Week 3 of planned weekly blogs from David Hall, Chair of WCA

‘Charity begins at home’ is a proverb often quoted sometimes misused.  One of my targets this year is to write a weekly blog setting out where we are with this local charity, how we came to be involved and some of the stories involved.

A few years ago the WCA celebrated its 75th anniversary and I did a short video as part of our series at that time explaining  Why I Got Involved With Wimbledon Community Association – David Hall, Chair of Trustees | Wimbledon Community Association

When recording that I touched on three reasons why I got involved: firstly, I had the time, secondly, I was moved by the mission and purpose of the organisation and thirdly my family’s local connection.

I will elaborate more on the second and third reasons in future blogs but for now I want to expand on the background of the first reason and the circumstances when I was made redundant.

Back in 2012 I was working full time for a national social housing consultancy, which had the year before, just been taken over by Capita.  After graduating in Economics from Kent University in 1983 I went on to become a public sector (CIPFA) accountant and after qualifying I got a job running a small team doing the accounts for housing and social services in a north London borough (Harrow).

I also became a specialist in spreadsheet modelling and in 1990 took a leap into the private sector joining a small consultancy which worked with several local housing authorities across the country.

At that time Councils were subject to quite tight financial controls on their housing spending and were being encouraged to explore transferring their social housing stock to housing associations, which as charities were deemed to be outside the public sector, and where most of the development funding for new social housing was going.

Our consultancy quickly grew to become one of the lead advisers in the field and I became an expert in not only understanding and modelling the finances of the two sectors but also the process for setting up new housing associations, the governance, regulation, transfer, funding and registration process and perhaps most importantly, marketing / persuading councils and their tenants that this was a good thing.  A majority of tenants had to vote in favour of the transfer to make it happen.

Over a period of about two decades around half the Councils across England transferred their stock (about 1.3 million dwellings) to housing associations (including Merton).

However, during the 2000’s there was also a growing movement developing to give local authorities more powers.  I worked on several research projects with the then Labour government on ways to change the system and in 2008 produced a key paper suggesting some radical reforms.

The banking crash later that year slowed that, but the momentum had been started and in 2012, backed by a strong desire for change in the local authority sector, the new Conservative / Liberal Coalition brought in some heavily watered-down version of my original proposals.  You can read my thoughts on that here: committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/121468/pdf/

By then the original consultancy I joined had been taken over (for the third time) and when the opportunity came to take redundancy later that year, I took it.  I decided to take a step back, partly driven by a desire to get away from the corporate world which I had been sucked into, partly to do my own thing and partly to just to do something local and voluntary which I thought would be far more rewarding.  There is of course a longer story there which I will come back to in the future…

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