Sounding Board - first meeting - 2 September 2010




Minute of the first meeting of the Charter Sounding Board held on Thursday 2 September 2010 at Port of Leith Housing Association, Edinburgh






Scottish Government, Chair



Scottish Government



Scottish Government - minutes



Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers



Audit Scotland



Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland



Equality and Human Rights Commission



Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum



Regional Network of Registered Tenant Organisations



Regional Network of Registered Tenant Organisations



Regional Network of Registered Tenant Organisations



Scottish Disability Equality Forum



Scottish Federation of Housing Associations



Scottish Housing Regulator



Scottish Information Commissioner



Scottish Tenants Organisation



Shelter Scotland



Tenant Assessor Panel



Tenants Information Service



Tenants Regulation Advisory Group










Council of Mortgage Lenders



Regional Network of Registered Tenant Organisations



Tenant Participation Advisory Service


In attendance




Scottish Federation of Housing Associations


1          Welcome and opening remarks


Mr Fleming welcomed members to the first meeting of the sounding board for the Scottish Social Housing Charter.  He particularly welcomed Natalie Sutherland of CIH, substituting for David Bookbinder.



2          Purpose of the Sounding Board


Mr Fleming said that the Charter Sounding Board had been convened to build on the good work done by the Minister's Housing Bill Sounding Board, with which it shared several members.  He saw the Board as having three particular roles in the development of the first Scottish Social Housing Charter:


  • Advising the Scottish Government  on how to involve the widest possible range of stakeholders in the process of developing the Charter.
  • Offering views on the comments and opinions emerging from discussions with stakeholders.
  • Generating ideas for inclusion in the Charter. 


He hoped that the members of the Board would also gain a better understanding of each other's positions during the development of the Charter.    



3          Background to the Charter


Mr Fleming said that the Housing (Scotland) Bill, which the Scottish Parliament was considering at present, required Ministers to prepare and consult on a Charter that set outcomes that social landlords should work towards achieving.  The Charter, which would be subject to approval by the Scottish Parliament, would describe what social landlords should be achieving for tenants, homeless people and other service users; and would provide the framework within which the new Scottish Housing Regulator assessed the performance of social landlords.  The intention was that the Charter should encourage landlords to focus their efforts on the results that they achieved for their tenants, homeless people etc.   


Mr Neil, the Minister for Housing and Communities, wanted to encourage as many stakeholders as possible to become involved from the outset in developing the Charter. Therefore, rather than the Scottish Government drafting proposals and asking stakeholders for their views on them, the Charter development exercise was starting with a "blank sheet of paper".  The Government was arranging a series of stakeholder events to encourage joint conversations among stakeholder groups as a means of generating ideas that might be included in the Charter.


Mr Fleming said that the Government was proposing, as a starting point for discussion with stakeholders, that any outcome to be set by the Charter should: 


  • Matter to tenants, homeless people and other service users.
  • Be the responsibility of landlords.
  • Be capable of being assessed by the Scottish Housing Regulator.


4          Outline of plans to develop the Charter


Ms Gilbert said that the Charter team planned to attend a series of twelve stakeholders events across Scotland.  The events ranged from Inverness to Ayr and were being run from August to November. 


TIS and TPAS were also running a series of events on behalf of the Scottish Government for specific stakeholder groups, including homeless people and those living in more remote areas.


Ms Gilbert said that the Charter website had been launched on 1 September, with visitors able to obtain up to date information about the development of the Charter, post their own ideas, and join a conversation between landlords, tenants and other stakeholders. 


The Charter team would draw together the views and ideas received at the stakeholder events, online and by post and would publish a discussion paper in early 2011.  Following further discussions with stakeholders in the spring, there would be a formal consultation on a draft Charter in the summer of 2011.  The draft would be revised in the light of consultation response and the first Charter would be submitted to the Scottish Parliament in late 2011.  Subject to Parliament's approval, the Charter would come into effect in April 2012.


Mr Fleming restated Mr Neil's commitment to the process for developing the Charter being open and inclusive.  The Scottish Government has been criticised in the past for preparing discussion documents first and asking for opinions afterwards.  There was often a suspicion with that approach that the Government had made up its mind before consulting and it was difficult for stakeholders to move a debate beyond the Government's proposals.  In this case, the Government was inviting stakeholders to offer initial ideas.



In discussion the following points were raised -



  • It would have been better had the Scottish Government followed a "co-production model" in developing its plans for engaging with stakeholders.  This would have allowed groups such as disabled people and travellers to be involved in the design and development of the exercise from the outset.  Example of such models included those developed by the Glasgow Centre for Independent Living.  Mr Fleming invited members to submit any guidance they had and the Charter team would gladly look at it.
  • It was important to get the language and tone of the Charter right - it had to be written in a plain and straightforward way to ensure that a wide and diverse audience could understand it.
  • Landlords already had to gather significant amounts of information for submission to the Regulator.  There was a risk that the Charter would add to this burden by requiring even more information to be provided.  Mr Fleming said that the Government wanted to streamline data collection and relieve landlords of any unnecessary burden of regulation.
  • Landlords that were performing poorly might need to be given detailed instructions on how to deliver services.  Mr Fleming said that the Charter would describe the outcomes a landlord should achieve.  It would not prescribe how landlords managed their business to achieve these outcomes; and it could not prescribe how individual landlords addressed particular failings.  However, the Regulator would be able to set performance improvement plans for individual landlords, or for groups of them, where its assessment of performance suggested that this was necessary.   


Summing up this part of the meeting, Mr Fleming called on members to use their networks of contacts to draw as many people as possible into the Charter conversation.  



5             Feedback on first three Charter events


Ms Gilbert said that the Charter development process had been initiated by the publication in 2009 of the Government's Tenant Priority research paper.  The paper had identified aspects of the housing service that were of most importance to tenants.  Similar issues were emerging from the stakeholder events that had been held to date.  They included:


  • Good, clear, jargon-free communications
  • A transparent and open approach to handling information and making it available to tenants and other stakeholders - this was of particular concern to local authority tenants in respect of the Housing Revenue Account
  • Housing quality
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • High quality repairs service


Ms Gilbert also noted that tenants were pleased to be involved with developing the Charter from a blank sheet of paper.


During the discussion that followed, the following points were raised -


  • Hanna McCulloch of SDEF offered to provide copies of guidance on making information available in readable formats.
  • Self-assessment by landlords of their own performance, and how these assessments might be validated, remained a concern.  Mr Fleming said that there would be a Stage 2 amendment to the Housing Bill that would place on the new Regulator a duty to issue guidance outlining how landlords should involve their tenants in preparing information for submission to the Regulator.
  • The use of the word 'Social' in the term 'Scottish Social Housing Charter' was regretted.  Mr Fleming said that this was the term used in the Housing Bill, but that it would be possible to give the Charter an informal name if that better reflected stakeholder aspirations for it.  He believed that the Minister would welcome suggestions for a more user-friendly title and encouraged members to offer suggestions. 
  • Mr Fleming agreed to send a copy of the Charter presentation and a script to those who planned to hold their own stakeholder events.



6          Frequency and dates of future meetings


Mr Fleming suggested that the next meeting should take place in November after the initial consultation events, possibly in Glasgow to share the burden of travelling.


He suggested a further meeting early in 2011 after the publication of the discussion paper.  The board could then discuss the frequency of subsequent meetings.



7          Any other business


There being no other business, Mr Fleming thanked the members for attending and closed the meeting.




Replies (1) RSS comment feed Join the discussion: log in or register to leave a reply
  1.  Its not what may be in the Charter that sounds important, but also what is not wanted in the Charter is just as relevant.

    This has to hold within its remit a re-affirmation of the rights of tenants to be consulted on all aspects of a Housing service to enable landlords to attempt to aceive desired outcomes.

    This cannot solely be a setting of standards for landlords to apply and that those landlords are not prepared to discuss with other stakeholders to reach satisfactory service provision.

    Targets must be clearly defined, standards set, and outcomes manifested as particular goals. It doesnt matter how they are acheived, but more importantly that the standards are the same across Scotland. The outcomes will speak for themselves.

    Hugh McClung, stirling, Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 3:01:44 PM