Thursday, 27 January 2011

A Top 10 of 2010

It may seem a bit far into 2011 to get all misty-eyed about 2010, but in my defence this is my first blog post and as it's not quite the Chinese New Year yet as far as I'm concerned this is my first real chance to review what was a landmark year for us.

In fact, to save myself writing a short novel rather than a blog post I've had to fallback on that internet standard: the top 10 list. As a result I'm sure I'll miss several things, so feel free to get in touch and either leave a comment below or tweet me.

1 - Times Best 100 Companies

One of the first things that springs to mind was that in February we were named as one of the Times Best 100 Companies just beating Holiday Extras into 66th spot but pipped for 65th by Star Refrigeration. Some days I'm still not entirely sure what my job is but one thing I do know is that part of my role is to attract the most talented people available to the organisation and then leave them to get on with their job, I'm sure that the Times Best 100 will help us do that.

2 - Trafford Business of the Year
I'm still a little astounded that in September we were named the Trafford Business of the Year. It was a surreal feeling to have it presented to us in front of chairman of the 1922 Tory Backbenchers, with the leader of the council, councillors, private sector businesses all looking on: it was a good night. I really wasn't expecting a Third Sector social enterprise like ours to be recognised in this way - maybe at last there is recognition of the economic as well as the social outcomes we deliver.

3 - Breakfast
Nutritionists have been saying for generations that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, but these breakfasts involved no food - much to the chagrin of many of the attendees - and to complicate things further they occurred at different times of the day. There's so much to say about these meetings with staff members; they really helped me build up a picture of the health of the entire organisation and I'll blog more about these later. Suffice to say here they were a personal highlight of my year.

4 - Cuts in Public Expenditure
Before I give the impression that 2010 was a cakewalk, it's worth noting that it was a tumultuous year in the public services; with the low points undoubtedly being the cuts in public expenditure and the cuts in the capital programme for new housing. How these cuts will manifest themselves in social housing and in wider society is yet to be seen, but it's apparent that their impact will be felt across 2011 and well beyond.

5 - Lostock Housing Opens
Another professional and personal highlight was completing our first new build schemes at Lostock and there's a continuing sense of pride here in seeing how good they look 12 months after they were finished. From my point of view it's not about having 10,200 homes rather than 9,200 homes. What interests and excites me is the difference that you can make to people's lives. I'd love to be able to build 1000 per year: we're a way off that, but are committed to more new development in 2011.

6 & 7 - Rent Collection & Voids
Within Trafford Housing Trust special mention should also be made to rent collection and void performance [PDF]. As an organisation these have been two problem areas for us that have been turned around on a sustainable long-term basis and it's gratifying to see statistics that prove this. It's our people who've done that for us and here's hoping that 2011 will see more progress and success for them.

8 - Threat To Supporting People
The other low point as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review is one potentially perverse outcome from Local Authorities having freedom to spend its grants as it sees fit. There are significant cuts in the Supporting People programme - 11% nationally - but in some local authorities it's working out as anything up to 65% cuts in services and that exposes the most vulnerable to more vulnerability - something which social housing organisations must be aware of.

9 - Moving Offices
I'd be lying if I said it was all plain-sailing for us as an organisation either. The work and effort required to relocate an entire business to new offices at Sale Point may have been a huge success in that they have enabled us to have nearly all the organisation under one roof, enabled us to improve the business as a point of contact for customers and saved £126,000 every year for the next five years, but not having any IT or telephony for three days after we moved in was not an ideal way to begin a fresh start!

10 - The End Of The Beginning
Staff  celebrating 5 Years of THT
We began 5 years ago to deliver promises made to tenants about how their homes and the services they received would be improved. So my last point is that 2010 saw our internal auditors sign off that our transfer goals have been achieved. Their conclusion was that where possible all of our targets had been met. I'm thrilled that's the case and even though I think there's lots that we do very well, I know we're just scratching the surface of what we can, and want, to achieve.

The key for 2011 is how we move that on now and I'll tell you what we're looking to do in the next post.