Question marks over AHIPP’s strategy

Now the dust is slowly settling after the debacle of the recent Home Information Pack delay, it\'s not only the government that may be questioning the merits of its strategy.

The Department for Communities and Local Government’s handling of the saga that saw the launch date for HIPs put back to August 1 was nothing short of a disaster.

But then there is the Association of Home Information Pack Providers. In the style of the former Iraqi information minister dubbed Comical Ali, over the past few months it somehow managed to claim that all was OK when everyone knew the HIP regime was in tatters.

AHIPP’s denial of the trouble the HIP plan was in leaves it open to the same ridicule aff-orded to Saddam Hussein’s spokesman at the start of the Iraq conflict, who denied his regime was in dire straits. “HIPs will speed up the buying and selling process,” was the standard response to any criticism of the packs. Many questioned the substance behind such remarksAHIPP also failed to help quell the widespread unpopularity of the packs by creating enemies rather than friends. It lashed out at critics in one childish outburst after another, labelling sceptics as “liars” and “anti-democratic”.

A recent letter from James Cotton, mortgage specialist at London & Country, in Mortgage Strategy summed things up. He said he had been misled by AHIPP’s rose-tinted view of the market and that it had lost credibility.

Look at this comment from AHIPP’s director-general Mike Ockenden in April.

“The HIP industry is ready,” he said. “There will be enough qualified energy assessors.”

Remember that one of the lies AHIPP claimed was rife was that there would not be enough home inspectors. The government later admitted that the lack of accredited inspectors was one of the main reasons for the delay.

Another problem is that AHIPP is not taken seriously by journalists – the people it partly relies on to carry its message. Many reporters look forward to receiving its press releases just for the comedy value of its latest outburst.

Trade bodies exist to promote their interests but they are also meant to engage in debate, not shout down opponents with insults. It was at it again last week, attacking critics as “feeble” and “ridiculous” for daring to suggest there might not be enough energy assessors for London.

Another embarrassing public statement from AHIPP was to claim that HIP critics were anti-democratic. Again, Ockenden proclaimed that “the public voted for our current government and when doing so, they voted for HIPs”.

AHIPP’s logic is flawed. If we are not allowed to argue with this government, is it not similarly anti-democratic to berate its failure to slash Stamp Duty and build homes?