Association confirms it will publish all spending above £500
Home Group breaks ranks over transparency call
One of the UK’s largest housing associations has broken ranks with its counterparts by agreeing to comply with government demands for greater transparency.
Home Group will publish details of all expenditure of more than £500 in the next few weeks, its chief executive Mark Henderson said. The association manages 52,000 homes and has a turnover in excess of £310 million.
The move follows sustained pressure from ministers for social landlords to be more transparent about their expenditure. Ministers are considering making access to the £1.9 billion affordable housing funding pot conditional on bidders’ transparency.
This proposal is being opposed by the National Housing Federation, Inside Housing understands. Its housing association members fear the demand will threaten their status as private sector organisations and push their £40 billion private debt portfolio onto the public sector balance sheet.
Mr Henderson said Home Group’s residents would welcome more transparency. ‘We believe customers and clients will warmly welcome our decision to say more about the way we spend money… it’s their opinions that matter most,’ he added.
Bruce Moore, chief executive of Hanover Housing Group, said he was exploring the issue. ‘It is something we’re looking at, but we’re concerned about the extra costs,’ he said.
Simon Dow, chief executive of the Guinness Partnership, said he was sceptical that spending declarations would increase transparency.
Home Group’s decision is likely to be welcomed by housing minister Grant Shapps, who writes in a letter to Inside Housing this week, that openness and transparency should be the ‘default position for all publicly financed bodies’.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles this week indicated that councils should publish housing directors’ salaries. Mr Pickles said councils should reveal all staff remunerations above £58,200.
Housing associations provide the kind of services that should be open to public scrutiny
Home Group has decided to be the first in the housing association sector to publish details of business spending over £500. This reflects our eagerness as a social enterprise to embrace transparency, openness and, above all, accountability to the people whose lives we all work passionately to improve.
We know from our customer and client panels that demonstrating value for money matters a great deal. It’s not the sole factor - but certainly one important way they judge our overall effectiveness.
While we prize our independence and heritage as greatly as any other provider, we recognise our services are interwoven with wholly public organisations. As a major housing developer, our business also involves forging enterprising partnerships with the private sector. Many projects, though, serve the public and spend taxpayers’ money in exactly the same way as government, public agencies and the National Health Service.
To be transparent is to be open, obvious and frank. It will not always be easy or comfortable. But at a time when everyone is feeling the effects of an extremely challenging economic environment we need to demonstrate that we can deliver more for less.
The Homes and Communities Agency is rightly developing new ways to ensure that those looking to access public funds for development deliver real value.
Frankly, we believe customers and clients will warmly welcome our decision to say more about the way we spend money. And it’s their opinions that matter most.
Mark Henderson is chief executive of Home Group