The ballot has closed and tenants have had their say…it’s a big YES vote to the transfer to Sanctuary Scotland!
We gathered your opinions on what matters to you to ensure the Business Case for the transfer reflects this. From last year’s Customer Satisfaction and Options Appraisal surveys we identified 13 priorities on which we want firm commitments from Sanctuary Scotland. These are listed below:
- Strong and positive governance and high calibre leadership.
- A strong and positive customer service culture that puts customers at the heart of the service.
- A sound business plan and finances that demonstrate how all commitments can be funded in the challenging operating environment ahead.
- An investment programme to improve the condition of our homes and the wider environment, prioritising the E.ON contract remedial work.
- High calibre asset and contract management expertise (including health and safety and compliance) to ensure all contracts, including the repair service, deliver high quality work, to required standards with excellent service to customers.
- Improving rent affordability.
- A well run factoring service, providing value for money for owners.
- A skilled, supported and well led staff team empowered to do the right thing for customers.
- Effective communication and engagement with local tenants and residents to ensure they shape local services and priorities.
- Retaining a local office and staff presence in Toryglen.
- Supporting and developing existing and new community projects.
- Expanding housing options to contribute to meeting the current and future housing needs and aspirations for local residents and in Glasgow.
- Strong stakeholder engagement including with the local community, Glasgow City Council, elected members and lenders.
- One of the country’s leading housing associations with more than 7,000 homes (including 1700 in Glasgow).
- Has its own Maintenance, Estates and Factoring teams.
- Development arm has built thousands of new affordable homes including the award-winning £60 million regeneration of Anderston in Glasgow.
- Like Thistle a not-for-profit organisation – any surpluses are invested in our services, homes and neighbourhoods.
- A member of Sanctuary Group, one of the UK’s leading providers of housing, care and commercial services (whose expertise can be called upon).
- Local office network supported by a Customer Service Centre staffed 24/7/365.
Sanctuary Scotland has been providing essential operational support to Thistle since 2 March.
Sanctuary Scotland’s director Pat Cahill replaced Bob McGuire as Thistle’s interim director on 1 April.
Sanctuary’s in-house teams are ensuring Thistle’s homes comply with safety legislation. Sanctuary’s maintenance team also helped deliver more than 1,000 food parcels to Toryglen residents in recent weeks.
For more information on Sanctuary Scotland visit www.sanctuary-scotland.co.uk
The Tenants Information Service (TIS) is a national independent information training and support organisation. TIS has used its knowledge and skills to help tenants and landlords work together more effectively since 1989. TIS provides independent tenant advice in the majority of transfers in Scotland.
TIS is providing independent advice to tenants and factored owners during the transfer consultation period. As your independent adviser TIS will ensure you have adequate information to fully understand and shape the transfer proposal. TIS will also assess the transfer offer to ensure it meets local residents’ needs. If you have any questions about the proposed transfer, please contact TIS by:
• phoning TIS’s Freephone advice line – 0800 488 0982. The line is staffed Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
• emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on TIS visit www.tis.org.uk
Frequently Asked Questions
Thistle has been through some very difficult times. This culminated in the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) appointing a Statutory Manager in August 2018 and placing four (now eight) appointees onto our Management Committee. This move followed concerns over a substantial investment contract, our governance capacity, our risk management and how we handled complaints and communications with service users and stakeholders.
After the SHR’s intervention we commissioned a strategic review to explore how we might address these issues. This process sought the views of tenants, factored owners, our staff and other stakeholders to determine what was in your best interests. In January 2020 we decided the most desirable outcome would be to transfer into a larger housing association, known as a Transfer of Engagements. Sanctuary Scotland was appointed our preferred partner in February 2020 following an assessment and selection process.
The formal consultation and ballot are on the matter of the change of the landlord of the social tenancies. The Scottish Housing Regulator’s guidance on consultation can be accessed via: https://www.housingregulator.gov.scot/for-landlords/statutory-guidance/tenant-consultation-and-approval. The ballot therefore only involves Thistle’s tenants and joint tenants. However, we continue to consult with all customers and stakeholders as we explore the best future for Thistle. The ‘transfer priorities’ include the stated wishes of Thistle’s large factored owner community. One priority is specific to the factoring service.
Thistle’s sole focus is to secure the best outcome for its tenants and service users. Mags Lightbody is representing Thistle’s interests and working with Sanctuary Scotland as it prepares a Business Case. The Business Case will include the transfer offer that will be shared with Thistle customers during the formal consultation phase.
As part of its statutory action, the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) is also closely monitoring activity at Thistle and will review the Business Case. The SHR does not require to consent to the transfer but, because of their statutory intervention, they would need to be assured that the proposed transfer is in the best interests of Thistle’s tenants and service users.
Tenants and factored owners can contact TIS for independent advice and also participate in TIS-led focus groups. Information from these groups will help shape the transfer discussions.
Our advert for a partner included essential criteria. Sanctuary Scotland’s submission scored the most and included strong initial commitments on the things you told us matter most.
There are still serious and urgent failings at Thistle despite the great work of frontline staff. Thistle would not be able to function appropriately without the help of the appointees placed by the Scottish Housing Regulator and the interim support from Sanctuary Scotland. We know from tenant and factored owners’ feedback that customers are very keen to see change and improvement. Many want to see the issues from the E.ON contract addressed and for investment to be delivered in homes and the environment, while rents are kept affordable. From government announcements the coronavirus restrictions may take time to lift. Restrictions could also be re-instated if there is a second wave of infection.
We therefore have developed a communication plan that acknowledges the restrictions and makes sure we can speak with customers about the transfer without the need to be face-to-face. The plan has been developed jointly by our Transfer Lead, Sanctuary Scotland and TIS, who are experts in this area and have advised that the current approach ensures tenants and residents are consulted with appropriately.
We are therefore committed to working at pace, with care, to deliver the changes customers want to see as early as possible and to bring certainty for the future.
The options appraisal by Thistle, a summary of which can be accessed via: https://www.thistle-ha.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Options-Appraisal-March-2020.pdf shows that the best option to do more for tenants and service users is a transfer of engagements. After an advert and assessment process, Sanctuary Scotland had the best offer and we are already seeing the early returns from this through the quality of interim support they are providing. If tenants did not support the voluntary transfer to Sanctuary Scotland, Thistle would continue to face serious and urgent challenges. Thistle’s lenders are also supportive of the transfer plans and would also have the option to act if a solution for Thistle was not found.
It would then be for the Scottish Housing Regulator to consider its next steps. Given the extent of the failings at Thistle, the SHR could use its legal powers to direct a transfer to another housing association without the need for a tenant ballot or shareholder support. Their guidance for directing a transfer can be accessed via: https://www.housingregulator.gov.scot/for-landlords/statutory-guidance/consultation-where-the-regulator-is-directing-a-transfer-of-assets. This might not result in the same benefits that we are trying to secure from Sanctuary Scotland through the voluntary transfer. Also, whilst the SHR has powers to direct a transfer of all Thistle’s assets, they could only direct to a willing housing association with the capacity to address the urgent and complex issues Thistle faces. There was limited interest from other housing associations to the advert we placed due to the scale of the issues and the costs to put this right which are still being quantified. We have no guarantee that another RSL would be willing to develop an alternative transfer proposal or that Sanctuary Scotland would remain interested in taking the transfer of Thistle under these terms.
Thistle will not exist as a housing association if a transfer to Sanctuary Scotland is approved. The landlord would become Sanctuary Scotland. However, Sanctuary is committed to keeping the local office and having staff work from there. The existing rights of Thistle’s tenants would be retained.
Thistle tenants would retain all their existing rights as set out in their tenancy agreement. You will not have to sign a new tenancy agreement as this would transfer automatically to Sanctuary Scotland.
The support is being provided through a service level agreement. If the transfer proceeds, Thistle will not be charged for Sanctuary Scotland’s support. If it does not, Thistle will be invoiced for all support provided. The charges will be based on agreed rates that are far cheaper than the consultancy support that was provided before Sanctuary were appointed.
Thistle will naturally carry out any urgent remedial work identified to ensure the safety of its homes. Thistle will only carry out limited planned investment within the limitations of its current business plan.
With the support of the SHR appointed manager, Savills were engaged to review the E.ON contract and establish the issues that needed to be addressed. Much has been done as a result to ensure the safety of Thistle tenants and other customers. We still need to carry out surveys on each of the blocks that were involved in the contract to specify all remedial work and then hopefully through the transfer to Sanctuary Scotland, have these works procured and completed. The surveys have been delayed due to the lockdown and can only start when the government restrictions are relaxed.
If tenants say YES to a transfer, Sanctuary promises to invest more than £11 million before the end of 2024 with over £7m being spent to replace all kitchens and bathrooms apart from those recently replaced. This compares to just £3.6 million Thistle has planned to spend under its current business plan in this same period. If the transfer did not happen, tenants would have to wait 10 years to see all kitchens and bathrooms replaced. Most of the replacements would happen in later years with Thistle only having provision of £700k of spend on these items over the coming 4 years. Thistle’s current business plan could also not fund this 10 year programme without the need for additional loan borrowing.
At the same time as spend much more on investment in Thistle’s homes and the community, Sanctuary’s Affordable Rent Guarantee will see Thistle tenants save money in the three years after the transfer compared to Thistle’s existing business plan.
Sanctuary Scotland has no plans to end or change the caretaking service in these blocks. Current facilities will be retained if they continue to be needed, ensuring all facilities are checked regularly from a health and safety perspective.
If the transfer proceeds Sanctuary Scotland has committed to investigate the introduction of this type of service in Toryglen. This might involve a pilot project to see how it would work.
Sanctuary Scotland agrees issues with the local environment need to be addressed. Indeed, Sanctuary’s estates team has made multiple visits to Toryglen in recent weeks to clear areas where rubbish had been dumped. If the transfer proceeds Sanctuary is committed to leading a collaborative effort to make Toryglen look better. Sanctuary will work with the local community and other agencies to develop an environment strategy to improve Toryglen.
Sanctuary Scotland has provision in the transfer business case for improvements of this nature. All tenanted homes will be surveyed before the transfer takes place so that Sanctuary Scotland is clear on the improvements each home needs. Sanctuary will then develop a 4 year programme so tenants know when to expect their improvements to take place.
The planned inspections will help Sanctuary develop a detailed programme around what each home needs. Sanctuary’s specification for new kitchens is higher than Thistle’s. Even if you have recently had a new Thistle kitchen installed, Sanctuary will look at additional improvements to bring your kitchen up to Sanctuary’s standard.
Yes. Sanctuary is confident it can fully address this important transfer promise. If this work does not need all of the money set aside for it, Sanctuary will invest the remainder of these funds in Toryglen.
We are keen to hear the views of Thistle customers on the proposed transfer. Thistle customers will be kept up-to-date through this dedicated transfer web page and further direct communications.