New Scottish Social Housing Charter places important new emphasis on tenant scrutiny

Marian Reid head shot SMall
Marian Reid Deputy Director of CIH Scotland

A new revised Scottish Social Housing Charter came into force on the 1st April this year. The Charter was first introduced five years ago as one of the provisions of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010, with the aim of improving the quality and value of services provided by social landlords in Scotland.

The revised Charter is the result of an extensive consultation process involving a range of stakeholders including social landlords, tenants and representative bodies.

Although the outcomes of the new Charter are largely the same as for its predecessor, there are some important changes in emphasis. For instance, there is an explicit recognition of the role of new technology such as web-based systems and mobile applications in improving communication between landlords and their tenants.

The most recent changes to the Charter also point to a growing recognition of the role of tenant scrutiny as a means of improving performance, achieving efficiencies and delivering improved outcomes in social landlords’ housing activities. In relation to tenant involvement, one particularly notable inclusion is a direct reference to supporting tenants to scrutinise landlord services. Coupled to this, social landlords are now expected to actively involve tenants and other customers in reviewing how they deliver value for money.

As part of CIH Scotland’s Housing Festival, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart recently launched a practice guide and training toolkit to help landlords and tenants achieve more effective scrutiny.

Over the next five years, we can expect to see even more active engagement in tenant scrutiny of landlord services. The scrutiny resources combined with the revised Charter offer landlords the opportunity to fine tune their services to be as responsive as they possibly can be to the needs of tenants.

Marian Reid is Deputy Director of CIH Scotland.

 To download the Scottish Government funded scrutiny practice guide and training toolkit go to http://www.cih.org/scotland-tenant-scrutiny-programme

The Scottish Government is funding a series of free information events aimed at tenants and landlords and delivered by TPAS Scotland and Tenants Information Service (TIS), looking at the changes that have been made to the Charter.

For details go to http://tis.org.uk/ or http://www.tpasscotland.org.uk/

 

 

Another day, another election as Scots voters set to head to the polls for the seventh time in three years

Orbit Communications - Alex Orr 01
Alex Orr, Managing Director

Now that the dust has begun to settle after the Prime Minister’s surprise call of a snap election for 8th June, weary Scots are set to trudge to the polling booth for the seventh time in three years.

Prior to this is the small matter of the local elections on 4th May, a test of the Tory strategy to use these elections to send a message to Nicola Sturgeon of “no to a second referendum”. Indeed, as I write this, the Scottish Conservatives are to put opposition to a second independence referendum at the heart of their local government election campaign.

This is a message that will continue into the General Election. While in the rest of the UK Brexit will be very much to the fore, in Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU, it will be the independence issue that will continue to dominate. Indeed, Prime Minister May has again reaffirmed this view, writing in The Scotsman that a vote for the Scottish Conservatives would send a “clear message” of opposition to the SNP’s “divisive” plans for the second independence vote.

For the SNP, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has highlighted that the General Election will serve to “reinforce” its mandate for a vote on independence. She will also try and frame the election as being between a right-wing Tory party, which wants a hard Brexit, and her message of “elect us to stand up for Scotland”.

If the SNP do as well as predicted, they will claim yet another ‘cast-iron’ mandate to hold another independence referendum. This is why Nicola Sturgeon says that the Prime Minister has made a miscalculation.

Opposition parties will urge Scots to use the election to say no to a further plebiscite.

The challenge facing the SNP is that they did so well in the 2015 election, with 56 out of 59 MPs and falling just shy of half the vote (49.97%), that any fall will be seen by the unionist parties as a victory, a call for no independence referendum.

In the 2015 election Labour trailed in second on 24% (losing 40 of their 41 MPs) while the Conservatives secured 14% and the Liberal Democrats 8%.

With three parties chasing the “unionist vote” and consequently splitting that vote, the SNP clearly have a huge advantage.

Current opinion polls provide little consolation to these parties. The most recent poll (Panelbase/Sunday Times March 2017) had the SNP on 47% (-3% from General Election 2015), the Conservatives, 28% (+13%), Labour continuing its decline on 14% (-10 %) with the Liberal Democrats barely visible on 4% (-4%).

On this basis the Scottish Conservatives, with only one MP in Scotland, are likely to do well, leapfrogging Labour to second place, as they did in the Holyrood elections. They will be targeting constituency seats won at that election, so expect West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk and Dumfries and Galloway to be in the Tory firing line.

Labour will be content to try and hold onto their sole MP, Ian Murray in Edinburgh South, and try and stem the continuing rot. There may also be a sly Labour eye cast to East Lothian, held at Holyrood by former Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray MSP.

The Liberal Democrats could see an increase in their vote and will target seats they took in the Holyrood elections, such as Edinburgh West, where former SNP MP, Michelle Thomson, now stands as an independent, and North East Fife, held by Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie MSP.

Theresa May has rolled the dice, pitching the General Election in Scotland as a de facto vote on Scottish independence. Expect both the SNP and the Tories to claim that they have rolled double sixes on 9th June.

My internship at Orbit Communications

 

Abbie cropped
Abbie Anderson discusses what she learned during her internship at Orbit

Last week (10th – 14th April), Abbie Anderson, a second year English Literature student at the University of York, embarked on a week long internship with Orbit Communications. On her last day, we asked her to write a short blog about her time with us. 

My internship at Orbit Communications has been an amazing experience and I am really grateful for this opportunity. The whole team welcomed me with a smile that quickly eased my nerves. My time at Orbit has been incredibly informative, fun and I can genuinely say it has inspired me to pursue a career in Public Relations (PR) and Public Affairs!

Throughout my short time here, I worked closely with both Sarah and Graeme, whom I would like to thank for taking time out of their busy schedules to converse with me and provided the support and guidance I needed.

During the week, I was given numerous opportunities to experience the different aspects of the company. I was mainly hoping to come away with greater knowledge about PR and Media Relations. Through various tasks, I soon realised my skill set was very much at home in this job. I really enjoy working in a creative environment and being able to write various articles made each day enjoyable.

Following an insightful presentation given by Graeme, I was tasked with writing some press releases and articles. Through my English Literature degree, I have had a lot of experience with writing, but this definitely challenged me. I worked on quite diverse projects relating to Hanover Scotland, the Scottish Association of Landlords and the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition. Each article varied in length and required additional research. I was very grateful to Sarah and Graeme, and all the other staff, who could provide a guiding hand. I loved writing each article and hopefully one might even make it into a newspaper!

On my second day I was invited to attend a meeting with Sarah and Graeme at Hanover Scotland. Through observation, I learnt how important it is to establish a good relationship with your client and how many aspects of a company directly affect PR. I would also like to thank John from BOLD marketing, who took time to explain the purpose of the meeting, and the preparation that had gone into it.

Later in the week, Jordan tasked me with issuing a press release to The Orcadian, a newspaper based in Orkney. After emailing the article to the newsroom, I was asked to ring to ensure they had received it and provide any additional information they may have required. Through this experience, I saw how often Orbit works with newspapers and journalists, in order to gain as much coverage as possible for their clients. I have always enjoyed working with the media, so this is something I look forward to in the future.

The skills and knowledge I have gained whilst being here have given me confidence I did not previously have. Not only do I feel my writing has improved but this week has changed the career that I hope to pursue! I genuinely can’t thank Orbit, especially Sarah and Graeme, enough for this opportunity.

In the current economic climate private sponsorship of arts and heritage has never been so important

David Watt - Arts & Business Scotland
David Watt, Chief Executive, Arts & Business Scotland

On the 3rd April 2017, the new Culture & Business Fund Scotland (CBFS) was launched by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop. Providing critical pound for pound match funding of private sector sponsorship of arts and heritage activities, the CBFS will help to bring to life creative projects of all sizes, throughout Scotland.

In the current economic climate, rising costs and shrinking budgets are putting pressure on arts and heritage organisations’ finances, making private sector sponsorship more important than ever.

Evolving from Arts & Business Scotland’s renowned New Arts Sponsorship Grant (NASG), which recently celebrated a decade of success, investing over £7.5 million across more than 500 individual arts and heritage projects, the CBFS is bolstered with a new dedicated heritage strand and will also allow projects to continue to receive funding during their second and third years.

2017 is also the official year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, and widening the scope of the new fund to include support for Scotland’s crucially important heritage sector is extremely timely. Ranging from archaeology to historic buildings and taking in intangible heritage, green spaces, libraries and museums, our hope is that the new heritage strand will attract lots of exciting new applications.

We are also particularly keen to highlight the opportunity the new fund offers for projects to apply for second and third year funding, a key facet that has been particularly welcomed by businesses and cultural organisations that have participated in the New Arts Sponsorship programme in previous years. This innovation should hopefully encourage applicants to be even more ambitious with their project proposals and will enable relationships between culture and business to strengthen and grow over a longer period of time.

Over the past decade, NASG helped a wide variety of arts and heritage projects of all sizes located across the length and breadth of Scotland get off the ground, ranging from the creation of a unique sculpture celebrating the role of herring gutters in the Shetland fishing industry to the marketing and promotion of a new local arts festival in Galashiels – and from a specially commissioned piece of event theatre telling the story of Aberdeen and engaging the local community across the city to an interactive theatre production exploring issues around the impact of climate change, launched on the Hebridean island of Eigg before touring the Highlands and Islands and beyond. With a new wider scope, I am confident that the new fund will help to realise a similarly eclectic mix of arts and heritage projects in the years ahead.

Eligible projects can receive grant funding between £1,000 and £40,000, matched by business sponsorship to the same value. In the fund’s inaugural year, £300,000 will be provided by the Scottish Government, via Creative Scotland, while Historic Environment Scotland will make an initial contribution of £36,000 towards developing and raising awareness of the fund within the heritage sector.

Programmes such as this have the important benefit of encouraging private investors to give generously to the cultural sector with the reassurance that the value of their investment will be matched by government support. As well as doubling the financial stimulus to qualifying cultural projects, allowing larger and more complex projects to get off the ground, this approach also amplifies the positive impact on business from being associated with these projects. I have spoken to many organisations that have enjoyed fruitful partnerships with the cultural sector as a result of our previous NASG programme. Common to all are the huge benefits they have seen to their own business as a result of getting involved.

A public opinion poll commissioned by Arts & Business Scotland to coincide with the launch of the new fund demonstrates the extent of these benefits to business. A majority of Scots say they would be more likely to buy goods and services from businesses that support arts and heritage projects in their local area. 69% agree it is important for businesses to support such projects in their local community while more than three in four Scots agree that supporting local cultural and heritage projects reflects well on businesses.

As many participating businesses will testify, supporting cultural projects isn’t just an act of selfless philanthropy. There are lots of good, hard-headed business reasons for doing it. With its new wider scope and longer term focus, I look forward to seeing the Culture & Business Fund Scotland deliver many more successful partnerships between business, heritage and the arts over the next year and beyond.