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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Setting up Local Operational Plans


Written by Dave Smethurst, associate, CIH

Local Operational Plans - what are the challenges?

The current housing context is in transition at a time of uncertainty and challenge for social landlords 3 issues stand out:

  • Regulation is less prescriptive with organizations more reliant on co regulatory inspired self scrutiny tied to fairly nondescript local offers at a time when government is demanding greater customer focus and responsiveness.
  • Alongside cuts in public services there have also been significant reductions in the Local authority regenerative infrastructure,. This has directly impacted on local agencies ability to address neighbourhood sustainability at a time of economic decline and increasing social disadvantage.
  • Housing, health and welfare reform may place additional pressure on Social housing tenants and social landlord income streams both of which will require much more intensive and targeted management interventions.
  • So what does this mean? What do landlords need to do?
  • Local offers need to be made more relevant, specific and customer focused
  • They need to say what will be done in a neighbourhood to improve services and quality of life.
  • Landlords need to translate local offers into tangible local action.
  • More than ever, different local service providers need to work together in a joined up way to address neighbourhood sustainability making the most of reduced budgets. Housing providers need to reach out, be in the lead and make this happen as their customers have the most to lose if they do not. They also need to find a suitable vehicle to enable them to do this.
  • Landlords also need to develop a flexible approach to existing neighbourhood service delivery that enables them to add new initiatives, campaigns, and provision to the existing mix.

So Housing providers need a way of focusing their own services and the services of others on the key neighbourhood issues and the additional demands created by emergent government policy ...... step forward local operational plans

Local operational plans are designed to help by Identifying all the interventions that need to be done by social landlords and by other agencies to improve of the sustainability of the local neighbourhood their properties are in.

Steps for setting up local operational plans:

  • Split your housing stock into identifiable neighbourhoods
  • Create a range of sustainability indicators for neighbourhoods based on internal and external data
  • Rate all your neighbourhoods in terms of their sustainability
  • Conduct a 360-degree audit of staff, tenants and other agencies in each neighbourhood to identify local service issues from a range of perspectives
  • Produce local operational plans Linked to TSA service standard categories that incorporate housing and non housing activity.
  • Align internal local service teams and service monitoring to plan priorities.
  • Link plans to external service delivery teams and targets
  • Involve tenants in local plan service development and monitoring
  • Set up multi disciplinary delivery teams to implement the plans

These elements of Local operational plans will:

  • Provide way to identify where you need to focus resources and effort
  • Tell you what he problems are in individual neighbourhoods
  • Produce tailored solutions based on local offer categories
  • Enable you to develop the effective multi disciplinary action planning
  • Produce consensus with partners on what need to be done to improve an area
  • Lever in external resources into a neighbourhood and develop effective signposting to non housing services for individual customers
  • Develop effective neighbourhood customer input and scrutiny
  • Provide a vehicle to focus resources and capability where they are needed and change services to meet new requirements.

Case Study: ALMO in the North West of England

I worked with an ALMO in the North West to produce neighbourhood plans covering all their stock.

What we did:

  • We set up a staff and tenants working group to develop and implement the plans
  • Working with staff and local customers We split the stock into 31 local operating neighbourhoods
  • We created a range of neighbourhood indicators and rated each neighbourhood as gold silver or bronze depending on their sustainability. Gold neighbourhoods were the most sustainable whilst bronze neighbourhoods had the most sustainability issues
  • Based on the trends identified in indicators we conducted an audit of neighbourhoods with inputs from frontline housing staff, tenants, external service providers and info from specially commission neighbourhood inspections with staff and tenants.
  • At the same time as audits were carried out we set up staff and tenant working groups to identify range and types of interventions that could be undertaken in neighbourhoods.
  • We produced a Local Operational Plan for each neighbourhood that gave its overall rating, the problems identified by the audits and a detailed set of actions that need t be taken to improve things over the next 3 years
  • We launched plans at a tenant’s conference prior to their implementation
  • Set up area based delivery teams comprising staff from housing management, ASB, income management, Maintenance, asset management environmental services and community development teams. These are chaired by area manager and report in progress and performance.

The performance of operational plans in terms of neighbourhood ratings has been extremely good. Over a 12 month period 3 neighbourhoods have gone from Bronze to Silver and 9 have gone from Silver to Gold.

This represents a big improvement over a short period with a 39% improvement in plan ratings. To underline this positive trend 25 out of the 31 plans have seen some overall improvement of their rating scores even if some have not seen an upgrade in terms of their overall neighbourhood rating classification.

About the author

Dave Smethurst has worked in Housing for 20 years working as a frontline practitioner, senior manager and community consultant. In 1997 Dave joined and eventually led a Community Consultancy working as a tenant’s advisor on a number of varied stock transfer projects and PFI’s across the North West. Dave also did a lot of varied work with customers and their housing providers in a range of areas including Involvement compacts, training, service problems, regeneration and neighbourhood management.

In 2002 Dave became Group Service Development Manager for a large regional housing association overseeing the development of its customer involvement framework and neighbourhood sustainability plans. Dave also worked extensively with customers and managers developing on service standards, Value for money and continuous improvement.

It was the work on customer led service improvement that eventually led to Dave deciding to work as a housing consultant once again in October 2008 .

Dave is currently working on a number of projects with registered providers across the northwest as well as the south of England developing local service offers and customer scrutiny vehicles. Over the last 2 years Dave has also worked on a number of projects as part of his wider project portfolio with CIH consultancy.

To discuss how to improve your local operational plan, contact us at 0844 561 1758 or email

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