SHR Board Meeting - 7 December 2021

Published

24 February 2022

Updated

24 February 2022

Present

Present  
George Walker (GW) SHR Chair
Siobhan White (SW)   SHR Board member
Bob Gill (BG) SHR Board member
Ewan Fraser (EF) SHR Board member
Andrew Watson (AW)            SHR Board member
Marieke Dwarshuis (MD) SHR Board member
Helen Trouten Torres (HTT)  SHR Board member  (items 2 - 10)
Lindsay Paterson (LP)
SHR Board member
In attendance  
Michael Cameron (MC) SHR Chief Executive
Ian Brennan (IB)

SHR Director of Regulation (items 1-9)

Iain Muirhead (IM)

SHR Director of Digital & Business Support (items 1-9)

Roisin Harris (RH)

SHR Corporate Governance Manager (items 1-9)

Nicola Harcus (NH)

SHR Assistant Director (item 4 )

In attendance for item 6

 

Shona Robison MSP (SR)

Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government

Catrina McKean (CM)

Scottish Government, Head of Better Homes

Michael Boal (MB)

Scottish Government, Scottish Housing Charter & Regulation Manager

Joanna Bowman (JB)

Private Secretary to the Cabinet Secretary

Observer (items 1 - 9)

 

Sofia Kareli (SL)

SHR Regulation Analyst

Apologies and declarations of interest

GW welcomed all present and the Board noted apologies from SHR Board member Ewan Fraser (EF).                   

CS made some declarations in connection with Osprey Moray and the Board noted:

  • Osprey is a member of North East Tenants Residents and Landlords Together, which he is also a member of;
  • his friendship with the Chair of Osprey; and
  • that the Secretary on North of Scotland Regional Networks, whom he worked, with was both Secretary and Treasurer of Osprey’s Tenants & Residents Association.

BG declared that he is currently carrying out some work that involves land owned by Forth Housing Association. 

There were no other declarations and the Board agreed CS could remain in the meeting for item four.  

Consent Agenda

The Board noted and approved the consent agenda items including:

  • minutes from 5 October Board meeting;
  • minutes from 2 November Board meeting subject to a correction on attendance;
  • a matters arising report; and
  • the Chair and member activity report.

Chief Executive Report

MC presented on issues and developments that impact regulated bodies, the wider housing environment and SHR. MC highlighted a proposal for a staff survey about the Board and also a proposal for website hosting.

The Board considered the staff survey proposals and discussed:

  • the importance of including open questions in the Board’s staff survey;
  • typical response rates for the People Survey, noting 80% of SHR’s staff had participated this year; and
  • the challenge in engaging with staff while remote working continues, noting the initiatives and agreeing it would be useful to hear views from the staff team.

The Board also considered proposals for website hosting and support.  It discussed:

  • the value of the current contract noting the proposals are scaled based on the current figures; and
  • how the supplier is procured, noting this is via a Scottish Government framework.

The Board considered the other aspects of the report and discussed:

  • office reopening, noting a small number of staff are working in the office the first in-person board meetings are likely be in a larger external venue. GW he would respond directly to EF who had raised a query around this;
  • tenant advisor recruitment and plans for targeting underrepresented groups such as Gypsy/Travellers, people experiencing homelessness and domestic abuse survivors, noting that the Tenant Information Service has been commissioned to promote the opportunities and that the Regional Networks are also assisting. The Board asked MC to share final promotion proposals with CS and HTT;
  • Omicron and the potential for further lockdowns, which could impact landlords, noting that the Scottish Social Housing Resilience Group continues to meet and has discussed stepping up activity if required. It also noted that dashboard data continues to be collected on a quarterly basis for now. MC confirmed that the majority of SHR staff continue to work remotely and updated the Board on working from home guidance; and
  • guidance for staff on external face to face meetings, noting that none are currently planned, but are possible under current guidance if that is the only way to engage.

The Board thanked MC for the update and noted the report. It approved the staff survey proposals with the addition of open questions.  It also approved expenditure for the website hosting and support a three year period and noted the costs would be included in the 2022/23 budget proposals in March 2022.  

 

Actions:

  • MC to share information on promotion of the recruitment of tenant advisors with CS and HTT;
  • RH to add open questions to the staff survey and issue to all staff; and
  • IM to procure a website hosting and support contract over a three year period.

Deregistration of Osprey Housing Moray

NH presented a recommendation from Management Team seeking approval to deregister Osprey Housing Moray following transfer of engagements to Osprey Housing in April 2021.  She highlighted that this was voluntary and that the Management Team is satisfied the criteria for deregistration has been fully met.  The Board considered the proposal and discussed:

  • powers under Section 28 of the Housing Scotland Act 2010, noting provisions in the legislation for registration and deregistration and requirements set out in section nine of SHR’s Regulatory Framework; and
  • stakeholder response to the recent movement within the sector structure.

The Board approved removal of Osprey Moray from the Register and noted SHR would advise Osprey Housing of the removal.  It noted that further deregistration applications are expected for early 2022. 

Action: NH to remove of Osprey Moray from the Register and advise Osprey Housing. 

Quarter Two Corporate Performance Report

MC presented the corporate performance report for quarter two 2021/22.  He highlighted that since issuing the report, SHR’s had ended intervention in Fairfield Housing Association and also reported that challenges around recruitment continue to impact SHR.  MC also explained that ordering of new equipment such as laptops is suffering supply chain related delays.  Finally he highlighted the high levels of flexi and untaken leave.  The Board considered the report and discussed:

  • untaken leave, noting SHR’s leave year runs until 31 January and that leave will be taken over Christmas and staff are permitted to carry over some leave. It also noted work to support staff reliance and encourage appropriate work life balance and that buy back of leave is generally only used when departing Scottish Government;
  • categories of Notifiable Events;
  • breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order in local authorities and scope for sharing practices, noting Scottish Government’s hubs for local authorities. It also discussed the use of structural leasing of private rented properties, particularly in Edinburgh and the related affordability, arrears and tenancy security challenges;
  • SHR staff resilience and absence rates, noting the impact of some long term absences on the overall figures;
  • recruitment to the Director of Regulation post, noting that interviews are planned for early 2022 and arrangements are being formed for an orderly handover;
  • work with Glasgow City Council, noting it meets monthly with SHR to report on progress following the inquiry;
  • correspondence responsiveness, noting that SHR often gets copied into letters and in these instances will not respond directly; and
  • notifiable events that landlords should report to SHR.

The Board noted the report and agreed to schedule in some future agenda time to consider the use of temporary accommodation for people experiencing homelessness. 

Meeting with Shona Robison Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government

GW welcomed the Cabinet Secretary and her team to SHR’s Board meeting.  The Cabinet Secretary welcomed the opportunity and thanked SHR for its work.   GW highlighted some of the challenges that landlords have reported to SHR including:

  • economic, inflation and supply chain issues, all impacting on development and planning maintenance;
  • the challenge of setting business plans for de-carbonisation;
  • the potential for further contributions to defined benefit sector pension schemes; and
  • tenant safety and the challenges when the landlord cannot operate as normal.

GW also welcomed the establishment of the short life working group on temporary accommodation and reported on concerns around temporary accommodation.   

MC explained SHR’s approach to risk assessing every landlord and reported on the focus of SHR’s forthcoming risk assessment.  He reported that SHR will deliver this over the coming months and publish engagement plans for all landlords setting out the assurance required for the forthcoming year at the end of March 2022.

The Cabinet Secretary thanked GW and MC for the updates and set out the Scottish Government’s priorities.  She emphasised the importance of affordability.  She updated the Board on:

  • investment to stimulate market confidence around decarbonisation and a focus on fabric first;
  • the short life working group looking at temporary accommodation and Government aims to drive down the use of temporary accommodation and only use appropriate accommodation when it is required; and
  • the challenging budget situation and investment to give certainty to the supply programme as well as the importance of making the most of collective resources.

The Cabinet Secretary asked officials to liaise with SHR to gain more understanding around the potential pension deficit.

The Board considered the update and with the Cabinet Secretary discussed a range of policy issues including place-making, the decarbonisation agenda, the rented sector strategy, equalities and human rights, and children in temporary accommodation.  

The Cabinet Secretary thanked the Board for the discussion time.  The Board also welcomed the discussion and thanked the Cabinet Secretary for the meeting. 

Actions:

  • SHR and Scottish Government to share information on potential pension deficits and the work of the temporary accommodation working group.

Account of Intervention in Ruchazie Housing Association

MS presented SHR’s account of intervention in Ruchazie Housing Association to the Board ahead of publication.  She set out the context for the intervention, confirming that Ruchazie is now compliant with regulatory requirements.

The Board considered the report and discussed:

  • the importance of sharing the accounts of intervention as a learning tool;
  • the report structure, agreeing it is important to highlight the outcomes for tenants and noting the progress made by Ruchazie in improving its governance; and
  • the importance of setting out the context and reasons for SHR’s intervention.

The Board thanks MS and her team.  It welcomed the opportunity to discuss accounts of intervention ahead of publication.  It noted forthcoming accounts, including intervention in Thistle Housing Association. 

Action: MS to take account of the Board’s feedback when finalising the report for publication.

Effectiveness of meetings and papers, AOB & agenda planner

The Board agreed it was very useful to engage directly with the Cabinet Secretary.  It also welcomed the opportunity to consider the account of intervention, noting that SHR is not now intervening in any landlords, but that intensive casework is ongoing.  The Board also discussed how the risk register, which accompanied the Quarter Two Corporate Performance report is reviewed. 

SK thanked the Board for the opportunity to observe and provided feedback on her experience.  

The Board noted the forward agenda planner and the Chair welcomed input from members on areas to cover.  It also noted that a future session on temporary accommodation would be added. 

GW reported that this was IB’s last Board meeting with SHR.  The Board noted he would join members for a workshop in January.  The Chair thanked IB for all his work with SHR and support for the Board, wishing him well for the future.  The Chair also wished the Board and all those present a happy Christmas and thanked everyone for their work during 2021. 

DONMs

The Board noted that it will:

  • meet with Management Team for a workshop on 25 January 2022; and
  • meet on 22 February 2022.