James Tickell opened the conference with a look at the changes we can expect to impact on maintenance in the next year or two. The merger of the Housing Corporation with English Partnerships to form Communities England heralds a fundamental change in the way housing associations will be regulated. It will be less intrusive, but also a lot less cosy as it creates a level playing field between private contractors and housing associations. The successful associations are already turning themselves into social businesses, with a shift in emphasis away from the provision of property and towards the delivery of excellent services.
John Connaughton illustrated the rapid progress being made by consortia in driving down the costs of procurement with figures from GM Procure in Manchester, and 4 South Yorkshire. The greatest savings were being made on bathroom renewals. The National Change Agency had pump-primed the setting up of the first ten consortia with a little over £1 million in grant funding, and there were as many more working there way through the system. David Mosey described the different forms of contractual arrangements the consortia were developing, and how these dealt with EU regulations and the rights of leaseholders.
The conference was attended by 250 senior maintenance managers from housing associations and local authorities, with some of their contractors and consultants and about 25 exhibitors. They chose between half a dozen workshops in each of the four sessions, covering many aspects of a maintenance manager’s job.
The main emphasis this year was on contract management, with sessions lead by lawyers and consultants looking at different forms of contract to suit modern methods of procurement, presentations by associations and local authorities on how they implemented new approaches to contracting, or reorganised their DLOs, and a critique from the Audit Commission on the benefits and pitfalls of partnering.
The NHMF ran seminars on developing release 6 of the NHF Schedule of Rates to keep it at the forefront of new methods of procurement. They also held their annual general meeting at which the committee is elected.
The Housing Corporation ran a seminar on Ecohomes XB and launched the sector study on Decent Homes. The Checkmate benchmarking club also held a seminar on its new on-line system. And there were practical sessions on dealing with asbestos, gas servicing, mobile working, asset management and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
The conference closed with advice from Dr Neil Jarrett from the Collaborative Working Centre: local authorities and housing associations have still got a long way to go in embracing the new concepts of partnering, and working together to derive real and quantifiable cost savings whilst transforming services to make them more sensitive to customer’s needs.
The NHMF Maintenance Conference has more than doubled in size over the last two years, and is now established as a regular event in January each year. At the closing plenary, Dave Treanor thanked the maintenance practitioners who make up the NHMF committee for chairing the sessions and helping to set the agenda to ensure it addressed the practical concerns of those delivering maintenance services to the social housing sector.
Managing Director of M3 Housing, who organised the event for the NHMF
Handouts and Powerpoints are now available to download from the resources page.