Independence...Integrity...Value

Blog 8th January 2018

Jan 8th, 18:50

Blog 8th January 2018

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Impact Housing Association, the Homes & Communities Agency, Historic England, Heritage Action Zones, Eden District Council, the FTSE, Service Charges, Local Authority Housing Finance and Supported Housing.

Last week I met with Mark Costello, the Chair of Impact Housing Association, to discuss the implications for Impact of the recent In-Depth Assessment by the Homes & Communities Agency.

While I stood down as Chair and as a member of the Board of the Association in 2015 due to pressure of work, I have remained a shareholding member of the Association. The role of shareholding members is to attend and vote at the Annual General Meeting to which the Board are accountable. Shareholding members receive no remuneration for this.

Impact Housing Association retained a top rating from the Homes and Communities Agency for Governance and for Viability (known as G1/V1) throughout my time as Chair and again in 2016. However, in 2017, the Homes & Communities Agency carried out an in-depth assessment following which it downgraded Impact Housing Association to G3/V3 which is an unacceptable rating. I understand that the main reason was that the Association was found not to have reacted adequately to the financial challenges caused by rent reductions required by the Welfare Reform & Work Act 2016.

Impact Housing Association has now put in place a plan to make £1.3milion savings, is restructuring the organisation, has undertaken a thorough strategic assessment of risks and completed a comprehensive forensic financial analysis – all of which have provided a fuller understanding of their current state of health. The forensic financial analysis highlights that Impact’s financial capacity is marginal and not sufficiently robust to accommodate multiple risks should they materialise together.

The Board has also concluded that their long-term future would be best secured by forming a partnership with a financially stronger housing association. In agreement with the Homes & Communities Agency, they have submitted a proposal in the form of a Voluntary Undertaking to select an appropriate partner by the end of December 2017. The Board intend to announce who this new partner will be sometime this week.

Many things surprise me about what has happened including:

  • Despite downgrading Impact Housing Association from G1/V1 to G3/V3, the Homes & Communities Agency has apparantly not produced a detailed report explaining exactly what the weaknesses were that they found and the evidence that they used to support their conclusions.
  • Despite the conclusion of the Homes & Communities Agency that the Board are apparantly not fit for purpose, the Board has not reported to the shareholding membership, has continued in office, co-opted new board members, restructured the association, appointed a new Chief Executive and other senior staff, decided on a merger and progressed this decision to the point of selecting a preferred partner – without any reference either to the shareholding membership or to the tenants!

I have urged the Chair to convene an Extraordinary Annual General Meeting as soon as possible so that the shareholding membership can consider the actions of the Board. I have also urged that a meaningful consultation be carried out as soon as possible with tenants to establish the views of tenants.

I will keep readers of my blog posted on this. I suspect that Impact Housing Association are neither the first nor the last housing association to have found themselves in this position. However, to end on a positive note there was good news for Impact Housing Association this week when the Care and Quality Commission rated their Bramble Court Extra Care Elderly housing scheme at Brampton as ‘good’.

NOTE: Since originally writing this blog it has been announced that Impact Housing Association is to be taken over by the Riverside Group.

Today I had another interesting meeting, this time with the Adrian Banford, the Programme Officer of the Appleby Heritage Action Zone. There are ten Heritage Action Zones in England in Appleby, Coventry, Elsecar, Hull, King's Lynn, Nottingham, Ramsgate, Sunderland, Sutton and Weston-Super-Mare.

Through the Heritage Action Zone initiative, Historic England is working to unleash the power in England's historic environment to create economic growth and improve quality of life in villages, towns and cities. Working with local people and partners, including local authorities, Historic England is helping to breathe new life into old places that are rich in heritage and full of promise - unlocking their potential and making them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors. They are doing this through joint-working, grant funding and sharing their skills.

Historic buildings that have deteriorated through decades of neglect will be restored and put back into use; conservation areas improved to kick-start regeneration and renewal; and unsung places will be recognised and celebrated for their unique character and heritage, helping instil a sense of local pride wherever there's a Heritage Action Zone.

The Appleby Heritage Action Zone is being managed by Eden District Council. Its focus is on boosting tourism to help to grow the local economy. This includes regenerating some key buildings in the town, and providing and enhancing things for visitors to see and do. It also covers the management of Appleby’s historic environment to ensure it is best maintained for future generations. Projects include grants for heritage at risk, planning and managing, boosting tourism, community engagement and listing.

Further information can be found on the Historic England website at https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/heritage-action-zones/appleby/

Meanwhile, the economic news continues to cause concern. In ‘The New European’ just before Christmas, Angela Jameson wrote that:

“London’s biggest companies will end the year (2017) up just 4%, which is nowhere near as emphatic a performance as either on Wall Street – where the Dow is up 23% - or in the Eurozone where the DAX was up 15%... and the French CAC40 was up 11%.

“The problem with the FTSE is there is a dearth of overseas buyers for British stocks… BT, Dixons, Carphone, Provident Financial, WPP and Centrica have all seen precipitous price falls this year… Investors… just do not seem to want the exposure to the UK market that in the past they would have.”

My suspicion is that the ‘bull market’ in the London stock exchange will come to an end during 2018 and we will see a significant fall in the FTSE. Despite the low rates of interest, if I had money to invest I would put it in a cash ISA rather than on the stock market; and if I had shares in UK companies I would sell them!

Our next seminars are on:

  • All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing in England
  • All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance
  • Funding Supported Housing

For further information or to make a booking, please click HERE

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