HQN Blog: Lots of housing league tables already exist: so don’t waste time arguing

Inside Housing tells us that the sector doesn’t want league tables. Why are we trying to shut the stable door when the horse has bolted? It’s not hard to find league tables for housing. There are lots of them.

All that the green paper tried to do was jemmy the voice of tenants into the way we work out the rankings.

Where do all these league tables come from? The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) puts out piles of data in alphabetical order.

That’s its job. What happens next? We flick a switch on its spreadsheet and hey presto you’ve got the rankings.

So you can see at a glance things like who is the biggest, who made the largest surplus and who built the most homes.

Our friends at Inside Housing scour the accounts to tell us who the high earners are.

And this should tie back into how well the chiefs are doing in the leagues. It’s all good stuff. We’ve got to be open and honest.

When the RSH goes in to do a deep dive on an association what does it ask for? It wants to see how you are doing versus your peers. Do you cost more? If so, why? Are you spending less on repairs? If so, how do you know you are putting enough money into keeping tenants safe?

In effect you have to show the RSH what league you are in and why. And it wants to hear about your plans for moving up the table.

So don’t waste your time arguing against league tables. They are here to stay. But you do need to handle them with care.

They don’t give you the full picture.

We’ve got league tables about who is building the most homes but none that tell us what the people in the buildings think.

The green paper wants to plug this gap. You can send out surveys to find out how satisfied tenants are. And you can stop landlords cheating by running these centrally as they do for the banks. But you will still hit snags.

At one time every landlord in the country had to run these surveys. MORI found that North Norfolk’s housing service had the biggest drop in satisfaction. Why was that? It was because the council went from picking up the bins weekly to only doing it fortnightly. No one was happy.

That had nothing to do with the quality of the housing service. Yet North Norfolk still dropped down the league table.

I don’t hear too many people saying performance indicators are a bad idea. You do get a debate about which ones to go for.

But as soon as you start to collect performance indicators you will get a league table. That always happens. Whether the state puts these together or not is neither here nor there. Yes, it is easy to show up the flaws in the tables.

So how do you ensure you make fair decisions about a landlord?

You have to visit it to get behind the figures. That is the case for inspection. I’d give that job to the national tenants’ body. Who else could be in the frame? It’s time to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.

By Alistair McIntosh, HQN Chief Executive

This article first appeared in Inside Housing.