top performing housing association providing high quality homes and services in east London and Essex

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1 Our vision: to be a top performing housing association providing high quality homes and services in east London and Essex East Thames Strategic Plan

2 Our mission: To make a positive and lasting contribution to the neighbourhoods in which we work. Where we work We have worked in East London and Essex for more than 35 years, and this is a large part of what makes us unique. Our services are embedded in communities, we understand the challenges they face and have developed strong relationships with local partners. The areas in which we work are changing rapidly, and in many cases we have made a significant contribution to their regeneration. Our values Our philosophy has always been to do more than just housing and to help people improve their neighbourhoods and lives. This ethos extends to our own business, where we want to be a great place to work. We are committed to: Putting customers first: We put our customers at the heart of everything we do and the decisions we make. All our work is carried out with them in mind, whether they are residents, other customers, partners or internal customers. Recognising and trusting our people: Our people matter and we value and respect them. We trust them to make decisions and deliver excellent services and we encourage personal development and acknowledge good performance. Who we are East Thames is a traditional housing association established in We provide homes for over 15,000 households in East London and Essex and care and support services to over 2,000 vulnerable adults. We have a strong social purpose to provide affordable properties for those on low incomes, giving them a safe and secure home. We also provide services that support people to gain independence, help local people to gain employment and create greater opportunities for our younger generations. We remain committed to providing new homes through the regeneration of East London and Essex. Striving to be better every day: We look for ways to improve all the time. It means being creative, innovative and resourceful to seek better ways of delivering products and services. Being responsible for our actions: We are trustworthy and accountable for our actions. We deliver on our commitments, cooperate with others and do what we say we ll do. Behaving with honesty and integrity: We are genuine and behave with integrity. We treat everybody with respect, are down to earth and value honest communication. Some of our staff describe this as keeping it real. 2 East Thames Strategic Plan

3 East Thames fact file We own and manage over 15,000 homes We provide supported accommodation to 2,000 people in over 80 schemes Our annual turnover is approximately 100m and we employ more than 650 staff We help over 200 local people into employment every year We will build 1,300 new homes over the next three years We are investing in four large regeneration schemes in East London Where we are now Our vision is to be a top performing housing association providing high quality homes and services in East London and Essex. As a landlord, a developer and a provider of care and support and social and economic regeneration we recognise that our customer expectations are changing and that we have to continuously improve our services. Over the years we have diversified our portfolio into a number of different housing products but know that we cannot be everything to everyone and want to refocus on our core social housing purpose. The external environment has been changing over the last few years with public austerity measures meaning that our partners need us to do more for less, so the necessity for us to clearly demonstrate the value for money of our services and focus on performance has become more important than ever before. We are therefore committed to making real improvements to our business model over the next few years and have restated our vision to encompass that aim. East Thames Strategic Plan

4 A challenging time We, along with other housing associations and providers of public services, have been through a difficult few years. As austerity measures kick in we are being constantly challenged to do more for less. We have seen grant levels continuing to fall for affordable homes and significant cuts in the funding regimes for our care and support services. The 2015 summer budget also brought new challenges in the form of a 1% rent reduction on our social and affordable homes for the next four years, further welfare reform and the expected introduction of Right to Buy. It is becoming ever more critical that we demonstrate the value for money of our services, particularly as we know that austerity measures will continue over the next few years, at a time where demand for our homes and services increase. Rising prices and affordability We work in London and the South East, which continues to be the economic driver for the country; we have seen major development and regeneration in our areas of work, which is good for the economy. However, this has driven up land prices, and competition for land is fierce. House and build costs continue to rise, making it more difficult to provide quality affordable homes for those in need. Traditional shared ownership cost assumptions don t work in London, where the relentless rise in house prices means that those on low incomes struggle to afford even comparatively low cost home ownership. Welfare, benefit and funding changes The introduction of welfare reform in 2013 saw added pressure for many of our residents. Further changes, proposed in 2015, include a lowered benefit cap, reduced tax credits, a freeze on working age benefits and the introduction of pay to stay (higher rents for higher earners), all of which will put extra pressure on residents finances. We believe that the best support we can give our residents is to help them into work so that they are not reliant on welfare benefits, and we will continue to invest in this programme. Continued change in demographics We have major demographic changes too, with a significantly ageing population and increases in levels of adult vulnerability. These changes will place even more pressure on limited public funds. Along with other housing associations we have an ageing population living in our stock, with funding for care only able to meet the needs of those whose situation is critical; yet there will be a huge number of older and vulnerable people in our homes who will be looking to us for support. 4 East Thames Strategic Plan

5 Our future plan Despite all of the challenges we face, we know that the next few years will also offer us a range of opportunities. East London and Essex are still areas for growth, with more homes needed, significant regeneration opportunities and a growing need for care and support services. We aim to put ourselves in a strong position to maximise these opportunities for East Thames by delivering significant improvements between now and The next three years: our focus We have agreed four key strategic aims to guide our work over the next three years: Aim 1: Strengthen our financial resources, through value for money initiatives. Aim 2: Improve our customer experience and business performance. Aim 3: Build more affordable homes and support the regeneration of neighbourhoods in East London and Essex. Aim 4: Grow our care and support services. East Thames Strategic Plan

6 The next three years: what success looks like Aim 1: Strengthen our financial resources We have seen improvements in efficiency and our surplus over the past few years; however, there is always more to do, and there will be a constant need to strengthen our overall financial resources to secure our future ability to grow. Success for us will mean we have: Simplified our business entities and governance structures Generated an increased operating surplus before sales Secured costs that provide value for money and created a culture of challenge on cost Simplified our products through rationalisation Generated savings through effective procurement Continued to effectively manage our balance sheet 6 East Thames Strategic Plan

7 Aim 2: Improve our customer experience and business performance Our customers need to be at the centre of everything we do, and we want to provide reliable and valued services for them. We know that our customers value our homes, our care and support services and our social and economic regeneration programmes, and we want to continue to give our customers greater quality and opportunities. We also recognise that repairs is often the service most important to them, and we will continue to work closely with our partners to continuously improve the service we deliver and ensure our homes are well maintained. We know that our customers and stakeholders will judge us on this so it has to be a key priority for us. Success for us will mean we have: Staff teams delivering high quality services Data that is used intelligently to inform our service development Performance in landlord services that equals the best in sector IT systems that support our business and enable staff to do their job Mobile working that enables our staff to offer a responsive customer experience Systems that offer customers multiple ways to engage with us, enabling and encouraging self service Programmes in place that support our customers to get into employment, deal effectively with welfare reform and encourage aspiration and opportunities for our young customers Maximised the return on investment of our social and economic regeneration work Provided quality homes across the board Effectively listened to and acted upon customer feedback East Thames Strategic Plan

8 The next three years: What success looks like Aim 3: Build more affordable homes and support the regeneration of neighbourhoods in East London and Essex. We have a good reputation for delivering new homes and regenerating neighbourhoods and want this to continue. New homes and regeneration enable us to provide affordable homes to more people and create a thriving organisation that can attract and retain good staff. We strive to provide good quality homes that are not just fit for now but for the future too. However, we need to ensure that we do this within prudent financial limits, to ensure that we do not put our existing assets at risk. Success for us will mean we have: Maintained robust financial principles to ensure our development programmes and pipeline remain within our financial capacity Plans in place to maximise the number of new homes we are able to deliver within set periods Strong partnerships and alliances in place to enable us to deliver more homes for less Design guides for London and Essex that maximise value for money Consultation and feedback programmes to involve customers in design and continuously learn lessons about what works well for our customers Partnerships in place for regenerating key geographical areas Delivered over 1,300 new homes by East Thames Strategic Plan

9 Aim 4: Grow our care and support services Providing quality care and support services has always been an important area of business for East Thames. We have been through a tough few years with public spending cuts and we know that this is likely to continue over the next three years. In order to survive we need to grow our services, so that we can achieve greater economies of scale, support more vulnerable adults and recruit good staff. But to have a financially viable business we need to ensure that our existing services are fit for the future and that new services offer value for money. Success for us will mean we have: Reviewed all of our existing homes and services to ensure that they are financially viable and fit for the future Transformed all of our services to provide more personalised support for people High quality and value for money services which encourage people who receive self-directed funding to choose us. A development programme in place to build more homes for older people, people with learning disabilities, people with mental health problems and young people Strong relationships with commissioners in our key areas including our health partners Grown our care and support services East Thames Strategic Plan

10 Financial strategy We have worked on improving our financial strength over the past few years, predominantly through improving our cost base. However, we have more to do if we want to continue to develop homes and provide quality services. We are first and foremost a provider of social and affordable homes, yet have diversified into other housing products to try to meet other housing need, and this has taken our focus from our core business. We will therefore look to rationalise our portfolio where needed and utilise the increased capacity to continue to grow. Over the life of this plan we will continue to challenge our cost base, particularly our back office costs. This will be supported through improvements to our systems, streamlining our processes and reducing duplication. We will be focused on improving our operating surplus, and ensuring that our treasury management remains strong. We aim to continue to grow our unit numbers, and will use this to drive down unit costs. As we are well established in East London and Essex, concentrating our stock will enable us to reduce our management costs. We will continue to pursue stock swaps and stock transfer where it makes both financial and operational sense. We have recommitted to providing care and support services, but we won t subsidise these from other areas of the business. We will therefore review all of our services over the next few years to ensure that they are financially viable. We will grow this part of our business where it fits in with our key objectives, makes financial sense and enables us to provide quality services. We will agree a programme of stock churn. Where properties are no longer economical to use or maintain or no longer fit for purpose we will seek to dispose of them, with capital receipts used for further investment in existing stock and developing new homes. We have a programme of developing homes for outright sale, where profit enables us to build more affordable homes. We have been fortunate in historically gaining greater than expected surpluses, however, are fully aware of the risks of market change and routinely stress test our ability to develop should changes occur. Importantly we will continue to ensure that our operating surplus is not reliant on sales, and neither are our loan requirements. Finally, we will continue to support our residents and mitigate risks associated with welfare reform, ensuring that we constantly check that this is not impacting on our rental income. To date this has not had a negative impact, demonstrating that our approach is effective. By 2018/19 we expect to: Reduce our back office costs to 13% of income Grow our operating margin to 40% Increase our revenue reserves to 100m Increase our care and support income by 3m, with a net margin of 2% Maintain gearing at below 65% Achieve an interest rate cover level above 170% Reduce our loan debt per unit 10 East Thames Strategic Plan

11 Our people We know that the performance of our staff is what we will be judged on, so we will nurture a workforce that is motivated and committed to delivering excellent services for our customers and stakeholders. We want our staff to show curiosity and innovation, to be creative when dealing with complex issues and to take ownership of problems so that the customer experience is always a positive one. Staff tell us that East Thames is a good place to work, and that they are strongly committed to our social purpose. To support them we will be rolling out new customer service training and management/leadership programmes to give them the skills and knowledge that they need to excel. In 2014 we retained our one to watch award from The Sunday Times Best Companies survey and aim to improve our rating over the coming years. Our governance Good governance is at the heart of everything we do, our Board and Committee members challenge and support us to be the best we can and to continuously improve our services. This said, we know that our governance structures are still too cumbersome and sometimes lead to duplication, so we will streamline these further over the coming years to improve the efficiency of decision making and reduce administration. We will also continue to improve on the success of our housing scrutiny panel, made up of customer representatives. The quality of their inspections has already been commended and they continue to hold us to account for what we do. East Thames Strategic Plan

12 29-35 West Ham Lane Stratford London E15 4PH Tel: thames.co.uk Registered in England & Wales ( ) Registered Charity ( ) Tenant Services Authority Registered (LH4309) Member of the National Housing Federation

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