I hear the sirens coming – What does de-regulation mean for you?

Peter Hitchens says the police are no use these days. Why is that? It’s because there are no bobbies on the beat to scare off the crooks. So bad things do happen. And then you hear the sirens. He thinks prevention is better than cure.


Why am I mentioning it? We are going through a change just like this.

In the olden days you had to tell the HCA everything. The chief couldn’t even pop out for a packet of Woodbine without prior written approval in triplicate. These days are gone.

Associations are to be set free. You can do what you like.  That’s how we get you out of the public sector and into the private one. There’s only one tiny snag in all of this. Once you’ve done what you’ve done it’s time to tell the HCA.

Then and only then do you find out what they think of your sales or mergers. So the HCA will be like the detectives in New Tricks looking at cold cases. OK that is a bit fanciful. Our chums will be crammed into cattle class on the trains not wafting around in a magnificent Triumph Stag. But you get the idea.

What happens next? Of course a few associations will charge off wildly. You can hear them shouting “freedom” can’t you? And it will all end up like the hero of Braveheart. Hung, drawn and quartered by their enemies.

Don’t you believe me? Have you ever been at a meeting where the main objective was to spend a bond as quickly as possible? Fools and their money as they say.

But you could do worse. There will be a cluster of associations that stop dead in their tracks. They will fear the back seat driver of the HCA and do nothing.

Yes there will be lots of meetings and lots of talks about talks. But the nagging doubt about what the HCA might say down the line will become the go-to excuse for sitting on their hands. That will set us back.

But most associations will rise to the challenge and get it about right. They always do. And it’s not that hard to stay on the right side of the HCA. You just need to get back to basics. Here’s two things you need to do.

First, make sure your minutes are up to scratch. The HCA need to see how you took a decision and why. It’s all they have to go on. Show them your workings. Were all the right points raised in the debate? Can they see how you weighed things up? Did it go through on the nod? What safeguards have you put in place in case things go wrong? Did all of the board chip in with good points?

And we need really strong option reviews. That means things like:

-up to date facts about what you need to spend on the homes,

-honest information about your finances,

-valuations signed off by experts,

-legal opinions that get to the heart of the matter,

-a hard headed analysis of the housing problems you are trying to solve and

-impartial consideration of the pros and cons of merger or other deals. All in all the HCA just need to know why you chose to do what you did.

Things can go wrong. But you leave little room for the HCA to criticise you if you have acted in good faith based on the facts. And you have a plan B for putting things right.

That advice is more or less what the director of housing in Camden said to me in my first week. Back then I was a lad of 21.  A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. But nothing ever changes that much does it.

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