Moving onto board and governance, I chair a group board and can certainly see the benefits of online meetings. Attendance has improved and meetings are very focused. We may continue with committees meeting online for the indefinite future, but I am not yet ready to see full board meetings permanently online and away-days must get back to face-to-face as soon as possible, as they are as much about networking and bonding, as blue-sky thinking.
Also, don’t forget performance and quality. At the outset, regulators were sympathetic to landlords’ challenges with lockdown, but as we return to In-depth Assessments and proper regulatory interventions, have you taken your eye off the ball on compliance, Value for Money and key performance indicators such tenant satisfaction? If so, think again, because we have a reinvigorated Housing Ombudsman and a new Building Safety Regulator on the way!
Finally – and, in my view, most importantly – what impact have recent changes had on service users? I am concerned that some organisations will make changes without listening to their residents.
Not all scrutiny panels are fully back up and running, and when did you last do a tenant satisfaction survey? The NHS has dashed to implement Skype consultations, which are fine for many patients, but they cannot replace the need for a physical examination in some cases. Similarly, you can do some arrears interviews online, but a lot of work involving anti-social behaviour and domestic violence will require home visits or face-to-face meetings.
All change is good – provided it’s implemented after full discussion and consultation with residents, staff and boards.
We have had huge and rapid change, and I think a decent period of time is needed for us to monitor, reflect and consult with all stakeholders before we make any irreversible changes.
Eamon McGoldrick, managing director, National Federation of ALMOs