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Social Housing Compliance Forum round-up – 24th January 2018

Consortium Procurement’s Social Housing Compliance Forum continues to go from strength to strength with the most recent meeting drawing an attendance of around 40 of the region’s repairs and maintenance managers.

The group was established to provide a forum to discuss the policy, procedures, and compliance issues affecting subjects such as asbestos, legionella, gas and electrical works. With a new format having been agreed in autumn 2017, meetings are comprised of a mixture of presentations and group discussion. Hourly slots are dedicated to topics chosen by the membership.

This session was held in the offices of Bernicia Group on 24th January. Paul Bates, Asbestos Services Director at MCP Environmental, spoke first, guiding the group through a number emerging trends in the Social Housing Sector in terms of asbestos and its relation to surveying, removals, and analytics.

Northumbrian Water’s Michael Dean was up next and provided the Forum with an insight into running a water hygiene contract from a service provider’s perspective. Michael talked through hints and tips for organisations when submitting a tender including advice on being clear on what exactly is required, making pricing easier, and contract set-up and mobilisation.

A section on the correct use of terminology was particularly useful, with members noting that a lack of expertise in departments can lead to ambiguities in tenders.  A number of common misconceptions were highlighted from testing (which often refers to sampling as opposed to monthly servicing) to use of the word potable, an out-dated term which has different parameters for legionella and water hygiene tasks.

The afternoon saw Harmajinder Hayre, a partner specialising in employment at Ward Hadaway, join the Forum to bring members up to speed with the EU Working Time Directive.  Issues such as travel time and on-call working hours had been brought up at previous meetings.  The EU Working Time Directive (EWTD) was outlined as a health and safety measure, setting obligations around maximum daily and weekly working times, and rest breaks. Central to the issue of how travel time impacted the need to meet National Minimum Wage obligations, was what constituted working time. This was due to both the EWTD and the UK’s Working Time Regulations 1998 not stipulating whether travel time was working time. Ultimately, it was whether the worker can satisfy all three limbs of the definition of working time – whether they are working, carrying out their duties, and are at their employer’s disposal.

As with past forums, the day was closed with a meeting of the Gas Group. Neil Thompson, Client Account Director at Gas Tag, was present to run members through recent market research conducted by his organisation. Gas Tag found that, often inadvertently, organisations were focusing on reassurance rather than assurance. This was typified by a focus reporting compliance and retrospective action for example via an audit instead of addressing at source. Neil also noted that, amongst responders, there was an inconsistent perception of accountability. The group discussed who they felt was accountable for gas compliance and whether devolving responsibility was the same as devolving accountability. Finally, it was highlighted that the majority of responding organisations were reliant on static data. Very few registered social landlords can get a ‘real time’ view of compliance and those who outsource have to rely on contractor data.