Headshot of Mark Newstead

Blog: What defines a successful partnership?

Mark Newstead, Director of Major Programmes
Published on 27/06/2024

Twelve months ago, our contractors began work on what we believe is the largest investment programme in the social housing sector.

Since then, we’ve carried out work to 1,595 kitchens, 1,543 bathrooms, 1,519 windows and completed 175 new roofs, all in line with the Decent Homes Standard. We’ve also generated over £23m in community investment through our supply chain.

This has included 860 weeks’ of work delivered by apprenticeships, the revamping of community spaces, the running of classes for residents, and lots more.

Underpinning the programme are three aims: an enhanced emphasis on and investment in the safety of our residents and colleagues, greater investment in residents’ homes, and increased focus on delivering reliable, repeatable and consistent services.

Behind these numbers are the stories of residents who are pleased with the improvements their homes have received.

These include Gloria and her daughter Amy, who had a specially adapted wet room fitted by Axis Europe. Annamaria who has been “cooking up a storm” since her kitchen was replaced by Morgan Sindall Property Services.

And Ian Ricketts who is finding cooking and cleaning much easier after a wheelchair-friendly kitchen and bathroom were fitted in his home.

So, one year on, what have we learnt so far?

Firstly, good partnerships provide the foundations for any successful housing investment programme. Put simply, without contractor partnerships, we can’t create the quantity and quality of safer, warmer, more efficient homes that we want and need to.

However, no relationship, contractual or otherwise, is simple, and many things will influence success. The sector has seen big contractors fail in the past, with all the accompanying disruption this brings to residents and social landlords.

What can a housing provider do to protect against this happening?

Effective collaboration is not built overnight – it takes time to forge a partnership and realise its benefits. Both parties must understand each other and develop a way of working which gets things right first time, every time for residents.

Our Major Works Investment Programme spans over 15 years, which means that, unusually, these contracts are 15 years in length. With the certainty to plan ahead, these contracts are allowing us to deliver works at scale – including upgrades that help residents combat higher energy prices.

Adopting a long-term lens is especially helpful when it comes to retrofitting homes. Energy efficiency works are complex, and the skills and expertise to deliver these projects, while growing, are still not widely developed.

We appointed our contractors with the upcoming wave of the government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund in mind and they were in place by the time the funding reached us. By actively engaging with the market early, we’ve been able to get agreements in place to deliver improvements faster.

And by committing to a long-term programme, our partners and their supply chains can invest in green skills and jobs with confidence that there will be demand.

Long-term relationships also pay off when it comes to creating opportunities within local communities. At L&Q, we have a proud and longstanding track record of working collaboratively with our supply chain for the benefit of our residents. We want our homes not only to be nice places to live, but exceptional places to be.

Before the Major Works Investment Programme (MWIP) started, we didn’t have a consistent approach to achieving wider social benefits through our procurement activities. Every contract we sign now includes a social value target, and the results have been clear to see.

From making befriending calls to planting trees, the social value created by our contractors may come in different shapes and sizes, but the outcomes all fit with our priorities and respond to resident needs.

A shining example was the Kier Places team engaging with students at a school for young individuals with autism, communication difficulties, speech, and language delays.

Tailoring their approach to each student’s unique needs, the team used prompt cards with icons to represent questions and answers, and the students left the mock interviews with newfound confidence in their abilities.

An anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect not only on the journey so far, but on the chapters still to come. We’re at the start of our journey to install 48,000 new kitchens and 42,000 new bathrooms alongside a range of other improvements through a £3bn programme that will last 15 years.

We’ll measure our success not by intent, but by the demonstrable difference we are making to our residents’ homes and lives.