Housing watchdog unable to recruit vital staff as regulatory judgements ‘slip’
TSA can’t fill key financial posts
The Tenant Services Authority has been operating without ‘critical’ regulatory staff and is experiencing delays in making regulatory judgements as its transition to the Homes and Communities Agency looms.
At the regulator’s board meeting this week it emerged it has failed to recruit for ‘roles critical to economic regulation’ through internal Whitehall processes and is now broadening its search beyond the civil service.
Paul Haylock, head of finance and procurement at the regulator, said this process is being hindered by the Communities and Local Government department, which is insisting on vetting all TSA job advertising. ‘Progress on this front is very slow,’ he added.
The CLG said the protocol was in operation because of a recruitment freeze, which can only be circumvented with the agreement of civil servants.
The latest TSA management accounts show an underspend of £188,000 on staff costs in the first six months of the 2011/12 financial year. The board meeting agenda notes this is ‘mainly as a result of continued vacancies in the regulation operations area’. Some of the vacancies are for financial analysts.
The TSA usually issues regulatory judgements assessing the financial viability and governance of social landlords on a monthly basis. It has not issued a single new one since August - and only four since the end of May.
Jonathan Walters, deputy director of regulatory operations at the TSA, told the board there had been ‘slippage’ on issuing judgements, but this was due to delays in providers signing contracts for affordable rent funding with the HCA.
In a statement the TSA said it will issue its next round of regulatory judgements at the end of December, and that recruitment problems were not responsible for the delay. The regulator will close at the end of March next year when its powers transfer to a new committee within the HCA.
Matthew Bailes, director of regulation at the TSA, will lead on regulation within the HCA. Current TSA deputy chair Julian Ashby will chair the new regulatory committee, which is due to start work before the transition so it can ‘hit the ground running’.
The TSA said 11 employees have agreed to take voluntary redundancy, although some will stay on beyond 31 March to help with the handover.
Keith Exford, chief executive of Affinity Sutton and chair of the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations, said: ‘I think the TSA is in a pretty near impossible position in that the situation its staff are in makes it difficult to retain and recruit staff.’