Hello everyone!

Since my last blog in December, I have been involved in several key discussions and meetings, hopefully supporting our direction of travel as we move steadily towards returning to compliance with the governance standards set out by the Regulator of Social Housing. Amanda and I met with the Leader of the Council, Neil Emmott, and Councillor John Taylor, Leader of the Conservative Group, just before the Christmas holiday when we were able to walk them through the significant progress made against our recovery plan. This included the changes we have made to the rules of our mutual society, and how we believe that these will strengthen our governance model and address some inherent weaknesses in the old model.

Jeremy Vickers, our interim Executive Director of Finance, presented an excellent workshop to Board members in the first week after the New Year which was both reassuring and comforting, providing us with the necessary financial detail as we head towards financial year end. Whilst we can sometimes joke about how the finance stuff is a bit boring and grey, it is absolutely critical to a well-run business, and it is vital that the Board ensure that we have a viable and sustainable business plan supported by accurate management accounts and healthy balance sheet. My thanks go to Jeremy and Jenny for presenting in a format that was easy to understand for those of us who aren’t accountants!

Amanda and I met with Andy Burnham, Mayor Greater Manchester, last month when we were able to update him on our recovery and advise on the current situation with College Bank. We explored the ways in which the Greater Manchester Combined Authority might be able to provide support. Andy is very keen to see a renewed College Bank and was very encouraging, offering his services to support our developing proposals. We will continue to keep Andy and the GMCA well briefed as we progress the proposals. You may have already seen that the Board held a special meeting on 18th March where we agreed to extend the exclusivity agreement with Legal and General Affordable Homes (LGAH) until the end of June 2024.

I also sat in on the College Bank consultation event last month which was well attended and really informative with excellent input from our own Amanda, Sean from LGAH, and Anthony from Lovells. The Q&A was lively to say the least! I’m sure that we will continue to hold these discussions with tenants as we progress the plans.

Our most recent scheduled Board meeting at the end of January had a busy agenda including College Bank, Finance, draft Corporate Strategy, stock condition survey, customer services, health and safety, risk register, recovery plan and key performance indicators. We are making really good progress with the stock condition survey and hope to complete this by the end of March. This is a critical piece of work for the organisation and will provide a baseline from which we can build a whole range of assumptions and costings to enable our drive towards a sustainable and ambitious decent homes standard in future. Similarly, the new Corporate Strategy, which I expect the Board will approve at their March meeting, will provide a reset for RBH, putting our customers at the heart of everything we do.

I have kept myself busy in recent weeks, attending a networking event for new chairs hosted by the National Housing Federation at the Board Excellence Conference in Manchester, and more recently the North West Chairs Network virtual event which was facilitated by the NHF. Both sessions were helpful providing useful updates on political engagement as we head towards a General Election, revised Code of Governance, various Government consultations including Awaab’s Law and some sharing of tenant engagement approaches. I also sat in on our recent Audit and Risk Committee, which is always helpful to a more rounded understanding of the business, and it was reassuring to see a really positive internal audit report on cyber security – well done to all involved! I am aiming to sit in on all of our committees over the next half year.

Finally, I chaired the Joint Board and Representative Body meeting on the 13th March which, despite my poor time management (we overran!) was a great opportunity to share views and thoughts around the emerging Corporate Strategy, the revised performance framework, the mutual membership strategy and the Representative Body scrutiny function. It felt to me like we were having the right conversations in the right vein and that as an organisation we have moved significantly towards ‘bringing the mutual to life’. My thanks to all contributors – let’s keep the momentum going!