By Alistair McIntosh, HQN CEO.

The marquee idea in the Green Paper was league tables for customer satisfaction with landlords. Will these make their way into the long-awaited White Paper? Who knows? Some say the White Paper is coming out any day now. I’ll believe it when I see it. On current form it could pop out round about the time Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor takes the crown. Or abdicates after a long reign.

Last week the papers were full of the results of the league tables for customer satisfaction with banks. The boss of the Competition and Markets Authority sees the tables as a great way of spurring banks on to do better. As he puts it, “the power is increasingly in customers’ hands”, “there is nowhere to hide” and “providers should always feel the pressure to climb the league table by improving their services”.

What’s not to like? So, why did so many folk in housing say no to league tables? You can switch banks quite easily but it is not at all the same thing moving from landlord to landlord. What’s the point of the table if it makes no difference to residents? And it can add to the stigma. Who wants to be known as the tenant of the landlord propping up the table? No one will buy your shared ownership flat off you if the landlord has a bad name. You’ll be stuck with a dud. Yes, the league tables can backfire.

Let’s not leave it there. Can we take anything at all from the bank tables? How about this little humdinger: it’s the newest banks that are topping the charts. At number one we have Monzo that started out in 2015. Breathing down its neck in second place is Starling which was born in 2014. Metro Bank from 2010 comes in honourably at fourth. After these high flyers it’s all the old familiar names. Monzo scores 86% for service quality while RBS languishes on 46%. Propping up the table is Tesco at 44%. The exact same Tesco that was a decade ago the model of customer service we all wanted to emulate. Life moves on.

Take a look at that Monzo app if you haven’t already. It’s a wonder of the modern age. You buy something – ping it tells you money’s gone out of your account. If you get towards your budget for lunch – ping ping ping ping. Essentially, every pound is a prisoner. That’s why the 96 layers of puff pastry on the Greggs vegan steak bake stays firmly on the shelf. Monzo is all about helping folk on low wages to get by and not be victims of fraud. They are in tune with the times.

Which brings us to the real point of league tables. When they work well they give new players a chance to shine. And that’s a million miles away from where we are in housing. Frankly, it’s a bit of a closed shop that pays lip service to disruption. But there’s a reason for that. In the banking world, Metro delights customers but enrages regulators. It hasn’t always stuck to the rules about keeping strong financially. Which is, at the end of the day, the one and only point of a bank. In our world the regulator has taken a dim view of some new lease-based providers they see as too risky. So, you do need a balanced view. But the lack of any significant new entrants to housing beggars belief. The Cummingsites must ask a few questions about that, surely.

I know that many landlords have done really well during the lockdown. You’ve found a way to get closer to residents and keep the rents flowing. Maybe there’s nothing to fear from competition – or worse, perhaps any attempt to bring in new players will come crashing down. It’s not been a success on the railways, has it? Meanwhile, shrewd investors ignore all the banks in the league table anyway to put their money in National Savings and Premium Bonds. It’s safer.

Which way will the White Paper go? Can you boost consumer standards without having any consumer choice whatsoever? Is it better to reform or disrupt housing? Do we need new players? Will the White Paper get to grips with these questions, or duck them yet again?