage were taken forward. Issues with non-collections, and with recycling efforts were also feedback and investigated by the Council.

A moment of reflection:

Covid-19 has taken its toll on not only the day to day running of the Borough, and our daily lives with everything closed, and lockdown restrictions in place. We’ve lost our freedom, ease of daily living, and a radical change to our way of life. Tragically of all of this is nothing compared to the lives lost. Loved ones, colleagues, neighbours, friends, doctors, nurses, cleaners, the list goes on. The figures we’ve all seen on a daily basis at that podium, are a stark reminder of why we’ve all been staying home, washing our hands, and socially distancing from the people we care about. The Forum hasn’t been immune to this awful time, nor without its losses of loved ones. For everyone who has been affected by this virus, our thoughts go out to you all.

At the beginning of the lockdown I suggested to Jeremy Kite, Leader of the Council, that the Council may consider an area in the park to be made into a memorial garden. I was absolutely delighted when I heard that he has agreed to go ahead with this suggestion. I truly hope that this project will be welcomed by the residents of Dartford, and hope it will be a place for people to be able to sit and remember those taken from us too soon.

The Forum will continue to meet, albeit virtually for the time being, working on behalf of residents in this most difficult of times.