Opinion: You need to listen to Stan
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing
alistair mcintosh you need to listen to stan
Where are you reading this? Are you whiling away a few minutes at the CIH conference? Or are you stuck back at work while the great and good hob nob in Manchester? I will try and say something that makes sense to all of you.
There are three big reasons to go to the CIH conference this year.
You might want to learn more about governance. The Myners report into the Co-op shows up the problem that all boards can hit from time to time. He tore into unqualified “second class citizens” on boards.
When you are at the event you need to look out for ways to make sure that each and every one of your board members is up to scratch. I am sure that the HCA will take a keen interest in the Myners report as associations and the Co-op are alike in many ways. You are both trying to be ethical and commercial at the same time. And you can’t do any good deeds if you run out of cash.
Some of you will want to find out how you can get in the money to build new homes. There has been a Klondike-style rush into bonds. Yes it is a cheap way to raise cash, but what happens next? We come across some associations that don’t know what to do with the money when they get it. Do they squirrel it away in a bank account that pays very little interest? Or do they spend, spend, spend and pay over the odds for land? You can look at the pros and cons of all the funding options at the event and start to work out which one is right for you.
I think that one of the hot topics will be VfM. No one wants to get another letter from the HCA. You will meet lots of salesmen who will tell you how to save money and perform miracles at the same time. The IT boys will say that the answer is even more IT. The lawyers will push their new shiny joint venture agreements (in Latin). And on it goes. If only this worked. I have had the scales lifted from my eyes.
Have you met Stan? I had the benefit of his opinions as he tried to x a leak for a friend. Stan has worked for a direct labour organisation for 25 years so he has lots of opinions. Let me share some of his pearls of wisdom.
“The minute you turn up at a door you’re on a yellow card.” The people at the call centre tell tenants that Stan will get there by noon. They don’t know what he is up to so these promises are just guesses. When he gets there at 6pm the tenant is angry. She blames Stan. He blames the call centre. But the tap is fixed.
Stan takes a lot of pride in his job. But he thinks the call centre gets in the way. They don’t know how long jobs will take so that messes up his schedule. He wants them to help him sort out his diary not just send him emails with appointments he can’t get to. “You should work for me” is how he puts it. But what can the call centre folk do? They don’t have a crystal ball to predict the problems that Stan will come across in a home. And to be fair, I am sure they are trying their best on low pay. I do see a lot of these zero hours contracts in call centres.
“It’s one rule for them and another for us”. The managers want to fit a tracker to his van. “Why are there no trackers in the cars of the top brass?” Now that’s a good question.
It will be a great conference in Manchester. I am sure that we will all learn a lot. Let’s hope we find a way of making Stan’s life a bit easier. He goes to four of your homes every day and tells it like it is to your tenants. What would they say to the HCA about your VfM? You never know, the HCA could pop by to see them on one of their visits.