Golden Gates Housing Trust (GGHT) and Helena Partnerships (HP) wanted to form a new group structure as equal partners with greater capacity and influence together across the North West – the Torus Group.
At a strategic level, the increased capacity that the new group would unlock would also enable each housing association to achieve their development aspirations and enable them to become a stronger ‘influencer’ within not only their area of operation but also the region as a whole. At all times it was clear that the overall ‘driver’ for the project was for GGHT and HP to promote and benefit their communities across Warrington and St Helens.
What was our role?
We were involved from the early strategic discussions about the aspirations for the group and how best the structural and governance arrangements could support achieving these. Our initial role was to consider the differing options available, including wider third sector group structures operating outside the regulation of both the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and the Charity Commission. Significant factors included the current and anticipated regulatory environment, likely future funding needs, the use of commercial trading vehicles in the group and the procurement and employment arrangements to be adopted.
As part of the implementation, we were heavily involved in negotiating consents from six funders, the respective local authorities and the regulators, including the Charity Commission for consent to remunerate Board Members. At the same time, we supported the project team in introducing the new employment arrangements and associated restructure. The new Torus Group was successfully launched with effect from 1 April 2015 with us having negotiated the critical paths that we identified with the third party stakeholders.
The project involved a multi-disciplinary approach across our corporate, funding, employment and housing management teams.
How did we add value?
Being involved in strategic discussions at the start of the project ensured that we were able to pick up on potential issues at an early stage and navigate through the necessary approvals processes with outside parties. Our experience in the housing sector as a whole, and of setting up other similar structures, enabled us to identify the most practically effective solutions and anticipate the requirements of the regulators and funders. In particular, our in-depth knowledge of the practical requirements of the HCA and Charity Commission ensured that respective consent/registration was a smooth and quick process (with registration as a charity achieved within a matter of weeks).
As part of the funders’ consents process, we were able to negotiate specific exceptions to usual constraints so far as practicable to ensure that the group could achieve its key goals in the early stages of the new structure.
Both competition and employment issues were particularly challenging to satisfy on this project due to recent changes to the competition regulatory framework and Torus Group’s wish to retain ultimate flexibility over workforce issues. We were successful at delivering full future flexibility for Torus Group without jeopardising the group structure project or the timetable.