Thursday, January 18, 2007

Communities England - housing associations and the transition

So the Department for Communities and Local Government has announced that Communities England is to take over the role of the Housing Corporation (the funder of affordable housing and regulator of housing associations) and English Partnerships (the national regeneration agency) plus some responsibilities of DCLG for Decent Homes, Housing Growth, housing PFI, Housing Market Renewal and urban regeneration.

This is not unexpected - it was so well trailed and obvious that it was in my predictions for 2007 last week.

I don't have strong views for or against the creation of this super agency with a budget (Comprehensive Spending Review willing) of £4billion. I do note that housing professionals welcome the new agency.

The devil will of course be in the detail. It looks like we will have to wait for the Cave report before we can see what kind of regulatory future English Communities heralds.

My concern is with the transition. Housing Corporation Chairman Peter Dixon promises: “In this interim period we will keep our foot firmly on the pedal in driving the delivery of the affordable housing investment programme and maintaining effective regulation of the housing association sector.” Lets hope so.

I can remember the problems experienced by further education colleges when the Further Education Funding Council and the forty plus Training & Enterprise Council's were brought together in 2001 with micro-management thrown in too. (Now that the Learning & Skills Council has climbed up a steep learning curve, it is being regionalised – what should have been the approach six years ago.) Lets hope housing associations don’t go through that.


Anonymous said...

At least we may achieve some efficiences through an amalgamation of these bodies which will benefit the public purse. However, as with any change, let's hope the parties involved consider the new structure and implementation thoroughly to ensure the mistakes of the past aren't repeated.

Bob Deed said...

Maybe there will be savings for the public purse. I must confess that I tend to be a merger-sceptic.

The FEFC merger with the Training and Enterprise Councils led to four reorganisations in six years. According to Personnel Today, redundancy costs at the Learning and Skills Council have reached £54.4m while “wind-down costs” amounted to £61.9m.

Griff Parry, Liverpool said...

I agree that the devil will be in the detail and from previous form, I am highly sceptical of any plan that gives the social housing sector more power or money due to their immense propensity towards waste and abuse.

I am though seriously confused about where housing association regulation will lie in light of this announcement and the current supposed review of regulation. Clearly the Housing Corporation's existing role as funder and therefore project partner has severely fettered its ability to act as an impartial regulator towards its partner RSLs. This has had very damaging consequences for our towns and cities and communities as well as value for public money - Please dont tell me that this new body is also to have a dual role as funder and regulator too.

Anonymous said...

My wife worked at the LSC and left to become a full tin house wife. She regretted that as the pay outs there have been incredible. As you stated Bob, wave after wave of restructuring. I bumbed into two of her past colleagues there who were glorifed paper pushers, probaly managing another restructure. They had got a three digit sum pay out and had just got back after traveling the world for 9 months. Nice work if you can get it! No wonder us tax payers are being screwed for every penny!

Bob Deed said...

In response to Griff's comment about the (possible) regulatory role of Communities England - I understand that is undecided as yet (quite rightly until the Cave review of regulation reports). Inside Housing's editorial this week notes: "It is by no means certain that Communities England will retain a regulatory role".

I am hoping that the restructures (and associated costs) at the LSC described by Anonymous will soon come to an end.