News & Stories

PlaceShapers Spring Leaders Event

27 March 2024


Jo Savage, Chief Executive

Greatwell Homes

“The only way forward is to work in partnership.”

When I saw the agenda and speakers for the PlaceShapers Spring Leaders Event for chairs and chief executives, I knew this was not an event to be missed and I was right.

Although, I have to say when I saw a police car and van on the steps of the venue I was concerned as I didn’t realise PlaceShapers were considered potential troublemakers by the Manchester Constabulary!

As it turned out we weren’t troublemakers, however we were all very passionate about our place-shaping role and why place-based housing associations really matter.

Charlie Norman, CEO of MSV opened the conference with humour and common sense by reminding us of the role of PlaceShapers and sharing her thoughts on the Manchester weather (mostly rain!).

The first speaker was Cllr. Gavin White, Executive Member for Housing and Development at Manchester City Council. At the end of him speaking its fair to say several of us had ’councillor envy’ as Gavin spoke with such passion and knowledge about the vital role housing associations play.

He eloquently made the link between housing and health with an impactful example of an older lady rehoused in an extra care scheme. Since moving into her new home she hadn’t been admitted to A and E whereas the previous year she had been admitted 12 times. We were asked to reflect on all aspects of ’saving’ this new home had - from the obvious like paramedic’s time to the less obvious such as saving stress and anxiety for the lady and her family.

Gavin had many examples of where his council and place-shaping housing associations work together. In his words “the only way forward is to work in partnership.”

Embarrassingly, I’d forgotten to put my phone on silent and it rang in the middle of Gavin’s session, so as well as apologising for that I did manage to persuade Gavin to share some of the fantastic partnership work he talked about with other councils through the LGA.

We then heard from our very own Catherine Ryder who shared the start of the PlaceShapers election campaign with a powerful message: “PlaceShapers may not be the biggest landlord nationally but we are the biggest locally.” The campaign will also include an ask for proper regeneration funding, something that will massively support us with our place-shaping impact. A lively debate ensued with many excellent points being made from the floor, all of which will be taken away by the PlaceShapers team and considered for the next round of the campaign.

After lunch we heard from the PlaceShapers stalwart Angela Lockwood, CEO of North Star who shared her reflections on the past, the present and the future of the social housing sector. Honestly, I could have listened to Angela’s wisdom all day. I couldn’t do Angela justice in a single blog but stand outs from her speech were:

  • Beware of unintended consequences in government policy, for example how many Right to Buy homes are now in the private sector?
  • How many kids who live in social housing today will become owner occupiers?
  • Why having the right culture in an organisation is so much more important than a raft of policies and procedures.

A sign of a great event is when the room is still buzzing at the end of the day and I would have thought you could have heard the PlaceShapers buzz all the way across Manchester.

I walked into the Manchester sunshine (yes, sunshine!) with a spring in my step and a renewed pride that Greatwell Homes is a member of PlaceShapers.

One final thought… the police were still there as I left. I wonder who they were waiting for? Now has anyone seen Matthew Walker since Monday???