March 16, 2021
Shout out for housing coops
For reasons that no one has yet to be able to adequately explain, for some years now Scottish Government and the housing regulator have had a clear preference for ever larger consortia of housing associations operating at a regional or even national level. And yet venture into the South Lanarkshire community served by West Whitlawburn Housing Coop and the case for small scale community controlled housing becomes self-evident. Chief Exec since the Coop formed in 1989, Paul Farrell is retiring. Typically, he fires a few parting shots at the ‘system’ that he has clearly struggled with over the years.
Paul Farrell, director of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative (WWHC), is retiring from his role after 32 years in the post.
WWHC was established in March 1989 to control and manage the first Stock Transfer of Multi-Storey stock from a local authority. Mr Farrell was appointed as its first director in May that year and has led the community controlled organisation with its management committee and his staff ever since.
He graduated in Economics and Marketing from the University of Strathclyde and after completing a post graduate diploma in Management Studies joined Glasgow City Council. He worked in community development and community renewal roles in the north-west of Glasgow before being recruited by the WWHC management committee.
Mr Farrell’s drive and infectious enthusiasm to work closely with local people to improve the community have made him a very popular director.
During his time at the helm, and with full support from his management committee and staff team, WWHC achieved many significant ‘firsts’ in community housing:
- First Scottish winners of The Big Society Award, with representatives travelling to Downing Street to receive the accolade.
- First Lottery grant in Scotland for the Community Resource Centre.
- First fibre to the home network in the UK (Whitcomm)
- First to establish a not-for-profit tenant owned energy supply company.
Mr Farrelll was seconded in 2000 to the Glasgow Housing Association and spent three years heading up the GHA communications team that played a significant role in successfully delivering the historic transfer of Glasgow City Council’s housing stock.
His expertise and skill have been in demand by others and he has twice been acting director of East Kilbride and District Housing Association and was engaged in the same role by Faifley Housing Association.
Mr Farrell said: “It’s been a great honour and privilege to have led the WWHC staff team since the organisation’s inception in 1989. The WWHC Management Committee and staff have been wonderfully supportive of me over these many years. They are special people, who are the foundation and cornerstone of a tremendously successful organisation.
“We have achieved an enormous amount together, with many groundbreaking firsts. The Whitlawburn pioneers who led the stock transfer in 1989 were true visionaries and together we embarked on a remarkable journey. I am delighted to be leaving WWHC in such a tremendously strong position, as I hand over the baton to my successor.”
Mr Farrell, 61, who leaves at the start of March, added: “I have no regrets just a few disappointments with external agencies recently. For me the Scottish Government fornot actively promoting Housing Co-operatives, the Scottish Housing Regulator for a blinkered approach and often unconstructive behaviour and the local community health initiative for failing to do anything significant about health inequalities in Whitlawburn.
“I would like to send my very best wishes to my successor and the WWHC committee and staff team. I know they will admirably continue the successes, culture and identity of WWHC that will lead to further outstanding achievements in the years to come.”
Stephanie Marshall, WWHC’s depute director, is working as acting director until the position can be advertised.
Anne Anderson, WWHC chairperson, commented: “On behalf of our committee, staff, members and tenants, I want to thank Paul for his leadership, dedication and guidance over the last 32 years. Together we have changed West Whitlawburn for the better with Paul’s contributions driving the Co-operative forward and giving us a record of significant success and ground breaking achievements. He will be missed by everyone and we wish Paul the very best for the next chapter of his life.”