Independence...Integrity...Value

November 2015

Nov 8th 2015, 13:35

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30th November 2015

I am writing this blog while on the train to London where, along with my associate Chris Kelsall, I will be presenting our seminar on: ‘Local Authority New Build: The Financial Implications’. This seminar will address the following questions:

  • What is the context in which councils are developing new council housing?
  • How can new council housing be financed?
  • The costs and benefits of a new build scheme. How to appraise a new build project?
  • What delivery vehicles can be used? What opportunities may exist in the future?

This is a very important subject with local authorities finding it increasingly difficult to develop within the housing revenue account and increasingly looking to create innovative delivery vehicles. I am grateful to everyone who is attending and am looking forward to meeting the delegates.

On Thursday I will be presenting a webinar on Business Planning in the Housing Revenue Account. It will cover what is required for effective business planning both in terms of developing appropriate strategies and preparing robust financial models. It will also consider the principal challenges that local authorities are facing at the moment in their business planning including the sale of high value council homes, 1% annual rent reductions, ‘pay to stay’, welfare reform and the challenge of continuing to develop new housing. For more information or to book a place please click HERE

Last week I presented a webinar on the ‘Sale of High Value Council Homes’ that was attended by representatives of a number of local authorities in all parts of England. I am grateful to all those who attended. A video of the webinar can be viewed by clicking here: http://app.webinarjam.net/replay/16934/7f8d5c28ca/0/0

The Autumn Statement and Spending Review was announced last Wednesday. As expected there were further reductions to public expenditure in ‘unprotected budgets’ including local government and further reductions in welfare entitlements. However, there was an increase in resources for housing combined with the expected significant shift in emphasis away from social and affordable housing towards low-cost home ownership.

I have written a briefing paper on the implications of the spending review for housing. It covers:

  • Housing Headlines
  • Welfare Headlines
  • The Numbers
  • Affordable Housing
  • Low cost Home Ownership
  • Response of the National Housing Federation
  • Response of the Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Response of Shelter
  • Response of Orbit Housing Association

Your copy can be freely downloaded from HERE

My book on ‘Local Authority New Build: The Financial Implications’ is now available to buy online. For more information or to order a copy please click HERE

We have updated our publications brochures. To download your copy for England please click HERE. To download your copy for Wales please click HERE

This week we launch a new webinar on ‘Scottish Social Housing Finance’. This will be held on 13th January 2016 and will provide an introduction and overview of this important subject. For more information or to book a place please click HERE

23rd November 2015

Last Thursday I was at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Northeast Conference in Newcastle-on-Tyne. I presented a session on ‘Business Planning post-Election – How can you prepare?’ It was designed to give delegates an in depth understanding of the changing political landscape and learn how to keep ahead of the changes that will be the result of the general election 2015.

Amongst other things I considered:

  • What is Business Planning?
  • The impact of government initiatives including the extension of 'right to buy', sale of high value council homes, 'pay to stay', 1% rent reductions and welfare reform
  • Asset Management and Development
  • Risk Management

A copy of my slides can be freely downloaded from HERE

Tomorrow (24th November) I will be presenting a webinar on the ‘Sale of High Value Council Homes’. Brandon Lewis MP, the Minister for Housing, recently told the Parliamentary Communities & Local Government Committee that he intends to class about a third of council housing as ‘high value’. Under the Housing & Planning Bill this means that councils will have a duty to consider selling these homes when they become vacant. The Bill also provides that the government will make its own calculation of the likely proceeds of these sales from each local authority and will oblige them to pay that sum over to the government whether or not they actually achieve the target level of sales. This will have a significant effect on local authority housing. For more information about the webinar or to book a place please click HERE

The Autumn Statement and Spending Review will be announced on Wednesday. It is clear that there will be further reductions to public expenditure in ‘unprotected budgets’ including local government and housing. However, there are growing doubts about the ability of local government to deliver the savings that may be required. For example, a survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy has found that 49% of local authority finance directors are less confident about their ability to deliver savings than they were a year ago. When asked about which services were most under pressure 95% said adult social care and 94% said children’s social care.

Despite this, most local authorities continue to be ambitious as evidenced by the devolution deals that have been agreed so far and councils’ continued determination to tackle the housing crisis. The Local Government Association has said that: "The country needs an additional 230,000 homes per year to keep up with the number of new households and the Government has pledged to deliver 275,000 affordable homes by 2020. This is only achievable if councils play a full part in delivery through partnerships and by building on their own account. The private sector alone will not deliver on the scale required."

On 1st December we are holding a seminar on: ‘Local Authority New Build: The Financial Implications’ in London. This seminar will address the following questions:

  • What is the context in which councils are developing new council housing?
  • How can new council housing be financed?
  • The costs and benefits of a new build scheme. How to appraise a new build project?
  • What delivery vehicles can be used? What opportunities may exist in the future?

The seminar is proving popular but we still have a few places available. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

16th November 2015

Last Tuesday I was in London presenting our seminar; ‘All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance’ tomorrow. I am grateful to everyone who attended. The feedback was positive with delegates saying that the information provided was ‘very relevant’, that the quality of presentation was ‘excellent’ and that the training fully met their needs. They described the seminar as interesting, useful, practical and thought-provoking.

This Thursday I will be at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Northeast Conference in Newcastle-on-Tyne. I will be presenting a session on ‘Business Planning post-Election – How can you prepare?’ It is intended that delegates will gain an in depth understanding of the changing political landscape and learn how to keep ahead of the changes that will be the result of the general election 2015. I am looking forward to going back to Newcastle-on-Tyne where I worked for the City Council between 1987 and 1990, and to meeting the delegates for what I am sure will be an interesting and useful conference.

The November edition of the ‘AWICS Housing News’ is published today. It includes articles on:

  • Rent Reform - responses by the sector
  • Reinvigoration of 'Right to Buy'
  • Devolution of Housing powers - 38 regions offer their proposals
  • Huntingdonshire Council lends money to Luminus to finance extra care home
  • Social housing developments in Wales hit target
  • Scotland - Perth & Kinross Council asks for suggestions for community improvement projects
  • Readers' Questions and Answers

Your copy can be freely downloaded from HERE

We have launched a new webinar this week on service charges in social housing. For more information or to make a booking please click HERE My latest book: ‘Welfare Reform: The Implications for Housing & Local Government’ is also published this week. For further information or to buy a copy please click HERE

This week Chris Kelsall joins us as a new associate consultant. He is a chartered accountant based in Greater Manchester with twenty years’ experience in local government and the private sector. He has written an article describing his recent work with Huntingdonshire Council and Luminus Housing Association in this month’s ‘AWICS Housing News’ and his biography can be found on our website HERE

The government has been 'up-front' in saying that the 1% rent cut is designed to help control their benefits budget. While it will help social tenants who are not entitled to full housing benefit, studies suggest that such tenants are more likely to be concerned about the effect that this will have on the ability of their landlords to sustain services than they are to be pleased at the prospect of slightly reduced rents. The effects on landlords will be significant as rents by 2020 will be 12%-14% lower than is assumed in their business plans. This will involve loss of jobs, reduced maintenance services, reduced capacity to build communities & neighbourhoods, reduced capacity to help vulnerable individuals and - importantly - reduced capacity to build new homes. It is also significant that this is the first time government has included its social rent policy in legislation rather than guidance. I am currently advising councils and housing associations on the implications of this.

On 1st December we are holding a seminar on: ‘Local Authority New Build: The Financial Implicatons’ in London. This seminar will address the following questions:

  • What is the context in which councils are developing new council housing?
  • How can new council housing be financed?
  • The costs and benefits of a new build scheme. How to appraise a new build project?
  • What delivery vehicles can be used? What opportunities may exist in the future?

The seminar is proving popular but we still have a few places available. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

9th November 2015

I am writing this blog on the train while travelling to London prior to presenting our seminar; ‘All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance’ tomorrow. As usual, this seminar has proved popular as it is generally recognised as a good introduction and overview of every aspect of local authority housing finance. I am grateful to everyone who will be attending and am looking forward to meeting the delegates tomorrow morning.

Last Wednesday I presented a seminar on ‘Welfare Reform: The Implications for Housing and Local Government’ to a group of councillors and council officers from the North of England. This is clearly an issue that is causing some concern. I am grateful to those who attended for their support and their positive feedback. They said that the information provided was relevant, the presentation was good and the training fully met their needs. They described the seminar as comprehensive, clear, interesting and valuable. Specific comments included:

“Very good session… enjoyed open discussions… Felt valued and able to make a contribution to the seminar.”

“Discussion style was very useful and good to hear about other organisations.”

This seminar is now available in-house, for further information please contact Adrian.waite@awics.co.uk . We are also holding a webinar on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, for more information please click HERE The book that accompanies the seminar is available to buy, for more information please click HERE

On Thursday I presented a webinar ‘The Housing Revenue Account: An Introduction’. This considered how the housing revenue account works and looked at Income & Expenditure Account, Rents and Service Charges, Capital Expenditure and Financing, the Self-Financing Settlement and the Impact of reforms proposed by the new government. We will be updating and repeating this webinar regularly with the next session being scheduled for 21st January 2016. For more information about all our webinars please click HERE. For more information about ‘The Housing Revenue Account: An Introduction’ please click HERE

Last week we published a brochure about our webinars. It can be downloaded from HERE

We also published a briefing paper on the Housing Revenue Account. It can be downloaded from HERE

I am also busy at the moment supporting housing clients that are revising their business plans in the light of right to buy for housing associations, sale of high value council homes, rent reductions and other changes; and in supporting the Local Government Association’s Peer Review programme by assisting in the preparation of financial briefings prior to reviews as an expert associate.

I was not surprised at the decision of the Office for National Statistics to classify housing associations as part of the public sector. However, I did find it interesting that it was based on the Housing & Regeneration Act 2008. I would have thought that the Office for National Statistics would have taken account of changes made in 2008 long before now and that a decision taken now would also take into account more recent and proposed changes. Nothing is stranger than fact!

We should remember that as well as having £60billion of debts, housing associations have £150bilion of assets so it could be argued that the public sector balance sheet has been strengthened by this decision. It is also the case that there is considerable potential for profit in redeveloping housing estates in high value areas to include housing for market sale or rent; and even more if social tenants were moved out and private buyers and renters moved in. The potential value of housing association assets is therefore far more than the £150billion book value! I wonder what the government will do to move housing associations back into the private sector. We are told it will be de-regulation but I wonder if the financial opportunities will lead them to be more radical. I will watch this with interest!

In December we are holding a seminar on: ‘Local Authority New Build: The Financial Implicatons’. This seminar will address the following questions:

  • What is the context in which councils are developing new council housing?
  • How can new council housing be financed?
  • The costs and benefits of a new build scheme. How to appraise a new build project?
  • What delivery vehicles can be used? What opportunities may exist in the future?

The seminar is proving popular but we still have a few places available. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

2nd November 2015

This week I will be in Oldham for our seminar on ‘Welfare Reform: The Implications for Housing & Local Government’ that will be held on 4th November 2015. This seminar will address the implications of Welfare Reform for local authorities and housing associations including: Overview and Background to Welfare Reform; The Welfare Reform and Work Bill; The Total Benefits Cap; The Four Year Benefits Freeze; Tax Credits; Universal Credit; Other Welfare Benefits; Withdrawing Housing Benefit from 18-21 year olds; Rent Reform; Impact of Welfare Reform on Claimants, Landlords and Local Authorities; Specific implications in Scotland and Wales and Practical Steps to manage the reforms.

Last week, the House of Lords passed two amendments to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill that have the effect of delaying the reductions in tax credits that the government is proposing and obliging the government to compensate claimants for their losses. The government has confirmed that it still wishes to reduce tax credits in the long-term and that it still wishes to save £12billion from the welfare budget. It will be interesting to see what their next moves will be.

I am grateful to all those who are attending our seminar and am looking forward to meeting the delegates. This session has proved popular but we still have a few places available. For further details or to make a booking please click HERE

On the following day I will be presenting a webinar: ‘Introduction to the Housing Revenue Account’. This webinar will look at the Income & Expenditure Account, Rents and Service Charges, Capital Expenditure and Financing, the Self-Financing Settlement and the Impact of reforms proposed by the new government. I am looking forward to meeting the delegates. This session has proved popular. For further details or to make a booking please click HERE

Lambeth Borough Council hit the headlines this week when it announced that it would create a new arms’ length vehicle for building new council homes: ‘Homes for Lambeth’. The company will be 100% owned by the Council and will aim to build 1,000 new social homes funded by borrowing from the Council and the private sector. Surpluses from development will be re-invested in the company. One implication of the scheme is that tenants would not be offered ‘secure tenancies’ and would not have access to the ‘right to buy’, ‘right to manage’ or ‘right to transfer’. The Council has chosen this route because it considers that the housing revenue account is too constrained by requirements such as the ‘borrowing cap’, annual 1% rent reductions and the ‘right to buy’. Clearly such an approach offers an opportunity to unlock the massive economic potential of the Council to address the significant housing needs in the borough.

However, Brandon Lewis, the Minister for Housing, has been warning local authorities for some months that the government would not be supportive of local authorities that developed new homes through arms’ length bodies simply as a way of circumventing government policies – especially the ‘right to buy’. This approach was confirmed this week when the Department for Communities & Local Government told ‘Inside Housing’ that:

“We will not support any council setting up a housing company, unless their tenants continue to have the Right to Buy.”

Lambeth Borough Council is one of our principal clients and we have been pleased to provide them with Management Consultancy, Training and Independent Residents’ Advice services over a period of years. We have also provided services to other organisations in the borough including Community Trust Housing, the residents of Cressingham Gardens and the Upper Norwood Library campaigners.

In December we are holding seminars on: ‘Local Authority New Build: The Financial Implications’. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

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