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Issue 1 ✦ March 2009





0 E M P LO Y


Welcome to Vibe

- the brand new staff magazine for Plus Dane Group

This is the very first edition of Vibe, and we hope you enjoy reading it. In Vibe, you can expect to find all the latest news and views.

see the Vibe... Christmas parties, staff away days and more ✦ beat the chill... how colleagues helped make winter warmer for residents ✦ new kids on the block... a big welcome to new starters ✦ Vibe news ✦ my passions ✦ celebrity look-alikes ✦ me and my pet ✦ Vibe recommends ✦ babies, weddings, exams success and lots more staff news u

inside this first issue:

City centre living - at a price you can afford Stylish city living just got a whole lot cheaper - with the launch of the stunning new Liverpool ONE rental apartments by Plus Dane Group. The initial phase of these affordable apartments-to-rent is now complete, and our first new residents have moved in to the Edward Rushton Building on Hanover Street. These apartments come with one or two bedrooms, some with en-suites and balconies, incorporating modern design with original architectural features. All have fitted kitchens with appliances, and they are available either unfurnished or complete with sleek, contemporary styled sofas, dining tables and bedroom sets. Some also offer views over the new Liverpool ONE skyline. Rents on the Liverpool ONE apartments start at just £430 pcm.

A further three phases of apartments will be available shortly - in Eagle House on Paradise Street, in Manesty’s Lane and College Lane. In total, there will be 95 units for rent, some featuring three bedrooms, and beautiful communal roof terraces. At the heart of the city, the Liverpool ONE development is the most important regeneration project in the city centre for more than 40 years. With an unrivalled retail and leisure offer, it offers shops, restaurants, bars, a 14-screen cinema and even a five-acre park. Staff are eligible to apply for the apartments - contact Ben Kavanagh, City Centre Lettings Officer, on 0151 330 3532 for more details.

Plus Dane

TOP 100

By now, staff will have heard the great news about our 35th place in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies survey. The announcement was made at the event at Battersea Evolve in London. As well as members of the senior management team and Board, three people from the organisation attended after having their names drawn. They were Miriam O’Carroll, Service Excellence Co-ordinator based at Park Road; Jason Stubbs, Joiner at the Congleton depot, and Karl Duffy, INES Supervisor at Mill Street depot. Dawn Thomas from Rodney Street and Kim Hudson from St James’ Court in Congleton also attended to represent the staff engagement group. This award follows on from our recent accreditation as an ‘outstanding’ two-star organisation by the well-regarded Best Companies scheme. Ken Perry said: “We were told that over 1000 organisations applied for this accreditation and after only 5 months of existence we flew straight in at 35 on the list. This is something to be very proud of and I am grateful to everyone who took part in the survey.” Both the 2-star rating and its placement in the prestigious Sunday Times Top 100 are based on rigorous employee surveys, questioning staff on issues such as leadership, well-being, management and personal growth.

EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION SURVEY 2008 Thank you to everyone who completed our first Plus Dane employee survey towards the end of last year. We achieved a 58% response rate with representation across all teams which is good compared to typical response rates of around 50% for this type of survey. The questionnaire was designed to test our core values of Passion, Innovation, Excellence and Respect and the Ni competency framework. The results will now be used to inform our new Group Human Resources strategy so that it responds directly to the feedback you have provided. As you will see from the highlights below, the results are extremely positive which is fantastic so soon after merger. I want to make sure that Plus Dane is recognised as an Employer of Choice and the results show that we have made a very good start. Our results have been benchmarked against 65 other Housing Associations as well as other organisations across all sectors. As you will see from the results, Plus Dane is ‘top of the league’ in most areas which were benchmarked. However, there is always scope to improve and some suggestions for how we can do this are included in the results analysis. The main issue which stands out is the need to ensure we work as ‘one big team’. With all the work which has been undertaken to establish to the new Group, it is only natural that there has been a focus on our own functional areas within the business. However, now that the foundations are laid we need to look at how we can all work more ‘horizontally’ so that we can really capitalise on the added value and broad range of skills that the new organisation offers. A more detailed analysis of the results by team has also been done and your Director will meet with you in the near future to discuss these. This will allow us to obtain any further specific feedback from teams which can then also be included in the action plan. Plus Dane continues to make great progress and so much has been achieved in the short time since merger in July 2008. Thank you all for your continued contribution.

Ken Perry

The full results of the survey are provided in the enclosed leaflet and also can be found on the intranet. Highlights include: 92% of employees are proud to work for Plus Dane Group 93% had a good understanding of our mission and values 90% were clear about our role and objectives 94% said that the people they work with are supportive and friendly

Vibe news

Conference success for Margaret Welfare Benefits Officer Margaret Garner was involved in organising the first Housing Benefit Best Practice Group Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion Conference. The event took place in Sandbach, and was attended by around 80 delegates and speakers. Experts in the sector were on hand to share best practice, and talk about innovative schemes taking place across the country. Sharon Wheeler, Senior Strategic Housing Champion, was in attendance, and Kitty Ussher, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department of Work and Pensions, also sent a message of support. Margaret, who is based at Shepherd’s Mill, organised the event with colleagues from Moorlands Housing, Wrekin Housing Trust and Aspire Housing.

Margaret Garner

On their way to an MBA… Helen Jamieson, Enterprise Consultant, and Sonia Bassey-Williams, Head of Enterprise Development, are both studying for MBAs, in Helen’s case specialising in social enterprise. The courses are being run by John Moores University in Liverpool, and both Sonia and Helen expect to be working on them for the next three years.

Helen & Sonia

Our very own Christmas trees Plus Dane is now the proud owner of two very beautiful native Caledonian trees at the Alladale Reserve in the Scottish Highlands. The trees were ‘given’ to us instead of cards by Vibrant Energy. Property Investment Consultant Martin Gladwin has formed a partnership with the company, providing Energy Performance Certificates not only within the group, but out-of-house as well.

Staff help residents BEAT THE CHILL Staff and board members from across the group helped highlight fuel poverty and energy efficiency to residents this winter. The Beat the Chill campaign was co-ordinated by Andy Lomas, Neighbourhood Director [Customer], but involved staff from all offices and departments. Staff were involved on every level - from planning to packing Neighbourhood Investor winter survival packs to carrying out home visits. Ken Perry and chairman of the board John Pollard were among those making home visits to selected residents, handing out the packs and offering advice and support. Staff from across all offices were also assigned people to visit in pairs. All residents were also sent top tips for coping in winter and invited to special events held in Cheshire and Merseyside. Feedback from staff and residents is still being gathered, but in the meantime, here is an excerpt from a letter that two Congleton residents, Ruth and Bill Thomas, submitted to their local newspaper: “A few days ago we thought Christmas had come early as a very nice young man from our landlord arrived with bags to help us keep warm through the winter. Thermal blankets, socks, low energy light bulbs, hand warmers, packets of tea and coffee and thermometers to check we keep the rooms at a safe temperature.” “As we can’t remember anything like this happening before we hope you will print this letter to show everyone concerned our sincere appreciation and thanks. Here’s hoping they will have as warm a Christmas and New Year as we shall.” The letter was printed in the Congleton Chronicle shortly afterwards.


The award-winning team at Plus Dane has been adding to its collection of honours - scooping two more titles. First, the in-house team of gas engineers and apprentices was nominated by their regional CORGI representative for outstanding levels of service and quality. The team received CORGI Certification in November 2007, a status achieved by less than 100 CORGI installers from a total of over 65,000. They went on to be named as the CORGI Installer of the Year for Central England. The Awards were held at the RICOH Arena in Coventry, and hosted by comedian Michael McIntyre from TV show Mock the Week. Dane Group's in-house gas team services and maintains gas installations across the group's Cheshire region. It also provides specialist services, installing renewable energy sources such as solar panels. These services are also available to private customers and the team brings in ÂŁ1million of business each year. New Business Manager Mark Davies told us: "This award is a tribute to the hard work, skills and dedication of our team. We're really proud to have received such recognition." Further success came at the UK Excellence Awards in London, held in the presence of HRH the Princess Royal, patron of the British Quality Foundation. Dane were given a prestigious National Achievement Award for their outstanding customer care. Paul Robinson, Excellence Director at Plus Dane, said: "We are absolutely thrilled to win this Award. We feel it is recognition of our total commitment to customers. "The Special Achievement Awards are made to organisations from all sectors, both private sector and voluntary organisations, from across the UK demonstrating the best in Excellence. We feel particularly proud to be a representative for social housing, having been ranked along-side some of the most successful organisations in the UK." Mike Doran, Managing Director for Cheshire, added: "I am particularly pleased by the result because the judges noted the real sense of pride taken by staff in their work and for the neighbourhoods we serve. "Our citation noted our high level of customer satisfaction in all aspects of the business. Tenants are particularly satisfied and these outstanding results have been achieved through Dane's commitment to customers which is evident throughout the organisation."

. .. k c o l b e h t n o s d i k New

Plus Dane has welcomed some new starters to the group, in a variety of roles. Here we say ‘hello’ to a few of the new members of the team.

Phil Pemberton

Phil Pemberton has joined us as Neighbourhood Director [Property and Procurement]. He is responsible for maintenance and repair, business planning, and for overseeing our £7.4m investment programme. Phil joins us directly from Connaught Partnership, where he worked at director level. He has a wealth of experience in the sector, including 20 years in housing at Warrington Borough Council and then Golden Gates Housing after a successful stock transfer. Phil places customer service and customer involvement high on his list of priorities, and is so far enjoying the challenge and satisfaction of working with Plus Dane. He says: “Our residents are at the heart of everything we do, and I am very much looking forward to developing my role.” Although he has an office in Shepherd’s Mill, Phil is very much ‘out and about’ across the group, and by now a familiar face in most Plus Dane venues. Phil has two children, and enjoys keeping fit and playing football.

Michelle Davis Michelle arrived at Plus Dane as new Neighbourhood Manager at the start of November - and promptly left again to go on holiday for four weeks! Before taking up her new role at Shepherd’s Mill, Michelle and her family had arranged a trip to Australia to see friends. Now, though, she is back and very much in the swing of things, managing her team of five housing officers. Michelle previously worked for Congleton Borough Council as Senior Housing Development Officer, and before that in the homelessness team. She has two children - a son aged nine and a daughter aged 12 - and is so far loving her new role with Plus Dane. She says: “I really enjoy working here, everyone is really friendly and committed to what they are doing, and so far I love my new job.”

Paula Thompson Paula recently joined Plus Dane Group as Neighbourhood Investment Manager at Evolve in Bootle. She joins the Group from Wigan and Leigh Housing where she was Deputy Area Housing Manager. Paula began her career in housing as a school leaver, she was employed by Wigan Council on a youth training scheme and progressed to repairs assistant. After two years, her career changed direction and she went to work in the private sector working as a Branch Manager and then Development Manager across the North West. Paula returned to housing in 2002. She says: “I like the ethos of bringing customers into the company, allowing them to have choice and input into the decisions made.” She also likes the fact that the senior management team are accessible and take the time to meet new members of staff and make them feel welcome.

and welcome to… Yvonne Davies, Steve Bowyer, Samuel Newton, Joanne Fynney, Samantha Mills, Sarah Higgins, Amy Harding, Lewis Jackson, Linda Chapman, Jennifer Connolly, Michael Parsons, Michael Neilson, Paula Ellis, Lucy Christian, Victor Twagirumwami, Clare Feeney, Carol Parker, Claire Lloyd, Peter Dodd, John Irvine, Richard Leahy, Karl Duffy, David Hindley, Kiel La Cruz, Gerald Aryeety, Brett Williams, Ray Fowles, Darren Dixon, Wayne Leary, Michael Broadfoot, Ben Carpenter, Sandy Rourke, Neil Hill, Anne Lundon, Terence O’Neil… Who have all joined Plus Dane since November.

George Pattullo retires Family, friends and colleagues gathered together to bid a fond farewell to longstanding CDS board member, George Pattullo, at his retirement party on Friday 5 December. George retired after serving almost 30 years as a CDS Board member. His contribution to the growth and development of CDS over this period has been outstanding. George first became involved with CDS as an advocate on behalf of a housing co-operative in Dingle. He became Chair of the CDS Board in 1993 and has also been a Board member of New Generation Housing Association and Include Neighbourhood Regeneration. During the evening, held at the Racquets Club in Liverpool, George was presented with a ‘This is Your Life’ style photobook accompanied by a presentation from former Chair, Roger Morris. Managing Director Clare Budden said: “George has been one of those board members you can always rely on, he has rarely missed a meeting or event we have organised and always makes a contribution. “His dedication and commitment to the organisation has been amazing and he has always made sure that CDS continues to listen to its customers, involve them in all it does, and deliver good services and excellent quality homes. He has seen many changes in his time and has supported the development of many new initiatives which, at the time seemed risky but with hindsight were exactly the right things to do.” George was delighted to see so many of his family, friends and colleagues, past and present, there to help him celebrate his retirement. George is really passionate about the work he has been involved in with CDS and hopes to continue working in the future with Plus Dane.

Reach for the stars: Impressed staff:

Top L-R Brenda O’Farrell, Jackie Connolly, Julie Surridge

Andrea Moore, Clare Murray

Bottom L-R Caroline McCann & Amy Done

Plus Dane rat pack: Dave Tai, John Foster, Kevin Clifford & Ian Reed

Staff admiring the talent

Singing their hearts out: Contestants

Anne Steel & Nicola Andrews

see the Vibe

Kevin and John get tied up

The Old Spice Girls: Anne Steel, Noreen Fallon, Julie Gaudie, Paula Thompson & Nicola Andrews

Has Dave Tai got the X Factor?

The Judges: Phil Pemberton [Simon], Maggie Dobson [Sharon] & Denis Hogg [Louis]

Dancing Queens: Maria O’Brien & Clare Budden

Elvis is alive!... oh no, it’s Paula Thompson

KIP’s Christmas lunch: Daniel O’Donnell, Ian Kelly, Alex Garcia, Julie Walker, Chris Sharrock, Ashley Oldfield, Tom Jackson, Amanda Waldron, Howard Jones, Ann Foy, Daniel Sayle & Paul Billington

No papararazzi please: Alex Garcia

Come dine with me:


Judith Martin, Silvanna Kenny, Maggie Dobson, Bob Jones Denis Hogg, Dawn Morris, Julia McKeown & Ian Kelly

Clare Mawdsley, Ruth Lee & Val Anderson

Here come the girls: Amanda Waldron, Tina Peet, Judith Martin & Leanne Brady

Kenny Higham collecting his ‘Building Bridges’ award for his work to deal with Anti-Social Behaviour

Three’s company: Sandra Sayle, Howard Jones & Jayne Phillips

Party time: Jayne Skinner, Elaine Bright, Tony Kiely & Karin Webster

see the Vibe Cheshire Staff Children’s Party

Erika Rushton at the Youth Voice event

All together: Emma Hartley, Clare Feeney, Dennis Lally & Anna Abbie

Twisting the Night Away: Gemma Tuzio & Stephen McNicholas

Residents Beat the Chill with Father Christmas & Emma Sneyd

Merseyside Staff Children’s Party

Please send your pictures for the next issue of Vibe to

Adrian Pennington, Business Support and Project Development Manager, tells us how a wet weekend in Shropshire CAN be fun‌

Walking and running eight miles? Sleeping under a tree? Completing an assault course? Does this sound like fun? Perhaps it doesn’t, but the satisfaction and warm glow we had after taking part in the Executive Stretch weekend made it all worthwhile. The event was organisation by SaBRE, who assist and promote organizations that employ reservists. Myself and colleagues from Plus Dane met up at Shrewsbury barracks for briefings, a great curry and one or two drinks at the subsidized bar! Saturday started at 5am being shouted at to get up, then on to Nesscliffe training site.

weekend Vibe The teams had to enact tasks as diverse as negotiating a Militia blockade to extracting trapped tanks and military vehicles. After setting up our sleeping arrangements - a plastic sheet tied between trees in the woods - we were amazed to be lead to an old large brick shippon to have a surprise evening dinner, all the more surprising after we had been advised to stay in our wet muddy clothing as there would be night activities. It was a surreal experience to have a champagne reception in what appeared to be a 5* restaurant, which an hour before had been a far less inviting place. We were met by Anne Ward and her husband Richard and many other Army dignitaries who all contributed to this wonderful evening. At 6am we were awoken by our section leader, to face the much feared assault course. After watching the ten section leaders [all soldiers] struggle to clear the famous brick wall we knew we would struggle. We hatched a plan to ensure we acted as team, which certainly paid off as we came second and narrowly missed the fastest time, in doing so beating a team of fire fighters who were all huge! The final event was a bridge building competition, we had an hour to build a bridge out of hemp rope, 6x2 timber planks two railway sleepers and two pallets, the winner being the one that spanned the furthest. At the end of the hour the Brigadier tested each bridge. Despite a few toe curling moments as our bridge sagged, it held and we came third. We had so many laughs and learned a lot about ourselves and teamwork.

I do...

A honeymoon in the Isle of Skye and Scotland was the follow-up to the wedding of Colin Mountford and Nicola Hunter. Colin, business support supervisor at Shepherd’s Mill, married Nicola at the Manor House Hotel in Alsager.

Three cheers for Dennis Dennis Lally, Enterprise Consultant, has become a fully qualified Chartered Surveyor after passing his Assessment of Professional Competency by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Dennis is one of only ten RICS members in the country who have gained entry through the Housing Competency Framework, and he did so after a demanding two year process. After extensive on-the-job training and studying, including a 3000 word analysis, Dennis faced the final hurdle in October last year, when he was interviewed by three members of RICS, and delivered a presentation. He said: “Obviously I am delighted to have passed - and quite relieved as well!”

Dennis Lally

Three passes at NVQ3 Three members of staff have passed their NVQ level 3 in Health and Social Care [Adults]. Congratulations to Frank Daw, Christine Amphlett and Carol Ditcher, who are all Community Support Co-ordinators within the sheltered housing department in Cheshire. They received in-house training and were assessed in the workplace.

Baby boom

Tanya Barber - formerly Tanya Darman - married John at Macclesfield Registry Office, before a bit of a do at the Vale Club in Congleton. Tanya, business support admin at Shepherd’s Mill, and John then went on honeymoon in Crete.

The stork has been particularly busy within Plus Dane recently - delivering four beautiful baby girls to staff. In December, 3 members of staff in Cheshire had new arrivals - Financial Director [Neighbourhoods] Viv Cross gave birth to Scarlett Gabrielle; Neighbourhood Officer Kelly Johnson welcomed Evie May into the world, and Lily May was born to May Sheard. In Merseyside Louise Davies, Head of Business Development, gave birth to 8lb 9oz Lucy in February. We wish them all good luck coping with the sleepless nights!

Both weddings took place over the summer. Scarlett Cross

Lucy Davies

Staff changes Good luck to Lynsey Dusterloh, Executive Assistant to Ken Perry, who went on maternity leave at the end of January. Her baby is due in early March.

Me and my pet If you think that a dog - or a cat, fish or guinea pig! - is man’s best friend, then this is the column for you.

We will be featuring Plus Dane staff and their pets in each edition of Vibe. We start off with two cute dogs, owned by Sue Brown, PA to Anne Ward and Jayne Phillips, and Howard Jones, Knowledge and Information Management Director.


Sue’s new best friend is a Cocker Spaniel pup called Merlin. She says: “I know I am biased, but he is so cute! Every time I see this picture it makes me smile.” Howard’s terrier Annie was rescued by Plus Dane staff after being abandoned at a property. Howard says: “I took one look at her and was smitten. She really is a lovely dog and has fit into life at home very well.”

Howard with Annie

Did you feel the We hope you have enjoyed this first edition of Vibe magazine. If you have - let us know. And if you haven’t - let us know why! We are keen to get your feedback about what you enjoyed, what you didn’t, and what else you might like to see in the next edition. The team here would also love to hear from anybody who would like to take part in the next Vibe - for example, would you like to follow in the footsteps of our intrepid


She has been replaced by Julie Surridge, PA to Clare Budden, whose position will be filled by Debbie Forsy.

Charity fundraising results Staff across the group raised money for various good causes in recent months. Children in Need received a £50 donation; breast cancer awareness day Wear It Pink raised more than £100 and Jeans for Genes is £274 better off. Christmas also gave us the chance to contribute to charities - with £113 going to the Alder Hey Imagine Appeal from staff based in Rodney Street, and around £900 going in to the Beat the Chill campaign in place of sending Christmas cards.

Blooming lovely!


Staff from In Environmental Services and Neighbourhood Intervention Officer Ruth Webster helped children from St Finbar’s School in Liverpool 8 plant some spring bulbs in land near their school. The planting day was part of a bigger project run in partnership between Plus Dane, Liverpool City Council, Arena Housing and Liverpool Mutual Homes in the area.


Around 1,200 bulbs were planted, and more than 100 local children took part.

traveller, Phil Lillywhite, and share Your Passion? It can be a place, a person, a pastime - whatever you love doing, we love hearing about. Or is there a restaurant, bar, or shop that you’ve discovered and would love to recommend to colleagues via Vibe? Maybe you’d like to see your pet featured in our cute and cuddly column! To share your news, views and reviews, please contact the Vibe team at Ruth Webster

My Passions



by Phil Lillywhite

To travel or to arrive?...

Reality TV has hit our screens and left an impression on our staff...

…is rather a nonsense question in a way, but what emphasis you place on each can change. As a child, growing up in Surrey, we used to go on holiday to a caravan on the Sussex coast. That was a real adventure then.

Ben Clay, Head of Home Ownership certainly has the X Factor when it comes to his look-alike Leon Jackson.

As I got older, I travelled further afield - living in Finland for a time when I was a student, doing some voluntary work in India, and spending time on the West coast of America.

Rain forest, Costa Rica

In 2000, I decided to have another go at travelling for my annual holiday. The excitement of putting together my own rough itinerary, and the prospect of different cultures and landscapes were an important part of the holiday. So, in four consecutive years I went to Costa Rica, Chile, Ecuador, and Jordan. The reality pretty much matched the expectation. I should point out that I’m a bit of a birdwatcher, and there were plenty of exciting species to be seen in fascinating habitats.

Customer Care Advisor Amy Harding is the spitting image of Dancing on Ice’s Holly Willoughby.

Then I rather ‘lost’ it. Travel, especially if it involved airports, became harder work, and I felt that I wanted to be somewhere as opposed to getting there. So, I then indulged my love of small islands by staying on some in West Ireland - I do recommend Tory Island off Donegal. Bit of a hairy sea crossing, but a fascinating place. It has its own ‘king’ and a unique Tory Island style of landscape painting by local artists. Holidays for Tory Island, Ireland the last 3 years have been spent in a croft on the eastern tip of Sanday in the Orkney Islands off Northern Scotland. Nearest building is the lighthouse, and the closest neighbours are seabirds and seals. Lots of wind, big skies, and no street lights - marvellous!

If you have any suggestions for celebrity look-alikes please send them to

As much of my work for Plus Dane is focused on people, the lack of this species on holiday is a most welcome change. I need to be a bit careful though - could end up as a hermit in a cave!

Vibe r e c o m m e n d s . . .

Travel well and enjoy being there!

Sanday, Orkney Island

Lunch in Liverpool: Ashley Oldfield, Helpdesk Analyst in Rodney Street, suggests the Renshaw Grill on Renshaw Street. He says: “It’s close to the office, the food is great, it’s quite fast, and you can get a three course meal for £10, as well as bottomless refills on your soft drinks.”

Classy in Congleton: Sharon Smith, Supported Housing

A Day Out With The Animals: Liz Miller, Marketing and

Paris in the Springtime: Emma Sneyd, Neighbourhood

Events Officer, recommends the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay. She says: “It is really good value compared to some of the other zoos, there’s a nice picnic area, and you can also enjoy the sea lion show and the March of the Penguins. Great for the young and the young at heart!”

Involvement Manager at Shepherd’s Mill, enjoys a quick trip to Paris. She says: “It is easy and cheap to fly to from the North West, a fantastic city to see for a weekend. We stayed at the Hotel 123, five minutes from the Champs Elysee and round the corner from the fashion houses.”

contact us at

Manager in Cheshire, is all in favour of The Pavilion, a bar and grill based in the picturesque surroundings of Congleton Park, near to the Shepherd’s Mill office. She says: “It’s great for an occasion, or if you just want to go somewhere nice for lunch or dinner.”

Produced by Plus Dane Communications and printed on 100% recycled stock


Launch of new staff magazine for Plus Dane Group as part of internal communications strategy

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