Independence...Integrity...Value

Blog 5th February 2019

Feb 5th, 13:14

Blog 5th February 2019

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Housing Associations; London & Quadrant HA; Brexit; Inside Housing; the Scottish Government; Scottish Federation of Housing Associations; Local Government Association; Appleby Town Council; Cumberland & Westmorland Herald; Eden District Council; Service Charges; Seminars and Training.

In my blog last week, I wrote about the potential impact of Brexit on the finances of housing associations. These include the impact of falling property values on their balance sheets, income & expenditure accounts and borrowing capacity. I was therefore interested to hear that London & Quadrant Housing Association, the largest in London, told its staff in an email last week that its financial performance during 2018/19 has been disappointing. The email said that:

“A weaker, more uncertain economy has led to a downturn in the property market… We expect to make a surplus of about £170 million this year, rather than the £342million we based our plan on.”

And a spokesman for the Association told ‘Inside Housing’ that:

“The United Kingdom is in an unprecedented period of political and economic uncertainty… We must look at our short-term priorities, adapt where necessary and act prudently.”

Last week, the Scottish Government announced that it will supply £826million of funding through the 2019/20 budget to increase the supply of affordable homes. The funding will be made available through the Affordable Housing Supply Programme and is a £70million increase on the current year.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations welcomed the announcement but urged the government to commit to funding beyond the lifetime of this parliament in order to meet outstanding and future need. Sally Thomas, their Chief Executive, told the ‘Scottish Housing News’ that:

“While we welcome the Scottish Government’s funding of £826million, which is part of its commitment to build 50,000 affordable homes, we would urge the government, and all political parties, to commit to a longer-term programme of delivery beyond the lifetime of this parliament. It is vital that the post-2021 Affordable Housing Supply Programme maintains the existing levels of funding to meet outstanding and future need. As well as longer-term funding, it is equally important that we ensure we have the right homes, in the right places, to meet people’s needs and aspirations.”

Last week I launched out seminar ‘All You Want to Know about Scottish Housing Association Finance’. It will be held in Edinburgh on 29th May 2019.

Social housing is becoming increasingly important in Scotland at a time of rising demand for affordable housing.  Terms on which loans are available are less favourable than in the past. The Scottish Government has passed the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014, reformed the Scottish Housing Regulator, ended the ‘Right to Buy’ on 31st July 2016 and is promoting and funding an ambitious development programme. The Scottish Housing Regulator’s new approach emphasises ‘Value for Money’. The United Kingdom government is ‘reforming’ welfare with significant implications for Scottish tenants and landlords, but some welfare powers have now been devolved to Scotland. Scottish housing associations therefore face significant challenges, not least the need to meet the Scottish Government's aspirations for development.

The session will answer the following questions:

  • What financial environment are Scottish housing associations working in?
  • How do the finances of Scottish Housing Associations work?
  • How is the development of new social housing funded?
  • What are the financial opportunities available to housing associations?

For more information or to make a booking, please click here.

dsc00251

The Local Government Association offices in Smith Square, London.

The Local Government Association has evaluated its peer improvement programme. The findings confirm the effectiveness of the approach. Sector buy-in is strong, all councils took up one or more offers in 2017/18 and since 2011 councils have contributed more than 17,000 days of senior councillor and officer time to peer challenges – this represents a considerable investment by the sector in its own improvement. Moreover 96% of leaders and 95% of chief executives say support from the Local Government Association has had a positive impact on their authority.

The high-level findings demonstrate that:

  • Residents remain satisfied with and continue to trust their local council, despite the increasing financial constraints being faced by the sector.
  • Councils are continuing to improve performance.
  • Councils value the support the Local Government Association is making available and it has been helpful to their improvement journey.

I support the peer review programme as an associate consultant, principally by providing peer review teams with briefings on the financial position of councils prior to the peer review visits taking place.

For more information about my work with the Local Government Association providing support to peer review teams, please click here.

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The sixteenth century Appleby Moot Hall

I have written in this blog before about how Appleby Town Council wants to build modern extensions on the sixteenth century Appleby Moot Hall. Last October they carried out a public consultation to which I responded to say that I felt that it would be inappropriate to alter or extend such an important historic building and that the Moot Hall should be used to showcase the history of the building and the town in general. However, the Town Council is pressing on and this week’s ‘Cumberland & Westmorland Herald’ reports that they have now agreed a £1million scheme (up from the previous estimate of £500,000) that will include:

“Demolishing the Grade II building’s existing single storey extension to make way for a new addition over two floors featuring large windows.”

It was also reported that:

“At the Council meeting the plans were approved unanimously without debate.”

The Council is hoping to secure funding from the Heritage Fund and will also need to secure planning permission from Eden District Council.

A copy of my representations to the Council can be viewed or downloaded from here.

Our next seminar is on ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’ and will be held in London on 12th February. There are still a few places available.

This seminar is designed to give an introduction and overview to this important subject and is fully up to date with all developments. Service charges are an integral part of landlords’ work in financing value for money services and sustaining customer satisfaction. They have always been relatively complex but with increased financial challenges and legal and financial complexity there is an increased need to understand how service charging works.

For more information or to make a booking, please click here.

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