The Housing Ombudsman Service has appointed its first Panel of Advisors to provide advice and guidance to the Ombudsman on strategic direction and planning.
Six external members have been appointed with equal representation from residents and landlords.
- Frank Chersky
After successfully completing nine years as a member of L&Q’s Group Board, Chersky was invited to remain on the Board until completion of the merger with East Thames Group. He also served as Chair of L&Q’s Residents Board and as a member of L&Q’s Audit & Risk Committee.
He served on the Board of the Independent Housing Ombudsman Service as a Tenant Director, helping to oversee the transition to its extended remit when the service took on local authority housing in 2013 as a result of the Localism Act. He also served on the Audit and Risk Committee.
Earlier roles include acting as Chair of Green Horizons Community Board (a body which won a number of national awards) and as a Board Member of the Ujima Foundation.
- Elizabeth O’Hara
A housing specialist with 25 years of experience of the sector, her background is in legal advice and casework plus policy and strategy work.
O’Hara worked for many years in the voluntary sector, providing housing advice, casework and representation to tenants and homeless households.
Later she moved to Shelter, where she specialised in national housing policy development on issues such as homelessness, migration, legal aid and the provision of social welfare law advice.
She has also worked for a large housing association where she had a specific remit for improving service delivery within the customer services directorate.
O’Hara is an elected board member of Walterton and Elgin Community Homes, a resident-owned and controlled housing association in Westminster.
- Phil Morgan
An independent consultant specialising in resident involvement and scrutiny, he is currently a Board Member of the Guinness Partnership and Chair of Healthwatch Salford.
Morgan was previously Chief Executive of TPAS and Executive Director of Tenant Services at the Regulator of Social Housing and is the author of Learning from Regulatory Downgrades.
- Sarah Thomas
Joined Guinness in January 2016 as the Executive Director of Customer Services.
Prior to that, she was in a similar role at RHP, an innovative housing organisation in south west London, where she revitalised their customer service strategy, resulting in a string of national customer experience awards and improved customer satisfaction.
As Head of Customer Service at Eurostar, Thomas devised the service strategy and led a Europe wide award-winning change programme to deliver service and operational excellence.
Her experience includes successfully devising and implementing service strategy, operational delivery and change management in complex environments.
- Cllr Paul Smith
Has worked in social housing for 30 years having also been a council tenant and a shared owner.
Smith is currently the cabinet member for housing at Bristol City Council which manages a total of 27,000 homes.
He has worked for two housing associations and the NHF, being chief executive of housing skills agency and the Furniture Re-use Network.
Smith has also served on several housing association boards and was first elected to Bristol City Council in 1988.
- Kevin Williamson
Currently an ombudsman with the Financial Ombudsman Service with a decade of experience of working across the housing sector.
Williamson established and ran the National Housing & Planning Advice Unit which advised government on housing supply and affordability.
His last role in Whitehall was as a senior civil servant with the former Department for Communities and Local Government working with the social housing regulator and what is now Homes England.
Williamson also worked for the National Housing Federation as head of policy.
Until recently, Williamson was independent chair of Family Mosaic’s Resident Scrutiny Panel, helping to steer new resident involvement arrangements following its merger with Peabody.
He is currently a non-executive director of Two Saints Limited, a small provider of housing and support for vulnerable people.
The panel is chaired by the Ombudsman and also includes two members of the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee – Sue Harvey and David Horne.
Interim Housing Ombudsman David Connolly (pictured) said: “The members of the panel will provide valuable external input from both a resident and landlord perspective to support the service in developing our policy and practice.
“Together they have a wealth of knowledge and experience that we will be able to draw on, this will be particularly beneficial as we start work on developing our corporate plan for the next three years. I look forward to our first meeting.”
The members of the panel, who have an advisory function only, were appointed following an open and transparent selection process.
Appointments are for three years and the panel will meet twice a year.