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
Michael Cameron (MC) SHR Chief Executive
Ian Brennan (IB) SHR Director of Regulation (items 1- 10)
Iain Muirhead (IM) SHR Director of Digital & Business Support (1 – part of 11)
Roisin Harris (RH) SHR Corporate Governance Manager (items 1-10)
Clare Nicolson (CN) SHR Business Support Manager (item 4)
Helen Shaw (HS) SHR Assistant Direction (item 7)
Observers (items 1- 10)
Rosie O’Neil (RON) SHR Regulation Manager
Apologies and declarations of interest
GW welcomed all present, especially staff observer RON. There were no apologies.
GW declared that his friend Julie McDowell is now Chair of Blackwood Homes & Care, which is regulated by SHR and that he would be updating his register of interests to reflect her new role. There were no other declarations.
The Board noted and approved the consent agenda items including:
- minutes from 23 February 2021 Board meeting;
- a matters arising report;
- update from SHR’s Audit & Risk Assurance Committee; 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:
- correspondence with landlords around a return to normal regulatory timescales and moving the Covid Dashboard onto quarterly reporting from April 2021;
- an update on a problem that arose during the introduction of new software to the Portal;
- delays that the SPSO is experiencing and the potential for tenants to contact SHR; and
- Scottish Government’s Housing to 2040 publication.
The Board discussed Housing to 2040 and welcomed the language used around SHR’s sustainability. It discussed the tenure-neutral aspects and noted local authorities’ regulatory role around the private rented sector. The Board also noted that many RSLs’ subsidiaries offer private rented mid-market properties.
The Board thanked MC for the update and noted the report.
Framework Agreement with Scottish Ministers
IM presented a revised version of SHR’s Framework Agreement with Scottish Ministers. He explained this sets out, at a high level, the relationship between Scottish Ministers and SHR including roles and expectations in relation to SHR’s governance, finance and operations.
IM reported that the current agreement is working well and the proposed updates reflect the reality of how the relationship operates. He highlighted the proposed removal of references to a requirement for Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) or Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with Scottish Government for shared services. IM explained that that such agreements are not in place for all shared services, and reported that SHR has good routes for raising and escalating concerns with Scottish Government.
The Board considered the agreement and discussed:
- the National Performance Framework and how SHR’s work contributes to the National Outcomes. It noted the National Performance Framework and National Outcome descriptions had been updated since SHR’s last agreement and discussed the changes in language around equalities. The Board agreed for context to propose including the National Outcome headings in SHR’s Framework Agreement with Scottish Ministers and to convey to the Scottish Government that it had discussed the changes to the National Outcome descriptions; and
- the lack of SLAs and MOU covering some services provided by Scottish Government, noting that this is not unique to SHR and asking ARAC to consider this further with input from Internal Audit so that the Board can understand the wider context for the shared services provided to SHR.
The Board approved the Framework Agreement with Scottish Ministers subject to inclusion of the National Outcome headings and asked GW to arrange signing. It noted the agreement would be published on SHR’s website.
- ARAC to consider further the arrangements for services that SHR receives from Scottish Government.
- IM to propose including the National Outcome headings in SHR’s Framework Agreement with Scottish Ministers and to convey to the Scottish Government that it had discussed the changes to the National Outcome descriptions. GW to then sign the amended Framework Agreement with Scottish Ministers and IM to arrange publication on SHR’s website.
CN presented the draft budget for 2021/22. She highlighted that SHR’s budget has been increased with £4.7m available for revenue, £0.2m for non-cash and £0.2m for capital spend. She explained that this allows SHR to proceed with recruitment to vacancies and that the draft budget reflects forecasted start dates. CN also highlighted that the Management Team are considering projects that could be funded if any savings are achieved during the year. CN explained the capital budget will be used for Business Intelligence work and some office costs, but that due to uncertainties around the office environment, some of the £40K contingency may also be utilised.
The Board considered the proposed budget and discussed:
- relative comparison with 2020/21 headings and asked CN to circulate this;
- research and consultancy, noting that Management Team is developing ideas, some of which are detailed in the operating plan and is also developing a longer list ,which could support some corporate development;
- thematic work, agreeing it was keen to see this work resourced and that could include a research and consultancy approach;
- the revenue heading associated with preparing the office for Covid-safe work. It agreed that enhanced in office video conferencing facilities would be important and noted that any new equipment would be covered by capital. CN also explained some early spend around signage and sanitation stations; and
- stakeholder engagement and the potential to invest in further ways to engage with tenants.
The Board thanked CN and approved the revenue budget and allocation of capital budget for 2021/22.
Action: CN to circulate further information on relative comparisons with 2020/21.
2021/22 Operating Plan
MC presented a proposed operating plan for 2021/22. He explained that the plan has been structured to reflect ongoing work, work that will be resourced in the first and second parts of the year, work that SHR would like to do if resources become available and engagement with stakeholders. He explained that the plan will be monitored each month, and reviewed at mid-year. The Board considered the operating plan and discussed:
- if there was enough flexibility to accommodate time to recruit and train new staff, noting monitoring and prioritising work that Management Team will do during the year;
- the importance of thematic work, noting plans to scope a programme of thematic in the second half of the year;
- the National Panel of Tenants and Service Users, noting that due to Covid restrictions activities have been restricted to survey work, which has recently been completed and the outcome should be published during the summer. It noted that SHR would again consider seeking the views of homeless people via the Panel when restrictions are eased.
- regulatory status for RSLs, noting this is published via the engagement plans;
- the process for reviewing and monitoring the operating plan, noting that progress is reported to the Board each quarter following monthly checks by the Management Team and plans for a robust mid-year review, which is when most recruitment is expected to be completed.
The Board thanked MC and approved the operating plan for 2021/22. It also noted that SHR will publish a summary.
2020/21 Annual Report Narrative
RH presented draft narrative for the 2020/21 annual report. She highlighted the process for developing the annual report and accounts. RH explained that the format follows the Financial Reporting Manual (FReM) and takes account of SHR’s Corporate Plan priorities. She confirmed that emphasis on risk profile in the FReM provided a useful way to describe the work SHR did in response to the Pandemic.
The Board considered and approved the draft narrative, noting further work would continue to refine it ahead of further consideration by the Board in May 2021 before audit.
Action: RH to take account of feedback from the Board when finalising the narrative for final consideration by the Board in May 2021 ahead of audit.
Update on the risk assessment
IB and HS presented an update to the Board on progress with the risk assessment and set out the likely outcomes in terms of engagement plans for all landlords and regulatory status for RSLs. IB explained that SHR will publish almost all of the engagement plans by 31 March 2021 with the remaining plans being published in early April. HS confirmed that all landlords will be provided with draft plans in advance of publication. IB also explained that engagement plans and regulatory status could change during the year as assurance is gained or sought. He thanked the staff team involved in the risk assessment.
The Board considered the update and discussed:
- trends, noting the risk assessment focuses on near-term risks and that some early observations include a number of landlords moving to standard regulatory returns following more intensive engagement, expected changes in engagement with local authorities around homelessness and an uptick in organisational change. The Board also noted for some areas a narrower set of indicators were considered compared to previous years;
- communications, agreeing that explaining the regulatory status will be important and asked HS to provide it with key messages in advance of publication;
- how landlords communicate changes in services levels to tenants and others, noting these are reported to SHR primarily via the Notifiable Events process and SHR would pick up any concerns directly with landlords;
- lenders’ appetite for further information on regulatory status and that SHR has encouraged landlords to discuss the outcome of the risk assessment with their lenders;
- whether the likely outcome reflected expectations, noting that in-year movement is anticipated; and
- the profile of the landlords expected that SHR is seeking more than standard assurance from. It noted that this group includes all the systemically important landlords, those working towards compliance and some other landlords.
The Board also noted that some landlords faced challenges around resilience during the pandemic. The Board paused to observe a minute of silence to mark the anniversary of lockdown.
The Board thanked IB and HS for the update. It asked them to also thank all staff involved in the risk assessment. It noted it will receive a further update on the final outcome prior to publication on 31 March 2021 and a further presentation at its meeting in May 2021.
Action: HS to update the Board on the final outcome prior to publication.
IM reported that work to finalise procurement of legal advisors is near completion and that Brodies LLP will be appointed for two years following a competitive exercise.
Board recruitment and reappointment
GW updated the Board on reappointment and recruitment to SHR Board. He reported that Ministers have recently approved the vacancy specifications reflecting the priority skills identified by SHR’s Board and that the recruitment panel membership has also been agreed. GW explained that the panel will be chaired by Catriona McKean, Scottish Government’s Head of Better Homes, and she will be joined by himself and Judith Robertson, Chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission as an independent member. GW also explained that currently interviews are likely to be held in late summer 2021.
Effectiveness of meetings and papers
RON thanked the Board for the opportunity to observe and provided feedback on her experience.
The Board noted some issues with access to Objective Connect and that one member will require some equipment support to participate fully.
Action: RH to explore support solutions for Board Members.
Date of next meeting
The Board noted that it will meet privately with the Chief Executive on 27 April 2021 and that the next Board meeting will on 25 May 2021
Post meeting notes
Between 23 March 25 May the Board was briefed or received updates on:
- Statutory intervention at Fairfield Housing Association
- Implementation of revised model complaints handling procedures
- February 2021 Dashboard
- Outcome of the annual risk assessment
- Work from home arrangements
- Teams within Microsoft Teams pilot
- SHR Budget comparison with 2020/21
- SHFA’s rent setting and affordability paper
- Standard Commissions March update
- Updated advisory guidance for governing bodies
- Gender equality reporting for public boards
- Analysis of Finances for RSLs
- SHR publication What we will do 2021