This is my second year as Chair, and like the previous year, it has been a period of change and consolidation.
The year has brought a new Government in the UK with a different housing agenda, and just recently we have been through an Assembly election here in Wales with a minority Labour government being returned but with a substantial influx of new faces. We therefore live in changing times and we, as a Board, must be prepared for the challenges that, without doubt, lie ahead. I am pleased to state that even prior to the Assembly election, the Board had decided to appoint specialist consultants to help us assess the challenges and changes that may arise in the future.
It is interesting to note that 2015 was the Association’s 40th Anniversary, and whilst rightly a time to celebrate success, it was also an opportunity to reflect that whatever the challenges faced, the Association has continued to thrive and rise to those challenges.
I am also particularly pleased to report that the Association’s governance continues to be excellent, and to report that following an assessment by The Governance Forum, we were awarded with a Level 2 for Governance. Very few housing associations of our size have gained Level 2 and as such the Association's governance arrangements are very robust. However, we are not content to rest on our laurels and have already started to consider further improvements, for instance, adopting a new committee structure and terms of delegation which should make the Association and its Board even more efficient and effective for the future.
The Association continues to grow steadily through its development programme and during the year brought a total of 31 new properties into management, in Llanidloes and Newtown.
Our current development programme also includes the Tabernacle site in Aberystwyth which will deliver 22 one-bedroom flats and is due for completion later this year. The complex is centrally situated in the town and is opposite the new Marks and Spencer/Tesco shops/car park, and provides both a striking addition to the town and much needed affordable housing. We were particularly pleased to show this important scheme to the First Minister, Carwyn Jones in October.
On a similar vein we are also refurbishing a town centre site in Newtown, on the site of the old TA building and Magistrates’ Court. The first flats were completed in 2015/16 with the reminder due for completion next year.
The Association has reported another excellent financial result. Despite added cost pressures, through effective financial and budgetary control, the Association has achieved a surplus of £684,000; well above what was budgeted. It is the generation of these surpluses that gives the Association the ability to repay its loans and provide funds to support new homes and service improvements.
During the year the Association achieved agreement in principle to changes in the financial covenants from our funders, and these changes will give us the ability to develop more homes and critically, provide some flexibility to respond to any adverse financial effects that may arise from changes in Government Policy, especially concerning Welfare Benefit Reform.
Finally, I would like to thank my fellow Board Members, particularly Wynne Davies, the Deputy Chair, Shane Perkins, the Chief Executive, Directors, staff and clients for their support during the year.