Bromford’s chief executive reveals his ‘magna carta’ for the future of the UK under his rule.
When I was asked to be King for a Day, my initial reaction was mixed as I prefer, like John Lennon, to give power to the people.
However, as I have been asked, what I would say to people is: "Don’t ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." Words spoken by JFK in 1963 when people faced challenging economic times similar to today. Like then, we may feel that we’ve lost our way and be feeling helpless in the face of a global crisis.
‘Kick out the jams’
As king, I would urge the people of the UK to focus on what they personally can do to make a difference. It will only be by everyone doing their bit, however modest, that we can change things for the better. And by everyone trying to be the best they can be - which is where I as king come in! I would see my role as the person who can encourage and ‘kick out the jams’, break down the barriers and remove obstacles that prevent ordinary people doing extraordinary stuff.
Grant Shapps has talked about a ‘lazy consensus in the housing sector.’ I challenged that view because it’s unfair and far too simplistic. But there is also more than a kernel of uncomfortable truth here - all too often social landlords have left unchallenged the low expectations of many of their customers.
‘Giving something back’
People need belief, aspiration and hope. At Bromford, we have introduced a ‘deal’ with our customers - where our offer to deliver high quality services and great homes runs alongside customers meeting their tenancy responsibilities and striving to give something back to their neighbourhoods. Wouldn’t it be great if this could be widened out to the whole of society? Of course everyone’s personal journey will be different - some will need more help from us, others may be able to offer some of that help to their neighbours. We need to do more to encourage and support people to achieve their hopes and their dreams; through work, training or volunteering, to be the very best that they can be.
‘Cheap Wi-Fi to every home’
I would look to connect people through social media to complement real communities. Bromford is trailblazing with the majority of colleagues using social media and engaging with customers via Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. We are launching our new Connect programme which gives customers the opportunity to build an online profile, apply for jobs, communicate with prospective employers, build CVs, identify training opportunities and connect with like-minded users. With a bit of help, nearly everyone can learn to do the basics online and increasingly this will be an essential skill for daily living. So as king I want to grab the chance to roll out cheap Wi-Fi to every home in the realm.
‘Investing in the future’
I would also urge and support employers, communities and individuals to invest their time, energy and money in great learning opportunities for every child and every adult. We set up Bromford’s ‘60 Nelsons’ Leadership Academy in 2006 and 300 colleagues have participated to date. I knew I couldn’t lead this business alone but needed my captains around me with the skills and understanding to implement our strategy. The vision for the programme came from the French Admiral Villeneuve (above) after the Battle of Trafalgar who spoke about his defeat: "We were fighting 60 Nelsons not one"
Those of us prepared to break the conventions, to show courage, innovation and a bit of blood, sweat and tears should look back and say: "We’ve been a part of designing our future history." We in the housing world can seize the initiative to make it one we are proud of.
‘Move royal palace to Luton’
And finally, I will issue a decree to move my royal palace to Luton, to be closer to my people of the beloved Hatters.