Industry news

established. Performance targets and costs were agreed at the outset allowing Torus to accurately measure progress and ensure that performance information flowed effectively from the operational staff up to the executive team. This protected the golden thread of information, creating a framework which encouraged joined-up working and ensured the new RP could grow and thrive. Although some of the changes were not always

easy to implement, they ultimately led to a significant cost reduction from the in-house contractors. This provided surplus funds for re-investment and growth, creating more homes across the region.

FUTURE PROOFING Working with Vantage, Torus was able to shape and tailor their priorities to the needs of the customers of today and anticipate the requirements of tomorrow’s customer. The improved collaborative approach, as they

began to work as one organisation, also freed up much needed resources, allowing Torus to invest in new ideas, particularly around their digital service offering. Implementation of customer satisfaction

surveys and increased take-up of customer self- service repairs reporting were both ways in which

Torus started to realise some of the benefits of their merger. Haydn Hansford, managing director of the

in-house contractor at Torus commented: “Challenging our existing approach, we came together as one company. This was followed by an

in-house repairs and maintenance transformation programme. The combination of these changes ultimately saved us a significant amount of money, improved the service we provide to our customers and helped us become fit and ready for the future.”

News in brief

• Analysis by the Local Government Association has shown that almost 58,000 council homes have been ‘lost’ through the Right to Buy scheme over the past six years, with the average discount on sale prices now standing at £61,810. The total value of discounts on sales made in the past six years now totals £3.5 billion. Representing 370 councils in England and Wales, the LGA says they have collectively only been able to replace roughly one fifth of the properties sold since 2011/12. Over 1.8 million council houses have been bought by tenants since the RTB was introduced by the 1980 Housing Act. An estimated 40 per cent of these properties have subsequently been sold on to private landlords, who let them out at much higher private market rents.

• Windsor and Maidenhead Council has withdrawn plans to impose £100 fines and public space protection orders on rough sleepers as part of a new homelessness support strategy. The proposals lead to a public outcry a nd were criticised by the homelessness charities Shelter and Crisis, and the human rights advocacy group Liberty, who said the council was planning to punish people for being homeless. The council has separated its policies for supporting rough sleepers and for tackling anti-social behaviour.

• Land Registry data obtained by the BBC has revealed there are over 97,000 properties, mostly residential addresses, owned by overseas companies in England and Wales. Close to half (44 per cent) of these properties are located in London; more than one in ten (11,500) properties are in the City of Westminster; and more than 6,000 properties are in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea – the same borough where Grenfell Tower is located and where over half of the evacuated residents are still living in temporary accommodation. The value of less than a third of the properties is known but the most recent sale prices of 27,835 properties adds up to just over £55 bn. The most expensive sites are for hotels or luxury apartment blocks but the vast majority are residential properties. Foreign ownership is increasingly being viewed as unacceptable given that many of the residential properties are left empty for months or even years at a time, while they increase in value and are often situated in areas where housing is in short supply.

• The Empty Homes agency has mapped the location of councils with a higher proportion of dwellings recorded empty for more than six months and has found most of them are in more northerly areas. 36 of the 54 local authorities with 1.2 per cent or more of their homes long-term empty are in the North, ten are in the Midlands and eight are in the South, with coastal places standing out in the latter group. There are 200,145 long term vacant properties across England, down significantly from the figure of 326,954 recorded in 2008. Some groupings of authorities (i.e.

Land Registry data obtained by the BBC has revealed there are over 97,000 properties, mostly residential addresses, owned by overseas companies in England and Wales. Close to half (44 per cent) of these properties are located in London

counties and combined authorities) stand out as having 1.2 per cent or more of their homes long- term empty as a whole. This includes: Cornwall, Cumbria, Durham, Humberside, Lancashire, Merseyside, Northumberland and Tees Valley. The results suggest that most of the problem is due to low demand and/or higher numbers of properties in poor conditions. Holiday homes are a further problem in specific coastal and scenic areas, like national parks. London has the lowest rate of long-term empty homes at 0.56 per cent, followed by the South East at 0.62 and the East of England at 0.63. | HMM March 2018 | 23

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