Our year in review - Mark Washer
The last financial year has been momentous in the life of our nation and of Sovereign. Since our last Annual General Meeting we have witnessed a new king and a coronation, two new prime ministers and an ongoing war in Ukraine. Political uncertainty here and around the world has made the economic context more turbulent, and there is no reason to believe that will change any time soon.
Through these headwinds our focus at Sovereign has been to keep our eyes on our mission: to deliver for our customers. We have invested huge resources in improving customer experience, tackling damp and mould, speeding up how we address complaints and getting repairs right first time. Despite the worst storms for over a decade and a huge surge in demand for repairs, nine out of ten of our customers are satisfied with our repairs service. We have seen reports of damp and mould double and this year have proactively managed over 14,000 cases. More and more we are using hardware in customers’ homes and data and insights to anticipate problems before they become serious. The changes we have been making are working: call waiting times are down, customer service scores and when things go wrong we are dealing with complaints more quickly.
In a year when our customers have faced real hardship, we have invested £3.5m into our communities and secured £2.6m of external funding. Our Customer Support Fund, created in response to the cost-of-living crisis, has supported thousands of customers with debt advice, employment support and guidance on managing rising energy bills.
Our development programme this year is seeing our vision become a reality and the decisions we’ve made here over the last three years are setting us up for the next three decades.
When we committed to reducing our carbon footprint in order to be net zero by 2050 we knew it would require relentless focus. Our new investment strategy quickly revealed that we would need a revolutionary approach to managing our assets and raising the standards of the homes we build and the homes we own. The passion and energy that went into that process produced a radical approach to strategic asset management, which in turn gave birth to our Homes and Place standard. This year that standard has gone from concept to reality as we start to build new types of homes for the first time and invest millions into improving our existing stock. While it will take time for customers’ energy bills to fall as a result, we are making decisions now that will have a lasting and positive effect on our future customers.
This year we have built 1,672 new homes, more than last year and ahead of budget. Our pipeline is over 8,200 homes, or five years’ worth of delivery. Work has begun on our first developments that will be rated “good “or “very good” against our Homes and Place standard – a landmark for Sovereign as our sector-leading model for home and communities becomes a reality for our customers. We are continuing to invest in our existing stock and our retrofit programme has been boosted by the successful bid for £9.4m of government funding from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund.
The labour market has been challenging, but we are determined that Sovereign will be a great place to work and we have developed and embedded new values that reflect our culture and will help every single employee play their part in delivering for our customers. We continue to improve our offices, including opening a new operational hub in Exeter.
The progress we have made as a business this year means we are well set-up to make our planned merger with Network Homes a success. Together we will build on the successes in both businesses to deliver more good homes, improve the experience of all our customers and lead in the sector. There has never been a more important time to do so.