Hi everyone, here’s a run through what has been happening since my last blog.

We held two Board meetings in March: a special College Bank Board when we considered the various scenarios, risks and business plan assumptions; and our scheduled Board meeting where we received the feedback from the cultural survey assessment conducted by ARK, before a busy agenda which included the treasury and finance strategies, final budget, business plan and stress testing, pay review, performance related reports, the recovery plan and the regular risk, assurance and compliance reports. The Board continue to provide critical challenge whilst recognising the significant improvements being made across the business.

In March I attended the National Housing Federation’s North West Chairs Network meeting which covered political engagement, Awaab’s Law, code of governance and tenant engagement. We had a very relevant discussion around the challenge that some Boards face when all directors have been recruited at the same time and the danger of a “cliff edge” in six years’ time, if the good governance expectation of directors serving two three year terms is to be followed rigidly. The Federation agreed to take this away and consider their advice to Boards in this regard. We will face this issue here at RBH and so any flexibility around this will be helpful as we plan for board succession.

In early April I met our new Executive Director of Finance, Simon Mellor as part of his induction programme and was impressed by his early grasp of the detail and how he had hit the ground running. Larry Gold, Vice Chair, and I met with Amanda to talk through her probationary period appraisal. All Board Directors had provided feedback which we shared with Amanda and we were delighted to be able to report back positively to Board and agree how she will lead the delivery of the Corporate Strategy in the coming months. Amanda continues to fly the RBH flag locally, regionally and nationally with tremendous aplomb.

At the end of April I joined a meeting with the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH). This was a very positive meeting where I was able to highlight the substantial progress made since I became Chair a year ago, whilst also acknowledging the ongoing challenge of making sure that we embed the changes we’re making. We agreed that we would target our July Board meeting for observation by the RSH and when we are expecting to have the feedback from our self assessment of Board effectiveness which DTP are supporting.

We continue to strive to improve our relationships across Rochdale and the Greater Manchester region. Just after the local elections in early May Amanda and I had a really positive meeting with Councillor Emmott (Leader of Rochdale Borough Council), Councillor Meredith (Portfolio Holder), Councillor Anstee (Leader of the Opposition) and Steve Rumbelow, Chief Executive. We have agreed that the RBH Board will meet with the Council Cabinet on a bi-annual basis (we are hoping to target a first meeting in July before recess) which hopefully will continue to cement the relationship between us in an open, honest and transparent light.

Amanda and I also pitched up for a double header at Rochdale Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Whilst this was a challenging discussion, Councillors offered some fantastic feedback about RBH service improvement over the last year as well as concerns around some aspects of our service offer. Overall I came away feeling that this was a significant step in the right direction for RBH.

Prior to our May Board meeting I met separately with the chairs of our committees by way of a temperature check, to consider cross cutting issues, any concerns or gaps and our compliance timeline. We have agreed to keep these informal meetings in the calendar as we find these invaluable in testing for understanding and ensuring that we are all on the same page.

Board members were invited to attend the Colleague Conference in May and a couple of us were able to free up diaries and get along. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, the opportunity to talk to staff and the presentations. The talk from John Volanthen about the rescue of the stranded boys in the Thailand cave system was spellbinding and still resonates. There were lots of takeaways to consider and translate into my professional and private life.

The May Board considered the draft Homes and Communities Strategy which will frame how we invest in our homes going forward.  We also approved the Procurement strategy and the self assessment against the Housing Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling code, amongst a whole raft of other reports, including the Annual Safeguarding Report. Rochdale Safeguarding Board members have praised the new RBH safeguarding response system and are encouraging us to share with other social housing providers in the borough – a great testimony! The Board acknowledged that whilst we still face significant challenges, good progress is being made against the key performance indicators, finances and repairs. Board also recognised the great work undertaken by our colleagues through Operation Affect which is focused on clearing organised crime from our communities and where our contribution on Freehold has been commended by Greater Manchester Police – well done Jade and Graham!

We held our Board Strategy day at the Strand on 19th June when we focused primarily on the early result from our Stock Condition Survey which has now been completed in over 90% of our homes.  We used this and the pillars in the Homes and Communities strategy to start to consider how we make investment decisions as we move beyond our recovery and into business as usual.  It was great for the whole Board to take time to get out and to walk around Kirkholt and get a real feel for the communities in which we work.  

Finally, I went along to the Greater Manchester Housing Providers Chairs Network lunch meeting in Manchester on the 20th June to discuss our challenges and approaches to investing in our homes and how we might position ourselves to work productively with a new government. Whilst we all acknowledged that we live in testing times we also recognized that social housing continues to feature strongly in the pre – election period and that there will be opportunities for the sector to demonstrate collective and collaborative leadership and strategic thinking. 

Summer seems to have arrived at last – enjoy it while you can!