SHR Board Meeting Minutes - 1 December 2020

Present

Present  
George Walker (GW) SHR Chair
Siobhan White (SW) SHR Board Member
Colin Stewart (CS) SHR Board Member
Mike Dailly (MD) SHR Board Member
Ewan Fraser (EF) SHR Board Member
Andrew Watson (AW) SHR Board Member
Helen Trouten Torres (HTT) SHR Board Member
Bob Gill (BG) SHR Board Member
In attendance  
Michael Cameron (MC) SHR Chief Executive
Ian Brennan (IB) SHR Director of Regulation (items 1-7)
Roisin Harris (RH) SHR corporate Governance Manager (items 1-7)
Observers (items 1-7)  
Kelda McMichael (KM) SHR Regulation Manager
Craig Heron (CH) SHR Regulation Manager

Apologies and declarations of interest

GW welcomed all present, especially KM and CH, to the final Board meeting of 2020.  The Board noted apologies from Iain Muirhead (IM), SHR Director of Digital & Business Support.

There were no declarations of interest.

Consent Agenda

The Board noted and approved the consent agenda items including:

  • minutes from 3 November 2020 Board meeting;
  • matters arising report; and
  • Chair and member activity report (subject to a date correction).

 

Chief Executive Report

MC presented on issues and developments that impact regulated bodies, the wider housing environment and SHR. 

He highlighted proposals to suspend the monthly data return from social landlords for December in recognition of the seasonal resource demands on landlords and SHR.  He explained plans to communicate with local authorities around their homelessness duties and that he would test the proposal with the Social Housing Resilience Group at a meeting later in the day. 

MC also highlighted areas of work from SHR’s operating plan for 2020/21 that due to vacancies and absences are now at risk or need to be postponed.  He explained that Management Team is prioritising ongoing statutory intervention, reactive work, the risk assessment, monitoring the impact of the pandemic, essential stakeholder engagement, IT development and core governance and public body duties.

The Board considered MC’s update and discussed:

  • Glasgow City Council, noting that SHR’s regulatory strategy will be determined in part by the Council’s response to implementing SHR’s recommendations and this will be reflected in a new engagement plan. It also noted that it will be kept updated on the Council’s progress and any significant engagement strategy via the CEO reports; and
  • SHR’s work that is at risk or postponed, noting some tasks may be cancelled and that quarterly performance monitoring reports to the Board will provide an audit trail. It noted that SHR’s longer term budget position will also impact future work plan decisions.

The Board also discussed the recently published dashboard on the impact of the pandemic on social landlords.  It focussed on:  

  • lets to homeless people, noting the complexities behind the figures and that lets will feature in the risk assessment, with more detail coming later through the Annual Charter Returns in April/May 2021;
  • differences in RSL and LA arrears figures, considering possible reasons and noting this will be discussed at the forthcoming Social Housing Resilience Group meeting;
  • voids, noting total voids reduced slightly, which could reflect that the letting system is moving again. It noted the challenge of local restrictions that resulted in some void management delays, but that clear Scottish Government guidance is now in place; and
  • the level of staff that remain on furlough in the sector, noting the pressure on landlords to deliver and the additional challenges that Brexit may bring.

The Board considered the pros and cons for proposals to suspend the dashboard data collection in December. It noted that there will be a collection by SHR for January and that SHR also intends to communicate with local authorities around homelessness duties during December, agreeing this is very important.  It also acknowledged while landlords may welcome any temporary suspension, this may not be welcomed by all stakeholders who use the dashboard.

MC confirmed that the majority of social landlords had submitted their annual assurance statements and engagement is ongoing with six local authorities and nine RSLs that have not met the November deadline. 

The Board welcomed the discussion and noted the Chief Executive’s report.

Scottish Government’s Model Code of Conduct Consultation

RH presented an update on the Scottish Government’s consultation on a refreshed model code of conduct for board members, highlighting that it is open until February 2021. The Board approved proposals for RH to develop a response for SHR working with GW and SW.  It provided some initial feedback highlighting some gaps around gender and accuracy of cross references.    

The Board also noted that once published by Scottish Government, RH will bring the new model back to SHR Board for adoption and that could have an impact on related publications such as SHR’s gifts and hospitality register and how members declare interests. 

Action: RH to work with GW and SW to provide a response from SHR to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a refreshed model code of conduct for Board members for submission by February 2021. 

Civil Service People survey and SHR staff survey updates

RH updated SHR Board on the Civil Service People survey, reporting the headline results have been delayed and the Board noted these will be circulated when available.  The Board noted that it will receive an analysis paper on the results and related action planning in February 2021. 

RH also presented the findings from a recent survey of SHR staff about the Board.  The Board welcomed the largely positive results and the useful ideas generated.  It agreed to continue providing blogs for staff via the intranet and to make use of video-conferencing good way to engage with staff while remote working continued.  It asked Management Team to continue to bring forward further opportunities for engagement. 

Action: Management Team to bring forward opportunities for the Board to engage with SHR staff team based on the survey feedback. 

Governance survey

RH presented the findings from a recent survey of the Management Team and SHR Board on governance arrangements and future focus.  She highlighted the workshop that everyone had participated in back in January 2020 and the range of governance focussed work that the Board has focussed on during 2020. RH set out the largely positive survey results. 

The Board reflected on the results, it welcomed an offer from the Chair for further private and individual discussions with anyone who wished to discuss any matter further.  It noted that the Chair will also seek to join Management Team to discuss the results. 

Action: GW to join Management Team to discuss the survey results. 

AOB

MC reported that Scottish Government had just confirmed that it will provide SHR with an additional £250K in 2020/21 to offset the current projected overspend. The Board welcomed that Scottish Government’s recognition of SHR’s budget position for 2020/21 that it had classified as an area of known pressure from the outset and noted discussions continue regarding future years. 

Effectiveness of meeting and papers, agenda planner & DONM

The Board considered the frequency of meetings noting that due to the Pandemic these had generally taken place each month in 2020.  It discussed potential options for 2021 and agreed to consider this further at the forthcoming workshop in January 2021. 

KM and CH thanked the Board for the opportunity to observe and provided some feedback on their experience. 

The Board will meet for a workshop on 19 January 2021 and the next Board meeting will be on 23 February 2021. 

Private session

The Board held a private session with the Chief Executive.

Post meeting notes

Between 1 December and 23 February the Board was briefed on:

  • summary of media coverage;
  • annual assurance statement publications;
  • correspondence with local authorities about homelessness services during the winter
  • analysis of annual loan portfolio returns;
  • engagement with Thistle and Charing Cross Housing Associations;
  • covid -19 November dashboard report and plans for suspending returns for December 2020;
  • training on human rights awareness;
  • SHR’s response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a refreshed model code of conduct for board members; and
  • results from the 2020 Civil Service People survey.