Friday, 1 April 2011

Changes To The Board

For Trafford Housing Trust 2011 has been characterised by big news events so far. There’s been the launch of new developments, breaking into the top 25 companies to work for with The Sunday Times and as we come into April we have another significant change this time to the structure of our board. Without going into too much detail the board’s role at THT is to set the strategy for the business, and then it's the management team’s responsibility to deliver it. So the board have a key role in shaping the organisation. Consequently, how the board works and who is on it is a vital consideration.

To give you an idea of the scale of this news, this is a project that I’ve personally worked on for over twelve months now and it represents what I think is a significant step in the right direction. I’ve talked before about the values of openness and honesty that sit at the heart of THT and as you might expect the changes are something that we have consulted extensively with tenants about. Around 2/3rds of tenants were for the changes and 1/3rd were against.

So what are the changes that are happening and why do I think they’re important?

The changes:

1) The board is reducing in size from 15 to 10 members and the constitution of the board is changing too. Instead of the existing make-up of five tenants, five councillors and five independent members we are moving to four independents, three councillors and three tenants.

2) The board members will be paid. Currently only our chairman is paid, but under the new arrangement the board members will also be paid - around £5,000 per year.

The reasoning behind these changes:

As it stands the board has had a higher number of councillors because of the origins of THT and the transfer promises we’ve had the responsibility to fill. As this transfer has now been completed it stands to reason that the role of the council would be reduced on the board. By no means is this to say that we are pushing the council away though! The best indication I can give of this is that one of the new board members is the current leader of Trafford Council, Matt Colledge. I’m thrilled that Matt has joined the board as I think it ensures we can maintain our history of having an excellent working relationship with the council. We also have two new tenant board members joining us John Verbickas, from Sale and Robert King from Urmston.

Another reason behind the reduction in board numbers is that tenants are increasingly giving feedback and guidance to THT through the Tenants’ Quality and Insight Panel (or QIP as it’s known). Here there are up to ten tenant members and the mission of the QIP is to look at everything from a tenants’ point of view and make sure tenants’ feelings and issues are put to the fore. I think this has been hugely influential in strengthening the tenant voice in the organisation.

On the issue of payment, it’s largely about catching up with the rest of the world. Over a third of Housing Association organisations already pay their boards. To address one obvious concern - the level of remuneration is set by an external body, so there’s no danger that the board would choose their own pay scale! Frankly, I think one of the best arguments for paying the board members is that you need to have a professional relationship. They are paid for their time, their attendance at meetings, their ambassadorial role outside The Trust and their input. Paying people means that it’s more likely people can honour those responsibilities.

Overall I feel that the new structure of the board gives us a far more flexible and streamlined management position and the best chance of driving THT forward and getting the absolute maximum for our customers. I would like to thank those members of the board who have worked so hard and are now leaving us: Beverley Winn, Mike Cordingley, Bernard Sharp and Edward Kelson. I would also like to say a special thank-you to our vice-chair Kai Hughes, I hope to see all of them again soon and thank them for their work during an exciting time of development for the organisation.

Although the majority of tenants are behind the proposals I fully understand that some people have reservations. If that affects you then please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer any questions.

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