Friday, 4 February 2011

Things To Do In 2011

Just because you’re a CEO it doesn’t mean that you escape the yearly employment rituals of assessments and objective setting. If anything, when you’re a CEO you’re subjected to more checks and balances than other employees and that’s probably not a bad thing – after all, the original point of objectives is to provide some structure to the year and set targets.

Late in December the board identified the five things that they’d like to see happen. Rather than keeping these secret I thought I’d share my To Do list with you – after all, there’s a chance that you will have a part in helping these to happen, so it makes sense that you’d at least know about them!

1 – Identify The Things That Really Matter To Our Tenants
This is particularly important when the allocation of resources has to be carefully managed. We need to know exactly what our tenants want and do our best to deliver those things. One thing that the board added to this point, which I thought was interesting, is we should think through what we expect in return from our tenants, and that doesn’t just mean that they pay their rent. It might be that you’ve got your own ideas about what (and if) a tenant should be asked to do and please feel to add a comment below this post or tweet me.

2 – Protect Our Income Stream
I mentioned in my last blog about how the cuts to public services would affect our work and to give you an idea of how much it’s changing our world and our customers’ worlds, there have been over fifty benefit changes already and there are more on the way.

That raises a risk to our income stream between half a million and two and a half million depending on how you calculate it. So from doing everything we can do to encourage people to pay rent (for example we now have a voucher that a family member or friend can buy to help someone struggling with paying their rent), through to looking at how we can support people getting into jobs - those are the two ends of a spectrum that is now a crucial focus for us.

3 – To Investigate The New Development World
This world sees new affordable housing development - something Trafford and indeed the whole country desperately needs - being funded much less by capital grants from Government and much more by the future tenants themselves through higher rents much closer to the levels charged by private landlords.

How will new development work in 2011?
We quickly need to get to grips with this new reality and make sure that, if we do develop new homes on this basis, we are doing so without making rents unaffordable for the future tenants. This is a difficult balancing act and we will need to consider the options very carefully. We are not alone, Housing Associations up and down the country are grappling with the dilemmas that this new Government policy creates. Again I'll blog more about new development in future posts.

4 – The Big Society
The Big Society is something that I’m unfashionably optimistic about and there’ll be more on that next week. The Big Society is something that I’m involved with both through Trafford Housing Trust and personally – and I’m really excited about the possibilities that it has. In the simplest sense if you remove power from people, you create dependency; people then want a “hand out”. But if you give power away and create independence, then what people will want is a “hand up”.

5 – Develop Our Care And Support
This is another huge opportunity to develop the way we support and help our customers. In Trafford we have around 3,000 residents who receive some kind of support and the funding for that support has been cut by between 50 and 70%, so there is a real dilemma – do you cut your service - which is most people’s instinctive reaction. We are interested in taking a different approach; we want to throw ourselves right into building a strong and robust care and support business.

So we are planning how to take our support work and back it into a much broader range of care. We know we will need to invest in that business in the short term for the next three or four years but are looking at how it can become self-financing, meeting the needs not just of our present customers but also of others who are prepared to pay for a trusted and reliable service. This could have a big implication for pricing and before we take any steps we need to know we can get to the critical mass of customers to make the services affordable – and, you never know, that may be through acquiring an existing care business.

So there you have it – a short list of five things to do, which will ensure we are all kept busy. Generally speaking I’m not seeing very much positive on a wider social level until 2013, I think the impact of cuts will make the next 18 months difficult, so it’s important that we stay true to our vision of creating neighbourhoods where people choose to live and maintain our energy, so that as the economy starts to recover we find ourselves in an even stronger position to help our communities.


  1. Dear Mr Gardiner, I just wanted to say how impressive your Blog is, I have only just started to incorporate Twitter into a new way of keeping my customers up to date, and I will be taking notes from yours, if I can reach half the look of this Blog then I will be pleased.


    Simon Drewett/ Electrolux Group

  2. Thanks Simon. Good luck with yours and hope you come back here from time to time to see how the housing world is developing.