South Holland District Council has piloted a new LGA peer challenge on social housing management.
When we were approached by the LGA to pilot its new social housing management peer challenge, we were more than happy to put ourselves out there, and take the opportunity to look to the future – and, potentially, reshape our short, medium and long-term plans for housing in the district.
We serve more than 95,000 residents, with roughly 10 per cent of registered dwellings managed by the council. We have a strong history of housing development, including dedicated homeless family units and our award-winning regeneration of Small Drove, Weston.
South Holland has committed £12.85 million to new homes since 2017, and a further £13.1 million to future development programmes, while continuing to invest in our existing stock, with an annual capital programme of around £4 million.
We saw the pilot peer challenge as presenting a great opportunity for the council. We felt there were some key strengths across our capital improvements, repairs service and strong income-collection performance, which assisted us in demonstrating key strengths as a social landlord.
However, we also recognised a need to revisit areas such as complaints, the use of data in decision-making, and performance reporting. We also felt there were opportunities to further involve tenants, and ensure they have a strong voice and continue to be at the centre of our decision-making processes.
Throughout the challenge, we wanted our officers to feel empowered to fully engage with the LGA, so myself, other lead members and the wider cabinet supported the process and their continued involvement as much as we could.
The thorough and tailored selection of peers ensured the council was supported by a team who could fully engage in the wider objectives of the social housing charter and the specific themes on which we wished to focus.
Being the first council to take part in this challenge felt like both a great privilege and a daunting prospect. Like many councils, we never stop learning, and there are undoubtedly areas we can focus on when reviewing and reshaping our services.
As a council, we had a strong sense of where we should focus our efforts and resources. Having the opportunity to discuss these ideas, helping to shape a platform to assist other councils, and raising the profile of council housing were just a few of the positives highlighted throughout the peer challenge.
Beyond our own housing service, we see great value in the aims and objectives of reforming social housing. The insight and support the LGA facilitated through this peer challenge provided a unique opportunity to objectively review and test our thinking.
We would encourage other councils to take part – there is a new era on the horizon for social housing, and engaging in the challenge will help ensure council housing is leading the way.
A new peer challenge
The social housing management peer challenge aims to help stock-holding councils meet the expectations of the social housing White Paper, ‘The charter for social housing residents’.
Part of the LGA’s government-funded sector support programme for councils, it supports councils to improve the service provided to social housing residents and identify and share best practice.
The social housing management peer challenge has been co-designed with the sector, and is delivered by a team of dynamic and experienced housing officers and member peers. The peers act as critical friends to assess the strengths of a council and its partners, and identify areas for improvement for the future.