|Nicola Kane (NK)||SHR Business Support Officer (items 1 - 15)|
Welcome, Apologies and Declarations
GW welcomed all present including staff observer NK.
The Board noted apologies from guest speaker Alison Watson from Shelter Scotland and welcomed that this would be rescheduled for later in the year.
There were no declarations of interest.
The Board also noted and approved the consent agenda items including:
- Chair & Member activity report;
- minutes from 22 November and 6 December 2022; and
- private notes of workshops on 22 November 2022 and 31 January 2023.
The Board noted and approved the matters arising report.
SW presented an update on ARAC’s work to the Board and proposals to:
- include a reference to Best Value in Board paper templates; and
- appoint LP to replace BG on ARAC from 1 April 2023, when he retires from SHR Board.
The Board considered the proposals and discussed:
- the importance of demonstrating consideration of Best Value, welcoming this as pragmatic approach to gathering evidence; and
- the importance of Best Value principles being embedded in the forthcoming review of the Regulatory Framework, noting how this worked previously and agreeing the template approach will provide clarity.
The Board welcomed and approved the change to the Board paper template to include reference to Best Value.
The Board thanked LP for agreeing to join ARAC. It approved her appointment from 1 April 2023. The Board thanked BG for his service to ARAC.
The Board also noted that ARAC carried out an annual review of its terms of reference and that these remain aligned to the Scottish Government’s Audit Committee handbook so no changes were proposed. The Board approved the continued terms of reference for ARAC and noted a review of the Scottish Government Audit Committee handbook is due, but changes are expected to be marginal.
- GW to confirm LP’s appointment to ARAC in writing.
- RH to implement a Best Value section in the Board paper template.
Chief Executive Report
MC presented on issues and developments that impact regulated bodies, the wider housing environment and SHR. MC highlighted:
- the submission of rent increase information from social landlords, explaining this is normally part of the Annual Charter return, but has been advanced in light of the emergency legislation to inform the debate on rents; and
- work with stakeholders on guidance around tackling mould and damp.
The Board considered the report and discussed:
- rent increases, noting the ranges and that SHR will publish a data report;
- joint work with stakeholders around guidance on tackling mould and damp, welcoming the approach. It noted that management can be complex and lengthy and that Scottish Government is considering this under its review of EESSH;
- sector concerns around possible increases in no-win-no-fee claims around mould and damp, noting SHR has raised this with Scottish Government;
- plans to potentially develop indicators around tenant and resident safety as part of the Regulatory Framework review.
- discussions around development of Annual Assurance Statements as part of the Regulatory Framework review;
- concerns raised at the recent SHR Systemically Important RSL forum around mid-market rent properties and the impact of rent controls. It noted potential issues around business planning and also with new build ambitions. GW reported he and MC raised this recently with Scottish Government. It also noted the complexity around tenure differences and the range of perspectives around what each offering provides to tenants; and
- tenants’ reaction to the differences in Scottish Government’s approach to private and social rent controls and service charge increases, noting anectodical feedback about some increases in some service charges.
MC outlined the programme board approach used by SHR in the previous review of the Regulatory Framework. The Board considered the forthcoming review and noted that the changes are likely to be much less fundamental. It noted feedback on the last programme board work and the resource input to support it. The Board agreed not to form a programme board for the forthcoming review and to instead receive updates under a standing item at future Board meetings and to gather for additional sessions as required.
The Board noted the Chief Executive’s report.
Action: MC to provide updates on the Regulatory Framework review to each Board meeting and seek for the Board to gather at additional sessions as required.
Annual Report – outline narrative structure
RH presented the outline structure for SHR’s annual report narrative to the Board. She highlighted alignment with the Government’s Financial Reporting Manual and SHR’s 2022/23 Strategy.
The Board noted the development timescales and approved the outline structure.
Action: RH to develop the approved structure into draft narrative for the Board to consider in March 2023.
Draft Strategy - How we include tenants and others in our work
KM presented a refreshed draft strategy setting out how SHR will involve and include tenants and services users from 2023-2026. She highlighted the importance of accessibility and clarity of channels for tenants and service users to be included, explaining this covers both involvement and communication. KM also set out:
- SHR’s positive response to low level recommendations from a related internal audit;
- recruitment of a new cohort of tenant advisors;
- review of the management of SHR’s national panel of tenants and service users;
- the tenant perspective provided by two of SHR’s Board members, while noting their role is not representative; and
- input from the Regional Networks and other stakeholders to the strategy development.
The Board considered the draft strategy and discussed:
- the importance of clarity around purpose as well as demonstrating actions and outcomes from the strategy;
- how SHR reaches less active tenants and service users such as people experiencing homelessness and Gypsy/Travellers, agreeing this could be reflected more in the strategy;
- Board members who are also tenants of social landlords; and
- feedback from tenants around their perceived current relationships status with stakeholders such as SHR, Scottish Government and landlords.
The Board thanked KM for her work and approved the Strategy subject to adjustments to reflect its feedback.
Action: KM to incorporate the Board’s feedback in finalising the Strategy for publication.
Draft Communications Strategy
TD presented SHR’s draft communications strategy. She thanked the Board for its input at the January workshop and set out how she incorporated this and also the planned actions around aspects of website visibility, use of technology including videos and social media. The Board considered the draft Strategy and discussed:
- the importance of landlords providing information to tenants on how to contact SHR, and that plans to carry out a review are in place for 2023/24;
- clarity around the title of the Regional Network SHR Liaison Group;
- future national panel work plans to around our website; and
- accessibility of SHR Board’s minutes on its website, noting TD is reviewing location prominence.
The Board thanked TD and approved the Communications Strategy subject to final tweaks to reflect its discussions.
Action: TD to finalise and implement the Communications Strategy 2022 - 2026.
JJ presented a refreshed Equalities Statement for 2023-2026. He explained this outlines SHR’s duties as a public body and the requirements of landlords and how SHR will promote equality. The Board noted that there had been no changes in legislation, so updates are primarily focussed around work SHR has done and plans to do. The Board considered the Statement and discussed:
- protected characteristics, asking JJ to clarify the position around people who experience homelessness and Gypsy/Travellers in the statement;
- the importance of promoting this work, asking JJ to issue a press release when publishing;
- domestic abuse, agreeing to use the description survivors rather than victims;
- Fairer Scotland aims, noting that SHR’s work contributes to protecting the most vulnerable people in Scottish society;
- preferences for how refreshed statements and strategies are presented in future; and
- the review of the Regulatory Framework, noting that the focus on equalities and human rights in the current Framework is likely to be maintained and will take account of future human rights legislation if progressed. It also noted how a thematic approach works well for this type of topic.
The Board thanked JJ. It approved the Equalities Statement subject to amendments to reflect its feedback and promotion via a press release.
Actions: JJ to take account of the Board’s feedback in finalising the Equalities Statement 2023 – 2026 and promote publication via a press release.
SK presented an update on SHR’s budget to 31 December 2022 and a proposal to authorise MC to approve return of capital budget to Scottish Government. He highlighted:
- that the year-end underspend is forecast at £17.3K;
- around £15K planned around a workforce planning commission is now not required as this will be carried out internally; and
- accommodation costs are lower than projected due to a period with no rent and the smaller size of the interim office space that SHR is moving to. SK also explained that Transport Scotland is still to clarify some costs associated with SHR’s office moves.
The Board considered the update and discussed:
- workforce planning, noting work to date and that following budget clarity for 2023/24, there is a focus on recruitment, sharing knowledge with the review of the Regulatory Framework as a significant workstream. It also noted that a new records and people officer has been appointed within SHR;
- timescales for progressing workforce planning, acknowledging the audit recommendation in place and noting work ongoing to establish priorities in the context of current resources and budget and that IM will keep ARAC update as it keeps the audit recommendation under review;
- CIH conference spend, noting this occurred twice in 2022/23 and SHR had changed plans during the year to reflect available resources and exhibited at the recent conference. It noted forecasts have now been adjusted to reflect this;
- ability to spend capital budget before the end of the year, noting challenges in obtaining clarity on costs associated with SHR’s office moves;
- capital spend in 2023/24, noting this reflects office-related costs; and
- capital spend for SHR’s interim office move, noting progress with the move.
The Board noted the budget update. It approved authorisation to MC to return capital budget to Scottish Government in 2022/23.
Action: MC to consider any return of 2022/23 capital budget to Scottish Government.
Quarter Three Corporate Performance report 2022/23
MC presented the corporate performance report for quarter three of 2022/23. He highlighted a reduction in intensive regulatory casework due to transfers concluding and assurances received. He also reported on a recent meeting in connection with a potential application to establish a new RSL.
The Board considered the report and discussed:
- sector change due to deregistration and future expectations, noting the challenging context for landlords and how they might respond to that in terms of future partnerships. It noted that not all transfers involve intensive regulatory engagement, and discussed stakeholder feedback around one ongoing transfer case;
- Freedom of Information requests, noting the range of casework across SHR and that there is a resource allocation to help with FOI work embedded in the Regulation Group due to the sometimes complex and multiple nature of requests it handles;
- trends in reasons for regulatory engagement, asking HS to consider what more information she could provide to the Board;
- work with Systemically Important RSLs and consideration under the forthcoming Regulatory Framework review, noting lender perspective and a forthcoming meeting with UK Finance;
- criteria for Significant Performance Failures, noting how this is embedded in legislation and the close connection with complaints handled by the SPSO. It also noted SHR has plans in place to consider this further under the forthcoming Regulatory Framework review; and
- Annual Assurance Statement visits, noting planning has started on a programme, which will tie in with the outcome of the forthcoming risk assessment.
The Board thanked staff and noted the Quarter Three Corporate Performance report.
- HS to consider what further information can be provided around trends in the reasons for engagement.
- SHR to consider Significant Performance Failures and regulatory approach to Systemically Important RSLs as part of the forthcoming Regulatory Framework review.
Outcome of People and Board survey
IM presented the outcome of the Civil Service People Survey and SHR Board’s staff survey. He highlighted the largely positive results setting them in context of other organisations. IM explained the context for the surveys including external factors that may have influenced responses especially around timing and budget expectations. The Board considered the results and discussed:
- action planning, noting this is being developed within groups and teams;
- results around management and work / life balance, noting the positive outcome despite the backdrop of covering for vacancies; and
- the importance of the office moves in engagement with and between staff teams.
The Board noted the survey findings and that MC will provide relevant updates with his CEO reports on action planning.
There were no items of other business. The Board noted that March is BG’s last meeting with SHR Board before he retires.
Effectiveness of meetings and papers
NK thanked the Board for the opportunity to observe the meeting.
The Board noted that the forthcoming Regulatory Framework review featured across the agenda and agreed it was important to capture and fed these into discussion paper development.
DONMs & Agenda Planner
The next Board meeting will be on 28 March 2023.
The Board welcomed forthcoming plans to engage with various stakeholders during the year and noted John Marr from UK Finance will join it in March 2023.
The Board held a private meeting with the Chief Executive
Between 6 December 2022 and 28 March 2023, the Board was briefed or received updates on:
- Rent increases by Scottish social landlords
- Media coverage in relation to SHQS and rent increases
- Cyber security advice for SHR Board members
- SHR’s report on intervention in Fairfield Housing Association
- SHR Budget settlement 2023/24
- Information on SFHA and COSLA rent increase commitment
- Quarterly analysis of private rented sector by trade organisation
- SHR’s equalities statement
- SHR’s analysis of RSL finances to 31 March 2022
- Joint briefing on tackling damp and mould in the social housing sector
- SHR’s thematic inquiry report on homelessness services in Scotland
- SHR’s Recommended practice to support integrated asset management
- SHR’s Advisory Guidance on carrying out surveys of tenants and service users
- SHR’s Communications research report
- SHR’s Strategy for including tenants and services users