January 2020 - Resident Forum minutes

Resident Forum minutes: Wednesday 22 January 2020

1. Welcome, introductions and apologies

SG welcomed everyone to the meeting.

Apologies were recorded. 

2. Declarations of Interest

There were no declarations of interest.

3. Review of Minutes of meeting held on 20th November 2019

The November minutes were agreed as a true record.

Matters Arising: LK asked to be removed as a guest from the documentation.

4. Resident Forum Work Programme update

The question of who does the fencing was asked in the November meeting (JW) advised that fencing is done by in house operatives; this is split between the planned team who do the larger fencing work and the responsive team who do the quicker jobs. The only time we would use external contractors is when we need major work done.

Action from November meeting – to ensure people are ringing the right number when reporting an emergency.

Update  (JW) advised there isn’t a specific number to report an emergency on except during out of hours which it is then 0800 5428904 (the Repairs Line).

During the day both phone lines deliver the calls on the same priority. So far this year 30% of calls to the Corporate Line (01296 732600) have been repair related and 19% of calls to the Repair Line have not been repair related.

5. Resident Forum Recommendation List update

SG explained that anything suggested under item 11 would be added to a list and would be taken as a suggestion topic for upcoming meetings.

6. Rent Setting Briefing

SG introduced Penny Foulds (PF), Head of Finance.

PF advised that each year the board consider what should be done with the rents starting from April.

The rent policy which is approved by the board this sets the framework for how the rent charges will be changed. For the last 4 years due to government policy the rent has gone down by 1%. (PF) explained that this year the rent is likely to increase.

PF explained that there are 3 different types of rent, social rent, affordable rent and shared ownerships rents.

Many general needs and all independent living scheme rents are based on social rents. Social rent is calculated by a formula and will move by a percentage and the maximum we can increase it by is CPI +1%. The maximum we can increase it this year is 2.7%. (PF) gave an example of an average social rent at £99.82 a week, would increase to £102.52 a week.

Affordable rent is generally higher to start with (PF) gave and example of a 2 bed £147.98 a week and if it increases by 2.7% it will increase to £151.96. We do cap the rent at the local housing allowance (each area that you live in has different rates and that’s to make sure the rent falls within the housing benefits limits). (PF) explained that the rent policy prevents us from charging more than the local housing allowance.

(SE) asked what the housing allowance maximum that can be charged is.

(PF) advised the local housing allowance maximum is different for different areas. (PF) Advised she didn’t have the different area limits with her but she can get information sent through to (SE) and (RS)

(LK) asked how the number of weeks affects his rent as he was told there would be a rent decrease although this hasn’t affected him. (PF) explained that it will decrease the weekly charge but may not change the monthly charge due to the number of weeks In the month. (LK) wanted to know if on a 53 week year there could be an extra explanation as to how this will effect rent payment. (PF) confirmed this will be given in the occasion that it’s a 53 week year.

(PM) asked where the local housing allowance figures are from. (PF) explained they’re on the website.

(PM) wanted to know if its government set. (PF) advised she wasn’t sure but would she find out and let Kate know to share with the group.

(LK) asked if independent living scheme are classed as social rent. (PF) Confirmed.

7. Budget Setting Briefing

(PF) Advised that each year a budget is set, the process is started in September and the budget will operate from April to March. The process is started 6 months before the budget becomes live.

The process is started by talking to the budget holders and setting the framework.

Every quarter there is a forecast for how much money will be spent for the rest of the year and the following year.

The September forecast is used as the start of the budget process.

This is then given back to the budget holders who confirm that all the information is correct. This is then taken away and we look at it and calculate how this will affect things such as the value for money metrics which are in our accounts. We look at our income and this tends to stay fairly consistent as this is linked to rents. Expenditure is harder to forecast as we cannot predict all of the repairs and how many void properties we will have. If we have a lot of people move from void properties this can lead us to spending more money.

(PM) Asked if there were any cost centres that have gone over budget by a drastic percentage. (PF) advised that the majority of over spends come from large scale void properties where the properties have been severely damaged.

(SE) asked what happens to those people who leave a property in a bad way, (PF) advised that we do chase those people but generally we do not get the money back.

(RS) asked if residents can see the Trusts accounts. (PF) advised that the accounts are a public document and are on the website and also on the charities commission website and companies’ house website.

8. Chairing of Residents Forum Meetings

SG advised that this section of the meeting is about the chairing of the residents forum and the independent chairing of the forum.

(JW) Asked the group is everyone at the meeting in agreement of having the independence of the chair of the resident meetings. (RS) mentioned that some of the members feel that with an independent chair it’s not their forum and they should elect the chair. (SG) advised that the independent chair doesn’t take part in any discussion and doesn’t give any view or opinions and doesn’t get to vote. The aim of the chair is to get through the agenda, with everyone getting to have their say and that decisions are made and order is kept. (SG) advises that with residents being able to make recommendations for the agenda the forum is more resident lead.

(SE) advises that if it were a resident who was chairing the meeting you are loosing your say and that is happy how it is working at the moment.

(JW) mentioned the recommendations list means that the forum is effective and lead by the residents.

(PM)  mentioned that it would be a good idea to invite input from everyone who is on the forum to try and re-gain numbers.

(SG) Advised that a letter regarding a garage task and finish group will be sent to everyone and this will give the opportunity to ask members what they would like the group to cover. The letter will also cover other key action points.

(RS) mentioned a conversation regarding making the meeting a bi-monthly meeting and that this is now being changed to a monthly meeting again.

(SG) confirmed that this has been changed to a monthly meeting as the repairs group has now been merged with the resident forum and therefore it cannot all be covered in a bi-monthly meeting.

(NG) recommended adding dates from April to the letter being sent out so that everyone is aware of when the forum is.

(JW) Advised that were heading into a critical time in the next few months with our new strategy and its important you know where the business is going so you can be on the journey with us.

(SG) advised that we cannot make any decisions as the meeting is not quorate.

A letter to go out to clarify the role of a independent chair and that it will be reviewed after 6 months.

9. Anti – Social Behaviour Task and Finish Group Update

(SG) Advised that the interim report has been presented and is primarily about the number of staff and the size of the anti social team. The task and finish group is now looking at the anti social behaviour process.

10. Communication and Community Engagement Update


(JW) Advised the company went through a major restructure that took place in April to July last year. Historically the Trust was built with 4 separate directorates. People engagement, Finance and Resources, Housing Community Services and Property and Development.

As a business we would like to be doing more build work and develop more and therefore we have created a new directorate for development.

We set out an ambitious strategy for growth that included more housing development. We also wanted to strengthen the finances and resources directorate. Linked with the development plans we are creating new subsidiaries.

We need to have a stronger approach to treasury and governance. This has included creating more head of service roles. The head of business planning of treasury and building role was created; head of governance role was also created.

The health and safety arm moved away from the property and development team to the finance and resources team.

To support Linda foster a new role was created, the Assistant Director of Corporate and Company Secretary. Claire Taylor has joined Corporate and Company Secretary and she is focusing on how we can be more effective. We are still recruiting a Head of Governance role.

The trust operated with two separate directorates Property and Development and housing often what happened was we had teams with conflicting KPI’s, for example Voids and Lettings, their aims and objective didn’t meet. We’ve decided to interlink frontline services and created one directorate called the Operations Directorate.

Dean Gill has 2 Assistant Directors, Andrew Rysdale the Assistant Director of Property, Heledd Williams is the new Assistant Director for Housing.

We now have 3 Assistant Directorates in our structure which provide a new level of leadership.

Julie porter is our new Executive Director for Development joining us from Vivid homes. We now have strong leadership within our business to help us deliver our aspirational objectives.

(PM) asked how we are preventing the business from becoming management heavy.  (JW) Advised through the restructure having new roles in place some roles have become redundant, some of these were management roles for example Heledd replaced 2 Heads of Service. So in fact we’ve taken two leadership roles and replaced it with one. 

(JW) advised the number of employees is calculated through our budgeting principles, to ensure that any new roles are pitched for and agreed by EMT team and then it goes through the budget working group. Value for money does live a breath in the Trust.

(SE) asked why there have been so many staff changes.

(JW) advised this was due to the restructure; we want to be much more joined up as a business and to do this we need to inject more leadership into development because we want to build more houses. We have the aspiration to build 1,450 more homes in the next 5 years. To do this we needed an executive director of development to lead this.

We also need to make sure our operations team is joined up and and sometimes you can have conflicting teams who work in different ways, we want teams to work together more externally and internally. The restructure has helped with this. We need to be governed even more to become an even more efficient business. The way to do this as were building more homes and having 2 extra subsidiaries It is important the finance arm is strong and by hiring two new heads of service we have achieved this.

(SE) asked if the staff that left were given voluntary redundancy?

(JW) advised people had the option to take voluntary redundancy and it may have been that some people on their life journey actually wanted to take voluntary redundancy, the trust welcomed this. For those who were more of a compulsory redundancy stage have to go through a competitive selection process, for example if we had more people apply for a role than we had roles to do, we had to go through a competitive selection process.

The two heads of service roles were made redundant and both employee had the chance to apply for the new ad for housing role. When a role is redundant and is replaced by a new role we have a legal liability that we have to follow and we’ve got a strong restructure and redundancy policy we also have strong restructure and redundancy guidelines and also to support my team we used external experts.

We have an employee consultive committee that was briefed through every step of the process.

(JW) Explained we have 5 new Strategies due to go live in April 2020:

  1. Growth and diversification – We are looking to build and provide 1,450 new homes for those in housing need. We are driving growth from income and extra commercial activities. We are having 2 subsidiary companies to deliver new homes for sale. Working strongly with our partners in the industry and the public sector to reduce our reliance on the volume house builders programmes. All homes deigned by the trust will aim to achieve an epcb rating or higher in line with best practice to make sure we are maximising use of energy and efficiency. We are considering all methods of construction with the aim of reducing construction waste. Utilising sustainable materials as and when we can.

  2. Customers – We want to maintain our top quartile position around the main customer kpi’s and satisfaction indicators. We will use a lot more data and make sure our residents are core to decision making within the trust. We want to make sure were finding creative solutions to help residents maximise income. We want to provide high quality customer service that meets our customers’ needs. There are 4 ambitions under customer;

  • customer focus (how we communicate with our residents)

  • resident empowerment

  • investing in technology

  • maintain high levels of customer satisfaction so what is said about the trust is good.

3. Organisational strategy – How we are governed, we want to be efficient and effective, strong customer service through digital we want top quartile performance. We want to have strong leadership throughout the business and we need to engage and empower our employees.

4. Environment – We want make sure we have a cost effective, low carbon agenda when building homes to ensure we facilitate a low carbon lifestyle. All homes are a SAP rating of C or above to ensure strong environmental measures.

5. Placemaker – We want to include implementation of an estate improvement programmes. We would like to provide high quality independent living accommodation. Effective tackling on ASB, to provide desirable environments where residents want to live.

  • Improve access to financial support and training.

  • Promote employment opportunities for those in genuine hardship.

  •   Help out our most venerable residents to help them live independently and sustain their tenancies.

This now needs to go through the approval channels in the upcoming months and Kate will keep you updated on developments.


Launched a new involvement portal – impact. We currently have 80 people signed up. We have written to all involved residents asking them to sign up.

December resident news has been sent out and the next addition will be in spring 2020.

Caroline Drew is returning in the end of February from maternity leave and Devon will be leaving.

Job fair will be retuning on the 20th of March at the Aylesbury Vineyard. It was a real success last year and were expecting another successful fair.

Boogie Bounce for adults is starting in February and is open to all trust residents at a discount rate of just £2 per session. To join contact DK.

If you have any ideas of events or training you would like to see put them forward to DK.

Interviews continue looking for maternity cover for our communications officer with the support of (JW)

We brought Britannia house at the end of last year and were continuing marketing for the shared ownership properties.

Thriving communities’ fund/ springboard grants are still running to support resident with wellbeing opportunities. For more information is on the vaht website or ask (DK)

(SG) advised the disability group is coming to residents forum.

11. Garage Task and Finish Group

(SG) Advised we are looking to set up a task and finish group on garages and asking for expressions of interest to be sent to Kate. (SG) advised if we receive a lot of interest in this those who are not in the current task and finish group will be prioritised.

(SE) asked what it will involve and if there will be site visits (SG) advised it may involve site visits but things haven’t been confirmed yet.

(PM) asked that those who are unable to attend the task and finish group are updated.

12. Items for the next agenda

(SG) asked the group what they would like to discuss in the next meeting and if there is anything in particular they are interested in.

(RS) advised he’d be interested in housing developments, specifically the future and what the trust will be building.

(SE) advised she would like to hear more about what improvements and what you are allowed to make to your property. ACTION

(LK) Would like information on modernisation of older properties, planned works and how work is prioritised.

(Lk) advised of problems he is having with his patio outside his door that has become a trip hazard, the patio is not level. ACTION

(PM) Would like more information on improving parking to make the roads safer.

(SG) advised if anyone thinks of anything else to email Kate and they will be added to the plan.

13. Any Other Business

No other business.

Date of next meeting:

26th February 2020 from 5pm to 7pm

Board Room, Fairfax House