Housing Minister Grant Shapps today announced the abolition of the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), preserving its vital economic regulation functions in a new streamlined Homes and Communities Agency, whilst scrapping tasks considered unnecessary by Ministers - such as excessive data gathering.
The end of the TSA is part of wider Government reforms of public bodies announced today by Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude. These changes will radically increase the transparency and accountability of public services, and restore political accountability for decisions which affect people’s lives and the way taxpayers’ money is spent.
Today’s move will put local people in real control of driving up the quality of social housing with their landlords, and keep regulation’s primary focus on ensuring that lenders have confidence to invest in social housing. It follows a wide-ranging review of the TSA commissioned by Mr Shapps in June - part of the Government’s wider agenda of reducing the number and cost of quangos, cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and getting better value for money for the taxpayer.
Under the plans, England’s eight million social housing tenants will receive strengthened powers to ensure that their landlords provide quality housing and are held to account when problems arise. Landlords will be expected to support tenant panels - or equivalent bodies - in order to give tenants the opportunity to scrutinise the services being offered and to be involved in resolving disputes.
In a new era of transparency landlords will need to agree with their tenants what information they need about performance so that tenants can effectively scrutinise performance. And there will be a new role for tenants’ representatives - local councillors, MPs and tenant panels - in standing up for the rights of tenants and driving up housing standards.
Full details of the review of social housing regulations will be published next week.
Grant Shapps said:
The Tenant Services Authority was set up to oversee the financial viability of social housing and to protect tenants. The Coalition Government is deeply committed to both of these important roles. But in practice the TSA made little difference on the ground with far too many tenants still frustrated by their lack of real power to drive up standards.
That’s why I’m putting tenants in the driving seat so they can scrutinise the services offered by their landlords and hold them to account. They will also be key in resolving disputes and local councillors, MPs or tenant panels will have a new role in standing up for tenants and driving up standards. It’s about encouraging local solutions to local problems.
But with waiting lists at record levels and a record budget deficit to deal with we need better value for money in the sector so money goes further. The new streamlined regulatory system I am putting in place will focus on this vital objective. Through healthier balance sheets lenders have the confidence to invest in social housing.
Details of how the Government plans to streamline the Homes and Communities Agency will be announced shortly. Today’s announcement will affect 24 Publics Bodies accountable to Communities and Local Government.
Notes for editors
1. The Tenant Services Authority (TSA) was created by the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 and is the regulator for nearly 1,800 social housing landlords, including housing associations, councils and co-operatives in England. On 1 April 2010, the TSA commenced regulation with its new powers and based on a common set of standards applicable to social housing landlords.
2. The TSA’s budget for 2010-11 is approximately £33 million.
3. Summary of review findings:
- The Tenant Services Authority (TSA) should be abolished and its economic regulation and backstop consumer regulation functions transferred to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), generating efficiency savings in back-office functions and exploiting synergies across investment and regulation.
- In order to ensure the continued independence of regulation, these functions should be vested in a statutory committee within the HCA, legally separated from HCA’s investment functions and with its membership appointed by the Secretary of State.
- The role of consumer regulation should be refocused on setting clear service standards for social landlords and addressing serious failures against those standards, with a higher legal threshold for regulatory intervention.
- Greater onus should be placed on local mechanisms to address routine problems and to enable tenants to hold their landlord to account and press for better services. There should be a clearer role in the complaints process for locally elected representatives and tenant panels in advocating for tenants.
- In order to maintain lender confidence and protect taxpayers, proactive economic regulation of housing associations should continue as now but with more focus on value for money for the taxpayer.
4. 24 Public Bodies accountable to Communities and Local Government will be affected by the proposals in today’s announcement. It is proposed that 17 will no longer be public bodies through abolition, devolution, reconstitution or merger (this includes the Audit Commission whose audit functions will be moved to the private sector - details at: www.communities.gov.uk/news/corporate/1688109 ); six will be retained and the future of the Homes and Communities Agency is still under consideration. (Three executive agencies of the Department were out of scope of the review). http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk
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