April 2015

Apr 8th 2015, 16:22


27th April 2015

Last week’s ‘Local Government Chronicle’ contained an interesting article by Rich Hornby, the Chief Finance Officer at Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group. It included the following comment about the promises being made by all political parties to increase staffing in the National Health Service:

“All of the promises for extra funding ‘for more doctors and nurses’ are equally flawed. There isn’t a surfeit of idle clinicians hoping for a permanent job to come up. If inflation is caused by too much money chasing too few goods, what really happens is the rates for the same bank, locum and agency staff increase to absorb much of any new funding.”

This underlines the need to ensure that we are training sufficient people to meet anticipated requirements and also demonstrates that the National Health Service will continue to look outside the United Kingdom for many of its doctors and nurses. Ironically, many of the politicians who promise more doctors and nurses are also promising less immigration!

We are currently revising and updating our website. For example we have just updated the following:

  • The ‘about us’ section of the website. To view the updated page please click HERE
  • Our catalogue of publications for England. To download a copy please click HERE

We have been offering seminars and workshops since 2007 and since that time 1,900 people have attended from all parts of the United Kingdom and from a wide range of organisations including local authorities, housing associations, central government, devolved governments and agencies such as the Homes & Communities Agency. During the same period I have provided 130 in-house training sessions to a similar range of organisations that have been attended by 1,300 people.

I have just finished putting together my presentation for our next seminar and workshop: ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’ that will be held in London on 20th May 2015. This session has proved very popular and is now fully booked so we have opened another session, also in London, on 10th June 2015. This session is also proving popular. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

The General Election will have taken place before we hold our annual seminar and workshop: ‘Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance’ in London on 9th June 2015. By then we will know which political party or parties has formed the next government and what their policies will mean for local authority housing. The implications will be addressed, explained and discussed at our seminar and workshop. As always, this event is proving popular. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

Thanks to all those who have completed our online questionnaire. Your answers are helping us to put together our training offer for the autumn of 2015. Details will be announced in due course. If you haven’t taken part in our online questionnaire, it is not too late to do so. It can be found at:

20th April 2015

The National Housing Federation, Chartered Institute of Housing and other housing bodies have launched a campaign ‘Homes for Britain’ that coincides with the general election and aims to persuade all political parties to make a commitment to end the housing crisis within a generation. The campaign’s website states that:

“We are calling on all political parties to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation. This will require real action that starts now and doesn’t stop until everyone has a decent affordable home to call their own. We want the next government to publish a long-term plan for housing within a year of taking office that sets out how they will end the housing crisis within a generation. So we’ll speak with one voice. We’ll demand our politicians ensure we’re building the homes we need to end the housing crisis. We’ll tell them that we expect them continue to take action until everyone has a decent affordable home.”

‘Homes for Britain’ is circulating a poster. They are asking supporters to put a photograph of themselves with the poster on ‘Twitter’ and to display the poster. I fully support ‘Homes for Britain’ and have put the following photograph on ‘Twitter’. I would urge readers of my blog to do the same.

More information is available on the ‘Homes for Britain’ website at and a poster can be downloaded from HERE

Last week I wrote in my blog about how in Eden District Council where I live there will be contested elections in only eleven of the thirty wards with a majority of the councillors being returned unopposed; and suggested that the number of councillors be reduced to twelve. I also wrote a similar letter to the ‘Cumberland & Westmorland Herald’ – the local newspaper. The ‘Herald’ was not only good enough to print my letter but also agreed with me in their editorial saying:

“The dearth of enough candidates to give voters… a choice at the ballot box is worrying and leading to a democratic deficit… in that there will be a large number of councillors who have not been elected… There are probably too many seats… there are too many places to fill”.

It appears that I am not alone in arguing for fewer councillors in some places. Sir Bob Kerslake, for example, is advocating a reduction in the number of City Councillors in Birmingham. I will await further developments with interest.

This week’s ‘Inside Housing’ magazine includes an article on the introduction of self-financing for local authority housing in Wales. It refers to information that I have supplied as follows:

“Self-financing in Wales has left all eleven stock-owning councils far better off financially, according to Adrian Waite, a housing consultant who has advised several Welsh local authorities. ‘It is a generous settlement’ he adds.

“These policy reforms (the new policies on rents and service charges) have got some council leaders worried, according to Mr. Waite, the housing consultant. ‘They are worried about how tenants are going to react to paying service charges on top of the rent… Local authorities have traditionally not levied service charges and there is a lot of opposition to it.”

Blog readers with an online subscription to ‘Inside Housing’ will be able to access the article online at:

To make an enquiry about training and advice we can provide on self-financing or service charges please contact

The April edition of the ‘AWICS’ Housing News has been published. It contains articles on:

  • Homes & Communities Agency Regulatory Framework
  • Homes & Communities Agency Global Accounts
  • Right to Buy for Housing Associations - will it happen?
  • Cressingham Gardens - Knocking it down or Building it up?
  • United Kingdom budget - the implications for housing finance
  • Rolling out Universal Credit - a brief update on progress
  • L&Q announces ambitious development programme
  • All You Want to Know about Housing Association Finance
  • Advertisement - Cheltenham Borough Homes

Your FREE copy can be downloaded from HERE

Our seminar and workshop: ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’ on 20th May 2015 is now fully booked so we have arranged a further session on 10th June 2015. For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

The 2015 edition of my book: ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’ has just been published. For further information or to order a copy please click HERE

13th April 2015

Last Friday I met with a group of residents from Lambeth Borough Council’s Cressingham Gardens estate. The Council is currently carrying out an options appraisal for the estate that is looking at options for refurbishment and redevelopment. The Council particularly wishes to consider whether a regeneration scheme could increase the number of dwellings on the estate. However, the approach of the Council and residents has differed with the Council preferring regeneration and the residents preferring refurbishment. There has also been some dispute over the likely costs of refurbishment.

The Council’s preferred option is for partial redevelopment with the blocks nearest Brixton being demolished (Chandlers Way, Papworth Way, Longford Walk, Scarlet Manor Way and Crosby Walk) and the rest of the estate refurbished. However, the residents’ preferred option is for refurbishment, repairing and improving the entire estate including roof repairs to make homes damp free and watertight, and new kitchens and bathrooms for tenants.

There is clearly a need for effective consultation and for robust financial information so that the Council and the residents can take informed decisions.

More information can be found on the website of the Tenants’ & Residents’ Association at:

Nominations have now closed for May’s Parliamentary and Local elections. I am disappointed to find that in Eden District Council where I live there will be contested elections in only eleven of the thirty wards with a majority of the councillors being returned unopposed. This is not unusual in Eden and is clearly not good for democracy.

It has been suggested to me that this happens because the political parties meet in smoke filled back rooms to decide who will represent where and then present the voters with a ‘fait accompli’. I think this is unlikely. It has also been suggested to me that the problem lies with the people who don’t stand for election rather than with the people who do and I think this is a good point. However, I have another suggestion to make.

Perhaps there are just too many council seats on Eden District Council. The Council employs about 100 people and turns over about £7million a year. What organisation of that size outside local government would have 38 people on the board? Eden Housing Association, for example turns over £9million a year and has more assets than the Council and its constitution allows no more than twelve board members.

My suggestion would be to reduce the number of Councillors to twelve. That could result in a more effective Council with better governance and competition for council seats that would give voters a choice of who represents them. This could also be appropriate in other district councils.

Last week we launched our seminar and workshop: ‘Developments in Local Authority Housing Finance’. This will be held in London on 9th June 2015. This seminar is designed to look in depth at current developments in local authority housing finance in England – especially the implications of the 2015 election, ongoing austerity, self-financing, new development and welfare reform. For further information or to make a booking please clickHERE

Our next seminar and workshop ‘All You Want to Know about Housing Association Finance’ will be held in London on 19th May 2015. This is an introduction and overview of how finance works in Housing Associations. There are still a few places available – For further information or to make a booking please click HERE

6th April 2015

Last week we published the March 2015 edition of the ‘Public Services News’. It contains articles on:

  • Implications of the United Kingdom Budget for Local Government
  • Local Government Finance Settlement 2015/16
  • Treasury seeks further £30billion in public service cuts
  • Landmark ruling on Consultation Procedures: Supreme Court finds Council tax consultation unlawful
  • The challenges of rural service delivery by Ruth Atkinson, Eden District Council
  • Budgets and consultations in Eden and Cumbria
  • Peer Review Programme of the local Government Association
  • Neighbourhood Planning gains traction
  • CIPFA partners with Calibrand to deliver global online assessments and examinations for new professional qualification

Your FREE copy can be downloaded from HERE

We have published the 2015 edition of 'All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance' - our comprehensive guide to the subject. For details or to order a copy please click HERE

The Homes & Communities Agency’s new regulatory standards for Governance and Viability came into force last week. This will strengthen the expectations on providers to manage risk actively in a more complex and risky operating environment; and provides a significant challenge to housing associations. The required outcome on financial viability is:

“Registered providers shall manage their resources effectively to ensure their viability is maintained while ensuring that social housing assets are not put at undue risk.”

There is a specific expectation that registered providers shall ensure that they have an appropriate, robust and prudent business planning, risk and control framework and that the framework shall ensure:

  • There is access to sufficient liquidity at all times
  • Financial forecasts are based on appropriate and reasonable assumptions
  • Effective systems are in place to monitor and accurately report delivery of the registered provider's plans
  • The financial and other implications of risks to the delivery of plans are considered
  • Registered providers monitor, report on and comply with their funders' covenants

Registered providers are also required to assess, manage and where appropriate address risks to ensure the long term viability of the registered provider, including ensuring that social housing assets are protected. Registered providers shall do so by:

  • Maintaining a thorough, accurate and up to date record of their assets and liabilities and particularly those liabilities that may have recourse to social housing assets
  • Carrying out detailed and robust stress testing against identified risks and combinations of risks across a range of scenarios and putting appropriate mitigation strategies in place as a result
  • Before taking on new liabilities, ensuring that they understand and manage the likely impact on current and future business and regulatory compliance

The Homes and Community Agency’s 2014 Global Accounts were published in March. These bring together the accounts of all English housing associations and show that turnover increased by 5% to £15.6billion in 2014. Surpluses for the sector have continued to rise and total £2.4billion for 2014, an increase of 22% compared to 2013. The entire surplus generated is retained by providers and are reinvested in their businesses. A significant proportion of the surplus is driven by cyclical factors such as historically low interest rates and a strong housing market in parts of the country. The gross book value of the sector’s assets has increased by £6.8billion to £132.7billion as providers build new homes and invest in their existing stock. Total debt raised in the year was £5.6billion (up from £5.5billion in 2013). The sector therefore continues to be in good financial health despite the recession and the reduced availability of grant to fund development.

Our next seminar and workshop ‘All You Want to Know about Housing Association Finance’ that will be held in London on 19th May 2015 will address the new regulatory standards and the global accounts among other subjects. There are still a few places available – Further details can be found HERE

I mentioned last week that we have created a short, anonymous survey because we would like to know what our customers, users of our website, readers of our newsletters and others in the world of housing, local government and public services think about us and our services. Many people have already taken part. The feedback is interesting and will help us to develop our services to better meet people’s needs. One new service that we are intending to launch soon will be online webinars. If you would like to give us your views on this please take part in the survey. To take part please visit:

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