Scrutiny at the crossroads

What are the lessons from the first five years and what’s next for customer scrutineers? There’s been a lack of ambition and imagination about what forms scrutiny can take and what it can deliver.

It seems like a long time ago since customer scrutiny was the big thing, championed by the now defunct Tenant Services Authority as a crucial part of co-regulation.

Many housing providers initially set up scrutiny groups and panels. Some of these have worked very well indeed and fundamentally altered the relationship between organisations and their customers. But many have found it hard to recruit and keep people with the necessary skills, capacity and staying power to fulfill the role properly. But overall, it feels like there’s been a lack of ambition and imagination about what forms scrutiny can take and what it can deliver.

With light-touch regulation now the norm and increased attention on value for money, scrutiny is at a crossroads. Which way is best? And what’s sustainable in the long term?

From our work with several leading scrutiny bodies and those in earlier stages of development, we think:

  • Scrutiny has to be distinct and different – it’s not the same as involvement and should be seen as part of an organisation’s overall governance. Done well, scrutiny can perform a unique and pivotal role between the board and operational teams.
  • Good scrutiny doesn’t come cheap – residents who’re willing and able to making the sort of commitment required to deliver meaningful scrutiny are quite rare. And those who can invariably have lots of other calls upon their time and talents. So if you want to get and keep good people, be prepared to reward them at least as much as board members.
  • If it hasn’t happened yet, don’t start now – in the (mercifully few) organisations where customer scrutiny hasn’t yet taken root, now is not the time to half-heartedly create a structure or process to deliver it. You need a much closer look at what cultural or operational factors have stopped it happening in the past five years!

Customer scrutiny can and should have a future in modern housing business. But there are more ways to do it than by simply setting up a panel, and whatever you choose has to be resourced and supported properly.

Tell us where has scrutiny got to in your business, and where it’s going.

We can help you design and set up the right sort of scrutiny to match your business and deliver real value. Contact Ian Hembrow on 01865 861664 or 07740 860942.



Ian Hembrow

About Ian Hembrow

Our housing and engagement consultancy lead. Ian is a former housing association director, and board member. He is also a qualified features journalist and works as an associate with Plain Language Commission.
Ian’s passion: dreams.