Andrew Watson (AW) SHR Deputy Chair (chaired meeting)
Siobhan White (SW) SHR Board member & ARAC Chair
Marieke Dwarshuis (MD) SHR Board member
Lindsay Paterson (LP) SHR Board member
Ewan Fraser (EF) SHR Board member
Helen Trouten Torres (HTT) SHR Board member
Colin Stewart SHR Board member
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 – 12)
Roisin Harris (RH) SHR Corporate Governance Manager (items 1 – 12)
Lesley Baird Guest Speaker (items 1- 2)
Murray Smith SHR Regulation Manager (items 5 & 6)
Shaun Keenan SHR Assistant Director (item 7)
Stephen Laley SHR Regulation Manager (item 9)
Carly Stewart SHR Regulation Analyst (items 1 – 12)
Jessica Docherty SHR Regulation Analyst (items 1 – 12)
Ross McAneny SHR Regulation Analyst (items 1 – 12)
Welcome, Apologies and Declarations
AW welcomed all present, including guest speaker Lesley Baird and the staff observers.
The Board noted apologies from SHR Chair George Walker (GW). There were no declarations of interest.
The Board welcomed LB, previously Chief Executive with the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) Scotland. LB presented to the Board on the insight she has around what is important to tenants. She focussed on communications, relationships with staff, repair services, allocations, new and existing homes, participation opportunities and rents. The Board discussed with LB:
- crossover between wellbeing services provided by some landlords and also by other providers;
- training, noting the importance placed on all staff who visit homes being able to relay tenant feedback and for this to be received and acted upon by landlords;
- annual tenant visits, similar work done during the pandemic and how this is resurfacing again and in some cases informing support around damp and mould;
- allocation policy requirements in Scotland and the importance of transparency around policy outcomes;
- access to housing officers and how this is valued by many tenants and the call centre approach that many landlords offer;
- the importance to tenants of regular progress updates, even if there is no progress;
- demonstrating how tenant views are considered in landlord decisions;
- challenges around attracting and maintaining tenants for participation opportunities;
- if there is anything from the Scottish Government’s trauma-informed practice toolkit approach, which was formed for planning and developing trauma informed services that could be applied to housing, noting the emphasis on choice and collaboration;
- how the approach to engaging with tenants varies between landlords, noting that there is some really good work being done;
- thematic work SHR has done in the past, noting that there are no indicators of best practice to measure around tenant participation; and
- the importance of good services and finding ways to listen to and communicate with tenants as well as deliver those services.
The Board thanked LB for meeting with it and noted her presentation, agreeing this was extremely informative. It also thanked CS for suggesting the meeting.
The Board also noted and approved the consent agenda items including:
- Chair & Member activity report;
- minutes from 30 May 2023 and a note of the June 2023 Board workshop;
- the matters arising report; and
- draft minutes from the June 2023 Audit & Risk Assurance Committee.
Chief Executive Report & Regulatory Framework Review
MC presented on issues and developments that impact regulated bodies, the wider housing environment and SHR. He highlighted the outcome of SHR’s discussion paper on the Regulation Framework review, setting out some key themes around stability and continuity. MC reported that he will provide the Board with a draft proposal paper to inform a catch-up discussion on 12 September 2023 and thereafter a formal consultation package will be developed for the Board to consider in October 2023. He highlighted areas that need further consideration including: regulatory priorities, listening to tenants, review of the Charter return indicators - especially new ones around safety, damp and mould, regulatory status - and Significant Performance Failures.
HS updated the Board on ongoing work with SHR’s Tenant Advisors to inform the formal consultation proposals.
The Board discussed:
- references to stakeholders seeking clarification in discussion paper responses and the importance of this when considering regulatory status, indicator definitions and Significant Performance Failures;
- feedback from the landlord forums hosted by Board members around damp and mould indicators, regulatory status, noting general support for a working group on damp and mould; and
- work by tenants that fed into the thematic report on annual assurance statements and further work planned for Tenants Advisors to review all landlord websites to learn what information is provided about SHR and also how Significant Performance Failures are highlighted.
The Board also discussed:
- reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), noting that MC is attending a newly convened cross sector working group hosted by Scottish Government;
- the number of Scottish Government working groups and the potential impact on resources, noting the importance of participation to provide regulatory perspective and understand impact, but that SHR also steps back from any that are directly involved in policy development, as that is out with its remit;
- advertisement plans for the review of the Statutory Manager list, agreeing it is important to maximise coverage, encouraging HS to also consider third sector-orientated publications in addition to plans to target the housing sector. It noted that it was important to refresh the list and keep it up to date, despite there being no current statutory interventions.
IM also updated the Board on work to secure a future office for SHR.
The Board thanked MC and noted the Chief Executive’s report and the Regulatory Framework Review dashboard.
Action: HS to consider advertising the refresh of the statutory manager list in third sector publications.
ARAC Statement of Assurance
SW presented a statement of assurance from the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee to SHR Board and MC as the Accountable Officer. She explained the requirement to report and how this feeds into the process to finalise the annual report and accounts. SW highlighted, ARAC’s work as well as Internal and External Audit opinions. She recommended that the Board approve, and the Accountable Officer signs the Annual Report and Accounts for 2022/23.
The Board noted that the External Audit team is in the first year of rotation with SHR and that this is currently provided by Audit Scotland.
The Board noted the report and thanked staff and ARAC members.
Annual Report & Accounts
IM presented the 2022/23 Annual Report & Accounts. He confirmed that this covers all the Best Value themes. IM also highlighted the contributions from staff across SHR.
IM reminded the Board of the process involving it, ARAC and the Auditors and the next steps to allow for laying before the Scottish Parliament and publication. The Board considered the report and discussed:
- presentation of Board fees and expenses, agreeing this should be consistent;
- some areas of format, language and potential content, noting that there had been previous opportunities to provide input to content and that as the report was fully audited, these would be considered when drafting the report for 2023/24;
- actions points from the June ARAC meeting, noting that these have all been completed;
- the importance of considering outcome and impact when developing SHR’s future strategy for implementation from April 2024, noting early preparation work with AW and plans for wider Board involvement in preparation; and
- a minor typo around capital funding and the importance of a consistent format.
The Board approved the report and accounts for MC as Accountable Officer to sign, subject to minor corrections to be made in agreement with Audit Scotland.
Actions: IM to work with Audit Scotland to update the accounts re presentation of fees/expenses. MC to sign as Accountable Officer and IM to make arrangement for the report and accounts to be laid before Parliament and published.
Q1 Budget Update
SK presented a budget update to the end of June 2023. He highlighted:
- predicted underspend and explained this is in relation to staff recruitment and reliance on Scottish Government HR services, as well as the notice periods that successful external candidates need to work through;
- the recent Scottish Government pay settlement proposals, explaining the likely impact;
- that SHR is still awaiting cost rates for accommodation at George House from Transport Scotland and that these are expected to achieve savings;
- that there has been no call on SHR’s contingency to date and the Management Team are likely to propose budget adjustments at mid-year.
The Board considered the update and discussed:
- the volume of applications SHR has attracted, noting that the quality of applicants has been very high and that SHR is also saving time by utilising reserve lists;
- assumptions SHR had already in place ahead of the pay settlement, which will limit the impact;
- work that SHR is doing to advance training and development programmes and expenditure around commissions;
- SHR’s budget settlement, noting this was based on a full staff complement, but did not take account of the time to recruit. It also noted that Scottish Government is welcoming returns and is calling for in-year efficiencies - andSHR is likely to be in a position to make a contribution;
- savings expected around SHR’s capital budget as future office options are unlikely to require full office fit outs as previously planned with Transport Scotland; and
- the change in office plans will have on emissions targets agreed by the Board, noting these will require to be reviewed once a new office has been identified.
The Board thanked SK. It noted the budget update and that the mid-year review proposals will come to it for consideration in November 2023.
Quarter One Corporate Performance Report
MC presented the quarter one corporate performance report to the Board. MC highlighted the adjusted format in response to Board feedback and that further amendments will be made to reflect the forthcoming new corporate strategy from April 2024.
The Board considered the report and discussed:
- the volume of working groups that SHR attends, how it measures if these are effective, and welcoming further background information on those and the value generated;
- staff turnover, noting this covers both the work with new starts and planned retirements;
- public services reform, welcoming that MC will seek an opportunity for a wider discussion to inform SHR’s future strategy from 2024;
- discussions with CIH on education, noting that CIH and others are focussing on the forthcoming Housing Day and promoting housing as a career choice. It also noted that there has been some discussion around mandatory housing qualifications led by CIH, but that this has yet to gain fuller stakeholder support in Scotland;
- an uptick in notifiable events around financial issues noting that the financial context has placed challenges for some around covenant compliance, however it is welcomed that these landlords are discussing their situations openly with lenders and SHR;
- ongoing work that SFHA and GWSF are doing to provide governance support to a specific landlord governing body;
- local authority scrutiny panels, noting Audit Scotland is hosting a forthcoming stock-take meeting with a focus on better coordination; and
- SHR’s general view of the social housing sector, noting that the National Charter report is showing some areas of strain and that SHR is having a wider range of engagement with landlords and that there are more notifiable events coming in reflecting that. It also noted that projections are showing some landlords are stepping back from expenditure plans and making some difficult decisions on services provision.
The Board thanked staff and noted the corporate performance report.
MC to provide:
- further information on the working groups that SHR participates in; and
- an opportunity for the Board to consider and discuss public services reform ahead of developing a future strategy.
National Charter Report
SL presented on SHR’s National Charter report. The Board considered the findings and discussed:
- void times and the range of reasons why these are still significant, noting the impact on those who are in temporary accommodation as well as lost landlord income;
- lessons to learn from landlords that have met with safety check requirements, noting they tended to have made this area a higher priority and that SHR is engaging with all those still to achieve compliance;
- forced access to properties using landlord keys, noting anecdotal feedback around communications with tenants, issues with timing of appointments offered and the associated booking It noted that the SFHA is producing guidance to assist and that some landlords are considering doing all safety checks at the same time for certain properties (rather than make a number of appointments); and
- the importance of getting safety checks completed in order to protect the interest of tenants and their neighbours, welcoming the range of approaches to improve compliance performance around this.
AW reported that GW has asked him to lead on early development work around the forthcoming Strategy and that he has met with MC and RH recently. He explained that work is now underway and there will be a chance for early Board discussions at the November workshop (which could include the public service reform agenda discussed earlier in the meeting), with firmer proposals planned for January 2024 and implementation from April 2024.
The Board noted the update.
DONM & Agenda Planner
The Board noted that it will hold a short catch-up meeting with MC on the 12 September focused on the development of the Regulatory Framework consultation. The Board will next meet on 10 October 2023.
The Board considered and approved future meeting and workshop dates for 2024.
The staff observers thanked the Board for the warm welcome to SHR and the opportunity to observe the meeting.
Effectiveness of meetings and papers
The Board welcomed the papers and presentations. It thanked AW for chairing the meeting.
The Board met in private with MC.
Between 29 August and 10 October 2023, the Board was briefed or received updates on:
- National Charter Report
- Urban Landlord blog
- Scottish Government homelessness statistics
- Regulatory Framework review
- Statutory Manager list recruitment
- SHR return to Scottish Government on sustainable and impactful services
- Spending proposals around SHR’s learning & development
Post meeting note
The Board considered and agreed by email to commission a supplier costing up to £50K to:
- carry out a skills audit, which will establish the skills we need, assess these across our staff, produce recommendations
- review and update our learning and development strategy
- explore the scope to carry out learning / development activities this financial year identified through the earlier phases and start delivery of those.
The Board also noted that this work will be phased and that budget capacity is available to fund it in this financial year.