SHR Board Meeting Minutes - 22 February 2022

Published

20 April 2022

Updated

20 April 2022

Present

Present          
George Walker (GW) SHR Chair       
Marieke Dwarshuis (MD) SHR Board member    
Ewan Fraser (EF) SHR Board member    
Bob Gill (BG)  SHR Board member    
Lindsay Paterson (LP) SHR Board member (from item 3)  
Colin Stewart (CS) SHR Board member     
Helen Trouten Torres (HTT) SHR Board member     
Andrew Watson (AW) SHR Board member    
Siobhan White (SW) SHR Board member (from item 3)  
           
In attendance at the meeting          
Michael Cameron (MC) SHR Chief Executive     
Helen Shaw (HS) SHR Director of Regulation (items 1-12)
Iain Muirhead (IM) SHR Director of Digital & Business Support (items 1-7)
Roisin Harris (RH) SHR Corporate Governance Manager (items 1-12)
Nicola Harcus (NH) SHR Assistant Director (item 6)  
Shaun Keenan (SK) SHR Assistant Director (item 6)  
Clare Nicolson (CN) SHR Business manager (item 8)   
Observer           
Suchitra Dutt (SD) SHR Regulation Analyst (items 1 – 12)  
Gavin Leask (GL) SHR Regulation Analyst (items 1 – 12)  
Joseph Quinn (JQ) SHR Regulation Manager (items 1 – 12)
Emma McClorey (EM) SHR Regulation Support Officer (items 1- 3)
           

 

Apologies and declarations of interest

GW welcomed all present. 

AW reminded the Board that he is also a non-executive with Dundee Student Villages, which is one third owned by Sanctuary Scotland.

There were no other declarations. 

Consent Agenda

The Board noted and approved the consent agenda items including:

  • minutes from 7 December 2021 and 25 January 2022 Board meetings;
  • notes from 2 November 2021 Board workshop;
  • 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 spend on a Business Intelligence System web services contract.  He confirmed this was separate from the website hosting and support proposal considered previously by the Board.  The Board noted the procurement allows for potential inflation-based increases and that SHR anticipates some savings will be achieved, and approved the spend. 

MC also highlighted that:

  • SHR had published the quarter thee dashboard on the impact of Covid-19 on landlords and will be collecting quarter four data during April. He explained that the Resilience Group is considering if that will be the final collection;
  • SHR has written to all landlords notifying them of plans to reduce EESSH-related data collection pending the outcome of the Scottish Government’s review. He confirmed the review could take some time and colleagues are in discussions with Scottish Government, which is aware that SHR is shifting to focus on preparation work by landlords around stock condition and asset management; and
  • he will bring back proposals for SHR’s involvement for the CIH Housing Festival which is planned for May 2022.

The Board consider the report and discussed:

  • CIH festival noting it could be possible that there are two in one financial year, if the 2023 it reverts back to March and any decision to attend would be based on available budget;
  • the four landlords did not participate in SHR’s health and safety survey, noting that SHR is engaging directly with each, but that overall the survey provided useful intelligence; and
  • increased arrears set out in the Q3 dashboard, noting this may be seasonal, but ahead of starting expected financial pressures on households.  The Board noted that GWSF and SHFA did not raise arrears with GW at recent meetings. 

The Board also discussed the dashboard data, which SHR collects and publishes for the Resilience Group.  It noted that if data was for regulatory purposes, then SHR is obliged to carry out a formal public consultation.  The Board discussed how helpful the data is for stakeholders, noting that SHR’s risk assessment looks at full year of data and allows for related engagement with landlords.  MC explained the dashboard resource implication for both SHR and landlords.  The Board discussed the purpose of the data and noted that it was designed to be collected over a limited timeframe, which will shortly reach two years.  It agreed that data needs can change over time.  The Board asked MC consider its feedback and input into discussions with the Social Housing Resilience Group. 

Action: MC to consider the Board’s feedback and input into discussions with the Resilience group on the collection and publication of information about the impact of Covid-19 on landlords.

 

ARAC Update

SW presented an update on ARAC’s work to SHR Board.  She explained that ARAC:

  • carried out the annual review of its terms of reference: is not proposing any changes and it remains aligned to the Scottish Government model;
  • carried out a light touch review of the risk management strategy, which is reviewed by SHR Board every four years (last in 2019) and reported it made small update amendments detailed in the Board paper; and
  • has agreed a programme of Internal Audit work.

SW also reported that she is participating in a forum of audit committee Chairs, which currently has 44 members and it is aiming to establish sub-groups such as one for regulators.

GW reported that LP and MD are observing the June ARAC. 

The Board noted the updates and approved ARAC’s terms of reference and the minor updates to the Risk Management Strategy. 

People Survey

IM presented an overview of the SHR’s 2021 People survey findings and the results of the staff survey about the Board. The Board considered the findings and discussed:

  • the overall positive nature of the finding, thanking the staff team;
  • opportunities for Board members to engage with staff, such as attending meetings, writing blogs and providing informal information exchanges;
  • themes suggested for the next Corporate Strategy by staff, noting these will feed into development of the strategy, which will be presented to the Board in March 2022;
  • results around learning and development noting that opportunities for staff to attend conferences and continued professional development events have been limited due to restrictions, which has resulted in an underspend in this area; and
  • next steps including work within groups to develop action plans.

The Board noted the findings.  

Deregistration of Welso and Hunters Hall Housing Associations

HS introduced two proposals for voluntary de-registration and explained that SHR had engaged with both Housing Association as they sought transfer applications.

SK presented a recommendation from Management Team seeking approval to deregister Weslo Housing Association.  He explained that the deregistration application meets the criteria, Weslo submitted all the information required and has transferred to Link Housing Association.  SK also set out the background, highlighting initial engagement resulted from SHR’s financial analysis as part of the risk assessment. He reported Welso tenants supported the transfer, which Link has delivered and investment in homes as well as a two year rent freeze is in place, as well as proactive engagement with SHR. 

The Board considered the proposal and discussed:

  • implementation of transfer arrangements and monitoring of the underpinning assumptions, noting that transfer offers vary according to the situation and that SHR is engaging with Link as one of the largest Scottish RSLs and it is monitoring the transfer as set out its engagement plan;
  • Welso’s non-traditional structure, but noted that the issues were less about structure and more about governance and oversight of performance;
  • the level of transfers, welcoming that SHR plans to publish technical guidance to assist landlords.

NH presented a recommendation from Management Team seeking approval to deregister Hunters Hall Housing Association.  She explained that the deregistration application meets the criteria, has submitted all the information required and has transferred to Hillcrest Housing Association. 

The Board consider the proposal and discussed the format of deregistration proposal reports, agreeing it would like to see a separate section on the benefits for tenants.  HS confirmed that that the Regulation Group would consider this as it further develops on internal processes. 

The Board approved removal from the register of Weslo and Hunters Hall Housing Associations and noted that SK and NH will write to advise Link and Hillcrest Housing Associations.

Actions: SK and NH to remove Weslo and Hunters Hall Housing Associations from the Register and advise Link and Hillcrest Housing Associations. 

Health & Safety Statement

IM presented a periodic update of SHR’s Health and Safety policy statement. He highlighted the arrangements SHR has in place, for working at home and the reopening of the office. He highlighted the welcome and constructive advice from the trade union health and safety representative who joins SHR staff to form the Health, Safety & Wellbeing Committee. 

The Board discussed evacuation arrangements for those who need assistance.  It noted that

  • SHR’s staff do not currently require assistance to evacuate;
  • the low numbers of staff currently in the office mean SHR cannot guarantee people trained in the use of an Evac-chair trained, but plans are in place to train more staff when the office opening widens; and
  • guidance is in place for when visitors return to the office, but in the meantime meetings with those who require assistance need to be virtual or outwith Buchanan House.

IM confirmed that SHR has always had a Health & Safety Statement and explained the proposed changes are around modernising language, recognising the hybrid working situation and wellbeing support.  He confirmed the updates do not impact the supporting health and safety documents.  

The Board discussed mental health first-aiders. IM explained that SHR was unable to access routes provided by Scottish Government and that Transport Scotland has an entirely different approach in place.  He reported SHR hopes to explore it further again if capacity allows in 2022/23. 

IM confirmed that SHR has not experienced any significant health and safety incidents. MD welcomed his offer to share the risk assessments and underpinning core policy statements.

The Board approved the refreshed policy statement.

Action: IM to make underpinning health and safety risk assessments and core policy documents available to MD. 

 

Budget Update

CN presented a quarterly budget update.  She highlighted the projected underspend and explained that a recent backdated pay uplift is still to be applied when more detail is available during February.  CN explained the impact of slower recruitment and Covid delaying things like conferences on the underspend.  CN also reported that although the capital budget is currently showing an underspend, she expects it to be fully absorbed with supplies for the office that have been delayed due to issues with supply chains, but should be completed by March 2022. 

The Board considered the update and discussed:

  • the return of funding to Scottish Government; and
  • provision of video conferencing for the Board room to allow for hybrid meetings, noting a short delay and requesting GW is kept updated on any further delays.

The Board thanked CN and noted the update. 

Action: IM to keep GW updated on any delay to the VC equipment for SHR Boardroom.

Quarter Three Corporate Performance Report

MC presented the corporate performance report for quarter three 2021/22.  He highlighted that there are no statutory intervention cases, but there remains a significant level of serious casework.  The Board considered the report and discussed:

  • notifiable event categories, and how these are reported to the Board. It also noted that there is not a specific category that covers health and safety as it depends on the nature of the event.  It noted that categories relate to the establishment of the BI system through which they are reported and welcomed that more work around health and safety intelligence;
  • an application from the Link to register a new parent body;
  • SHR staff leave year, noting carried forward arrangements under Civil Service terms and conditions and work SHR is doing to promote the importance of leave for wellbeing as well as manage leave plans within teams;
  • work that SHR has not achieved in 2021/22 and plans to consider these under proposals for the 2022/23 operating plan, which the Board will consider in March 2022; and
  • the high level of intensive casework, noting that this has been the case for a couple of years and there have been increases, partly fuelled by publicity around handling of whistleblowing. It noted that given the challenging operating environment for landlords, this is likely to continue, but that progress has been seen in casework.

The Board noted the report.  It discussed the format of the report, asking MC and RH to consider what more could be added around landlords’ health and safety and tracking of SHR’s operating plan, while streamlining other aspects and making use of the CEO report for exception reporting.

Action: MC and RH to take account of the Board’s feedback as they continue to develop the format of the quarterly performance report.  

Outline Annual Report narrative

RH presented the outline for the 2021/22 annual report.  She set out the process and timescales for drafting the report ahead of audit, which she reported has been confirmed as early May 2022.  The Board noted this would involve considering the second and pre-audit draft ahead of its meeting in May.    

RH confirmed the final published report would be available via SHR’s website and MC confirmed this is driven by the environmental impact, but SHR responds to individual requests for those seeking alternative formats.  The Board agreed this should be highlighted when promoting the final report. 

The Board noted that the RTO Regional Network promotes the report via its website. 

The Board approved the outline report and noted the process and timescales for finalising it. 

Action: RH to provide a draft annual report narrative to the Board in March and to highlight availability of alterative formats when it is published later in 2022. 

 

Effectiveness of meetings and papers, AOB & agenda planner

Tenant Advisor recruitment – MC confirmed that formal feedback was gathered from outgoing advisors. He explained that is was largely positive, but the range of activities had been frustrated by the pandemic restrictions.  HS confirmed that SHR has received applications for new advisors and these are currently being considered. 

Deputy Chair – GW explained that he has developed a profile with RH, which will be circulated for comment and a process is being put in place to progress any notes of interest.  He encouraged formal expressions of interest from interested Board members.  

Future meetings – GW set out plans to hold the March meeting virtually and to test if an informal session may be possible during April. He explained the restrictions around using the Boardroom at Buchanan House.  GW explained that SHR is aiming to hold an in-person Board meeting in May and this may be outwith Buchanan House. 

GW confirmed that he and MC will present SHR’s 2020/21 annual report and accounts to the Local Government & Communities Committee on 22 March 2022. 

Observers - The observers thanked the Board for the opportunity and feedback on their observations.  The Board noted EM had to submit apologies during the meeting and it welcomed her to return and observe a future meeting. 

 

DONMs

The Board noted that it will next meet on 29 March 2022.

Private Session

The Board held a private session with the Chief Executive.

Post meeting notes

Between 22 February 2022 and 29 March 2022 the Board was briefed or received updates on:

  • Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee preparation;
  • correspondence with an MSP;
  • SHR’s advisory guidance on the deregistration process; and
  • Cyber resilience.