SHR Board meeting minutes - 23 February 2021

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 Gil (BG) SHR Board member
In attendance  
Michael Cameron (MC) SHR Chief Executive
Ian Brennan (IB) SHR Director of Regulation (items 1- 11)
Roisin Harris (RH) SHR Corporate Governance Manager (items 1 - 11)
Clare Nicolson (CN) SHR Business Support Manager (item 6)
Observers (items 1-11)  
Tracy Davren (TD) SHR Communications Manager

Apologies and declarations of interest,

GW welcomed all present, especially staff observer TD.  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 1 December 2020 and 19 January 2021 Board meetings;
  • 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. 

 

He highlighted the approach to the 2021/22 operating plan that Management Team will propose to the Board in March alongside the budget.  He explained this will be in two parts to reflect current available resources and then later in the year when further capacity is available through completed recruitment and when workloads have been rebalanced. 

 

MC also highlighted considerations around the timing of submission of data from landlords to SHR, reminding all of the temporary adjustments made in 2020/21 in response to the pandemic.  He reported on feedback from representative groups including that most are supportive for a return to normal submission dates, but that there is some debate around the five year financial projections that had been due to move from June to May.  MC explained some concerns around some landlords’ ability to meeting timescales and queries from some on the relevance of the Scottish Social Housing Charter data given the nature of 2020/21. 

 

The Board considered MC’s update and discussed:

  • the importance of collecting Charter data so a full picture of the impact of the pandemic and the scale of recovery work could be understood;
  • the impact of any movement of regulatory return timescales on SHR, noting that systems would need realigned if there are any changes, which involves technical work for SHR and possible system changes for landlords as well. It noted the work impact of the temporary adjustments in 2020/21; and
  • wider consultation that SHR would do if there is any proposals to move dates in 2021/22, noting that the annual assurance statement submission date is embedded in the Regulatory Framework and that the timescale for the submission of accounts by RSLs is based on legislation with no extension currently planned.

 

The Board agreed it supported the majority of feedback from landlords and that SHR should revert to the normal submission timescales for 2021/22.  It noted that part of the sector has a different perspective and agreed it is important that SHR welcomes discussions with individual landlords who may experience challenges in meeting the timescales.  The Board noted that SHR would also provide guidance on providing atypical responses in returns that could be due to the pandemic. 

 

MC also highlighted:

  • the ongoing work to conclude the risk assessment;
  • intervention at Thistle Housing Association;
  • consideration being given to provision of an update to landlords on issues such as cyber security;
  • the forthcoming dashboard publication, reporting that City of Edinburgh data for homelessness will not be included this month as it is transitioning to a new records management system; and
  • a decrease in local authority arrears, a change in recent furlough figures and potentially seasonally related changes in voids and let numbers.

 

The Board discussed:

  • cladding, noting the differences in the situation in Scotland, which only involves a very small number of landlords who are engaging with SHR, compared to England and the work that landlords have done, which for some has been supported by funding from the Scottish Government;
  • domestic abuse and mental health and how SHR could apply future work programmes to these areas, noting the range of different stakeholders involved;
  • importance of 2021/22 work plans remaining agile so SHR can respond to issues that may not yet have emerged as a result of the pandemic; and
  • the potential impact of furlough on service provision and backlogs, noting the potential for higher levels of engagement with landlords due to the impact of the pandemic. 

 

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

Outline Annual Report

RH presented the outline format of the 2020/21 annual report.  She highlighted the process for developing the accounts.  RH explained that the format follows the Financial Reporting Manual and takes account of SHR’s Corporate Plan priorities.  She highlighted more emphasis on risk profile for 2021/22, and plans to integrate SHR’s response to the pandemic. 

 

The Board considered and approved the annual report format.  It also noted the process for the development of the 2021/22 annual report and accounts. 

Board recruitment and skills

GW updated the Board on reappointments to SHR Board.  He reported that proposals for SW, AW and himself to be reappointed for a further term of four years and for BG for a term of two years will be submitted by the Scottish Government to Scottish Ministers for approval. 

 

GW reported he is meeting with Scottish Government to discuss recruitment to the vacancies created by the retirement of MD and last year Anne Jarvie.   GW set out  the indicative timeline that pauses to allow for the elections to the Scottish Parliament.  He presented a skills matrix explaining that this maps the skills of the existing Board and the feedback from the Board and Management Team on skills to seek for the future. 

 

The Board considered the update and discussed how to attract the balance of skills.  It noted  that the new members could be serving on the Board for the following eight years and agreed it was important to look to the Board’s future needs.  The Board asked GW to take forward proposals that would open up recruitment to the maximum number of applicants. It also noted there will be a particular focus on attracting female candidates to help achieve a gender balance on SHR’s Board. 

 

Action: GW to reflect feedback from the Board in recruitment discussions with Scottish Government. 

ARAC

SW presented the ARAC update to the Board and reported that it had carried out an annual review and was recommending no changes to the ARAC terms of reference in 2021.   She also reported that ARAC held a private planning meeting with SHR auditors. GW reported that SW is considering ARAC membership following MD’s retirement. 

 

The Board noted the update and approved the terms of reference for ARAC.

Budget update

CN presented an update on SHR’s budget position at the end of quarter three.  She highlighted that a underspend of £56K is now forecast.  CN explained that since quarter two, SHR received more additional funding than anticipated from Scottish Government and this alongside contingency held should restrictions have been eased, all contributed to the current underspend forecast. CN also reported that capital spend is on track.   

 

The Board considered the update and discussed:

  • opportunities for further spend in 2020/21, noting work ongoing around kit and asking that the Board is also included in these considerations;
  • vacancies, noting SHR is carrying more now than when it pitched for additional funding from Scottish Government and it has updated the Government on the budget impact;
  • budgets across Scottish Government, noting that many are expected to underspend due to activities being paused during the pandemic; and
  • the importance of investing in learning and development for staff and Board Members and utilising online opportunities.

 

The Board noted the update. 

 

Actions: RH to explore kit and training opportunities for SHR Board.

Quarter three corporate performance report & risk register

MC presented the quarter three corporate performance report.  He highlighted the expanded areas on regulatory activity and additional information around staff.   The Board considered the report and discussed:

  • the Scottish Government Cyber Action Plan, noting that SHR recently received Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation again and that work continues on the plan priorities. The Board asked IM to confirm what sort of accreditation SHR’s suppliers are required to have;
  • leave balances, noting Scottish Government allowed staff to carry over more leave than normal this year, that SHR will seek to manage this within teams, but it will be more challenging than normal; and
  • the impact of the expected announcements from Scottish Government around planning for easing of restrictions.

 

The Board thanked MC and the team for providing the information.  It welcomed the expanded information on regulatory activities and noted the report. 

 

Action: IM to confirm what sort of accreditation SHR’s IT suppliers are required to have. 

Civil Service People Survey analysis & next steps

MC presented an overview of the 2020 people survey and next steps.  He highlighted the generally positive results and reported on the ongoing work within Groups and with Management Team to develop areas for further work.  He explained that SHR will be using pulse surveys during 2021 and that Scottish Government is also considering additional surveys.  MC emphasised the importance of supporting mental health and wellbeing and initiatives SHR is exploring including mental health first aiders. 

 

The Board considered the report and discussed:

  • the importance of a focus on and sensitive treatment of mental health and wellbeing, and the skills needed;
  • leadership, welcoming the positive survey responses in this area; and
  • the importance of the forthcoming recruitment and good induction to ease the pressures on staff, noting that in the short term it will require input from SHR and that the first objective will be to rebalance workloads, before looking to new work.

 

The Board noted the survey results and next steps.  It thanked the Management Team and all of SHR staff for their resilience during a challenging year. 

Effectiveness of meetings and papers

The Board welcomed further work to develop the use of Microsoft Teams.  It noted that some members had experienced issues with connectivity and for some there were also challenges in using Teams alongside accessing Board papers online. 

 

Action: RH to explore support solutions for Board Members.  

AOB

TD thanked the Board of the opportunity to observe the Board. 

 

The Board noted that SHR Board member MD retires at the end of February 2021 and that this was his last meeting. 

 

On behalf of the Board, GW paid tribute to MD for all his contributions over the last eight years with SHR.   MD thanked the Board and staff team and highlighted the importance he placed on SHR engagement and intervention work to protect the interests of tenants and others who use social housing services.

 

The Board all wished MD well for the future.  

DONM

Date of next meeting - 23 March 2021

Private session

The Board held a private session with the Chief Executive.

Post meeting notes

Between 23 February and 23 March the Board was briefed on:

  • SHR staffing
  • January 2021 Dashboard
  • Updated advisory guidance for RSL governing bodies
  • Transfer of Thistle Housing Association
  • SHR Portal
  • Regulatory return submission timescales