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Across the Board – February update

Hello from Connect’s Board!

This new blog is part of our drive to ensure our customers know what we’re up to and have a chance to be involved in shaping what we do.

The blog will – as a minimum – appear after each board meeting. Here’s a snapshot of everything we discussed in February.

Diane French, Chair

The budget

Our board meetings have a rhythm over the course of the year. In February the focus was – as always – on the draft budget.

Given all the pressures of cost inflation and increasing regulatory standards, money will be tight in 2024/25. Agreeing the budget required the Board to choose how to prioritise expenditure and confirm decisions about several things, including rent increases.

The Board heard feedback from the tenant’s Service Improvement Forum, where the potential rent increase had been discussed towards the end of 2023.

Increasing rent is always a difficult decision for the board, as we have to balance the viability of the organisation for everyone with what we know is a very hard time for lots of individuals.

Corporate strategy

We also discussed the draft strategy for Connect for the next three years. The steer from the board has been to keep the strategy focused on doing the basics brilliantly – we have been very clear that getting repairs service right and ensuring we are hearing the voice of customers in every interaction are our absolute priorities. I am delighted to see the strategy take shape against these priorities.

You will soon start to hear about a customer portal which we hope will help you and us with tracking things like repairs, conversations, and even rent.

Customer care

We always focus on our performance in relation to customer care and our compliance with health and safety standards. To give a couple of examples: we discussed why complaints response times were behind where we want them to be and how to get back on track, and how we are tracking issues raised about damp and mould in properties.

We were pleased to see the near-completion of the roll out of carbon monoxide monitors which is an example of increased regulation – these have now become mandatory in all properties.

We have also been tracking levels of tenant satisfaction through the roll out of new Tenant Satisfaction Measures, which will be completed by the end of March. We have asked for more analysis of where satisfaction levels may vary for our meeting in May 2024.

Climate emergency

We heard from our expert in the Climate Emergency, Emma Gilbank, about how important it is to you that we play our part in slowing its advance and in coping with the emerging implications of it.  In developing our new Sustainability Strategy, Emma surveyed customers and stakeholders to help set priorities.  We were happy to approve a new three-year strategy.

Board effectiveness

We discussed board effectiveness and agreed an external review – which is a regulatory requirement every few years. This will include how well we are hearing the voice of customers to inform our decision making.

Committees

Finally, we got feedback from our committees.

We have a committee for Human Resources and Governance, and a committee for Audit and Risk Management – we also always hear back from the board members who have been to the Tenant Service Improvement Forum and review the minutes of their last meeting.

This last link is one we want to strengthen this year, so that connections between board discussions and our customers voice is stronger. This has been the topic of discussions at the Customer Task and Finish Group which has been meeting with involvement form some tenants – and the work of this group was also reported back to the board.

Final thoughts

I hope this blog provides some useful insight into what the board does and over time we’ll introduce board members too. I’d be delighted to hear back from any of you with topics you’d like us to cover.

Best regards

Diane French, Chair of Connect’s Board.

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