Independence...Integrity...Value

14th March 2018

Mar 14th 2018, 15:10

Blog 14th March 2018

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Local Authority Housing Finance, Phillip Hammond and the spring statement, The Heritage Lottery Fund, Copeland Borough Council, Impact Housing Association, the Riverside Group, the Cumberland News and funding Supported Housing.

Our seminar: ‘All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance’ was held in London yesterday. Delegates said that the information provided was very relevant, the quality of presentation was excellent and that the training met their needs fully. They described the session as interesting, clear, comprehensive, practical, thorough, thought-provoking, useful and valuable. Specific comments included:

  • I always find these seminars to be very informative and easy to understand.
  • Great to go on a course where I could sit back and absorb the information. I made plenty of notes and the accompanying material seems very good.
  • I was very conscious at the start of the session that I was the only non-full-time council employee (I am an ALMO board member) and one of only a few non-finance / accounting delegates. The course, however, was provided in a well-paced and accessible manner and the handout looks comprehensive and will surely be a useful resource that I can come back to and use as a reference.
  • Adrian was very knowledgeable about the subject and brought it to life. A very comprehensive seminar.
  • Useful overview of housing revenue account finances.
  • Nice, easy understanding terminology. Helped to understand a lot of jargon and terms used in finance.

Following the session one of the delegates wrote to me to say:

“Thank you for yesterday's course, it certainly helped fill a number of knowledge gaps and I will be recommending it to others.”

This seminar is also available as an in-house course. For more information about in-house training in local authority housing finance, please click HERE.

While our seminar was taking place in Lambeth, Phillip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was delivering his spring statement in the House of Commons just the other side of the river. Its main implications for public services appear to be:

  • There ‘may be’ an increase in public expenditure in the autumn budget, especially on the National Health Service
  • Revaluation of business rates is to be brought forward to 2021
  • There will be an additional £1.7billion to deliver 26,000 affordable homes in London

Last week, I published a briefing paper on the Heritage Lottery Fund and its current consultation on their strategic funding framework for 2019 to 2024.

At a consultation meeting that I attended in Carlisle last month, there appeared to be consensus that heritage is important in creating a sense of ‘place’ that is important in ‘well-being’ and economic development. This was certainly the view that we took at Copeland Borough Council when I was Finance Director and then Strategic Director in the 1990s during which time we improved the historic harbour and town centre of Whitehaven and built the Beacon Heritage Centre.

The discussion on ‘outcomes’ struck a chord with work that I have done with housing associations in ‘shaping places’. Many housing associations have found that building new homes and improving homes to the ‘decent homes standard’ are only part of what is required to promote ‘well-being’ in a community and have therefore engaged with ‘place shaping’ – working with other agencies to promote ‘well-being’. Similarly, heritage projects such as preserving historic buildings, archaeological investigations and heritage projects could also be activities that are part of broader initiatives involving partnership with other agencies.

During the discussion on ‘priorities for people’ I was surprised that no one mentioned the potential of using the Internet and social networking. When I raised this, it became apparent that the organisations represented in the group made very little use of the Internet or social networking. I would have thought that the scope for the Heritage Lottery Fund and heritage organisations generally to use the Internet and social media was considerable, especially in engaging with people in younger age groups.

The purpose of this briefing paper is to summarise the proposals for the new Strategic Funding Framework and the discussion that took place at the consultation event and to provide some commentary.

To view or download your FREE copy, please click HERE

I have written previously in this blog about the planned takeover of Impact Housing Association by the Riverside Group. This subject was also featured last week in the ‘Cumberland News’. Under the heading ‘Worry as association merger talks are shrouded in secrecy’, reporter Stephen Blease provides a useful summary of the issues that have been raised.

I responded to the article by writing a letter to the paper, that was published this week, calling for Impact to allow tenants and communities an effective voice in the takeover process. I conclude by recommending that tenants and members of communities who care about Impact should become shareholding members.

To view or download a copy of my letter please click HERE

To view or download an application for shareholding membership of Impact Housing Association, please click HERE

The ‘Cumberland News’ also published a letter from the current Chair of Impact, Mark Costello, that left me feeling rather confused. In his letter he says that I am ‘making allegations’ which is something that I am certainly not doing. I am pointing out facts and drawing logical conclusions. For example, when I say that not much information has been provided to shareholding members, tenants or the wider community about Impact’s finances, this observation is based on the following facts:

  • Impact’s current board is arguing that the ‘takeover’ is necessary because Impact is no longer financially viable.
  • The latest financial information they have made available is the annual accounts for the year ended 31st December 2016 that shows a healthy surplus being made.
  • No information has been made available about financial performance from January 2017 onwards.
  • The ‘forensic report’ that Impact commissioned that apparently demonstrates that Impact is not viable does not appear to have been seen by anyone outside the Board or Senior Management Team.

These facts lead me to conclude that shareholding members, tenants and communities do not have sufficient information on which to decide whether they agree that Impact is not financially viable and that the takeover is necessary.

I will continue to keep readers of this blog informed of developments.

Our next seminar is on ‘Funding Supported Housing’ and will be held in London on 10th April 2018. For further information or to make a booking, please click HERE

For information about all our seminars, please click HERE

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