Opinion: What did we find from a year-long review into council housing management? | News

Opinion: What did we find from a year-long review into council housing management?

By Jacqui McKinlay, Chief Executive, Centre for Governance and Scrutiny

Since its launch as a social purpose consultancy in 2003, the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny has gathered a wealth of evidence and experience which shows how important it is to create a governance culture grounded in clear accountability, transparency and involvement.

These principles go to the heart of the Government’s intent to change the regulatory framework for social housing on both building safety and consumer regulation within the next few years, as part of its long-term response to the Grenfell tragedy.

So the findings from a year-long review of council housing management could not be timelier.

This new report reflects the excellent preparation already underway for the new regulatory regime – underlining the vital ingredients of good governance, good assurance and good communication –among local authorities who administer their stock through an ALMO, an arms-length management organisation. And its findings rightly maintain the crucial focus on excellent outcomes for tenants and services.

In the last 18 years, my organisation has supported hundreds of organisations and people – councils, health bodies, government agencies and even regulators – achieve their goals by focusing on not only design and delivery, but also on behaviours and culture.

We have all learned that while compliance, structure and processes obviously matter, what really makes a difference is making sure all the ingredients of a positive governance culture have been carefully assembled at the outset: clarity of purpose, clear roles and responsibilities, respectful and trusted relationships, good communication and an openness to challenge.

This is exactly the approach championed by the NFA-CWAG guide and toolkit to help councils and their ALMOs review their relationship frameworks and check that it is still fit for purpose. Because these culture shifts do not happen by magic.

They demands strong commitment from leadership teams to continuous improvement. From everyone, it demands a collective ownership of governance.

A resilient governance framework is the sure foundation upon which any organisation or partnership should base its ability to adapt and respond to challenge and change .

The approach of this report reflects all of this, because it draws on a huge amount of input and feedback from many organisations and individuals.

As a result, its intended audience goes far beyond one or two people in senior roles and I would encourage everyone at all levels in ALMOs and councils to read and make use of it.

The message from government and the regulators is that the sector should not wait for change to come before acting. I urge all councils and their ALMOs to begin proactive reviews of where they are now, and to involve tenants and all their diverse voices and experiences in that process. 

Post-COVID and in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a partnership between landlords and tenants that is truly equal. This guide offers all the practical advice your organisation needs to make this goal a reality.