|George Walker (GW)||SHR Chair|
|Siobhan White (SW)||SHR Board member|
|Colin Stewart (CS)||SHR Board member|
|Ewan Fraser (EF)||SHR Board member|
|Andrew Watson (AW)||SHR Board member|
|Helen Trouten Torres (HTT)||SHR Board member|
|Michael Cameron (MC)||SHR Chief Executive|
|Ian Brennan (IB)||
SHR Director of Regulation (items 1- 11)
|Iain Muirhead (IM)||
SHR Director of Digital & Business Support (items 1- 11)
|Roisin Harris (RH)||
SHR Corporate Governance Manager (items 1- 11)
|Kirsty Porter (KP)||
SHR Regulation Manager (item 4)
|Clare Nicolson (CN)||
SHR Business Manager (item 6)
|Nicola Harcus (NH)||
SHR Assistant Director (item 8)
|Janet Dickie (JD)||
SHR Regulation Manager (item 8)
|Evie Copland (EC)||
SHR Regulation Analyst (items 1 – 11)
Apologies and declarations of interest
GW welcomed all present, especially EC as a new member of SHR’s staff team. Apologies were submitted by Bob Gill (BG) SHR Board member and the Board noted that he had submitted some questions, to be relayed at the appropriate agenda items.
The Board noted that HTT was previously a tenant of Barony Housing Association. It also noted that CS has become Chair of Region One RTO Regional Network.
There were no other declarations.
The Board noted the apologies and declarations.
The Board noted and approved the consent agenda items including:
- minutes from 25 May 2021 Board meeting and 15 June 2021 strategy session (subject to the additional of an action point to the strategy session);
- a matters arising report;
- ARAC update; 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 forthcoming publication of the Zero Emissions in Social Housing Taskforce (ZEST) report;
- publication by the Social Housing Resilience Group of a review of the impact of the pandemic during 2020/21, that drew on SHR’s dashboard data collected during the year;
- continued work with Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) on a human rights briefing;
- continued challenges SHR and others using Scottish Government HR systems are experiencing with recruitment and the knock on impact on SHR capacity and financial planning, which is resulting in a projected underspend; and
- a change in approach to ensure the Board has more opportunity to consider key messages in SHR’s accounts of intervention.
The Board consider the ZEST report and discussed:
- the impact on the Energy Efficiency Standard in Social Housing (EESSH), noting a review is due in 2023, noting the recommendation for a sooner review alongside a fabric first approach. It also noted this may impact the sequencing of compliance with the elements of EESSH and that could require SHR to change how it monitors compliance;
- the technical nature of the ZEST report, noting that the taskforce involved several technical sub-groups. It also noted that Scottish Government has not yet confirmed a timescale for responding to the recommendations; and
- the cost of the recommendations, noting a key message is a just transition.
The Board also discussed:
- challenges around recruitment and the impact on SHR’s work plans, noting the delays to on-boarding both temporary and permanent posts. It welcomed that SHR is considering if commissioning external support can help cover the work plans;
- the forthcoming mid-year budget and operating plan review, noting that there are a range of activities that are postponed or at risk of being postponed including assurance visits which are impacted by continued restrictions;
- welcomed the amended approach to developing SHR’s accounts on intervention and discussed a future opportunity for a further lessons learned report on interventions;
- lessons that emerged and were considered by the Social Housing Resilience Group around lets during the pandemic;
- SHRC and CIH’s work on human rights and potential for involvement with the RTO regional network, asking MC to raise this; and
- the portfolio spread for the new ministerial appointments.
The Board thanked MC for the update and noted the report.
Actions: MC to raise tenant engagement with CIH and SHRC as part of their work on a human rights briefing for landlords.
Removal of Barony and Bellsmyre Housing Associations from the Register of Social Landlords
IB introduced a proposal to remove Barony and Bellsmyre Housing Associations from the Register of Social Landlords. KP reported that both organisations were previously subsidiaries that have transferred to other organisations in their groups and in both cases the transfers have been supported by tenants.
She also explained that:
- Bellsmyre is seeking voluntary deregistration and that she is recommending their application meets all the criteria under section 28 of the Housing (Scotland) 2010 Act; and
- Barony already sought and gained removal from the mutual register with the Financial Conduct Authority in December 2020 so is no longer a body corporate, therefore Wheatley Housing Group (WHG) is seeking compulsory removal. She confirmed it meets the criteria under section 27 of the Housing (Scotland) 2010 Act.
KP reported the extensive engagement with Barony’s parent WHG and that it has now reviewed its processes. She also reported that SHR is preparing guidance for the sector on deregistration to assist landlords with sequencing.
The Board thanked KP and IB. It considered the proposals and agreed to:
- the compulsory removal of Barony from the Register under section 27 of the 2010 Act; and
- the voluntary removal of Bellsmyre under section 28 of the 2010 Act.
The Board asked KP and IB to arrange removal from the register and to:
- write to Barony’s parent, WHG, to confirm that Barony has been removed from the Register; and
- write to Bellsmyre to confirm that it has been removed from the Register.
The Board also welcomed the forthcoming guidance and encouraged appropriate messaging when promoting this to assist landlords.
- KP and IB to remove Barony and Bellsmyre Housing Associations from the register of social landlords and confirm this in writing to Barony’s parent WHG and to Bellsmyre Housing Assertion.
IM updated the Board on recovery work at SHR’s office in Buchanan House, work ongoing around future approaches to how SHR will work, and proposed space that SHR will need to sublet in the future new office space.
IM reported on the gradual opening up of Scottish Government offices commencing from 31 August 2021. He explained due to continued Scottish Government restrictions and in the context of rising COVID-19 numbers the current cautious position, which SHR is aligned to, is that all staff should continue to work at home if possible, unless there is a critical business need or a personal reason such as wellbeing - to work from an office.
IM set out some of the practicalities that are being considered for Buchanan House including cleaning, ventilation and the consequences of social distancing on how any space can be used. He also reported that SHR will carry out 1:1 wellbeing conversations to inform back-to-office planning.
IM also reported on ongoing work led by MC and CN on SHR’s future approach to working. He highlighted findings from a recent staff survey as well as feedback from discussions with staff.
Finally IM updated the Board on SHR’s future office. He reported that Transport Scotland is continuing to work to identify a new Glasgow office and it is finalising legal and contractual arrangements. He set out proposals for the amount of space that SHR would sublet from Transport Scotland and explained:
- this would be just over three quarters of the size of the current space in Buchanan House;
- it has a more efficient floor plate;
- design of the new space will have a focus on collaborative working styles as part of SHR’s future ways of working; and
- that there will be opportunities for staff to be involved in developing office design ideas over the next year.
IM highlighted a recent market comparison report about Glasgow offices rents. He explained that headline rent levels are not the full costs of occupation. For example they do not include service charges, which vary between buildings, or any negotiated added value that clients may achieve.
The Board considered the update and discussed:
- the practicality of shared facilities such as bathrooms during the continued pandemic and noting the touch-free design experience proposed for the future office;
- the importance of recognising the whole cost of any new office and taking account of any savings;
- the future office board-room space, noting this will be dedicated within SHR’s sublet space and there may also be potential to access other meeting space elsewhere in the future office;
- staff’s views on a future approach to working, welcoming that greater flexibility will be offered with guidance providing clarity on when in-office or other location working would be required and this would be aligned to SHR’s business needs;
- if staff views could be analysed by demographic, noting the survey work was anonymous and also a flexible approach could widen out the geographic spread and diversity of potential applicants who would be attracted to any SHR vacancies;
- work with trade unions, noting representation on SHR’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing Committee and engagement with Scottish Government;
- vaccination requirements, noting the Scottish Government does not require staff to advise on vaccination status;
- the size of the sub-let proposal for the new building, confirming this is 306 sq metres, noting that this is approximately 76% of that used in Buchanan House.
The Board thanked IM and noted the updates. It approved that SHR seek to sublet 306 sq metres from Transport Scotland in the future office.
Budget Update – end June 2021/22
CN presented an update on SHR’s budget position at the end of June 2021. She highlighted a projected underspend in the region of £155K due to vacancies and recruitment delays and, to a lesser extent, limitations related to the pandemic such as travel etc.
CN also highlighted increased cost for SCOTs IT services from Scottish Government and reported this was offset against BI savings this year due to a move to the Cloud, but this will impact on costs from 2022/23. She reported that SHR raised concerns with Scottish Government ITECs who explained that IT costs have increased and this has impacted all users.
CN also highlighted that Covid and contingency-related spend was minimal and will be reviewed at mid-year. She reported that work to scope capital spend is ongoing, but is to be as projected, with some contingency.
The Board considered the update and discussed:
- recruitment, noting this was ongoing for eight posts;
- the importance of discussing underspend related to Scottish Government’s HR-related delays with Scottish Government colleagues and noting that this is being actively raised at the Delivery Bodies Group and impacts many organisatons; and
- forthcoming discussions with Scottish Government on future budgets.
The Board thanked CN and noted the update and forthcoming budget mid-year review.
Q1 Corporate Performance Report & risk register
Michael presented the quarter one corporate performance report. The Board considered the report and discussed:
- the additional information on intensive casework, welcoming how this provided insight into cases over time;
- the likelihood of further intervention, noting that the level of intensive casework reflects the Regulatory Framework working and some changes in regulatory statuses is expected, but in general all these landlords are engaging and cooperating with SHR as they seek to achieve and maintain compliance;
- staff absence levels, welcoming that some people previously on longer term absences have returned to work, noting that just a couple of people can have a dramatic impact on overall figures and also welcoming appropriate support plans are in place;
- Gypsy/Travellers, noting that engagement around site and safety standards continues and SHR is working closely with Scottish Fire and Rescue around this. It also noted that the sites provided by local authorities are occupied primarily by Gypsy/Travellers;
- transfer and rescue partners, noting the work done by SHR to ensure capacity to deliver; and
- staff secondments, noting that SHR does not actively encourage these, but also does not prevent any that arise and it seeks to learn from them as well as use the vacancies as development opportunities.
The Board thanked MC and all of the staff team and noted the quarter one report.
National Report on the Scottish Social Housing Charter 2020/21
MC introduced the report. He highlighted the slightly different approach and reported on the challenges in compiling, due to how SHR and landlords had to operate during 20202/2, which impacted on validation and verification.
NH and JD presented SHR’s National Report on the Scottish Social Housing Charter 2020/21. JD highlighted the importance of of acknowledging the challenges landlords faced and explained the report focuses on the scale of recovery, and that SHR expects the impact of the pandemic to be reflected in reports for several years to come. JD confirmed SHR has published the Charter data for others to access. JD set out the key results explaining that these focus on the areas that tenants have told SHR matter most.
The Board considered the presentation and discussed:
- how useful if was to hear from the team who had worked on the analysis, agreeing to do this for the next report;
- the shift achieved by landlords in gas safety compliance;
- the range of indicators used to comment on tenant satisfaction; and
- the work around breaches in the unsuitable accommodation order, noting levels have remained fairly constant.
The Board also discussed Scottish Housing Quality Standard compliance and exemptions, noting some related recent Twitter activity. It agreed it would like more detail on the level and type of exemptions in use. It also noted ongoing work to explore the use of exemptions in pre-1919 housing stock. IB confirmed that SHR is not currently engaging with any landlords on SHQS non-compliance.
The Board thanked NH and JD and noted the report.
Actions: IB to provide the Board with further detail on the use of SHQS exemptions.
Mr Mark McKeown
The Board reflected on the recent sad passing of SHR colleague Mark McKeown. It discussed the work he had done across SHR and welcomed that many colleagues were able to attend his funeral. The Board noted that the Chair has written to Mark’s family to express condolences and sympathy.
The Chair reported on progress with recruitment to SHR’s Board. He reported that interviews have now been completed and recommendations made to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government to consider. He confirmed that start dates will be around November 2021.
Effectiveness of meetings and papers
EC thanked the Board for the opportunity to observe and provided feedback on the experience.
The Board agreed the presentation on the national report on the Scottish Social Housing Charter was very valuable.
The Board noted that it will:
- meet privately with the Chief Executive on 14 September 2021;
- meet on 5 October 2021.
The Board considered and agreed a programme of meeting and workshop dates for 2022.
Action: RH to issue diary invitations to members for the 2022 meetings and workshops.
The Board held a private session with the Chief Executive.
Post meeting notes
Between 31 August 2021 and 5 October 2021 the Board was briefed or received updates on:
- Development of How we work – statutory interventions publication
- Advice note for landlords – Health and Safety – Gas safety
- Updated advice for governing body members during Covid – 19
- Outcome of intervention at Wishaw & District Housing Association