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ARCH annual report

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The ARCH annual report for 2015-16 is now available to view.

 

Download it here.

ARCH – setting a new direction 04/03/2015

Compass_300In response to our recent member survey, the ARCH Executive Board has announced a number of measures to improve member services and ensure that ARCH remains fit for purpose in supporting and representing the stock retained sector.


As an association of councils who have retained ownership and management of their council housing stock our principle aim when founded in 2006 was to argue for reform of the council housing finance system and create more of a level playing field with Housing Associations and ALMOs with the aim of securing a sustainable future for council housing in this country, getting the best deal for councils and their tenants.


I believe ARCH and its membership played a key role in the introduction of the new self-financing regime which has created a positive future for councils who with the support of their tenants wish to retain ownership and management of their council housing stock. Furthermore, as we have seen, the new self-financing regime has opened up the opportunity for councils to start building council housing once again - albeit on a relatively small scale constrained as they currently are by the HRA "borrowing cap".


The housing landscape has changed significantly since ARCH was first formed but more needs to be done to ensure that the gains made so far are not lost and that the future remains optimistic for those councils that wish to retain ownership and management of their housing stock and play a role in the direct provision of new housing. ARCH will continue to:

 

  • Argue the case for council housing;

 

  • Ensure its members are informed of the latest developments in housing;

 

  • Encourage innovation;

 

  • Share best practice; and

 

  • Promote the achievements of the sector.

 

The ARCH Executive Board has already reflected on its members views as expressed through the recent member survey and responded to the changing landscape by:

 

  • Publishing its manifesto " For a Council Housing Renaissance", in conjunction with the NFA, arguing for the stock retained sector to be given the opportunities to make best use of the freedoms that self-financing can provide in maintaining and improving the existing housing stock and delivering more homes by:

    - Lifting the HRA debt cap
    - Clarifying the constraints in use of existing headroom in the debt cap
    - Exploring opportunities for councils to build homes for sale and market rent to support the provision of homes at affordable rents
    - Ensuring all homes sold under the Right to Buy are replaced on a one for one basis
    - Enabling councils to better capture land value gain to provide more affordable housing
    - Ensuring council tenants get a fair deal out of the reforms of the welfare system and introduction of Universal Credit

 

  • Introducing a regular fortnightly bulletin to keep ARCH members up to date with the latest developments in the stock retained sector and promote the achievements of the sector.

 

  • Developing a programme of regional events for ARCH members to share best practice and learning amongst its members.

 

At its next meeting on 16 March the ARCH Executive Board will be discussing its work programme for 2015 and amongst the priorities being considered are:


Development of the ARCH manifesto

 

  • Follow up action to support the publication and launch of the joint ARCH/NFA manifesto

 

  • Development of an influencing (lobbying) strategy to support achievement of the manifesto aims

 

  • Development of detailed policy briefs and any necessary research programme to support and underpin achievement of the manifesto aims

 

Increasing the ARCH national profile and celebrating the achievements of municipal housing

 

  • Executive Board have expressed a wish to see an increased national profile to build on the success of the self-financing regime and promotion of the achievements of ARCH and the stock retained sector based around a clear set of strategic aims and objectives and in particular building on the policies identified in the jointly agreed ARCH/NFA manifesto

 

  • Council housing provides decent affordable homes for millions of working families and yet, to many, the image of council housing is one of a tenure of last resort tarnished by the lack of investment in the past. This needs to change and the success of councils in providing decent homes at reasonable rents supported by good quality value for money housing management and maintenance services emphasised


Improved communication with the ARCH Tenant Group

 

  • Closer alignment of the ARCH Executive work programme with that of the ARCH Tenant Group work programme.

 

  • Improved clarity in demonstrating how ARCH policies and priorities are influenced and guided by tenant priorities to achieve consensus on a set of commonly understood and supported objectives


Increasing member recruitment and retention

 

  • The development of improved links with prospective new ARCH members and more consistent links and communication with current and former ARCH members to retain and increase the membership base (and resultant annual income) thereby securing a stable income stream from future subscriptions

 

  • Improvements to the ARCH member contact database to ensure it is expanded to include a range of officers, members and tenant representatives at each authority and that it is up to date and properly maintained

 

  • Review of the current "new member pack" and membership offer.


Development of a 3-5 year Business Plan and Medium Term Financial Strategy to define the level of member services and ensure the future financial sustainability of ARCH

 

  • This is necessary in any event to inform the specification for the re-tendering of the support service contract when it comes up for renewal in 2015. The content of the Business Plan will depend on a balance between the level of member services offered and the level of membership and income from member subscriptions in order to ensure a sustainable budget over the period of the Business Plan.


Preparations for Support Services Contract renewal

 

  • Significant work is required to prepare for procurement and re-tendering of the support services contract which expires in December 2015 including review and revision of the service specification (including improved member services) and decisions on the form and method of procurement. 

 

Despite the restrictions and constraints of the current self-financing rules the fact remains that, for the first time since the early 1980's, the new system of council housing finance provides a sustainable future for council housing and for those councils that, with the support of their tenants, wish to retain ownership and management of their council housing stock and play a role in delivering more and better homes for future generations.

 

ARCH will continue to argue the case for council housing and support its members in delivering excellent services and the Executive Board would be interested in your views on the priorities it is considering setting for the association in the immediate future as outlined above.

 

If you have any views or comments on the vision or strategic priorities that the ARCH Executive Board should be setting for the organisation and/or on the type of member services it should be providing to support its members please let us know by emailing john.bibby@arch-housing.org.uk

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