Board Member Vacancies at Berneslai Homes

Northern Housing Consortium member Berneslai Homes is looking to appoint new board members. The positions available are:

  • Chair
  • Audit Chair
  • Independent Board Member

To apply for any of these positions, please visit the Berneslai Homes vacancies pages where you can also find out more about apprenticeships. Berneslai Homes was recently shortlisted for the Best Apprenticeship Scheme award at the 24Housing Awards.

Adactus Housing Group and CCH celebrate 500 new homes in Chorley

Adactus Housing Group has unveiled a plaque on a bungalow to mark completion of the 500th new home built by the Group in Chorley since 2007. Adactus Chief Executive Paul Lees unveiled the plaque on Thirlmere Road, Chorley on Tuesday 19th January 2016.

The 500 homes, built by Chorley Community Housing (CCH) and Adactus Housing Association, represent an investment of more than £50 million in new housing by the Adactus Housing Group over this period and there is more to come. Adactus Chief Executive Paul Lees said: “I am absolutely delighted that CCH and Adactus Housing Association have between them provided 500 new homes in Chorley since 2007. 100 more homes will be built in Chorley by CCH and Adactus in 2016. Across the North West, we’ll be building over 700 new homes this year to help the Council here in Chorley and local authorities elsewhere in the region to meet the housing needs of the borough.”

The properties built so far are a mixture of houses, flats and bungalows both in Chorley and surrounding villages. The homes, which include properties for rent and shared ownership, have provided accommodation for more than 800 people.

Councillor Steve Murfitt, lead member for Housing at Chorley Council, said:

“This major milestone is doubly pleasing to us, because not only has the 500th home now been built providing much needed affordable housing for local people, this whole development is such a huge improvement on what was on the site previously. This site had blighted this neighbourhood for decades – it was a former children’s home that was derelict and became a target for vandals and anti-social behaviour. We bought the site, demolished the building and made it available to Chorley Community Housing which has built these attractive homes much improving the local area for residents. This site is one of a number of small pockets of derelict land across the borough that we’ve made available to provide affordable homes.”

Alan Cain, Chair of CCH, said: “500 new homes in the relatively short time CCH has been in existence is a fantastic achievement.”

The three bungalows that have been built at Thirlmere Road have been constructed by Adactus Housing Group’s in-house construction division AdCo.  Amongst the new residents at Thirlmere Road is Hazel Holden, who has moved in to a bungalow with her daughter Bryony. Hazel said: “I am delighted with my new home. It’s brilliant and I love the bathroom.”

“The homes we have built have created jobs in the construction industry locally, sustained local businesses and provided training and employment opportunities for local people,” commented Paul Lees. “We believe that building new homes is good for the prosperity of the local economy as well as revitalising neighbourhoods and providing people with warm and secure places to live. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Chorley Council to deliver its objectives to provide more affordable housing in the borough throughout 2016 and beyond.”

Back Row: Hilary Roberts (Deputy Chief Exec Adactus), Cllr. Roy Lees, Gary Hall, Cllr. Tony Gee, Paul Lees (Chief Exec Adactus), RH, Bryony Holden (resident). Front Row: Dennis Madden (resident), Cllr. Margaret Lees, Hazel Holden (resident).

Back Row: Hilary Roberts (Deputy Chief Exec Adactus), Cllr. Roy Lees, Gary Hall, Cllr. Tony Gee, Paul Lees (Chief Exec Adactus), RH, Bryony Holden (resident).
Front Row: Dennis Madden (resident), Cllr. Margaret Lees, Hazel Holden (resident).

Member Spotlight: Rochdale Boroughwide Housing

Across the North, NHC members are breaking new ground, delivering innovation and excellence, and transforming communities. Central to our role as a membership body is our ability to share your stories and connect members around themes, projects and ideas. It is this connectivity that is the lifeblood  of the NHC’s role as “the voice of housing in the North”.

Starting with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, we are launching our new series, “Member Spotlight”. We are keen to come out and spend time (usually a day) in your organisation looking in more detail at the work you do, why you do it and the impact it has. We will then write a short briefing paper and share it with the wider NHC membership. Hopefully sharing the work you are doing will bring other members with similar interests together and then snowball into even bigger and brighter ideas!

If you are interested in taking part in our Member Spotlight programme please email for more details.


Rochdale Boroughwide Housing: Bringing Mutuality Home


Rochdale has a long history of innovation.  The famous Rochdale Pioneers were among the first to share the benefits of co-operative working, from which grew the Co-operative Group in the North of England and as far back as 1844 they established The Rochdale Principles; a set of guiding principles giving co-operative members the right to participate in the decision making processes of their organisation and encourage the organisation to work for the benefit of the wider community.

In the 21st century, Rochdale is still flying the flag for mutuality. In 2011 Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) became one of only a handful of mutual housing associations in the UK and the first to include employees as well as tenants in their membership.

Starting life as an ALMO, RBH began their journey of reinvention back in 2009.  By 2010 they had managed to agree to a stock transfer in principle with the Council and gained wide cross-party support. It took a further 12 months for government approval but finally, in 2012 RBH became the first mutual housing association in England owned and run by employees and tenants.

After the initial drive to involve existing tenants and employees in 2011, RBH invited new tenants to become members when they signed their new tenancy agreements. Realising that moving house is a busy time, the association decided membership discussions should take place at a separate visit when tenants had settled into their new home.

Making full use of those 4,500 minds to help them tackle the complex issues thrown up by the new legislation, RBH established focus groups to look at specific feedback and questions. Surveys are sent out to members and employee and tenant representatives meet regularly with the Board. Everyone is aware of the need to respond quickly and engagement has been extraordinarily positive.

Members’ views are represented to the Board of Directors by the Representative Body made up of tenants, representatives from tenant management organisations, employees, council members and representatives from external stakeholders. The Representative Body, separate from the Board, is responsible for setting the framework for accountability, appointing and removing non-executive directors, monitoring progress, providing input into future strategy and, of course, communicating with members. This model, with its focus on accountability, gives the Representative Body real influence. Furthermore, , RBH have placed an emphasis on creating a Board with all the skills and experience necessary to make the big decisions.

So what are the benefits of being a mutual?  According to RBH Chief Executive, Gareth Swarbrick, being a mutual allows the organisation a certain flexibility in the way it adapts itself for the future where changes are made from the bottom up rather than the top down.  This is something Gareth thinks is particularly valuable as the organisation faces dramatic changes in the sector and grapples with the challenges of rent reductions and Right To Buy where the whole organisation – employees, tenants and the Board – will be involved in finding the necessary savings and deciding the future direction of the company.

Gareth believes that this level of regular, open consultation means expectations are raised. It makes the executive team accountable, to respond to the positive, constructive challenge of the governance structure.  The Association’s transition into a mutual has altered relationships throughout the entire organisation. A clear constitution has been put in place to help guide the process but this young association is still working on fully understanding the nature of these changes. There is no single formula for consultation.  Instead, they use a variety of channels to engage with members depending on the nature and objectives of the subject matter but they have recognised that there is a need for constant dialogue to ensure that members understand how their ideas have impacted on outcomes.

The leadership team at RBH admit that it has taken time to embed the new culture and there will always be more progress to be made. But ultimately, they believe that the mutual model will take away the possibly paternalistic attitude of a Board imposing their views and that a culture of formal engagement, striving for a consensus, will counteract build positive, supportive relationships

This new collaborative partnership model demands accountability – the board have to be provided with evidence that adequate consultation has taken place and that members have been provided with enough information to make an informed decision.

The passion felt by the Representatives for this new way of working is self-evident. They are keen to stress that the atmosphere is more open and ‘non-hierarchical’ and that people do feel they can express their views freely – like a ‘critical friend’.

In recent months, the organisation has looked at ways to increase member involvement through a ‘Member Benefits Scheme’. Initial thoughts brought up the idea of a rewards scheme for paying rent on time. However, this was rejected by the tenants’ Representative Body who felt that this was simply part of their contract with RBH. Instead, they suggested that Member Benefits should focus on recognising where people have participated above and beyond their contractual obligations. The message from tenants was that the new Member Benefits Scheme, as it takes shape, should reflect the core values of RBH in recognising voluntary activity and helping to build stronger communities.

“The values of mutuality make the challenges worth overcoming…”

Edward Carpenter, Governance Manager

There have been lessons learned along the way.  It is true that decision making with additional layers of scrutiny could elongate the process as with any organisation, there is a constant pipeline of issues so it can be difficult to manage the process. Are there enough meetings or too many? What level of consultation should take place?  These are questions that Governance Manger, Edward Carpenter, wrestles, balancing the needs of the business with the wishes of the membership. It is a challenge that he relishes; “I am truly excited when I think of the potential that our model has for RBH as a society and as a community…”  and it is clear that his commitment is matched by the members of the Representative Body. RBH concede that ‘democratic apathy’ can be a potential risk but over time they hope to demonstrate the benefits of membership and excite more interest.

Looking to the future, RBH is harnessing the power of its membership to navigate the choppy waters ahead and stand ready to consolidate the success of the past four years. In doing so, they remain wedded to their core values:  creating and sustaining better communities.

The NHC is keen to hear from members who are considering mutual routes and who may be interested in learning more about the benefits of this approach.

The Consortium would like to thank Gareth and his team, the Representative Body and everyone at RBH who gave up their time to host the NHC and share the RBH way. We really enjoyed our visit and left inspired.

Entrepreneur Benefits from Micro-Loan

A young entrepreneur from Tynedale in Northumberland has taken her first steps into running her own cleaning business thanks to a loan funded by her landlord. Charlotte Dunn, 27, already had some experience in the cleaning industry but wanted to be her own boss. She needed a small amount of capital upfront to afford a small stock of cleaning products, a uniform – and the cost of marketing her new business.


So Charlotte approached Isos Housing, which has been working with community lender Five Lamps to help those with a business idea to get started. Her business is starting out on a part time basis initially, with Charlotte’s working hours centred around her young family.She has some experience of how a small business functions, having helped her self- employed husband with his books and accounting records.

So Vince Rogers from Five Lamps helped Charlotte to complete a professional Business Plan. Vince said: “Although Charlotte had not been self-employed previously, she had a good understanding of her market from her previous employment experience. “She is well organised and worked really enthusiastically on her Business Plan, and I could see she’d done a good amount of research and had secured some expressions of interest from potential clients. After we’d discussed her pricing structure, we drew up a realistic cash flow, based around a sensible number of hours worked per week.”

Now, after gaining approval for her loan from the Five Lamps ‘loan panel’ Charlotte has now got the funds she needs to start her business. She said: “I found the loan process very quick and easy and communications were great. Vince always responded quickly, so I could get the support I needed, and now the loan has allowed me to get on with growing my business.”

Richard Mitchell, community investment manager for Isos Housing, said: “Regular employment and a reliable income are crucial priorities for all our residents. “Whether it’s getting a job, or setting up in business like Charlotte, it’s a crucial step to building a successful life and achieving your dreams.”

Disused grassland transformed into affordable housing for rent

Knowsley Housing Trust (KHT) has worked collaboratively with a local church and community to transform a disused and unsightly area of grassland into a new housing development.

KHT, part of the First Ark Group, has developed 14 new properties available at affordable rent on St George’s Road, Huyton on waste land adjacent to St George’s Church. The £1.5m development, which was built in conjunction with MCI Developments and an HCA grant, comprises 10 one-bedroom apartments and 4 mews style family homes all built to an energy efficient specification with eco tech boilers, triple glazing and secure off road parking. They also enjoy ‘secured by design’ status, meaning the Merseyside Police have deemed the development a safe place to live.

As well as being highly energy efficient, these are the first one bed apartments that KHT have built in the area that are self-contained with no communal area, saving tenants money on service charges and providing a higher degree of privacy.


KHT say the development, close to local shops and other amenities, is in response to high demand in the area for smaller properties. New builds in the area have tended to be larger homes for sale, so this provides badly needed accommodation for smaller families, couples and young professionals who are not yet in a position to buy.

The land for the development was acquired from the Diocese and the proceeds will be used to carry out a programme of refurbishment of the church. Parishioners and local residents were extremely patient while the build took place and the church clerk and his wife even tracked the build, took photographs and regularly updated parishioners on progress, making the story into a book which is kept inside the church. Church members are said to be pleased to see this former empty land used to build attractive homes.

Bob Taylor, CEO of the First Ark Group, said: “KHT’s aim is to provide local communities with quality, affordable homes with support services that help keep money in resident’s pockets. We feel the development at St George’s Road not only benefits smaller families and young professionals who are looking for property to rent near to local amenities, but it also has a positive impact on the local community.

“St George’s Church has been extremely supportive throughout the build process and we’re delighted that the funds from the acquirement of the land will go back into making the community a better place to live and work.”

Keeping the ‘frozen north’ warm

Two leading social landlords operating along the length of Hadrian’s Wall and beyond, are joining forces in a new, cooperative company, to provide cost effective heating services to their customers.

Isos Housing, based in Newcastle, and Two Castles Housing, with offices in Carlisle and Newcastle, are working together on the new business venture called Isos Complete Support (ICS) which launches on Wednesday, April 1st.

The provision of a reliable, high quality heating service is a crucial area for any social landlord, to keep residents safe, and to ensure compliance with a tight regulatory regime.

Following a successful experience working together on a previous occasion, the two businesses decided on the united approach after Two Castles suggested the innovative partnership with Isos could lead to an improved service for its customers.

ICS will utilise the skills of Isos’s award winning heating team, already looking after 12,500 Isos homes, and expand that high quality provision to 2,300 Two Castles homes in Cumbria and the North East.

The Isos heating team works predominantly on gas powered heating systems, but Isos

engineers are also fully trained on oil and solid fuel systems, and renewable heating such as air source heat pumps, ground source heat, and solar thermal installations.

Five new members of staff will be required in total, working alongside the existing 18 strong heating team employed by Isos.

ICS has been formed as a ‘cost sharing company’ (also known as a cost sharing vehicle) which allows any tax exempt organisation like housing associations and schools to provide services without paying VAT.

Thanks to the partnership, Two Castles’ customers will benefit from a high-quality service from the Isos team. In addition, Isos can deliver its services to Two Castles at cost, making the service more competitive on price and ensuring good value for money.

Already, other organisations are expressing an interest in joining Isos and Two Castles in this cost sharing vehicle so they can also make savings. In the long term, Isos hopes to extend the scope of Isos Complete Support to include other services across its business.

Cost sharing vehicles are an EU-driven initiative, so there are strict rules to follow, including setting up Isos Complete Support as a separate company. This new business will officially sit within the Isos family, but will have its own name and its own board to oversee it.

Bill Tuddenham, general manager of Isos Property Services, who will oversee the new company’s launch, said:

“We are excited at the opportunity of working with Two Castles Housing through the launch of Isos Complete Support. We have always been proud of the high standard of service provided by our heating team, and now we have the ability to take that service to a much wider audience.

“We are confident this will be the start of a very productive working relationship between our two organisations.

Rob Brittain of Two Castles, said: “We spotted an opportunity to work with Isos on this project and both companies stand to benefit from our innovative partnership. By working together, Two Castles can benefit from a high-quality, reliable service that ensures the safety of our customers whilst also delivering value for money.

“The partnership is a fantastic opportunity for Two Castles and Isos alike to lead the way with this innovative new way of working.”