Minutes of the South West Scotland Regional Network committee meeting
Wednesday 7 July 2021, via Zoom
Anne Cameron (South Ayrshire, Chair)
Bruce Cuthbertson (East Ayrshire, Secretary)
Margaret Dymond (Renfrewshire, Treasurer)
Mac McKenzie (East Ayrshire)
Norma Ferguson (North Ayrshire)
Margaret Anderson (South Ayrshire).
Carolynne Watson, Scottish Government Tenant Participation Manager.
Heather Cuthbert (East Renfrewshire)
Mary Logan (Renfrewshire)
Helen Westwater (East Renfrewshire).
1. Welcome and apologies
Anne welcomed everyone to the meeting- the first committee meeting since the South West Scotland AGM in June.
2. Apologies were noted from Mary Logan, Heather Cuthbert and Helen Westwater.
3. Election of Vice Chair
Although the election of office bearers took place at the AGM in June, no candidates put themselves forward for the post of Vice Chair and it was agreed at the time that the committee would wait to carry out the election of the Vice Chair at the first meeting following the AGM when more members would be in attendance.
Margaret Anderson noted that despite her additional commitments, she has considered her position and is happy to be considered for the Vice Chair role. There were no further nominations. Bruce proposed and Mac seconded Margaret’s nomination and Margaret Anderson was duly elected to the post of Vice Chair.
Minutes of previous meeting and matters arising
The minutes of the previous meeting were proposed by Margaret Dymond and seconded by Margaret Anderson. There were no matters arising which are not covered by the agenda for today’s meeting.
4. Treasurer’s Report
Margaret Dymond noted the current account balance is the same as reported at the previous committee meeting and at the AGM in June- £1863.21p.
A £6.50 monthly administration charge had previously been taken from the account while the account was with Clydesdale, as a result of the fact that the account has been dormant since the beginning of the pandemic. Margaret confirmed this charge has now stopped since Clydesdale transferred to Virgin Money however will seek clarity from Virgin on whether monthly charges are likely to resume.
5. Reflection on the AGM- 2021
This year’s AGM took place on Saturday 5 June, via Zoom. The committee agreed that on the whole the AGM went very well and thanked Anne for her Chairing of the session and delivery of the committee report. The committee noted that the attendance on the day was slightly disappointing and that they are aware there is work to do around raising the profile of the Network and committee with the aim of increasing membership in the local authority areas that are currently un-represented.
The committee felt that the fact that virtual meetings can now be offered might be attractive to some people who may ordinarily be less able to get to face to face meetings, although some will also need support to be able to access and contribute to virtual meetings effectively. Carolynne confirmed that the TP team continue to provide support for Regional Network members to access virtual meetings and as part of the training and development questionnaire (see part 7 below) the TP team have recently circulated, we are asking for views on how Regional Network members want to participate in meetings going forward.
Margaret D and Carolynne updated on some of the Communications working group’s current work which is ongoing at the moment, including preparation of a leaflet setting out information on the Regional Networks and a Newsletter. Margaret noted that South West Scotland also have the option of producing a newsletter of their own if there is interest in doing this.
Carolynne confirmed the TP team have also updated the induction packs for new Regional Network members this year. The committee were interested in seeing the pack and Carolynne agreed to circulate an electronic copy to everyone, with hard copies for those who requested these.
AP: Carolynne to issue copies of induction packs.
6. Working groups
a) Rents Focus group
Anne provided an update on the Rents group. The most recent meeting was attended by a representative from the Swedish Tenants Union, and it was very interesting to hear about the system in Sweden in relation to rents and what rent includes. The previous meeting was attended by Kirsty Wells of Housemark, who provided an overview of Housemark’s affordability tool which is used by a number of landlords to calculate and set rent charges. Anne noted that the Rent Focus group had found the session useful, noting that the disparity in rents across the social housing sector in Scotland is wide.
Anne will send slides from the Swedish Tenants Union session to Carolynne to circulate around the committee members for information and interest.
b) Communications sub-group
Margaret Dymond provided an update on the most recent meeting of the Communications working group. Colin Stewart of Region 1 has provided a further website training session for the committee reps which has been helpful. Margaret noted the South West Scotland comms plan has now been updated and can be shared with the rest of the committee. Carolynne noted that this is included in the induction pack, and will be circulated.
Margaret noted that the Comms group uses Basecamp to exchange information and share messages and she finds this to be a useful tool. The committee have previously discussed Basecamp and requested Carolynne approach Colin to see if he is willing to provide a familiarisation session on Basecamp for the committee members.
The next meeting of the Communications sub-group will be Wednesday 4 August.
c) Scottish Housing Regulator Liaison group
The SHR Liaison group pre meeting was held the previous day and the agenda covered the review of the Scottish Social Housing Charter, working group updates and discussion of SHR’s recent publications. Margaret D and Mac will be representing South West Scotland at the full meeting with SHR reps in a fortnight’s time and will report back at the next committee meeting.
7. Upcoming work
a) Housing to 2040
The committee discussed the Housing to 2040 publication and issues of significance for the Regional Networks, including the commitment to ensuring the Regional Networks are representative of the Scottish social housing sector tenant base as a whole. The committee agreed that it is important to ensure the Networks represent all, and that tenants from a wide range of backgrounds are represented at the table.
The committee agreed that expanding the range of virtual and digital engagement opportunities offered to Regional Network members is likely to be of benefit in attracting tenants from different backgrounds to the Networks. It will be important to look also at more informal ways to engage over and above traditional, face to face meetings moving forward.
b) Scottish Social Housing Charter consultation
The Scottish Social Housing Charter consultation opened in June, and is available on the Scottish Government’s website. Virtual Charter consultation session meetings are being administered by TIS and TPAS Scotland and involve both Anne Cook and Michael Boal from the Social Housing Services team at Scottish Government.
A number of the committee members noted they had attended a consultation event, and the committee agreed they would like to submit a collective response to the consultation. The next meeting date for South West Scotland is 25 August and the committee agreed to extend their meeting time to cover the committee agenda and discuss and agree a response to the Charter consultation. Carolynne agreed to make arrangements for this and will update calendar invitations for the session.
AP: Carolynne to make arrangements for Charter consultation session and send calendar invites.
c) Training and development
Carolynne noted that the TP team have circulated a questionnaire around Regional Network members to get an idea of areas where training may be needed and where members have interest in specific policy areas going forward. The questionnaire also asks members to consider their preferences for meetings at the point when Scottish Government buildings begin to reopen for meetings with external visitors. Carolynne reassured the committee members that there will be no expectation that everyone will return to face to face meetings, that the virtual access to meetings going forward will be available and that the health and safety of members is of key importance.
6. AOCB & Date of next meeting
Anne asked for an update on the HRA group and any recent progress. Carolynne noted that a further meeting has not yet been arranged, however the TP team have passed on the HRA group’s concerns to colleagues elsewhere in Scottish Government and are currently awaiting a response.
Margaret D updated the committee on an issue concerning residents’ use of mobility scooters in Aberdeen City Council blocks. Margaret will send on some background information to Jemma to ask her to circulate this more widely.
Bruce noted that the final report of the Zest (Zero Emissions Social Housing Taskforce) group for which he acts as tenant representative is in train and Bruce will update the committee when this is published.
The next meeting date for South West Scotland is Wednesday 25 August and will be extended to cover both the committee agenda and the completion of the committee’s response to the Charter consultation. Carolynne will issue updated calendar invites.
Anne thanked everyone for attending today’s meeting.