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Customer Partnership
Board meeting notes

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July 2021 meeting notes

The Silva strategy 2021-25 – customer consultation

The CPB was reminded that three years ago Silva underwent a structural change and that it was now time to refresh the vision and the strategy.

The draft Silva Strategy 2021-25 was developed to be as inclusive as possible, with input from the board, CPB, key stakeholders and colleagues. Comments on the draft are being collected and the final draft will be considered by the board the following week.

The CPB’s notes ahead of the meeting were recorded, but it had no further comments.


Communal gas and electricity

The CPB was informed of Silva’s communal gas and electricity supplies with the current contracts due to expire.

The CPB was informed that:

  • Green options for energy would always be chosen if it is not more than a 10% higher cost than alternatives.
  • If the alternative option was more than 10% higher, but the one-year deal (as opposed to the three-year deal) was not, then a one-year deal would be chosen
  • Once de-carbonisation kicks in and gas boilers are removed gas costs will come down, although the cost of gas is driven globally not just in the UK. Currently, the supply is restricted and there are long term challenges for shipping and pipelines
  • Charging is calculated using meters for usage within flats and spreading the communal area costs.

Having consulted with the CPB, the proposal will be put forward to the executive board for approval.

June 2021 meeting notes

Feedback from the board meeting

An update regarding the board meeting held on 10 June 2021 was given to the CPB:

  • The new Silva Strategy was approved to go out for consultation with customers and colleagues. A meeting will be set up for the CPB to review the feedback from Silva customers. Once the strategy is approved the CPB will look at the strategic delivery plans.
  • The ESG report is being produced for the first time and will set out Silva’s ‘environment, social and governance credentials. Silva is an early adopter of the new reporting standard.
  • Approved a new development scheme in Hartland Village.
  • Plans are underway to restart more services after being closed due to covid.

The CPB asked the following questions:

Q. Will the government’s plans for compulsory vaccinations for those working in social care (including trade operatives) affect the operation at Silva?

A. The plans are being kept under review and as the government provide more guidance we will respond as required. There may not be an impact on our colleagues as the independent living schemes are not care homes. But we do not provide the care aspect that some people require. All colleagues have been encouraged to get vaccinated, but it is not possible to enforce this as the rules around collecting this data are complex.


Strengthening governance

The CPB was updated with Silva’s plans to strengthen its governance:

  • Moving the CPB back into the governance framework will better illustrate the links between the board and input from customers with lived experience of homes and services. The CPB terms of reference will be reviewed in due course.
  • The board partner for the CPB (Maggie Porteous) will attend each meeting and take a more proactive role in considering governance for the CPB, advocating customer points at Board meetings and working closely with the CPB chair as the co-chair.
  • Strengthening the opportunities for the CPB to hold the board to account. To achieve this, the working arrangements for future CPB meetings will be changed to allow more time for the members to review issues in detail. The CPB will be asked for the same amount of time commitment throughout the year but will change to 4 longer meetings rather than 8 shorter meetings. These meetings will be published a year in advance so members can organise their diaries. Two training days will enable learning as well as site visits and further scrutiny. The CPB member remuneration will also be reviewed.

The CPB asked the following questions

Q. Would current time commitments be considered?

A. Silva intends to look at what works best for everyone regarding timings and dates.


Design guide

The CPB was shown the draft design guide that informs developers what Silva looks for in new developments.

The CPB shared the following insights:

  • Parking is a key issue, and more would probably be needed in future, so best to provide as much as possible.
  • Parking underground was suggested, however, the costs prevent this, and the potential for anti-social behaviour and having to maintain the space is also a deterrent.
  • Consideration for electric charging should be made, for cars and electric bikes.
  • Larger bins rather than lots of individual bins.
  • Green roofs would be considered.


Redesign of repair web pages consultation

The CPB was shown the My Silva customer portal report, which highlights:

  • The repairs service is the highest volume service provided by Silva. Despite 70% of customers registered with an account, only 10% of repairs are booked through My Silva.
  • Silva proposes a series of workshops with customers to look at experiences, good and bad. The results of these workshops will be reviewed and an improvement plan put together as a result.

The CPB agreed that this was a sensible approach.


Annual safeguarding report

The CPB was presented with the annual safeguarding report.

The CPB had the following comments:

  • Include further sources of information and helplines on the Silva website.


Annual anti-social behaviour report

The CPB was presented the annual anti-social behaviour report, which highlights:

  • Anti-social behaviour increased in the last year when compared with the previous report.
  • Anti-social behaviour letters are now worded to indicate an appeal for information, rather than a notification of the investigation.

The CPB asked the following questions:

Q. What happens if someone uses CCTV looking over other people’s private spaces.

A. Legal advice had been obtained recently, especially with regard to Ring doorbells. If someone does have a device that collects this sort of data, they are responsible for GDPR and have to comply with requests for data in line with regulations.

Q. Is it possible to ask for footage if you are the victim of a crime?

A. The police would likely ask for this and the requirement to provide the information may depend on the type of crime commented.


Customer engagement in independent living

The CPB was informed that Silva would be surveying independent living customers to establish how they are doing, how they felt the pandemic was being dealt with and what they would like in the future.

The CPB had the following comments:

  • Learning would increase if customers were asked to explain a low score on the survey.
  • Questions regarding digital access should be added to the survey.


CCTV consultation options

The CPB was informed that a consultant had assessed the CCTV in situ and been asked to consider any further requirements.

The CPB agreed with the decisions made regarding CCTV.


Charity donations

The CPB was informed that there was £30k available to donate to charity. It was proposed to use this for another money advisor through the CAB and split the remainder between foodbanks and Women’s Aid.

The CPB agreed with the chosen charities and the approach to put it to a Facebook customer vote.


Boyd Court planned works consultation

The CPB was informed that there are 200 flats at Boyd Court and that Silva plans to refurbish them with new heating, cosmetic updates, sort out pockets of damp and mould, tidy up the entrances, railings, car park and deal with the unused bin stores.

A pilot flat is being set up and customers will be invited to review the new heating and mechanical ventilation.

The CPB had the following comments:

  • As well as the newsletter and pilot flat, it may be necessary to do some door-knocking to get customer feedback.
  • Solar panels could be used to power mechanical vents. This was considered by Silva, but vents are very low on energy usage.


Response to climate change

The CPB was informed that Silva plans to adopt a high-level approach to climate change and sustainability. 92% of Silva’s carbon footprint comes from gas boilers in homes:

  • The proposed approach is to start with a £1m research investigation to plan where best to spend the ultimate budget. It is planned to take a programme plan approach, dealing with individual projects within that.

The CPB had the following comments:

  • Thermal efficiency and changing behaviours go hand in hand. If insulation is improved, leaking windows, getting properties warm and dry prior to changing the heating, then the behaviours will change.
  • Gas is more expensive than electricity, pilots will be needed to understand the best choices and the government has a part to play.
  • It is a good idea to start with the oldest stock and start making small repair tweaks which will improve the thermal performance and then change behaviours.


Customer annual report

The CPB was informed that a more accessible annual report would be created for customers this year.

The CPB was asked if it wanted to include anything in particular:

  • Information on what Silva is doing for customers
  • Use of infographics and not just graphs etc.
  • Four/ five key issues that are important to the customer
  • Signposting to the full annual report if wanted.

March 2021 meeting notes

Feedback from the board meeting

An update regarding the board meeting held on 11 March 2021 was given to the CPB:

  • The budget for the coming year was approved.
  • An initial view of the 30-year financial plan, incorporating carbon reduction costs for the first time, additional building safety costs, and higher development costs.
  • Silva will implement a framework and process for the development of our new corporate strategy.
  • Approval of a new development scheme in Wokingham district for 19 new homes.
  • Silva will adopt the new NHF code of governance and several actions will be picked up in a review of our governance over the next few months including the role of the CPB.


The CPB asked the following questions:


Q. Will Silva only take on new affordable rent housing now and not social rent housing?

A. The scheme mentioned includes 11 social rent properties.

Q. Will Silva take on any of the housing in the newly developed Peel Centre just off the town centre?

A. Opportunities will be considered if they are made available to us.

Q. When boilers are renewed in line with carbon reduction works will this just be for tenants or will it include leaseholders?

A. It will be a major financial commitment over the next 30 years but will only cover our responsibilities within dwellings so it will be leaseholders’ responsibility to replace their boilers in line with any legislative requirements. As technology develops better options will become more affordable.

Q. What is the radius of operation for the development of new homes?

A. Our core is Bracknell, Hart and Wokingham, then extending out into an area that is bordered by the M4, M3, A34 corridors.


The CPB were also updated on Silva's new strategy plans:

The new strategic plan will run to 2025 and will build on what Silva has achieved so far.

It is proposed that there will be eight themes (supported by strategic delivery plans):

  • Customers and communities including older people.
  • Existing homes including building safety.
  • Colleagues and culture.
  • New affordable homes.
  • Climate change.
  • Technology and ways of working.
  • Financial viability, governance and value for money.
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion.

Multiple workshops for the board and the CPB will be held, two of which would be joint sessions.

Members of the CPB were asked to attend if they could when invited, particularly for the ‘customers and communities’ theme and the ‘existing home including building safety’ theme which would be the joint sessions.

Electrical services programme

The CPB was presented information about the extensive electrical programme which had been awarded to Crystal Electronics.

It was informed that:

  • A substantial budget had been put aside for the next three years, should more be needed then board approval would be sought.
  • The contract included installation, servicing and maintenance of items such as door access systems, self-testing emergency lighting, CCTV systems, fire alarm and detection systems, Tunstall equipment, gates, barriers and auto-doors. Electrical inspections will take place in both domestic properties and communal areas along with any remedial work required.
  • Customer service and quality assurance elements are also in place, and the contract will be overseen on a day-to-day basis by the planned works team.


The CPB asked the following questions:


Q. Are motion detectors being installed to control lighting in communal areas?

A. There will be in some blocks, some are on timers, and some are just switches which then stay on.

Q. Are there security cameras in all blocks and are they activated with motion, and how long is the information kept?

A. There are cameras in some blocks, not all. Some do activate on motion and information is kept for one month.

Service charge policy and Sinking fund policy

The service charge policy details how services are set and charged for costs outside of rents, these are mainly for leaseholders and shared owners.

The sinking fund policy is also for the benefit of leaseholders and shared owners, as customers contribute to this as part of their rent. Any major works required on buildings generally built since 2015 have a sinking fund element to their service charge.

As they are both quite complicated issues the CPB was asked if both policies were easily understood.


The CPB asked the following questions:

Q. If a roof lasts 40 years, do you build in a sinking fund immediately?

A. We may do. Most schemes do not, but there is one in an Independent Living scheme.


The CPB concluded that they were well written and easy to understand.


Cleaning and caretaking consultation outcome

The CPB was shown the results of the cleaning and caretaking consultation, where just over two thousand surveys were sent out with 180 responses received.

The 8.27% response rate was lower than expected but reliable enough to be able to draw the following conclusions:

  • Customers thought it was important to have a dedicated estate operative with both the cleaning and the caretaking happening at the same time.
  • Customers preferred to receive cleaning and caretaking at consistent times with the specifications of the cleaning standards published.
  • Customers did not want to pay more for a better service.


As a result of the consultation, the CPB agreed that:

  • There were enough responses to get a feel for what customers want and they gave a clear direction.
  • The changes would be implemented subject to the approval of the executive board.
  • Six months after implementation, a satisfaction survey will be carried out and reviewed by the CPB.

Transfer incentive scheme review:

The CPB was presented with the findings of the transfer incentive scheme review. The comments from the CPB was:

  • It is now too complicated and might be confusing for customers.
  • Customers won’t move unless they can move somewhere that is of the same standards, they are currently living in.
  • The more attractive the offer, the easier it will be.


The CPB was reassured that:

  • Customer information will be simplified.
  • Customers will be supported on a one-to-one basis to make moving as easy as possible.


Community investment priorities and principles:

Silva has additional funds available to put back into the community.

The Silva board has agreed to a budget increase in principle in December 2020 and a clear way forward was planned for community investment.

This involves a three-year programme, with a more structured approach to working with partners, applying for grants, and facilitating community initiatives.


The CPB commented:

  • This is a good initiative to give back to the community.
  • It welcomes a return to some of the events held in the past.

Customer webinar

The next customer webinar will probably be held week commencing 19 or 26 April 2021.

The webinar will feature a short business update, then a pre-recorded segment from CPB on its work with Silva. The webinar would finish with a short question and answer session and a quick recap on the customer satisfaction survey results.


The CPB commented that:

  • An evening webinar would enable more people to attend.
  • The promise of an exclusive announcement for those attending the webinar to be the first to hear was thought to ensure a good attendance rate.

January 2021 meeting notes

The Silva Board meeting

The CPB was updated on the Silva board meeting that took place on 28 January 2021. Topics included:

  • The business assurance report, which included improved key performance indicator performance and voids performing at an all-time high
  • Updated financial forecast
  • The 2021/2022 preliminary budget
  • Update on Covid-19 effects on Silva and compliance with regulations
  • Approval of new internal and external auditors
  • Iveagh Court
  • Fire protection work
  • Initial review of Silva against the new issued National Housing Federation code of governance.

Regulatory compliance – rent setting

The CPB was updated on regulatory compliance and rent setting:

  • Due to an accounting error, Silva customers had been undercharged for rent by £5 on average per household in 2019/2020 and overcharged by £5 on average during 2020/2021
  • This means that despite the error, no tenants were worse off.

The CPB was assured that:

  • The error will be rectified for 2021/2022 and will be checked to ensure it is carried out correctly
  • Silva will include a short note with the rent statements that are due to go out to all customers within the next few weeks directing them to a clear statement on the website. Those who do not have access to the internet can request a physical copy by calling Silva.

Annual customer satisfaction survey

The CPB was presented with the results of the annual customer satisfaction survey:

  • Out of 6,294 customers contacted, 1,001 interviews were completed
  • More than 75% of customers are satisfied with the overall service, which was felt to be a good result when in the midst of a pandemic
  • The quality of homes is high
  • High assurance that homes are safe and secure
  • The majority of customers say they trust Silva
  • Most people’s responses were as a result of their experience with repairs

Four areas for improvement were identified:

  • Get repairs right the first time and look at follow up repairs which seem to be inconsistent. Keep customers updated throughout the process at all times
  • Deal with complaints promptly and notice that sometimes contact is a complaint
  • The cleaning standards of communal areas need to be more consistent and timely
  • Engage with younger customers more and in different manners.

The CPB was assured that:

  • A new telephone system that includes a customer relationship management tool will help to stop calls and queries bouncing about between departments
  • The customer service team will be upskilled, trained and provided with information on customer contact
  • Tuning in to younger customers’ needs and expectations will help with insight and satisfaction.

Cleaning and caretaking review and consultation

The CPB was updated on the cleaning and caretaking review consultation:

  • Some of the cleaning is not consistent and some timescales are not suitable, with no clear accountability.

A draft of a letter to all customers and a proposed survey were shown to the CPB. The points made by the CPB were:

  • The timescale changes make more sense and information on these would be provided on the website so customers could view the schedules
  • Monthly inspections will be carried out
  • Estate operatives should report repairs issues when they are noted
  • When service is below standard or missed, service charges will be adjusted.