Cross Keys Homes resident board

Monday 29th of February 2016

Piece by Kate Newbolt on how tenants have real influence.

Everywhere I go people are asking me about this ground breaking initiative which has been my privilege to support independently and so I need to share this excellent example of involvement and empowerment that has now proved to be so effective.

The Board has 12 positions for tenants and 4 for local strategic partners. Delegated responsibilities for customer facing strategies include financial approval of around £10 million. The Group Board formally delegated these responsibilities and governance arrangements ensuring alignment of the Residents Board (RB) via Chair and Vice Chair positions on the Group Board in 2014.

Initially in shadow mode, the newly recruited members committed to an extensive learning and development programme delivered jointly by Cross Keys Homes and tpas independent advisors. Learning included an extensive induction programme to ensure that all really understood Cross Keys Homes, its values, its strategic priorities and how these are built around the needs and aspirations of the communities it serves. The next stage was critical to effective governance development and members took part in different forms of learning including bespoke sessions, e-learning, networking and completing lone working tasks with tpas.

In April 2015, the first formal meeting of the Resident Board took its first major decision approving the adoption of Experian to help residents improve their own credit ratings and to combat problems associated with residents accessing Pay Day Loans and ‘Loan Sharks’. Since that time the Board has approved customer-facing strategies and budgets ensuring that changes to services are driven by resident need, focus, efficiency and value for money. There is a very strong commitment to ensuring regulatory compliance through a model developed initially by members of the Residents’ Board and this is an in-built pre-requirement for all reports considered including both consumer and economic standards.

In October 2015, the RB considered the Cross Keys Homes’, Shops Strategy which related to the letting of local shops in various neighbourhood areas across Peterborough. Whilst the majority of the strategy was agreed, some members raised questions about how these shops were let and importantly who to. Concluding thoughts suggested that consultation with local neighbourhood residents should be carried out to identify the preferred type of retailers: Members wanted better and more suitable and affordable local retail services. In February 2016, the new approach was reported as in place and outcomes will continue to be reported to and monitored by the RB.

Most recently the RB approved the new approach to regulatory reporting and a new Neighbourhood Management Strategy. The focus priorities aim to maximise tenancy sustainability, local service delivery, accessible and flexible self-service options development, digital inclusion, increasing local employabilityskills, area based local investment decision-making and maximising household incomes.

Cross Keys Homes currently owns 10,000 homes for rent; it provides a range of additional support and care services and homeownership options.

Resident involvement thrives at Cross Keys Homes from grass roots neighbourhoods through the Area Panels who decide on local improvement and investment priorities and provides accountability through the Collective Residents Liaison Group. A range of service involvement groups focus on specific front line services and policy areas in addition to the Scrutiny function which drives improvement through resident-led investigations.

Every group in the Cross Keys Homes framework has a defined role and responsibility and it works effectively. I believe this is why: At the top of the organisation there is a strong conviction to the purpose of resident involvement and community intelligence with oversight that must drive the business development model. Challenge raised by residents is welcomed, as demonstrated by the local shops strategy mentioned earlier in this briefing, and where this happens it is seriously considered and taken forward.

The diversity of involvement at Cross Keys Homes is another area of success for example, the RB includes, 3 working men; 3 working women; two members under 40 years; three minority ethnic members and one member who has significant physical disabilities and all were recruited on merit. Currently, succession planning arrangements include two residents who are taking part in training in preparation to step up for future vacancies.

This example is one to watch for the future, it is a trailblazer and an example of real involvement leadership, formal delegated power and co-productive partnership.

Have there been hiccups? Of course there has been some need for repeated or redesigned learning and development, some additional support for members particularly around the governance role. However the leadership of Cross Keys Homes, the CEO Claire Higgins, and,the Chair of the Group Board, Angus Kennedy; the fantastic commitment of the Governance Manager, Melissa Speechley who provides everything from personalised iPad training, supports members through e-learning and somehow,manages a programme of events to suit the flexibility demands of 12 members.

Its working I believe due to the embedded culture of the wider Cross Keys staff and leadership that has provided sound foundations for success. If you want to know more about this initiative visit their website here