It’s been two years since we became Wales’ first tenant and employee mutual, where both tenants and employees have the opportunity to become members, earning them a non-financial share in the organisation and the ability to have a say on how our mutual is run.
Over the year, our members have had lots of opportunity to have their say, including accepting the financial statement, annual report and compliance statement from Board and involvement in numerous on-line member surveys;
• In November, tenant and employee members were asked to vote of whether or not they agreed or disagreed with us support the community with the roll out of Universal Credit, approving the Boards decision to take a strong position within the community against UC.
• In January 2018 tenant members took part in a telephone survey regarding to move away from a 48 rent week year to a 52 rent week year to help tenants deal with Universal Credit. The survey results showed that members were in favour of changing to 52 weeks, and as a result the rent is now collected over a 52 week period.
• In March 2017, tenant and employees members were asked to vote for their Members Charity of the Year - members voted for Merthyr and the Valleys Mind.
• In November/December 2017 in a members poll members chose the name Ty Brychan for the name of our new office in Gellideg.
Our tenant members once again influenced our budget and our whole approach to Value for Money. During February 2018 tenant members were invited to attend six groups held across the borough to look at value for money and test our priorities. Discussions included what the rent money is spent on, what we should be looking for when hiring contractors and what MVH should be focusing on in the future. As a result of these focus groups we were able to focus our value for money around 7 new golden rules and report back to members on the activities that they value most. We allocated more money to support vulnerable tenants to try to combat social isolation in 2018/19.
One of the most pleasing things about he mutual has been the elections and the interest to stand for the member representative body – the Democratic Body. In August/September 2017 nominations where received and contested elections took place. The successful candidates were announced at the Annual Members Meeting (AMM).
We received our annual regulatory judgement from Welsh Government in December 2017. This judgement is designed to provide our tenants, service users and other stakeholders with an understanding of our financial viability and how well we are performing at a specific moment in time against a set of Welsh government defined standards. We were really pleased to achieve the rating of ‘standard’ for both Governance and Services and Financial Viability. This is the highest rating that can be achieved. And this judgement is available to read on our website.
During our first year as a mutual, our Democratic Body has worked in partnership with the Board and the Executive Management Team to ensure the continued good governance of MVH. We established a Governance Working Group (Board and Democratic Body representatives) to carry out a wholescale review of our governance activities, and we reviewed this against the CHC Code of Governance. We are confident that we have a strong framework in place.
One of the first tasks of the Democratic Body was to bring to life the values of the new mutual developed as part of the Commission that recommended a new form of governance. This was achieved when we published Yfory.
To measure our work on meeting the goals and visions of Yfory we also created an Annual Plan. This allows the Democratic Body to monitor the Board of Non-Executive Directors in meeting legal and regulatory requirements and driving the organisations towards the vision set out in Yfory. The Annual Plan is one of the key tools for the Democratic Body to hold the Board to account.
The Board, Democratic Body and the Executive Management Team have established strong working relationships, and this has been demonstrated by collaborative decision-making that has taken place during the year. Together they have worked on setting out the rents for 17/18, and set the budget including our capital works programmes. They have held joint strategic planning sessions with the Board and the Executive Management Team to look at the risks that we face (including the impact welfare reform will have on our tenants) and the opportunities that we have to develop our mutual, including those around responsibility and ownership. We are working together to find the best solutions for our mutual
The Democratic Body set a recruitment process for new board members, and they have appointed three Non-Executive Directors to the Board during the year. They have also been involved in the recruitment process for a number of employees, making sure that as well as having the right skills and experiences, the successful applicants have the right values and beliefs. They have also played a role in selecting and appointing key contractors.
You can find our more about the Democratic Body’s activities in its Report to Members.
Although membership is open to tenants and employees, there is certain eligibility criteria that needs to be satisfied;
Tenants must live in an MVH property and be over the age of 16 and employees must have passed their probationary period.
If you don’t fall into either category, you may be entitled to become as Associate Member. Associates are not full Members but are entitled to attend and speak at Members meetings but have no right to vote at Members Meetings, or to take part in elections. If you are a leaseholder of any lease of a dwelling granted for a period exceeding 20 years and occupy the dwelling as your only home, you may be eligible for associate membership.
We have continued to spread the message of membership and increased overall membership by 17%. We achieved our target of maintaining over 1,000 tenant members, however with employee membership at 88%. We originally hoped to have am employee membership at over 90% but in discussions with other mutuals we have accepted this aspiration is very high. However, is has been recognised that in comparison to other mutual organisations, we are doing very well with our current number of employee members.
Developing Membership Earlier in the year the Democratic Body established a Membership Strategy which supports our development as a mutual organisation. The strategy has four key aims, including growth in membership to ensure that it is representative of the communities that we serve; to communicate effectively; to encourage involvement so that members can influence decision making and to provide opportunities for members to benefit.
We have continued to recruit new members, been out and about talking to our tenants and have attended and held events across the borough – membership has grown by 37% over the year and we now have over 1,100 members. We have asked our members how best to communicate with them, and have tailored our communication methods to suit people’s preferences. As a result, we have enhanced our social media presence and have introduced a Facebook page for MVH. This is proving to be a success with more and more people engaging with us each week. We have also introduced a membership benefits package.
Supporting Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative
We have continued to assist Taf Fechan Housing Co-operative Ltd and the Cronfa Gymorth David Lewis charity with governance and financial accounting and management services during the year.
We are a major employer in the Borough. We set high standards, and encourage others to do the same. We are committed to maintaining our workplace establishment and to having a skilled and trained workforce. We pay the Living Wage and encouraging our contractors and suppliers to do the same.
Following the introduction of our competency framework last year we have continued to focus on attitudes, behaviours and values as well as work performance. We have completed a review of our recruitment process to ensure that we are focussing interviews and assessments around these values as opposed to just experience which is easily identified from the candidate’s application form. This helps us to ensure that we appoint the best candidates based on both their knowledge and cultural fit.
Our median gender pay gap was -3.1%. In most organisations this figure is the other way round with men earning more than women but at Merthyr Valleys Homes women employees on average are in the better paid jobs. it does not mean we pay women more for the same work as we state later we have carried out a detailed pay audit. And the ratio of our Chief Executive to our median salary is 1:4 and to the lowest salary it is 1:6.5 and the median pay ratio compares very favourably with the Welsh Government Report on Executive Pay in the public sector.
We have identified the need to build on our current multi-skilling agreement and in conjunction with TSW Training have sourced an NVQ Level 2 in Building Maintenance (Multi-skilled). In January we appointed 9 of our current Trades as Multi-skilled Officers and all are now in the process of completing this qualification. This means that whilst being qualified in the existing trade they will also have a level 2 qualification in 2 other Trades allowing us to utilise their skills more efficiently and effectively.
During the year we have continued to expand on the number of courses available on our E-Learning platform, Learning Pool. We have added a further 8 courses during the year covering areas such as dementia awareness, modern slavery and guides to performance appraisals for Managers and staff. During the year 491 courses were completed. We have also successfully piloted using Learning Pool with a tenant representative from our Democratic Body, and will be opening this out to all tenant representatives in 2017/18.
There have also been a number of Health & Safety courses delivered, including SMSTS for all relevant Managers within Homes & Property, first aid and food safety.
We also have a number of staff who have completed professional qualifications during the year which have been supported by us.
During the year we filled 29 vacancies, of these 19 were from Merthyr and a further 3 were within 10 miles of the Borough.
We supported 13 volunteers and 3 work placements for local people, these were through local agencies and direct contact. Two of these led to contracts of employment, 1 as an ICT Apprentice and another as Floating Support Officer on a fixed term contract.
At the beginning of the year we employed 5 apprentices, 3 of these qualified last summer and were appointed to permanent contracts. During the year we employed a further 4 apprentices, 2 within our ICT Team and 2 within our Homes & Property Team, this includes our first female Trade Apprentice who will qualify as a Bricklayer in 2019.
Sickness in 2017/2018 rose slightly to 3.83%. We continue to provide support to employees including the provision of a comprehensive Occupational Health service and working with employees to ensure that our Sickness Policy is fit for purpose.
During the year we finalised our Equal Pay Review and Audit and introduced a new remuneration system to all staff based on salary bands. We are confident that all employees are paid fairly for the work that they do. We are committed to furthering Equality & Diversity and are working towards the Quality in Equality and Diversity Award with Tai Pawb.
Customer Relations Management System At the end of March 2018, we switched all Housing Management and Responsive Repairs operations over to our in-house custom built Customer Relations Management (CRM) system.
This has allowed to go from using several different systems, where we had to manually transfer information between them because they weren’t compatible with the housing management system, to a CRM that allows us to organise and view our workload, view the tasks ahead at a glance; book appointments more quickly (for tenants and us) and have quick, accessible, and instant reporting functions. For example, calls to end a tenancy have reduced by 5/6 minutes as dates are calculated by the system rather than staff manually inputting data.
We can continue to develop and adapt the system to do what we want as our needs change, and all of this can be done in-house with our specialist staff.
Online engagement Our engagement through social media platforms has continued to grow.
Our Facebook page is used as an efficient two way communication tool. It’s an open page, so tenants and other stakeholders are free to post, and to comment on posts. By the end of the financial year over 800 people liked our page and these numbers are steadily increasing. Our most popular posts (vacancies and property ads) are regularly achieving a reach of over 1000.
It proved to be a useful tool to communicate with our communities, for example during the severe weather last winter our offices were closed for 3 days, but we were able to post vital updates and information and were able to have a two way conversation with tenants and answer their queries.
Our twitter account is a vital tool to engage and network with the Housing sector and beyond, and is also used by a small number of our tenants as a way to contact us.
We have continued to improve our website during the year, and people can now do more on line. For example, we launched an online form for the ASB team, allowing people to report ASB information easily and confidentially. This has proven popular and has helped the team resolve issues including fly tipping. We also introduced an online garden application making it easier for tenants to apply and get more information on the scheme.
We have continued to develop our staff intranet site ‘The Cwtch’, to increase functionality. This helps us keep records and data online, saving paper and also saving staff time. This in turn helps us to be more efficient in our working practices.
We have used text message and online voting to capture member’s opinions on issues. They were asked to vote via text messages on their charity of the year, their opinion on how we supported tenants through the Universal Credit and on the name of the new office.
The process of voting for the tenant representatives was fully digital this year. Tenant members had to visit a website to view information about candidates and vote for their representative. Those who had provided email addresses were also sent reminders. It proved such a success that both the tenant and employee elections in 2018/2019 will be done online.