Last year in the Annual Report I acknowledged that with a General Election on the horizon the sector would undoubtedly face further change. It perhaps wasn’t the riskiest of predictions but we do find ourselves in the midst of a paradigm shift of social housing and considerable change in the local authority landscape as we see the development of Combined Authorities to support and lead the “Northern Powerhouse”- indeed who could have predicted the speed at which the concept of the Northern Powerhouse would have moved from its first utterance in a speech by the Chancellor in July 2014 to its mainstream position now.
Change, of course, can be welcome, energising or indeed enforced and restrictive. As your membership body we strive to embrace change before it stifles us and I hope you have seen evidence of our positive step changes over the past year. We have worked hard across the organisation to ensure members receive excellent levels of value for money and this year members saved just under £10m. But I know that whilst value for money has been and will continue to be a strong driver for organisations, members will also seek reassurance that the NHC is close to its members and understands your ambitions but also your concerns.
Over the coming year we will continue to challenge ourselves to meet your needs. Hopefully you will have greater engagement and visibility of NHC staff as we roll out remote working across the organisation. We will be moving to a smaller corporate head office and our expectation is that staff will be working in the field. We are really grateful for those members who have offered us use of their offices as hot desks. I know NHC staff will benefit from this arrangement and I’d also hope that members will see it as an opportunity to have more frequent engagement with us.
This year will also see the Commission for Housing in the North reporting – we are delighted to have an array of expertise amongst our Commissioners who are already grappling with the detail of the evidence submitted by NHC members. We were really pleased that so many NHC members were able to engage with the Commission at its outset and we look forward to working with you over the coming months. I will not prejudge what the Commission’s recommendations will be but I am confident that underpinning the outcomes of the Commission is a mind-set that I see across NHC members that the North is ready, willing and able to lead and not plead.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my role at the Northern Housing Consortium is getting out and meeting members. Every single member visit I or my team do we learn something new from it, and we are inspired by your work. Even as members absorbed the immediate aftermath of the Summer Budget I was struck by a sense of determination, of innovation, of creativity and I hope these are characteristics that you too see in the NHC.
This is John Craggs’ final Annual Report as Chair of the NHC as he steps down from the Board in November. His commitment to the NHC has been outstanding and I have greatly enjoyed working with him over the past five years. His huge contribution to the Board shall be missed but I know he will still remain a strong supporter of the NHC, I should also like to thank the whole of the NHC Board for their on-going support and drive.
Just as last year my prediction for the coming year should come as no surprise. We’re in for more change, some more challenges, we’ll need creativity and commitment. What I can absolutely be certain of is that we at the NHC will be working hard to support you in every way.