Page 1

Annual Report to Tenants 2010/11

What’s inside Key achievements Page 3

Resident involvement

Striving for excellence‌ together

Page 4

Customer service Page 6

Better homes Page 8

Friendlier communities Page 10

Future plans Page 12

Annual Report to Tenants

Welcome Welcome to our second annual report to our tenants, leaseholders and shared owners covering the Trust’s activities during the year April 2010 to March 2011. We have had another year of solid progress meeting the promises made at transfer and are on target to complete them all by September 2012. The Improvement Programme continues to make our homes better places to live in and our Better Communities Fund has invested in our neighbourhoods to make them places we can be proud of. We were delighted to see tenants moving into the first homes that we built, and to begin work onsite on our second development. We continue to improve our repairs and anti social behaviour services which we know are high priorities for you. In this report you will see assessments by the Gateway Committee of our progress in meeting the promises we made to you last year: what we have done well, what we could do better and what they would like to see us do in the coming year. Your input is as vital as ever in shaping what the Trust does so do please continue to share your views with us. I would like to thank all my colleagues on the Board, the Gateway Committee and staff for their hard work and commitment – together we are working to deliver high quality services to you. Diane Lee, Chair of the Board As Diane indicates 2010/11 has been another busy year for everyone at the Trust. We continue to develop our staff to provide that all important customer service by investing in high quality training and reviewing with you how you experience interacting with us. This has led us to improve a number of our services, especially via our Service Centre, and we will continue to strive for excellence ‌. together. This year all our hard work has paid off with the successful achievement of a Bronze Investors in People Award and the Code of Practice for Housing Related Support Services. I am really proud of all the hard work that the staff have done and I believe you will see this in an improved service. Plans are in place to continue all this good work. We have also seen our Community Action Group (CAG), which represents all our Tenants and Residents Associations, come together to look at how they can add value in all our local communities. We celebrated this work with our Community Champions event in January. I am sure you will agree that by working together we can improve the places where people live. As we go into the last 18 months of our promises I believe we are in a strong position to deliver our transfer promises and I hope you will get involved in what we do next. Thanks for all your involvement in shaping and improving our services. Tina Barnard, Chief Executive 2


Our Key Achievements in 2010/11

We are very proud of our achievements over the year. We completed our first ever development of new family homes at Alma Place. We also started building new homes on the former site of Yeatman House in Foxhill, and purchased 10 new flats in Hillside, Abbots Langley. We made it a priority to help you to access the financial services you need. We launched partnerships with Citizens Advice and the Women’s Centre to provide direct money advice to tenants. We also held a highly successful ‘Jobs, Advice and Money’ Fair, giving around 300 visitors access to advice on benefits, training and finding the right job. We held and supported a number of successful fun days and community events, including the

Community Champions awards ceremony in January. Our housing support team gained accreditation from the Code of Practice for Housing Related Support Services. This means that an independent body has recognised that our services for older residents are of the highest quality and based around your needs. We received a Bronze Investors in People Award. We continued to invest in improvements to the quality of life in Watford and Three Rivers through our £9 million Better Communities Fund. We gained over 200 new members in 2010/11, giving residents an even stronger voice in how we are run.

We look forward to building on these achievements and working with you to strive for excellence…. together.


Annual Report to Tenants As a full member you: • Have the right to influence our policies, services, finances and key decisions • Receive a Share Certificate for the Trust • Are invited to consultation events and meetings • Can vote on key decisions • Are eligible to stand for the Gateway Committee

Involving Residents Who owns the Trust? Our members! As a Community Gateway housing association, now into our fourth year, we have always kept your views at the heart of our decision making. We are different from most other landlords because our tenants and leaseholders actually ‘own’ the organisation and vote on important issues.

Resident involvement – Facts and figures

Our members elect the Gateway Committee which advises the Board on tenant views and elects five tenants to the Board. Tenants also sit on Working Groups which have a direct say in how the Trust operates.


Our Community Empowerment Strategy, available on our website at Community_Empowerment_ Strategy, sets out our approach to involving residents in our work.

• Our membership increased by 211 to 3,062 this year – giving residents an even stronger voice in how we are run • We are in the top quartile of landlords for listening to your views • We completed four ‘Watford Wants’ community option studies to set priorities for local issues and request funding for local projects

To get involved and become a member call the Community Empowerment Team on 01923 209 183 or complete the application form online at form.php. What difference does this involvement actually make? Our members and residents in the wider community have shaped our work in a number of ways. Here are just a few examples. • Our tenant working groups have guided our work on topics such as Communications, Property Services, Better Communities Fund, Financial Inclusion and Safer Communities. Members have also been advising us on our customer service strategy and are getting involved in scrutinising the Trust. • The Independent Living Forum has influenced the way we deliver services to our older residents in sheltered housing, and the Leaseholders and Shared Owners Forum provides an opportunity for members to shape the specialist issues that affect them.

2010/2011 • Residents get involved in making decisions on panels for complaints and also for appeals on starter tenancies and the Improvement Programme. This means that tenants’ perspectives are central to these important decisions. • Residents are involved in evaluating tenders and choosing the best companies for us to

work with. For example, a panel of members and Meriden residents took part in the selection of United House as our contractor for the refurbishment of the high rise blocks. Read more about resident involvement in action in our Friendlier Communities section on page 10.

ay Since I’ve been on the Gatew Committee, I’ve come to realise how much we actually do for ly Watford. I’ve grown personal in confidence and in knowledge, and I absolutely love it.

Karen Marchand, air of Gateway Member and Ch oup the Disability Working Gr

Our improvement plan for involving residents in 2011/12 is to: • increase the number of young people involved with the Trust, offer them more activities, and set up a ‘Youth Gateway’ • use your views from surveys, working groups and member events to change our services and regularly report back to you in Gateway News • ask tenants to agree what we mean by ‘right first time’ to help us improve satisfaction with routine repair jobs • provide support so tenants with diverse backgrounds and needs can easily get involved

The Scrutiny Panel Verdict We asked our Tenant Scrutiny Panel to assess our progress on involvement. This is what they had to say. This year we wanted a wider mix of tenants to be involved with the Trust and help influence its decisions. We managed to attract 190 young people through ‘Rolling Base’ and this is the first year we created an award for a ‘Young Community Champion’. We have attracted a whole range of tenants to our events and consultations.

We are involved in the Watford Disability Forum and Herts Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender group but we still need to find out if we give enough support to our ‘hidden’ residents especially if they face harassment. We also completed another four local community studies to find out what residents in Radlett Road, Croxley Green, Central and Leavesden Green want to see improved in their areas. Our Gateway Committee and Board don’t reflect the diversity of our community, such as younger people or those from non-white ethnic backgrounds. There has been some excellent work with involving tenants, especially in the community, but we could do more to publicise our achievements.


Annual Report to Tenants

Customer service

Improving the speed of our response

We aim to give you an excellent customer experience. However we know that sometimes we still don’t get it right, as shown by a drop in satisfaction levels for contacting the Trust compared to last year. Some of you feel that it is hard to get hold of the right person, or that issues you have raised are getting ‘stuck’ between departments. We are working hard to correct this and have already delivered some improvements. All our staff have taken part in customer service training from experts in the field, as well as ongoing in-house coaching, to improve our communication with you. We also successfully applied for Investors in People status and achieved a Bronze Award for our service excellence to customers, and will go for the Gold in future. We have also changed

our staff appraisal process to improve communication and the consistency of services across the Trust. However we know that we need to go further, so working closely with our members we have developed a customer service action plan, which we are now implementing to ensure you receive the excellent standard of service we aspire towards.

We have seen improvements this year in our Customer Service Centre, with average caller waiting times down from 29 seconds to just 21 seconds, and abandoned calls down from over 4% to less than 3%. Remember, if you don’t want to wait for your call to be answered you can always use our Callback service by pressing ‘star’ while in the queue, and we will automatically ring you back as soon as a customer services officer is available.


The number of compliments we re ceived from tenants in 20 10/11 – up from 259 in 2009 /10

How satisfied are you with us?

The Scrutiny Panel Verdict


Contact with the Trust

2009/10 2010/11

Easy to get hold of the right person



Attitude of staff



Able to deal with the problem



Satisfaction with final outcome



We asked our Tenant Scrutiny Panel to assess our progress on improving our customer service and handling your comments and complaints. This is what they had to say.


Complaints and compliments

Number of comments and complaints

Compliments to the Trust have increased over the year, but so too have the number of complaints we received. We are looking into why this is the case, but we believe it is partly down to more accurate recording of complaints, as shown by the new categories in the table below.

Over the coming year we are embedding this role into our Customer Service Centre, to provide a much closer working relationship between staff handling official complaints and those who have the opportunity to resolve initial expressions of dissatisfaction early on.

Our improvement plan for customer services in 2011/12 is to: • improve customer service across the Trust

No. received No. received 2009/10 2010/11





Decent Homes


Estate Services



Housing (general)


Housing Support Services



Ownership and Leasehold







Repairs and Maintenance



Staff and Customer Service









Anti social behaviour

Tenancy Management Other Issues Total Complaints

• focus more on the quality of service you receive, not just speed of response • work with tenants to monitor value for money, tenant satisfaction and to direct our priorities • improve communications, both internally and with our customers • let you know more about how we have acted on your feedback • collect up-to-date data on the people living in our properties to shape services

The blank fields above show where we have changed our categories for recording complaints over the year. Not only did we succeed in getting the national Investors in People award but we even reached bronze level and we also completed training of all staff in customer service.

But we know though that some of you are frustrated when your complaints are passed between different departments and we aim to improve on that this year.

We also recruited a complaints administrator and 95% of complaints met the timescale for response.

Many of you helped us with our review of customer service and identified a lot of weaknesses. We now have an action plan to address your concerns, though it will take some time to get everything right.

We have reduced the time you wait for someone to answer your phone calls.


Annual Report to Tenants Improving our repairs Remember you can report a repair to us at any time, night or day, using our freephone repairs line, 0800 218 2247 or on 01923 209 247. You can also report a repair online at our website, www.wcht. We completed 19,100 repairs last year. Results for emergency, urgent and routine repair completions on time have all improved compared to 2009/10.

Better Homes Bringing our homes up to the Watford Quality Standard When we transferred from Watford Borough Council, we promised to bring our homes up to the Watford Quality Standard by September 2012. This is a higher standard and offers more choice to tenants than the Government’s Decent Homes Standard. Tenants helped to plan and create this programme and are monitoring our performance.

Better homes – facts and figures

The programme experienced a slight delay as we switched from two contractor partners to one, which means we improved fewer properties than the year before. Nevertheless, we remain on track to complete the current programme by September 2012.

We also began the procurement process for refurbishing our high rise blocks on the Meriden estate, leading to the appointment of United House to carry out the work.

• We spent over £10.5 million on improving homes and building new properties in 2010/11, and a further £14 million spend is planned in 2011/12 • Satisfaction with the condition of your property fell slightly, from 74% in 2009/10 to 70% in 2010/11 • Satisfaction with our repairs service also decreased slightly, from 80% to 76%


However, just over 75% of repairs were completed on first visit last year, and we need to improve on this figure.

“I had a new kitchen fitted very recently. The workmen were at good, they told me exactly wh e they were going to do, and th es Trust came around several tim was to have a look and ask if I s pleased with everything. It wa really good. When they finished ff it I didn’t want to put my stu all back in it. I said it will look ” untidy, I like it just as it is! Christine, tenant

The Scrutiny Panel Verdict We asked our Tenant Scrutiny Panel to assess our progress on delivering better homes. This is what they had to say.

2010/2011 Affordable homes for Watford and Three Rivers Last year we completed our very first development of new homes, Alma Place, which was built on a former garage site on the Meriden estate. “You just can’t fault it in any way. We just love it here, it’s fantastic,” said new tenant Gary Stevens (pictured), who moved in the day after the homes were completed in January. We purchased a new development of ten flats in Abbots Langley. Five of the flats are for social rent, and the other five are ‘Rent to Homebuy’ – which means that tenants pay a rent that is lower than the market rate, so they can save to buy the property.

New tenant Steven Howell told us he is pleased with what the Trust has done at Brightwell Court.

• keep on target to complete our first home Improvement Programme by September 2012

He said:“I like the way the Trust has taken something like an older people’s home and turned it into something like this, so people like me can get a nice property somewhere good in Watford town centre.”

• refurbish the Meriden high rise blocks • refurbish our sheltered schemes at Horwood Court, Eastbury and Longcroft

And following extensive consultation with residents, we received planning permission to build 12 new family homes on the former site of Yeatman House, in Foxhill in North Watford, and started work on the development in the Spring.

• develop 12 new family homes on the site of Yeatman House



We converted one of our former sheltered schemes, Brightwell Court, into flats for key workers in the town centre, at a much lower rent than the private sector.

Our improvement plan for better homes in 2011/12 is to:

New kitchens



We finished a survey to find out if you wanted more flexible appointment times for repairs and most of you who replied didn’t want to change. However we feel we need to question this more, especially with tenants who are out at work all day.



2009/10 We need to improve satisfaction with repairs and getting them right first time.



Work was held up slightly as we moved from two contractor partners to one, meaning that we improved fewer homes in 2010/11 than in 2009/10. However we will make up the difference to complete the Improvement Programme by September 2012.

Windows installed



Number of homes improved year upon year


New bathrooms

New boilers/ central heating upgrades


The Improvement Programme was held up while we switched to a single contractor, although we remain on schedule. We were disappointed with slow progress on loft insulation. We did speed up providing aids and adaptations but our budget can no longer keep up with growing demand.


Annual Report to Tenants more to give younger residents a say in our work including supporting local youth clubs at Leavesden Green and other locations. And because we value the unsung heroes who dedicate their time and energy to making their neighbourhood a better place, we held our second Community Champions Awards ceremony earlier this year. Helping you to feel safer

Friendlier Communities Working with you for friendlier communities

We work closely with residents, the police and other partners to make our neighbourhoods friendlier and safer places to be. The Community Action Group, which combines tenant and resident associations from around the area, has gone from strength to strength with the Trust’s support.

Neighbourhood safety – Facts and figures

Many of you have been working alongside our staff to improve our neighbourhoods, from Clean Up Days to the Community Crime


Fighters Action Day that took place on Boundary Way. To build community spirit we organise and support a number of local fun days and events that take place throughout the year. We have also engaged with young people through the Rolling Base mobile youth club, and are doing 2009/10 2010/11

Satisfaction with neighbourhood as a place to live



Tenants reporting ASB in the year 10%


Satisfaction with staff ability to deal with ASB problem



Satisfaction with how case was handled



We know that dealing with anti-social behaviour is a priority for you, and we have recruited an additional Safer Communities Officer to our team to respond to your concerns. Our work in partnership with the police and other agencies is helping to contribute to an ongoing fall in crime statistics in Watford. We teamed up with the police, the fire service, the NHS, the county and borough councils and other service providers to create Partnership Protected Areas in Stanborough, Meriden and Holywell. Through this award-winning project we visit residents door-to-door to promote personal safety, home protection, health and wellbeing.

Facts and figures Taken from the STATUS satisfaction survey. This year’s survey sample comprised 422 tenants and leaseholders.


Our improvement plan for friendlier communities in 2011/12 is to:

Better Communities Fund When we transferred from the Council we set up the £9 million Better Communities Fund (BCF): an investment programme established from Trust finances to improve the quality of life for residents in and around Watford and Three Rivers. Projects are approved by a panel of tenant and resident volunteers. Though the Fund got off to a slow start, it has now invested in a wide range of projects, from small estate improvements to larger community development schemes. One example is the work we carried out at the Summer Place sheltered scheme. The Fund paid for new fencing to stop dog walkers from using the grass near residents’ windows, and a new patio with an awning in the back

garden. Changes like this may be relatively small but they really do make a difference to people’s quality of life. Another example is our work with pupils from Alban Wood, Berrygrove and Cherry Tree primary schools. The BCF team consulted around 370 children in January about new playground facilities we were installing in their local area. To thank the children for their help in designing the new play areas, we gave Berrygrove and Cherry Tree schools a Nintendo Wii console, while Alban Wood requested some voice recorders for a school project. Berrygrove School put their new Wii console to the test in a special tournament attended by the Trust’s own mascot, Trusty House (pictured).

• produce a photographic guide with tenants to show our estate standards • maintain our service standards on estates to make more of you satisfied with your local neighbourhood • appoint a project manager to identify with local people how best to develop the Leavesden Green Community Centre and increase the range and number of its activities and improve play facilities for children • work in partnership with Vibe, our local radio station to promote communities and events • carry out more local road shows to help communities tackle antisocial behaviour

The Scrutiny Panel Verdict We asked our Tenant Scrutiny Panel to assess the work we are doing to promote friendlier communities. This is what they had to say. We held a very successful ‘Jobs, Advice and Money Fair’ working with many organisations across the town, including the Womens Centre. This was to help people with money advice and developing skills to help them find jobs.

We need to keep complainants well informed of our action on anti-social behaviour; we have a programme of roadshows now in place. We have been slow at spending Better Communities Fund but the process has improved and good projects are now coming forward.


Annual Report to Tenants

Giving you Value for Money How we spend your money

How every £1 was spent in 2010/11

Management costs 37p including staff Money we spend on staff wages and providing services to tenants Costs of maintenance 36p of properties For general repairs and maintenance work and for the maintenance of grounds and communal areas. Supporting 2p People A government-funded programme to provide housing related support to vulnerable people to help them live more independently.



of tenants believe they get value for money for their rent

Management 1p services The costs of managing a small number of properties on behalf of the Borough and County councils, who pay us for providing this service. Service 2p costs Heating, lighting, cleaning and other costs. Interest on 11p borrowing Interest we have to pay back to the bank for money we borrowed to spend on improving properties.

Understanding the money Value of our housing – has increased by over £22 million as a result of the home Improvement Programme. Money people owe to us – money and work owed to the Trust including rent arrears. Money we owe to others short-term – covers money owed to suppliers involved in improving our properties. This decreases as more and more work is completed. Money we owe the bank – has risen by £9 million to cover the loans we needed to carry out improvements Work we will be carrying out on our houses – money to carry out works on improving your homes to the Watford Quality Standard. Value of the business – has improved as a result of the increase in the value of our properties. The Trust made a surplus in the year which means more money has been received than spent. This surplus will be reinvested in the Trust. Depreciation 6p An accounting adjustment that reduces the value of our assets due to wear and tear and ageing. Surplus for 1p reinvesting in the business Money that we have to put back into the business for future years. Water 4p rates We collect water rates for tenants through their rents and then pay this to Veolia for the supply of water to our properties, who give us income for running this collection service.


Value of our Business Each year, we tell you how we are doing financially. These figures are audited so you know they have been prepared properly. The figures below are extracts from our accounts for the financial year 1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011.

31st March 2010 £m

Value of our housing

31st March 2011 £m



Value of our office



Value of our shops



Value of our computers











Money we owe to the bank



Work we will be carrying out on our houses



Net pension Liability



Value of the business





Money people owe to us Cash Money we owe to others short term Total


Our improvement plan for achieving value for money in 2011/12 is to: • work more efficiently to reduce the cost of our repairs • give you more information about how our costs compare with other landlords • reduce our operating costs to allow increased investment in services provided • streamline how we deliver our services to create capacity to bring in additional income • consider value-for-money in terms of both quality and cost when evaluating new contracts • consult you before improving any standards that affect your service charges.

The Scrutiny Panel Verdict We asked our Tenant Scrutiny Panel to assess the work we are making on achieving value for money. This is what they had to say. We succeeded in getting rent arrears down to the target. We also established and funded a partnership with Citizens Advice to offer debt advice to tenants and also worked with many other organisations to help support our tenants with money issues.

We have provided low-cost support to vulnerable tenants through Lifelines, telecare and the handyperson scheme And we have made a good start to compare our costs with other landlords and identify our priorities for making efficiencies and providing value for money.


Annual Report to Tenants

Future Plans and Promises Delivering our promises When we transferred from Watford Borough Council in 2007 we made many promises to you about what we would do in our first five years, and we are working hard to fulfil them. The main promises are:

Our plans and priorities for next year

• Setting up the Trust as a Community Gateway membership organisation where tenants influence decisions

• Grow the Trust to provide more homes and services for our tenants

• Spending £66 million to improve homes and services

All our work is guided by our five corporate objectives. These are to: • Deliver our transfer promises

• Work with our members to make membership meaningful

• Having more staff who deal with antisocial behaviour

• Strive for excellence together to provide good quality services that meet your expectations

• Setting up a handyperson scheme

• Be an organisation of choice for everyone.

You can read more about our promises to you in our ‘local offer’ document, Delivering Our Promises, which is available at our website: Delivering_Our_Promises.pdf.

Building for the future As we move towards our fifth anniversary we are nearing completion of our first set of promises. We are now drawing up a new set of commitments to take forward from September 2012 onwards – and we want your views. We will continue to improve our properties and hope to build more homes too. But we want to know what else is important to you. What more can we do to continuously improve our current services – and what new services would you like us to deliver? To share your views, contact us on 01923 209 000 or at Or you can have a direct say in our decision making by becoming a member. To find out how to join, contact us on 01923 209 183 or complete an online application form at uk/membership_ form.php.



The Board, Gateway Committee and Executive Management Team

Members of the Trust’s Board


Executive Directors

Gateway Committee

Chair Diane Lee

Chief Executive Tina Barnard

Vice Chair Peter Lewis Jones

Director of Resources Rosemary Farrar (resigned 1 April 2011) Interim Director of Resources Julie Robinson (took up post 4 April 2011)

Gateway Committee Chair Christine Blackett Vice Chair Bonnie Major Other Members Julie Ayre Barbara Budzynska Mandy Das (resigned May 2011) Dee Davies (resigned May 2011) Mazie Gibson Peter Hammond Diane Lee Karen Marchand Chris Meade Judith Moores Shirley N’Jie Geoffrey Ogden Patrick Ouro-Gnao (took up post June 2011) Belinda Schaffer Dave Smith Paul Weaver (took up post June 2011)

Other Members Julie Ayre Chris Blackett (took up post 24 May 2010) Ellie Burtenshaw (resigned 23 May 2011) Jeremy Kape Steve Johnson (took up post 26 May 2011) Bernadette Laventure Chris Meade Trevor Morrow Dave Smith Marion Turner (resigned 6 July 2011)

Director of Property and New Business Gareth Lewis (took up post 1 June 2010) Director of Housing and Neighbourhood Services Ruairi McCourt Company Secretary Tina Barnard (took up post 1 April 2011)


Watford Community Housing Trust has charitable status. It is an Industrial and Provident Society registration number 30183R and registered with the Tenant Services Authority number L4495

Need help with this Annual Report to Tenants? Please let us know if you need this report sent out in another format. Urdu






Watford Community Housing Trust Gateway House 59 Clarendon Road, Watford Hertfordshire WD17 1LA T 01923 209 000 E W

Registered Industrial and Provident Society No: 30183R Registered Housing Trust No: L4495

If you require a magnifying glass to help read this report please call 01923 209 183. This report can also be produced in Braille.

Annual report to tenants 2010/11  
Annual report to tenants 2010/11  

Our annual report to tenants for 2010/11.