Chairs Blog Number 7

Board Recruitment

We are currently recruiting for new Board members and have several vacancies – we are accepting applications until the 4th of July.  We particularly encourage applications from women, young people, disabled and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates as these groups are currently under-represented on our board.  Follow the link below for more information.

MTHA Board Members Recruitment Social Media Advert

Welsh Government Regulatory Judgement 2019

The Welsh Government Regulatory Judgement Report is based on an assessment of how we are performing and if we are meeting the required Performance Standards. The judgement is based on two areas: Governance and Service Delivery, and Financial Viability. I am delighted to confirm that we achieved the rating of Standard in both areas, which is the highest rating that can be given. This judgement report gives additional assurance and confidence to our tenants and stakeholders that MTHA is delivering good services and performing well.

This was further backed up by the annual tenant satisfaction survey for 2018, showing that MTHA tenants had an overall satisfaction level of 91% with the services MTHA provides, with 15% of tenants taking part in the survey.

Finances

At the end of the financial year the board received a positive update on the finances for the year with full details to be announced in due course.  The Board were happy with the information they received and were pleased with a good financial year end operating position.

Audit & Risk Committee & Remuneration Committee

Following a Governance review, our Business Assessment Panel has been renamed as Audit & Risk Committee and the role of the committee has been reviewed and strengthened. In addition, we have now set-up a Remuneration Committee that will look at areas such our remuneration policy and staff reward and benefits package. The Audit & Risk Committee will meet 4 times per year and the Remuneration Committee meeting twice.  The purpose of the committees is to give further assurances to MTHA stakeholders and tenants they there are appropriate controls in place within the organisation.

Long Service Award

Deborah Perszon was thanked and celebrated by the Board and colleagues for her outstanding contribution to the association which has recently seen her reach 40 years of service with the association. Well done Debbie and thank you for all your hard work and dedication!

Diversification Group

We are always looking to innovate and come up with new ideas to help local people and the economy.  We have a Diversification Group who have undertaken a full analysis of undertaking a holiday let project to boost tourism, however this project unfortunately did not pass our stringent financial viability assessment due to some risks and uncertainties and so will not be progressing.  The group will now move on to other areas and I look forward to helping in assessing their next project.

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Chair Blog no.6 MTHA Governance review results 2019

In June 2018 MTHA received its co-regulatory judgement from Welsh Government and received the following status:

  1. Standard for Governance and Services – identifying and managing new and emerging risks effectively
  2. Standard for Financial Viability – meeting viability requirements and has the financial capacity to deal with scenarios effectively.

Despite the term standard not giving an overly impressive achievement this is the best that can be achieved by any Housing Association and as you can imagine was a major success for MTHA and all involved.

The Board and senior management team, not the type to rest on any laurels or stop trying to improve, took the decision to commission Altair to undertake a comprehensive Governance review after the judgement was published. The Governance review  was a positive experience and gave a number of areas for Board to consider going forward , confirmed some thoughts and previous discussions that had taken place, and provided the assurance that as a team MTHA is heading in the right direction with tenants and the local community always being at the forefront of aspirations.

The headlines include:

  1. General Observations – it was felt that MTHA has good governance, clear frameworks, appropriate policies and procedures and demonstrates the right behaviors and culture to allow it to continually improve.
  2. Board membership – MTHA currently have eight board members and it is evident that the imposed 9-year rule (maximum time an individual can remain on the Board) has had a detrimental impact on the diversity and experience of the Board. There is currently only one serving female board member and recruiting the right board members going forward is crucial in respect of re balancing the diversity and the skills gap identified in the review.
  3. Code of Governance – it was felt that MTHA already demonstrates a good level of compliance with the new Code and more importantly a framework and approach that seeks to continually improve.
  4. Board appraisal and individual board member assessment – as Chair I undertook individual appraisals of all members and from this along with an initial review the following was identified:
  • The need to create more time for strategic thinking
  • Utilise fully the existing skills and expertise among board members
  • Skills gap – particularly in respect of development and strategic asset management

All recommendations will be discussed at the Board away day in February and from this an action plan will be drawn out to move MTHA forward. Early priorities involve the adoption of the new Code and Board recruitment.

Chair Blog No.5

Welcome to the latest Chair’s blog and the first of 2019 providing the recent achievements from MTHA from a business and Board perspective.

Headlines from the last Board meeting at the end of January include:

  1. The management accounts showed that as a business MTHA is performing well and ahead of target.
  2. The rent setting policy was reviewed as Welsh Government had set the maximum that rent could be increased by a housing association in Wales for 2019/20 at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) level of 2.4%. In recent years housing associations were able to uplift upto an additional 1.5% so Board considered the impact that this would have on future income and how much is available to spend on the services we provide and the new homes that we can provide for the local communities of Merthyr Tydfil.
  3. All the homes in Taff and Crescent Street as well as Rechabite Hall owned by MTHA are now empty ready to be transferred and then demolished by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council (MTCBC).
  4. The Board and staff teams at MTHA are keen to learn from previous work, such as developing new homes  – what works, what doesn’t, what did the tenants like or dislike whether it be about the home or the process in which they went through to finally being in their new home. One of these feedback sessions came from our external project manager on a development scheme who talked us through the reasons for the delay in a recent new build scheme. Interesting for Board was that despite all the checks that you are able to do on a contractor or the consultants involved in the development there are always risks and each development even with the same team involved can be very different. A future discussion for Board and the senior team will be about what further checks can be done if possible or reasonable to minimise risks in delay going forward. Any delay in a development can mean less income in rent and the cost of the development being more than what was budgeted, as well as delays for tenants moving into their new homes.

Chair Blog No. 4

Board Meeting 25 September 2018

Annual Welsh Language Monitoring

The Welsh Government has published draft standards and the Welsh Commissioner requested that all housing associations complete a questionnaire to gauge how the standards are being met. For MTHA it was an opportunity to see if we as an organisation meet the standards or not and we will make this known when we receive our compliance notice.

As we wait for a response we will continue to implement the Welsh Language Scheme which will hopefully put us in a strong position to meet the draft standards. The Welsh Language Act 1993 gives the Welsh and English language equal status in public life in Wales, placing a duty on MTHA to treat both languages equally in the services that we provide.

Chair blog 4.1

Health & Safety

Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy there has been a general fresh focus and ongoing review to health and safety, compliance and the standard of components such as external cladding and fire doors across Wales and Britain. The UK Government has provided advice for and is encouraging landlords to evaluate the performance of fire doors already within their properties. Community Housing Cymru (CHC), the trade body for housing associations in Wales, has fed back the views and concerns of Welsh housing associations to Welsh Government.

The safety of our tenants for MTHA staff and Board is always a high priority. A list has been published highlighting fire door types that are currently not meeting the standards that they were intended. It is pleasing to be able to inform you that none of the doors within our properties are on that list.

New Developments

An update on our developments includes the following schemes;

Adulam Court

This is a new development of 9 flats near the town centre, on the site of the old Adulam Chapel. These flats will be available late Autumn 2018.

Chair blog 4.2

Mount View Bungalows

This  development of 4 bungalows is in  Merthyr Vale and includes two adapted bungalows. These will be available at the end of October 2018.

Chair blog 4.3

Colliery Site

We are delighted to be working with Lovell Homes on the Colliery site in Merthyr Vale where 153 homes will be built. We will have 43 homes on the site which will be available for affordable rent. Groundworks have already started.

Chair blog 4.4

Governance review

In a previous blog I mentioned how proud I was when in July this year that MTHA’s regulatory judgement was published by Welsh Government and we received the highest judgement that can be achieved in both Governance & Services and Financial Viability. Unfortunately,  there have been some board members that have stood down either  due to the 9 year rule (where Board members can’t remain on the Board for more than 9 years) or for personal reasons as other commitments have had to take a priority such as family or employed work.

In 2018 a new Code of Governance was launched by Community Housing Cymru (CHC) for housing associations in Wales and has seven principles for good governance or how the housing association as a business should be run:

  1. Organisational Purpose – The board is clear about the organisation’s aims and ensures that these are being delivered effectively and sustainably.
  2. Leadership – Every organisation is led by an effective board that provides strategic leadership in line with the organisation’s aims and values.
  3. Integrity – The board acts with integrity, adopting values and creating a culture which helps achieve the organisation’s purposes. The board is aware of the importance of the public’s confidence and trust, and board members undertake their duties accordingly.
  4. Decision-making, Risk & Control – The board makes sure that its decision-making processes are informed, rigorous and timely and that effective delegation, control and risk assessment and management systems are set up and monitored.
  5. Board Effectiveness – The board works as an effective team, using the appropriate balance of skills, experience, backgrounds and knowledge to make informed decisions.
  6. Diversity – The board’s approach to diversity supports its effectiveness, leadership and decision-making.
  7. Openness & Accountability – The board leads the organisation in being transparent and accountable. The organisation is open in its work, unless there is good reason for it not to be.

Despite our good regulatory assessment and having principles based of the new code of governance we are going to be undertaking a governance review which will look at everything from the staff and board relationship, quality of information provided to Board to gain assurance that systems and processes are working effectively, that the Board truly represents the community that MTHA operate and have the mix of skills and experience.

We have appointed Altair, a specialist housing consultancy, to undertake an independent governance review and to provide challenge and support to the Board.

Out and about

Railway Close Opening

Attended by local residents, dignitaries and wider community the official opening of Railway close took place in May where the Mayor unveiled a commemorative stone and plaque. I attended this opening and loved the feedback I received from all involved not just from MTCBC but in conversation with the tenants who had new homes and  hearing about the construction of the development and some difficulties faced but overcome to provide stunning and much needed houses and flats.

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Dowlais Stables

I was also lucky enough to attend the unveiling of a history board at Dowlais Stables. The event saw Board member Huw Williams regale the group with his own memories of the Stables and give further details of the history of the site. One anecdote Huw did relay to us was that of the mythical time capsule which is said to have been placed at the stables, which was fitting because as part of the event the MTHA youth group buried a time capsule themselves. The history board was formally opened by some of those who live on the scheme alongside the Mayor and Huw Williams.

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Chair Blog No 3.

Welcome to the 3rd Chairs Blog.  We start off this edition with some good news, our community development team were recently awarded third place in the Cwm Taf Health Board Crystal Trophy awards.  The award was for our family engagement project working with adults and children to assist them to get more active as a family by using free activities as well as eating healthier using our slow cooker project.  The award came with a financial award which will enable the team to run another project in the autumn so keep an eye out on social media and the website for start dates for the project.

  • On the 30th of May we held the official opening of our latest development at Railway Close in Aberfan. You may recall last month I discussed the issues that the tenants living in Taff and Crescent Street had been facing for many years and this new development of 23 homes was to re-house those tenants moving out of Taff and Crescent Street.  It was lovely to meet so many of the tenants and hear stories of how long many had lived in their previous homes and how they were finding it living in their new homes.  The development was officially opened by the mayor Clive Tovey and after a few ceremonial photos many of the congregation re-gathered at Trinity chapel for refreshments.

 

  • The former colliery site in Aberfan will soon start its journey into 110 high quality homes to appeal to buyers at all stages of the property ladder as well as 43 affordable homes available through Merthyr Tydfil Housing Association taking the combined total to 153 new homes. These properties will replace the properties which are now vacant in Taff and Crescent Street.  The properties will come to Merthyr Housing in a phased handover and the properties will be advertised via the local housing allocations policy through the living Merthyr website.  The first properties due to come to Merthyr Housing will be in 2019 so keep an eye out for further updates on MTHA’s website and social media sites.   https://www.livingmerthyrtydfil.org.uk/

merthyr vale

  • This month Board paid particular attention and focussed questions on Fire Risk Assessments and the issues that had affected these. Board were satisfied with the explanations given and asked that their thanks be passed to the team for all their hard work in improving the number of asbestos surveys undertaken.

I hope you found this of interest and I hope to meet some of you soon as I attend different events going forward.

Ian

Chairs Blog – No 2 – Board meeting 24 April 2018

Welcome to the second Chair’s Blog. The housing world is full of its’ own jargon and language which I have tried to reduce and translate in to how we would normally talk to each other in the real world but any feedback and comments are most welcome. It is worth mentioning at this point that a purpose of this Blog is for MTHA to be open and accountable, so a way of letting you know what decisions were made by the Board and why and hopefully will give people comfort that decisions are always made in the best interest of the tenants, the business and the communities of Merthyr but that also Board members aren’t scary people but people with a real commitment to helping MTHA which we volunteer to do.

  • MTHA Finances – The quarterly management accounts give Board assurance that the business is being run well and to the budgets set at the start of the financial year. For the financial year 2017/18 our surplus was more than budgeted for which is a good thing. The main reason for this was that there were less void or empty properties than expected so more income from rent was received as people were living in the homes paying rent. Another saving was less money was spent on empty properties and also on day to day repairs. This saving does not mean that MTHA didn’t do all the repair work required just that what was required turned out to be not as much as what was predicted.

The surplus in the finances was a good end of year performance that showed that the business was run and managed well by the staff, so a big thank you from the Board to all the staff for this performance. A benefit of performing well financially is that MTHA remains in a strong position to borrow more money to help regeneration and provide new homes for the people of Merthyr.

  • Current developments to provide new homes

Taff & Crescent Streets – Taff and Crescent streets in Merthyr Vale have for many years suffered from flooding and so all of the tenants MTHA have in this area are being moved to new homes.

There aren’t many tenants left now but MTHA have worked closely with other housing associations and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council (MTCBC) and are also in the process of buying some new properties so it won’t be long before new homes are provided for all those affected.

Silvia Shoer, Karen Courts and Nick Jenkins

Adulam Court – we are developing 9 new homes on the site of the former Adulam Chapel on Lower Thomas Street. Unfortunately there have been some building delays, which can happen with developments, but these new homes should be ready at the end of May.

Chairs blog 2

Mount View in Merthyr Vale– this site will create 4 new homes (2 adapted bungalows and 2 general needs bungalows) which are due to complete and be ready in Autumn 2018.

Chairs blog 3

  • Purchase of a property in Glanmor Gardens, Dowlais. This property was originally built and owned by MTHA, but was then purchased by the tenant under the ‘rent first scheme’. This is a scheme where you could rent the property first with the intention of purchasing the property but where MTHA can also keep a stake in the property. The owner now wishes to sell the property and MTHA has an option to buy back the property and re-let back as affordable housing under a similar scheme. Board approved the buy-back of the property to re-use for affordable housing.
  • MTHA Performance – every month the Board are presented with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for different areas of the business which give confidence that the business is being well run and that Welsh Government regulatory and legal requirements are being met.

This month Board paid particular attention and focussed questions on the gas safety annual checks as well as the asbestos management. Board received assurance that as an organisation we are meeting all legal requirements in respect of gas and asbestos. There was however one gas safety inspection that was out of date, but this was due to the tenant not allowing access to the property for an engineer to undertake the inspection. In these instances MTHA consider legal action which can be a lengthy process but the safety of the tenant whether they want us to enter the property or not is our priority. The Board were left feeling very assured after the discussion and agreed some changes to the reporting format to Board.

  • Recently the Board had to say farewell to two members as they had to stand down because they can only serve a maximum of 9 years. As such Alun Batley who was the former Chair and Anne Roberts both stood down. They have both made a massive contribution to MTHA and dedicated a lot of time and effort, bringing skills and knowledge and as such will be greatly missed.

  • Community Housing Cymru (CHC) who represent all Welsh Housing Associations recently launched a new Code of Governance which is based on seven principles. The Code of Governance, put simply, is a tool to support housing associations to improve their services and how they are run and is based on the basic legal and regulatory responsibilities. If you would like to know more about the code follow the link below.

https://chcymru.org.uk/uploads/general/Code_of_Governance_–_ENG1_080318.pdf

I hope you found this of interest and I hope to meet some of you soon as I attend different events going forward.

Date and location of events that I will be at to meet for chat are the Official Opening of Railway Close at 3pm on Wednesday 30 May 2018 and the unveiling of history board at Dowlais Stables at 6pm on Tuesday 6 June 2018.

Ian

 

 

MTHA’s Chair blog

Welcome to the first Chair’s Blog which I hope going forward will be of interest and useful for both the tenants of MTHA and anybody involved in the communities within the borough. The purpose of the Chair’s Blog is to provide updates from Board meetings including what has been discussed and why the decisions made by Board are made. The decisions that the Board makes are always what we believe to be in the best interest of the tenants, the local communities that MTHA is involved in, the staff of MTHA and MTHA as a business.

My journey with MTHA began in 2004 when I originally joined the Board until I left in January 2013. I re-joined the Board in 2015 and succeeded as Chair in September 2017. I love being involved with MTHA as over the years I have seen directly how the hard work of the staff and in partnership with the local council and other agencies has made a real difference to the people of Merthyr and the tenants of MTHA whether it has been through regeneration such as the Old Town Hall or Redhouse as it is now known or in improving the lives of individuals and those living in the local communities via the services and projects provided.

If you wish to find out more about myself and my fellow Board members our profiles can be found on the MTHA website. I also have a twitter account if you wish to follow. I should make it clear that the day to day running of MTHA is the responsibility of the Chief Executive, Karen Courts, who is supported by a senior management team and officers providing the services and key functions of the business. The role of the Board which is voluntary is to set the strategic direction of the Association and agree major decisions, the Board is ultimately responsible for the performance of the organisation setting the objectives and agreeing the business plan for the future such as the number of new homes that we can provide and taking in to account any risks.

The Board of MTHA are fully committed to the tenants and communities being at the heart of the services provided and ensuring that they are the services wanted and provided in a way that that is most beneficial. This is partly one of the reasons for the introduction of the Chair’s Blog and Chair’s surgeries due to be launched soon as I and the Board would really like to meet those connected with MTHA in their own communities or where they live. The surgeries I hope will provide an opportunity to hear the stories about how the work of the organisation has helped people or if there is anything further we could do that would benefit the tenants and communities of Merthyr. I should note that it isn’t about replacing consultations and services currently provided by the staff on a day to day basis but an opportunity for the Board to get a better understanding of what the needs and aspirations of the tenants and communities are which can then only help improve our decision making at a strategic level.