Two North East housing associations have launched a new partnership aimed at delivering high quality services and better value for money for the residents of the iconic Byker Wall Estate.
With the impact of Government imposed rent cuts, many housing associations are looking to consolidate through merger or acquisition but Byker Community Trust (BCT) and Isos Housing Group have agreed an innovative partnership in a cost sharing company known as Isos Complete Support.
The Cost Sharing Vehicle (CSV) partnership will see Isos delivering grounds maintenance, environmental services, repairs and maintenance, income management, sheltered housing and other business services on behalf of the BCT. The CSV partnership supplies services to its members at open book costs, enabling them to save money as well as VAT on these services.
As part of the new plans, the BCT is also bringing tenancy and estate management services in-house, allowing the organisation to build more community-focused services which is what residents have asked for.
In 2014, a comprehensive review of services was undertaken by the BCT Board and Chief Executive. As part of that review, the Board explored how services to tenants could be improved. They decided it was important to have greater control over standards of service delivery with a focus on improvement in quality and cost. They also believed they could deliver better value for money, better services to residents, and have a tighter focus on completing the stock transfer promises they had made to their tenants.
Following consultation with tenants, the BCT will deliver tenancy and estate management and other services themselves.
The first services to be delivered through the CSV partnership started this week and include grounds maintenance and rapid response environmental services, with other service changes following in October.
The new changes are expected to bring substantial savings for BCT as well as improvements in quality of service and better value for money to tenants living on the Byker Estate.
Jill Haley, chief executive of the BCT, said: “Innovation is key in these very challenging times for business. Housing associations have been required to make rent cuts of 1% over a four-year period which has significantly reduced our expected income levels. Fortunately, we were already looking at the CSV model when the rent cuts were unexpectedly applied by Government and my Board were resolute in their expectation of making sure that we delivered higher quality services to residents at the same time as reducing overhead costs.
“Partnering with Isos Housing in a CSV is an ideal model as they are an organisation who share very similar values and ethos as the BCT. More importantly, they have the same drive for greater value for money and improved quality and the cost sharing model will allow us to achieve this together.
“BCT’s new ‘Byker Approach’ housing management model will enable us to work much closer with residents, it will create the opportunity to listen to every person’s views and suggestions on how to improve services and their neighbourhoods, whilst making valuable efficiency savings along the way.
“These are very exciting times for BCT, the changes support our next steps towards delivering our vision and the Byker stock transfer promises.”
Paul Fiddaman, group chief executive of Isos Housing Group, said: “This is such an exciting, innovative project for us to work on. We know Isos Complete Support will deliver excellent services to the people of Byker, and we’re delighted to be starting work on the first services.
“At a time when external cost pressures are mounting, it’s never been more important to deliver value for money – while maintaining high standards in service delivery.
“We believe Isos Complete Support, as a cost sharing vehicle, is blazing a trail for housing providers in our region, and we look forward to a long and successful partnership with the BCT.”
The BCT, which owns 1,800 homes, commercial property and land on the Byker Estate in Newcastle upon Tyne, was created in July 2012 following a stock transfer from Newcastle City Council after tenants on the Estate voted in favour of the transfer to the BCT in a ballot.
Isos Housing Group owns and manages 17,000 homes across the North East and has an excellent track record for its repairs and maintenance services, which will now benefit the residents of Byker too.