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Across the Board – March update

This is a time of year when we have two board meetings close together, one in February and one in March.

This is because there are a number of approvals we need to make in time for the new financial year starting in April. This includes the budget and plans for the year ahead. The board discusses draft documents in February to give the staff team time to make changes before final approval in March.

The budget

Diane French, Chair

In the current economic climate, money is stretched everywhere. In housing, the government restricting rent increases to below inflation last year – which we understood – left a gap in our finances, as costs have been rising above inflation, including the costs of repairs materials which rose by as much as 13% and more during the peak.

 

The government recognised that this caused pressures for all housing providers at a time that the government want new homes to be built and the standard of homes improved. As a result, the long-standing method of increasing rents using a formula linked to inflation, as measured in September 2023, has resumed this year.

 

We know this will be difficult for tenants, as our involved residents explained to us. Board considered the options available and in the end had to agree a budget with a full rent uplift this year in order to make the books balance. These are not decisions the board take lightly. In making the decision, we talked about all of the risks that Connect faces at the moment and how we are managing these.  These include the impact of the financial difficulties of Kirklees council on Connect services commissioned by them.

 

Corporate strategy

In addition to the budget, we approved a new strategy for the next three years which will be published soon. We had some discussions about the working title of the new strategy which is currently ‘Show not Tell’ – the ambition is that you will know us by our actions and service standards and not just by promises made in a strategy document.

 

The new strategy is very much about making sure our customer service improves, customer satisfaction improves and we find more ways to hear all the voices of our customers. That means if you have ideas about how we can improve we want to hear from you! One of the other papers we discussed at board is how we better align the board and the Customer Service Improvement Forum (SIF). We discussed our intention to recruit interested tenants for a programme designed to help them become ready for recruitment to the board.

 

As ever I want to thank all our involved tenants for the time they give up and for all the comments they provided in advance when developing our new strategy. The board approved the measures by which we will judge success this year and these were also agreed with the Service Improvement Forum – making sure the Connect Commitments are included.

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Connect Housing Association Limited is a charitable association registered in England and Wales under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 (Company No. IP17445R) and with the Regulator of Social Housing (No. L2285).

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