Richard Gregory reflects on his first six months as Group Chair and what lies ahead for Places for People.
Joining Places for People has given me the opportunity to be part of a truly unique organisation. With a strong purpose and a commitment to creating social impact, the Group is making a tangible difference to communities right across the UK.
These qualities were what first attracted me to the role of Chair alongside the chance to continue the excellent work delivered by my predecessor, Chris Phillips, which has laid the foundations for further development and success.
Over the last six months, I have been particularly impressed by the skills and dedication of our people. Overcoming the challenges of the pandemic, our colleagues have not only maintained vital services for our customers, but gone the extra mile to provide tailored support for the most vulnerable and a variety of initiatives to positively impact local communities.
For our Places Leisure colleagues, Covid-19 has caused significant disruption. Now that lockdown restrictions are easing and facilities are beginning to reopen, I have taken the opportunity to visit members of the team and been bowled over by their energy, enthusiasm and commitment to customer service. This is reflective of the Group’s People First approach and I am looking forward to continuing these visits in the months ahead.
Maximising our potential
As I have got to know the different parts of the Group, I have been really encouraged by what has been achieved during a challenging year. We have continued to strengthen our core affordable housing offer, progress key placemaking projects, efficiently manage thousands of homes and embedding our People First approach across the Group.
It has been a delight to meet people from our different businesses and hear about key successes and milestones. These have ranged from development breakthroughs at high profile generation sites through to significant growth opportunities.
In the months ahead, a key focus will be to maximise the potential of all of the Group’s complementary businesses, recognising the crucial contribution they all make to delivering our placemaking objectives.
In April 2021, it was formally announced that Group Chief Executive, David Cowans, will be retiring next March. Since then, I have been working with the Group board to ensure a smooth and successful transition to a new Chief Executive. David will leave an incredible legacy and my priority is to make sure this remains in safe hands.
In tandem to this work, I have been looking at board governance. This has led to a number of changes, including a more simplified structure to drive efficiency, enhance accountability, and ultimately, improve the quality of the service we provide to our customers.
Across the Group, we are also embedding new operating models which bring together common processes, procedures and systems to standardise the way we work, improve efficiencies and drive collaboration. I recognise that such change can also be challenging, but it will enable us to grow and be sustainable while reflecting our SPIRIT values.
A key benefit of our new operating models will be an even higher level of service for our customers. This supports our wider aim to continuously improve the way we work and engage with our customers. We continue to gain a deeper understanding of our customers, who they are and what they need, through our ongoing research programme which is generating powerful insights and enriching our data. This knowledge will help us to better serve our customers, and ensure we provide the homes they really want in places that best meet their needs. Our customer voice strategy, listening to customers, is a key part of this activity.
Preparing for the future
I want the Group to be well positioned for the headwinds that are coming our way. These are largely driven by new statutory standards, higher benchmarks for building standards and fire safety, and the move to zero carbon.
As a forward-thinking business, measures have already been implemented to address these changes with further investment planned to continuously improve the quality of the homes and places we are creating. Our long-term, strategic approach will not only ensure we can meet changes in our operating environment but our customers’ needs to ensure successful, thriving places.
Looking ahead, I am also looking forward to connecting with more colleagues across the Group and continuing to offer my support. There are both challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, but we are well placed to address these, while continuing to deliver our placemaking aims. It is an exciting time for the Group and I am privileged to be part of it.
Richard Gregory OBE, Group Chairman