Agenda item

1Future 'Proposal' - Flagship Housing Group (Agenda item 13)

Report of the Executive Member for the Planning, Health & Housing Portfolio (Paul Claussen).

Minutes:

The Assistant Director for Housing & Environmental Health introduced Mr David McWade, the Chief Executive of Flagship Housing Group, who was in attendance to put his case forward and answer questions.

 

Members were being asked to consider a proposal by parent company Flagship Housing Group to amalgamate its three component housing associations to form a single new entity ‘Flagship.  This proposal would be called 1Future.

 

Many of Flagship’s tenants were Breckland residents and customer feedback from a recent survey that had been undertaken had been positive on the whole and in support of the proposal.

 

1Future would be based on five specific aims: To position and strengthen the Group in times of economic uncertainty, to organise the Group more efficiently, to improve the way the organisation was run and how they consult with its customers, to be more accessible at the local level to customers and to invest more in front line staff and services from savings achieved. 

 

In response to a question in relation to Flagship being able to offer a commitment to Breckland Council going forward, Mr McWade reassured Members that this was a positive proposal that would be good for Flagship and Breckland Council.

 

The Executive Member for the Planning, Health & Housing Portfolio asked what difference this would make to tenants. Members were informed that Flagship had a fairly large governance structure that would be reduced if this proposal went forward, it would also make on-going substantive savings that would be put back into front line services.  Tenants would definitely see the benefits over time.

 

The 1Future proposal was forecast to achieve an initial cost saving of £800,000, increasing to over £1m per annum in future years which would be re-invested into front line services.  These new services would include: a 24 hour, 7 day a week free phone number, 15 new community rangers, new customer service stations/hubs and a new community improvement fund.

 

Mr McWade stated that the real common agenda between both Breckland and Flagship was around the provision of affordable housing.  If Members were mindful to approve the recommendation, Flagship would be in a position to make substantial changes.  He felt it fair to say that he had a flavour of direction but as there would be many challenges ahead and until further details, guidance and procedures were in place, he was unsure how the new model would work for both Flagship and the people it served.

 

A Member said that he would like to hear of more local people getting housing priority.  The Assistant Director for Housing and Environmental Health assured Members that the allocations policy had been changed to reflect this; all housing allocations came under a Breckland Council policy and not Peddars Way.

 

The Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission was interested in the word ‘challenges’ that Mr McWade had used and asked him what he meant by this.  Members were informed that the challenges facing Housing Associations across the country were around the level of grant funding available in future, and the housing market in terms of developers’ appetites.  He was unsure how Housing Associations would dovetail into all of the above.  He explained that there had also been a change of attitude in financial institutions lending money to housing providers.  Housing providers were now being squeezed in a number of directions against a number of component parts, for example: planning, planning policy and changes to welfare and benefits payments.  In response to the former question relating to housing allocations, Mr McWade stated that Flagship’s priority had always been to deliver homes to local people.

 

A Member had concerns with regard to the membership of the Flagship Housing Group’s Board and felt that there should be someone on it who would represent and support local people.  Mr McWade assured Members that he would commit to this suggestion.

 

In response to a question, Mr McWade confirmed that none of the conditions listed at 3.2.3 of the report would cause Flagship any difficulties.

 

There was some debate about variances in the rental markets between privately rented and social rented properties, and how increased income should provide enough capacity to build new homes to cover the loss of some grants.

 

The Executive Member for the Planning, Health & Housing Portfolio was encouraged by the way this proposal was going forward and felt that 1Future could only be good thing for Breckland and wholeheartedly supported the recommendation.

 

Options

 

1)            To consent to Flagship Housing Group’s request to amalgamate the existing group structure and in doing so deregulate Flagship Peddars Way.

 

2)           Not to consent to Flagship Housing Group’s request.

 

Reasons

 

The formation of the new organisation post Election and post Comprehensive Spending Review presented new opportunities for the partnership.  In developing the localism and shared service agenda, the Council is considering new ways of delivering services and there were some potential future opportunities inherent in the Flagship proposal.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that consent be given to Flagship Housing Group’s request to amalgamate its group structure and concomitant deregulation of Flagship Peddars Way subject to the following requirements:

 

1)           Officers request that any consent forthcoming reflect:  

·        The need to ensure that the obligations/rights contained with the stock transfer agreement remain and are transferred to the newly created single entity.

 

·        The need for the new organisation to demonstrate its ongoing strategic commitment to the growth and rural housing agendas and the local offer to tenants/leaseholders in the Breckland District

 

·        The need to agree an asset disposal strategy with the Council

 

·        The need for Flagship to actively demonstrate how the positive strategic and operational relationships that now exist can be maintained at non executive director/member level and how we ensure that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not emanate from the new organisation.   A suggestion in this regard was that rather than securing a place on the new board, Breckland be engaged on a ‘scrutiny’ level. 

 

2)           Breckland Council Legal Services request that any consent forthcoming should be subject to the proviso that the successor body to Peddars Way Housing Association enters into a formal Deed of Novation to Breckland Council. Thereby ensuring that all Peddars Way Housing Associations contractual obligations arising from the Large Scale Voluntary Transfer are preserved.

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