Friday, August 15, 2008

The Housing Corporation's traffic lights set to be turned off – but what about other tick box exercises?

Everyone loves traffic lights when it comes to regulation, governance and management. So many reports are brightened up by red, amber and green. So it was with mixed feelings that I read that the new social housing regulator is likely to turn the lights off.

According to Public Finance magazine, Peter Marsh, the chief executive designate of the new regulator, believes that the traffic lights seen in Housing Corporation Assessments encourage a 'tick-box' culture without fully revealing to tenants how well their landlord is performing. There is also a belief that most associations gain green lights but do not have any further incentive to improve.

Perhaps there is too much complacency with the reality of continuous improvement not matching the rhetoric. Yet turning the lights off might not transform things.

Hopefully the new regulatory regime will see radical changes in the annual ritual involving housing association boards agreeing and submitting a self-assessment compliance statement against the Housing Corporation’s Regulatory Code. This exercise involves presenting evidence to justify a tick against a range of criteria. It is the epitome of box ticking even though the Housing Corporation allows a degree of flexibility and stresses that it should report on improvement. I fear that it does not.

Perhaps we might have a more robust assessment of organisational health and performance. There should be an expectation that strengths and weaknesses should be highlighted and honesty encouraged with the exercise driving improvement. Such an assessment should be directed more towards the customers rather than the regulators.

No comments: