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STAR Case Study

STAR Case Study

About STAR

Shropshire Towns and Rural Housing (STAR) is an ALMO based in Shrewsbury with around 4,200 homes and a small but successful development programme. Local services are delivered from two offices in Bridgnorth and Oswestry. Set up in 2013, STAR had received a ‘good’ level (the highest possible grade) of assurance for Governance following an internal audit by Shropshire Council’s Audit Services in 2020. 2020 had also seen the recruitment of new independent members which increased Board capacity, bringing in fresh perspectives and skills. However, following the introduction of the new NHF Code of Governance and the housing White Paper, as well as the effects of a year dominated by the impacts of Covis-19, STAR approached BDA for an independent governance review.

About the review

In a rapidly changing environment, STAR, like all organisations, was facing a period of continued uncertainty and upheaval. This was not just down to the pandemic; new expectations are emerging from staff and customers as well as through the ESG agenda, the Social Housing White Paper and the ‘stretch’ created by the new NHF Code of Governance, This means that as well as performing well in the ‘here and now’, the Board was looking for ways to reshape and refresh its role and performance, keeping the long view of organisational purpose, culture and risk.

Our aim was to provide STAR with overall assurance on their governance approach and an assessment of their compliance with the NHF Code of Governance. We focused the review on 4 key questions:

  • How well did their current governance arrangements (including roles of committees, reporting/ accountability lines between Board, committees and Executive, and governance policies) help them meet their obligations under the Regulator of Social Housing’s Consumer and Rent standards and co-regulation requirements?
  • How compliant were the board and its committees with its code of conduct and constitution?
  • How did STAR demonstrate accountability to stakeholders, including residents, the local authority, other customers and staff?

How well did the Board meet the standards set out in the new NHF code of Governance?

We used 3 main methods for this review:

  • Individual Board ‘health check’ questionnaires designed around the four principles of the NHF Code: 1. Mission and values; 2. Strategy and delivery; 3. Board effectiveness; 4. Control and assurance. BDA’s health check provides a five-point confidence rating alongside a general comments section to produce a nuanced view that helps us produce a heat map showing areas of strength and areas for improvement.  All Board members were invited to complete a health check alongside the Senior Management Team. The exercise was administered via Survey Monkey allowing easy access for Board members as well as improved data collection, manipulation, and presentation.
  • Desktop document review. This helped us assess the links, dependencies, and internal consistency between the Board and its sub-committees. We also considered (partly through looking at minutes and partly through assessing feedback from the health check surveys) how actual Board performance demonstrates compliance with these governance policies.
  • Whole Board observation by ‘Teams’. BDA’s tried and tested approach for observing and reporting on Board and committee interaction helps organisations consider the effectiveness and culture of the whole Board and selected committees. The aim was to consider how the Board performs as a team to ensure effective debate and decision making.

Finally, we triangulated the results from the different exercises to sense-check the findings for consistency and provide assurance that the findings are robust. These findings were then built into our final report which highlighted areas of good practice and identified a number of challenges that the Board may want to address in order to be ‘future fit’.

STAR’s Managing Director, Sue Adams said:

BDA’s review helped us focus on what we need to do next to continue developing our new Board as we emerge from the 2020 lockdown. The action points highlighted in BDA’s final report have given us a useful starting point and will guide our Board conversations over the coming months.  

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