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Reflecting on my first 12 months at Halton Housing

6 minute read
Posted: 25th June 2020

On 1st July 2019 I took over as Group Chief Executive at Halton Housing. Now the first 12 months have passed, it seems like a good time to look back on my first year in the role and reflect on the highlights.

My first reaction when reminded that I have indeed been in the role for a full year was “have I really!”. The time has flown by, particularly the last 3 months when our response to the Covid-19 pandemic has dominated our time and energy.

I had a really warm welcome to Halton Housing by the leadership team and the board and was pleased to be able to introduce myself to colleagues at the annual summer BBQ in my second week. I joined Halton Housing at a really positive time, the organisation having just retained its G1 V1 rating after an in-depth assessment by the Regulator of Social Housing.

During my first few weeks I also worked with board members to appoint our new chair, Clive Deadman. It was a sad farewell to Ingrid Fife, who had chaired the board for 10 years, but also an opportunity for me to work with our new chair to look forward and frame our future direction.

As any new chief executive, my first 12 weeks were very much about listening and learning, and meeting key stakeholders including MP’s, the leader and chief executive of Halton Borough Council and fellow chief executives from neighbouring housing associations, including those that make up the Liverpool City Region Chief Executive Group.

What I heard was that Halton Housing is an important player in the local area as well as the wider city region and developing our role as a placeshaper is an important priority for us. One of our six strategic priorities within our corporate plan, Our Direction 3 (OD3), is to create places to be proud of. My first strategy day with the board was focussed on this theme, and we took board members out to some of our neighbourhoods to see the good, the bad and the ugly. This has helped us shape our role within places, our relationship with key partners and made us reflect on how we can better co-ordinate our development plans, our investment plans and our work in neighbourhoods to get better outcomes.

I also spent time with our Customer Forum and Scrutiny Panel and heard about the in-depth work that had been done with customers to understand what works well and what doesn’t. Our Customeyes programme launched shortly before I joined Halton Housing and provided good insight that has enabled us to make improvements to our customer experience. Halton Housing has a strong reputation, particularly for its work in providing a digital service to its customers, and the insight gained from Customeyes has led us to develop a clear roadmap for future developments both in our digital offer to customers and in the back office systems that enable a great customer experience from start to finish.

Like all housing associations, Halton Housing’s top priority is compliance, and the team has done fantastic work in ensuring the safety of our customers and our colleagues. We have worked to put in place greater assurance in this important area, including an independent health check, a new compliance committee and new dashboards so that we can spot issues and focus on improvement. The team continues to do a brilliant job, and even during the current challenging times, have been able to maintain our strong performance in areas like gas servicing.

On joining Halton Housing, I was impressed with the ambition of the organisation to grow and develop, and in my early weeks I attended a strategy day with the board of our commercial subsidiary OSUK. The board has ambitious plans to develop new homes for shared ownership and outright sale, as well as grow its portfolio of private rented homes. The subsidiary supports our aim to provide a whole market approach to increasing the supply of affordable, good quality homes as well as generate profits that can be invested in our social landlord activities. I visited a number of our development sites and saw the passion of the development team and the sales team and their pride in the new homes we have built. It was good to see some of our planned development sites as well, including the site of a brand new extra care scheme in Runcorn.

As I said, the last 3 months have been very much about our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and I am immensely proud of the team and how they have responded. Through what has been a very challenging time, there have been some real highlights including the way our team has supported the most vulnerable people in our homes, worked in partnership with the local authority and others, adapted to new safe ways of working and continued to provide essential services. We have been able to maintain our performance in collecting our income, carrying out gas safety checks and selling our shared ownership homes. We have also worked with Halton Borough Council to let a number of homes to people who were homeless and vulnerable. We were able to remobilise all our services on the 1st June and that is a real credit to the “can do” attitude of our colleagues.

The themes set out in our corporate plan, OD3, remain the same, and we have reset our priorities for the coming year based around customer focus, places to be proud of and our growth and development plans. It has been a bit strange briefing all our colleagues via video link on our plans for the future, but there is a real sense of optimism across our organisation. I am really looking forward to what the future holds for Halton Housing.

Written By

Liz Haworth

Halton Housing Group Chief Executive
Group Chief Executive at Halton Housing Liz

Liz leads the organisation to deliver our ambitious OD3 strategy, positioning Halton as a landlord of choice whilst fulfilling our vision of improving people’s lives.

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