Independence...Integrity...Value

May 2013

May 10th 2013, 10:43

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28th May 2013

Last week I chaired the May 2013 meeting of the Board of Impact Housing Association that was held at the Oval Centre at Salterbeck in Workington.

Salterbeck is Impact Housing’s largest estate and the Oval Centre is a multi-purpose Community Building that was completed in 1999 and is the central focus for the residents of Salterbeck and the wider community. The aims of the Oval Centre are to:

  • Provide training and volunteering opportunities for people living in Salterbeck, Workington and surrounding areas.
  • Preserve, protect, improve and enhance in any way for the benefit of the public and the amenities in Salterbeck, Workington and surrounding areas.
  • Provide meeting and function rooms of various sizes, for commercial and community use, houses a bar and café with full catering facilities, has broadband computer access and a fitness suite with a range of free weights, strength machines and cardiovascular equipment.

More information about the Oval can be found here: http://www.impacthousing.org.uk/oval-centre

AWICS has published two new briefing papers on welfare reform – looking at the implications for Scotland and Wales. These compliment the paper covering the implications for England that had already been published. They can all be downloaded from HERE.

Our upcoming seminars on Local Authority Housing Finance, Value for Money and Performance Management and Welfare Reform are proving to be popular; and are keeping me busy in making preparations. More information can be found here: http://awics.co.uk/England.asp

20th May 2013

I have spent much of the last week preparing for our next two seminars. ‘All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance’ will be held in Huddersfield on 20th June 2013 and is close to being a sell-out. Places are also filling rapidly at ‘Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance’ that will be held in London on 9th July 2013. The former seminar is an introduction and overview of local authority housing finance for people who are new to the subject or who need a refresher; while the second looks in depth at new developments such as the implementation of self-financing and welfare reform and is designed for people who already have a working knowledge of local authority housing finance.

Details can be found on our website:

All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance:

http://awics.co.uk/local_authority_housing_finance_2013_training_course.asp

Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance

http://awics.co.uk/local_authority_housing_finance_seminar_england.asp

We have posted a briefing paper on welfare reform and housing benefits in England that can be downloaded from our website HERE.

Last week we launched our new interim management service that complements our existing management consultancy, training and independent residents’ advice services. Details about this can be found on our website HERE.

I notice that Boris Johnson has joined the chorus of voices advocating the removal of the borrowing cap from local authority housing revenue accounts. Clearly this would be consistent with the principles of localism and with the prudential borrowing system that has met with approval from all sides since its introduction in 2004. However, the lifting of the borrowing caps would also (obviously) enable councils to borrow more and this would conflict with the government’s objective of reducing the deficit. However, the Treasury is now under pressure to boost the economy via the construction industry and lifting the borrowing caps would be one way to achieve this. There may be an announcement in next month’s spending review but I remain sceptical about how much will be done.

12th May 2013

Last week I was in Falkirk for our annual seminar: ‘All You Want to Know about Scottish Social Housing Finance’ that was attended by councillors, board members, housing managers, accountants and resident representatives from many parts of Scotland. It covered all aspects of the finance of Social Housing in Scotland including local authorities and registered social landlords. The seminar was well received. It also confirmed that welfare reform is a major concern in Scotland as it is in Wales and England. The seminar is now available in-house. For further information please email me at Adrian.waite@awics.co.uk

The book that we published to accompany the seminar is also available. For details or to order a copy please see http://awics.co.uk/scottish_social_housing_finance.asp

The week also saw the Queen’s Speech. I felt it was a bit disappointing in that it included a number of bills but none that offered any comprehensive solutions to the major problems faced in the public services such as the ageing population, the growing housing shortage and increasing poverty. We published our briefing paper on the Queen’s Speech on Thursday and a copy can be freely downloaded from HERE.

We also published the May edition of the popular AWICS Housing News this week. It includes articles on:

  • The House Market Bites Back
  • Impact Housing – Measuring Board Performance
  • Radical Measures called Upon to Save the Government’s Welfare Plans
  • Welfare Reform Concerns Raised In Wales
  • Wait and See Culture in British Housing
  • Analysis of Registered Social Housing Providers in Scotland
  • Discretionary Housing Payments £100million short of what is needed
  • Disabled to Lose Out in Government Changes

A copy can be freely downloaded from HERE.

7th May 2013

The Under-occupation penalty, that removes some housing benefit from social tenants with spare bedrooms, has now been in force for a month and we are beginning to see its implications.

At Impact Housing Association, where I am Chair, we have found that many of the tenants who are affected have yet to pay their contribution towards the rent. We have responded by visiting all affected tenants on our main estate at Salterbeck in Workington. What we found was that:

  • There is no hostility. Tenants understand this is government policy and are prepared to talk to housing officers. Information that has been provided by Impact and the local media has been understood.
  • One in ten of the tenants who had not paid the under-occupation penalty were not actually liable to pay – either because of incorrect assessments by the local authority or because of a change in circumstances such as the birth of a child.
  • While tenants are prepared to make arrangements to pay, many tenants are upset and worried about how they can pay the under-occupation penalty.

There is clearly a need to support and advise tenants but this will be very resource-intensive. We need to be FAIR: Flexible in how we operate; Actively going out to talk to tenants; In the Communities and Resourced to provide support.

I would like to thank the 485 of my fellow members of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) for supporting me in the annual elections for the National Council.

Unfortunately, 485 votes were not sufficient to see me elected but I am heartened and grateful for the level of support that I received; and for the messages of support that I received from fellow members.

Of the 13,200 members of CIPFA only 2,128 (16%) voted. This low level of engagement must continue to be a concern.

CIPFA is a very important institution, not only because it offers its members the opportunity to be part of a professional institute that pursues excellence in accountancy and public finance but because it is a strong voice for proper financial administration in the United Kingdom and elsewhere at a time of financial difficulty. Indeed, the Institute itself is not immune to economic forces.

I was privileged to be a member of the National Council in 2010/11. My experience on the Council confirmed my view that for the Institute to continue to fulfil its mission there is a need for it to continuously modernise its organisation and its approach; and to seek to engage more with ALL its members. I would like to congratulate all those who have been elected for 2013/14 and wish them well with this task.

This week we have published our 2013 edition of ‘All You Want to Know about Scottish Social Housing Finance’. For more information or to order a copy please see:

http://awics.co.uk/scottish_social_housing_finance.asp

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