In attendance to share with the board an insight into the view outside of Leeds and the best practice/engagement work of other local authorities.
YD gave an overview of recent policy and legislative changes since the Grenfell Tower disaster, including the new building regulations, fire safety measures and the Hackett report, along with the new Housing Ombudsman complaints handling code.
The government is keen for all local authorities and housing associations to take more responsibility to engage with tenants making engagement as widely accessible as possible. The pending White Paper will also provide more detail on how landlords should engage with its tenants.
JG noted that councils are not currently guided on how to run a scrutiny board and there are a variety of ways that authorities carry out ‘scrutiny’. JG asked if the same rules will apply to councils and housing associations, YD confirmed they will and it also includes ALMOs. SBa asked if the consumer regulator is a government department, YD confirmed it is but it is fairly limited at the present time as it can only inspect matters of rent and finance. The investigative powers being extended to councils will cover any element of customer service and so will be much further reaching in future.
It was reported that many tenants and residents, across all authorities, are already involved in giving their views, including on a national level with the National Tenant Voice, and most authorities have a scrutiny board or similar tenants’ panel which provides tenant feedback linked to relevant council departments and councillors. It is key to the efficacy of the boards to engage as many tenants as possible in any review, and if needed engagement could take place online. JG questioned if online reviews make it easier to duplicate work, YD replied that it can, and that is why communication between panels is maintained and groups are aware of other reviews taking place.
JG noted that other authorities and housing associations have tenants that input on staff recruitment and asked if this may be a possibility for Leeds. YD answered that it should be possible as there are larger authorities than Leeds that already practice this, and it only needs a relatively small select group of tenants to be trained to have this kind of input. SB and JW confirmed they had similar experience of sitting on selection panels. KM told the board that the Adult Social Care service at Leeds City Council does already have tenant input on staff selection via an initial/pre-interview more informal meet the candidate’s session. IM added that this input has been used in times when less formal interview formats have been conducted.
Customer satisfaction surveys are still widely used by various authorities, with the STAR survey acting as a key benchmark. YD noted that many councils often focus on improving low scores immediately while forgetting that moderate scores may still be just as important to address. More digital surveys will allow for a wider reach of tenants, and means that analysis of the responses can be carried out electronically to produce reports. Tenants who are not online can be identified and help provided for them to access digital services. JG noted that while the current need for digital sessions is evident, the issues raised by the coronavirus will not be around forever and there should be scope for face to face engagement in the future, YD agreed that not all tenants share their concerns in the same way but it is important that they are listened to when they do.
YD offered examples of engagement by other authorities including:
· Online question and answer sessions with housing directors
· Fully online tenant forums
· Single-issue discussion groups
· Rewarding tenants for their input on projects
· Cross-boundary work
Due to time constraints JG proposed collating a list of questions for YD to provide feedback. JG thanked YD for her presentation.