Friday, 17 November 2017

The State Of Things

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As anyone who reads this blog knows, I work right across the UK, from England, into Wales, Scotland and Ireland. A continual problem is how do we know if our organisations are doing well? ‘Benchmarking’ is a well-used buzzword. Where should we look to benchmark and will it reflect reality? i.e.. compare ourselves to something similar and extract some useful insights.

I have done some work with a local organisation to me, Vantage, who host the ‘Performance Improvement Club’.  My work has involved greater efficiency in DLO teams, but clearly as readers of this blog will know, I have a long term geeky interest in better KPI’s and reporting.

On a chance conversation with Tony Bryan, Chief Executive of Vantage, at the 24Housing awards, it was mentioned their latest KPI stats from the benchmarking club were available. Improved performance can only be based on knowing what the norm is, what others are actually achieving. I am committed to better reporting, however creatively that can be achieved.

Its always good to know who’s part of the benchmarking club. In this case, its some of the leading landlord RSLs in our social housing sector. The Vantage club attracts a wide variety of significant large and medium landlords from across the UK. This means that a varied raft of statistics can be collated for some unique insights.

Firstly, who is involved in the Vantage benchmarking group? Well it’s a broad mix of English and Welsh landlords. Plenty of familiar names, many of which I have worked with over the years.
Some Vantage Improvement Club Members
When I read through the report, it gave me a warm feeling. There are clear insights in the data taken from 132 major RSL/RPs, distilled into clear information about our sector, which I recognise from the work I get involved with.

As a sector watcher myself, I feel it comprehensively covers all financial areas  I work with in improving systems and processes. I have provided a link to the full report at the end of the blog.

Despite the continual rollout of Universal Credit, a 4 year rent reduction, it’s clear we have a strong sector. As I have tweeted about a lot lately, recent noises from Westminster sound like socialhousing may be back on the agenda (and rightly so!). The political tide might yet be turning, as Tony Bryan mentions in his summary.

Let’s look at some of the headline figures:

  • Turnover stable, only down by a very marginal 0.11% on a turnover of 16.69%
  • The G15 group of London landlords still dominate turnover, 27% of all UK socialhousing
  • £156m still being wasted in void property loss
  • Employment costs down 6.6% on last year
  • Operating surplus up (much greater in General needs housing)
  • Financial performance operating costs (strangely greater in NE England.
  • Routine operating costs, per unit (slightly lower)
  • Operating costs (slightly falling by unit)
  • Financial Health & Viability (Gearing generally increasing)
  • Headline annual average social housing cost per unit £3,514
There are some striking regional variations. One case in point is voids, a key concern for landlords. The graph below shows how badly on average the North West performs, with a mixture of low average weekly rent and worst void loss %.
Void loss by English region
It would be interesting to research the penetration of modern void management systems, such as mobile and recharge recovery, in each region to consider if these innovations are contributing.

Another key area where improved systems should be making a positive effect is in control of costs per unit. Better controlled repair processes should be reducing waste due to wasted visits, unnecessary repairs and better appreciation of sustainability.

Headline Social Housing Cost per Unit

In the figures on the right, the number of capitalised components fell by over 16%, reflecting what I see with my clients. Again, the regional spread is interesting. The last area to mention is stock size and achieved housing cost per unit. There has been a lot of discussion recently following mergers, if bigger is better and can it be cheaper? The larger bubbles to the mid-far right in the graphic below, do suggest it. Seeing the data like this, it does suggest it’s the 15-35k groups/RSLs that may currently have most of the cost challenges.

Stock size vs Social Housing Cost per Unit
Vantage are certainly taking benchmarking to a new level.
Why not download the full 24 page 2017 report on this link
2017/18 version available here

For more information on the Vantage Performance Improvement Club, click here: 

Get in touch if I can add some insight to your data project, Integrated Housing or Finance system review or procurement.

Related Post: When you procure, bring all your team and users on the journey too! 


I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.

Reverend and the makers - The State Of ThingsReverend and the makers - The State Of Things.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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