This is my first report as Chair, having been appointed at the AGM in August 2017, having previously been the Deputy Chair of the Association. I consider it a great honour to be able to serve the Board in this capacity.
The last 12 months have seen many challenges. These have all been addressed and the financial results and performance generally for the last 12 months have been very pleasing.
The challenges have largely arisen from delays in two development schemes being finalised and as a consequence, the expected rental income was significantly less than budgeted.
In addition, the Association suffered from increasing delays in letting its void properties. This was due to a number of factors, including problems with the Powys Common Housing Register (CHR). The Council acknowledged the issues concerning the CHR and undertook a data cleansing exercise in November 2017 and have also commissioned an independent study into the operation of the Register.
However, through the tight control of expenditure, this loss of income from the above issues were ‘fully’ compensated, thereby enabling the Association to achieve the £628,000 budgeted surplus.
The Association has been actively re-arranging its loan portfolio to remove the artificial constraints upon its development aspirations. The changes to the Barclays Revolving Credit Facility and the repaying of the Nationwide BS loans were two key elements of this treasury management strategy.
While only one new property was brought into management during the year, the Association has had a very active development programme with over 70 properties under construction during the year. With the additional resources in the New Business directorate and unlocked borrowing capacity, the Association can continue supporting this level of ongoing development into the future.
The Association has been pursuing a number of key projects, including the Cylch Caron Extra Care scheme. Each of these projects is an exciting opportunity. However, the Board is very mindful of the associated risks and the need to thoroughly evaluate each project. The Cylch Caron scheme has progressed through the hard work and cooperation of the three partners; the Association, in conjunction with Ceredigion County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board. This scheme is currently out to tender and a final business case is due to be presented to the respective parties later in 2018.
Board assurance is very important and the Board gains comfort from the internal audit work undertaken during the year. Having seven out of 10 internal audit reports gaining substantial assurance is the Association’s best ever achievement and testament to the hard work of all staff ensuring they develop robust procedures and follow them.
This assurance goes much wider than the ‘pure internal audit’ work. The Board commissioned an independent Board member appraisal and Board effectiveness review during the year, and were delighted to be awarded a level 3 for governance from the Governance Forum; this is the highest level of award and a significant achievement given the size of the Association.
While the Board were disappointed to be the subject of a whistleblowing allegation, the subsequent independent investigation concluded the allegations were not founded and that the Association was well managed and governed.
The work of the Association is all about providing excellent services to our tenants and customers and to ensure more homes are made affordable to those living in Mid-Wales. While there will always be areas where the Association can learn from mistakes and improve what it does, the Board was delighted with the results of the satisfaction survey undertaken in 2017 which showed upper quartile levels of satisfaction across all the areas questioned. This is a tremendous result and once again is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of all the staff and contractors involved in providing those services.
Lastly I want to thank all my fellow Board Members for their dedication and support over the year. They all freely give their time and in a voluntary capacity. The Board has many new faces and they have contributed fully and enabled a smooth transition from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’.
There are hugely exciting times ahead, not least the closer collaboration work with neighbouring Tai Ceredigion Housing Association. Together, we will be looking to improve the homes for our residents and working hard to improve the communities within which we operate in Mid-Wales.
Chair, Mid-Wales Housing Association
A Message from the Chief Executive
I have been proud to be Chief Executive of Mid-Wales Housing Association for over 10 years. In that time I have tried to avoid using the cliché “last year was a challenging year”, but this year, I will make an exception.
The Association approached 2017 with some very exciting projects, most notably, the potential formal partnership with its main maintenance contractor EOM, and an innovative Integrated (health) Resource Centre and Extra Care scheme in Tregaron. We also reached broad agreement to acquire an estate of housing from Gwalia in Rhayader, and had started discussions about greater partnership working with Tai Ceredigion, as well as delivering the important routine of providing excellent services to our tenants, and providing much needed new homes. Clearly, this all needed to be achieved in a financial environment influenced by the need to ensure rents remained affordable.
The Association has continued to provide high quality services to its tenants, and a peer review of tenant satisfaction continues to place us in the top quarter of associations. We had few new homes coming into management, due to on-site delays. However following the strengthening of the development team, we have been able to secure increased grant funding from Welsh Government, and have developed a strong pipeline of new schemes, which will see 250 new homes built in the next five years.
The Association also decided not to increase its rents by as much as permitted by Welsh Government, as it felt that given local pay constraints, rents could become unaffordable to local people, and we are one of a few Welsh associations to take this approach.
Sadly, this success did not translate directly into success for the major projects, all of which were, for one reason or another, slower to come to fruition, and the outcomes will hopefully be seen in 2018/19.
During the year, two separate independent reviews commissioned concluded the Association was “well run and well governed” and saw us achieve the highest award from the “Governance Forum” – achieved by only 13% of similar sized housing associations.
But whilst it has been another challenging year, as Chief Executive I am proud of the dedicated staff and Board Members at Mid-Wales Housing Association who have ensured we were the best we could be and maintained our high level of service.
Well done to everyone!
New Board Members appointed at Annual General Meeting
The Association is delighted to announce that six new Members were elected at the 2017 AGM to join its Board of Management.
A broad advertising campaign for new Board Members was held at the end of September. In a separate campaign, tenants were also encouraged to apply to become Board Members.
We were very fortunate to receive 11 excellent applications and after an interview process, the Board of Management approved the appointment of:
- Elenor Bonner-Evans, a senior lawyer, who has a farm in the Dyfi Valley;
- Tony Bowron, who has worked for 35 years at a senior level in the affordable housing sector;
- Joy Garfitt, who is the Assistant Director for Mental Health with Powys Teaching Health Board and former Head of Adult Social Care for Powys County Council;
- Daniel Lewis, who is a Business Intelligence Manager for Melin Homes. He is also a trustee of a charity supporting young homeless people and vulnerable women;
- Pamela Smith, a tenant from Llanidloes and town councillor; and
- Miss Susan Havard, a former management accountant with Powys County Council.
They will all serve for an initial period of three years, with a maximum three terms of three years possible.
The following two new Board Members were co-opted onto the Board in January, 2018 who will be standing for election at the 2018 Annual General Meeting.
Alex Gambroudes is the Group Managing Director of Continental Wood Ltd., a timber sales and distribution company, based in Kent. He was formerly the Commercial Director of Kronospan Ltd. in Chirk. He lives in Oswestry and holds an MBA from Cranfield School of Management.
Mark Roberts is the Managing Director of FUW Insurance Services, based in Aberystwyth. He currently serves as a case worker for the military charity SSAFA the Armed Forces Charity, having started his career in the RAF as an engineer. He is a Welsh speaker and lives in south Gwynedd.
Early retirement of Board Member
The Association was sorry to receive the resignation of one of its long-standing Board Members, Mr. Nick Hoskins, in September 2017, following a period of ill-health.
In his eight years on the Board, Nick had served four years as Chair and had sat on each of the Association’s Committees, including a period of time on the Board of its subsidiary, Care & Repair in Powys. He was a regular visitor to the offices and spent time visiting the Association’s estates throughout Powys and Ceredigion.
Nick brought a wealth of experience of Board Membership, having spent much of his career working with major international construction organisations. He also had a number of senior appointments in the IT, Defence and Engineering sectors. In more recent years, he focussed his considerable energy on the growth of Mid-Wales Housing, especially through its housing development programme, and oversaw the successful restructure of the organisation in 2014.
The Association is much indebted to the foresight, passion and determination to succeed which Nick brought to the Board, among many other skills, and we wish him a happy and healthy retirement from the Board, knowing he will always be keeping a keen eye on our progress!
The Boards of Management of the Mid-Wales Housing Group underwent their appraisal in the autumn of 2017 which is recommended as good practice in Community Housing Cymru’s Code of Governance. This year also featured the Association’s biennial independent assessment of Governance against the Governance Forum’s standards.
Following a rigorous process, the Group is delighted that its governance standard has increased to the highest Level 3 for Mid-Wales Housing – an achievement only matched by 13% of similar organisations – and increased to Level 2 for its subsidiary, Care & Repair in Powys.
The 12 Members of the Mid-Wales Housing Board and eight Members of the Care & Repair in Powys Board underwent a one-to-one appraisal with an independent consultant and their respective Chair and completed a 360-degree appraisal of Board colleagues. In addition, both Boards were observed ‘in action’ and a detailed diagnostic assessment of governance resources, competency and execution was undertaken.
Organisations achieving Level 3 demonstrate that ‘governance is more than compliance’ and that the organisation is seeking to maximise its performance through the efficiency and the effectiveness of protocol, procedures and practice
Organisations achieving Level 2 demonstrate that they are governing well, working above statutory requirements and that the governance tools and resources are an integral part of the planning processes of the organisation.
The diagnostic assessment uses over 250 questions which capture all the recommendations from codes across a number of sectors including the UK Corporate Governance Code, the National Housing Federation Code and the Good Governance Standard for Public Services. This demonstrates compliance with wider best practice including the Nolan Principles.
Charles Brotherton, Company Secretary for the Mid-Wales Housing Group said: “We are delighted to be able to demonstrate such excellence in governance. We have recently recruited a number of new Board Members, all of whom bring a variety of skills and competence to Board discussions, which, together with our robust internal resources, are reflected in these increased scores”.