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Across the Board – May update

In everyone’s life there are especially busy periods, and that’s also true in the life of Connect as an organisation.

When the board met in May we had a large agenda, and we also had an external expert watching us to give us feedback on how we performed as a board – which is something we have to do every few years.  As a regulated organisation, there are several returns – things we have to send off to the regulators and our lenders – that we have to make at this time of year.

Diane French, Chair

30 year business plan

One of those returns we have to make is our 30-year business plan – our financial plan for the next 30 years.

Obviously planning 30 years ahead means we have to make lots of assumptions about what might happen, such as how much repairs might cost and how staff salaries might need to rise with inflation. We think about how much money we need to borrow in order to build the new houses we’re planning and what that might cost us.

The regulator wants us to be able to demonstrate that we’ll remain financially viable over a 30-year period and that we’ve thought about when finances might get tight, with plans to smooth out any problems. A 30-year business plan is just a model and we know that not all the assumptions we make will come true, but it gives us something to monitor ourselves against so we can see how things are changing. That’s why it gets updated each year.

The regulator also requires us to show that we have put the plan through ‘stress testing’. Stress testing is a bit like the testing a manufacturer might put a new car through to check it’s safe in different conditions. We have to put our business plan through a number of scenarios to show what happens under stress.

Examples of those stress scenarios include: if inflation/cost rises by more than we expect, if the government caps rents, if house prices fall, etc. We also have to test for a number of these stresses happening together. The regulator requires us to show what events – or combination of events – would break our plan, so that we can monitor any risks and plan what to do in these circumstances to make sure we remain viable.

The reason the regulator requires all of this is because it’s their job to protect social housing.  Over the years, there have been times when a housing association has ‘gone bust’ and the government had to find a solution for all of the people they house. So whilst it is a busy time of year the purpose is to keep our customers safe – perhaps in a way that we don’t always think about.

Health and safety report

On the topic of health and safety, we also approved the annual health and safety report which our involved tenants had already reviewed.

The report shows progress on all the checks we run on our properties each year. This time of year also sees an end of year report on how we did against all our other plans for the last financial year. Again, the tenants in our Service Improvement Forum had reviewed this so we had their thoughts reported to us.

Customer experience

The last big theme of the board meeting in May was a series of reports on customer experience.

We reviewed an annual report on complaints and a report on our first year of using the mandatory Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs), taken from the results of a series of survey questions. We were delighted to get a response from over half of our customers.

The final report we reviewed drew together all the information we have from customers and used it to provide insight into the areas where we need to do better, as well as where we’re performing well.  Although we know we don’t always get it right, the results are encouraging. During all of my time at Connect, I would say that it’s an organisation that wants to get it right for customers and keeps trying to improve.

As you can see, it was a busy board agenda in May and the items I have listed aren’t everything; we had a great story provided by a husband and wife – two of our customers – who shared their experience about how our ‘Money Matters’ team helped them with benefits claims. We heard about how various developments were doing and the difficulties of planning permission, as well as hearing back on the things our Service Improvement Forum talked about in their last two meetings – the last of which I had the privilege of attending. We acknowledged the difficult time we had recently in saying goodbye to some of our support staff as services transferred to a different set of providers.

All-in-all May was a busy board, but a time for reviewing progress and setting out plans. As we look forward, the next few months will hopefully see new board members join us and also the start of a new programme to help tenants to become ‘board ready’ – maybe you are a board member of the future?

Please do let us know if you are interested.

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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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