HUMAN RESOURCES

A response to the housing challenge you can bank on

Cairistine Foster-Cannan explains how the East of England Local Government Association’s Talent Bank is expanding its offering to provide expertise on a wide variety of housing issues.

The East of England Local Government Association's (EELGA) Talent Bank has transformed the way councils in the East procure expertise, giving them easy and quick access to a host of leading consultants at the click of a button.

The innovative service has streamlined the procurement process, saving cash-strapped councils vital funds that could be used elsewhere. Being a not-for-profit organisation, the Talent Bank can also offer expertise at a reduced rate.

Now with a new senior management team, the Talent Bank is broadening the scope of its expertise, in particular around housing delivery as councils face mounting financial pressures.

Access to expertise

Councils in the East of England are under pressure financially, facing challenges they could accommodate 10 years ago, but are finding difficult to do so today.

The Talent Bank was launched in its current format in 2009 to give councils easy access to a range of experts and consultants covering everything from procurement and asset management to HR and digitisation.

Our service provides access to expertise for councils at the click of a button, whether it's help developing a long-term strategy or simply some extra capacity to get a project over the line.

Because the service is public-to-public procurement, councils benefit from exemptions from having to go through a lengthy and possibly costly procurement process, saving them time and money

It's something we are very proud of at EELGA, and are committed to expanding, particularly in relation to the housing crisis and emerging technologies.

We have recently appointed a new senior team to the Talent Bank, including our new head of business development Sharon Bleese and new commercial manager Grace Shaughnessy, to ensure we can provide the support councils and their partners need

The housing challenge

Housing is probably the biggest challenge councils face in the East of England – we are certainly in the middle of a housing crisis.

Rising rental prices have meant temporary accommodation costs are threatening the financial viability of councils in our area – it's that significant.

That's why we are calling on the Government for immediate funding support and longer-term structural change to help alleviate those pressures

EELGA's housing call to action, launched at the East of England All Party Parliamentary Group in March, outlined the short-term pressures facing the region's housing sector

It showed the enormous financial stress councils are under, with spending on temporary housing quadrupling from £15.4m in 2011, to £64.4m in 2023.

How Talent Bank can help

We are expanding our offering on the Talent Bank for expertise on housing to ensure councils have access to expertise to help tackle the issue

Our consultants can advise councils on a wide variety of housing issues, including housing delivery, homelessness strategies, IT, procurement of temporary accommodation and help to minimise subsidy losses.

It's also about the quality side. Because we have asset management expertise on the service, we can support councils to ensure all accommodation is of a high quality and compliant with all regulatory standards

Thinking long-term on housing

Having spent more than 20 years working in social housing delivery and management, as well as housing needs and homelessness services, it's an issue I am very passionate about.

Everyone needs a safe and affordable place to live where they can build, or re-build, their lives, and local councils have a vital role to play in delivering that housing.

In the East it is particularly challenging because we have a vastly growing and aging population alongside ongoing challenges with our transport and utilities infrastructure

The type and volume of housing we need is potentially different to other parts of the country and our need for greater support for our infrastructure is significant

It's crucial, and something we are lobbying for, for central government to create the conditions required for councils to deliver the housing the region needs at pace.

The main reason why councils are struggling financially in terms of housing is Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates which apply to temporary accommodation are still pegged back to 2011. This means councils cannot recoup anything like their costs

What we would like to see is for the Government to make changes so councils can apply 2024 LHA rates to temporary accommodation and keep pace with the market

Housing will continue to be a top priority for councils across the region in the coming years and EELGA, and our Talent Bank consultants will be there to support them every step of the way

Cairistine Foster-Cannan is chief executive of the East of England Local Government Association

For more information on EELGA's Talent Bank service visit online: https://www.eelga.gov.uk/

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