SUNDERLAND’S Gentoo Group has made it back into the ranks of organisations deemed compliant with the Regulator of Social Housing’s (RSH) ratings, though it still needs to work on achieving top grades.
The regulator’s latest verdict has upgraded Gentoo from a non-compliant G3 to a compliant G2 rating for governance. This means, “the provider meets our governance requirements but needs to improve some aspects of its governance arrangements to support continued compliance”.
Meanwhile, Gentoo’s existing viability rating was confirmed as a compliant V2, meaning that in the regulator’s eye “it has the financial capacity to deal with a reasonable range of adverse scenarios but needs to manage material risks to ensure continued compliance”.
The group was downgraded in 2017 because the group’s board “had not maintained effective control and oversight or exercised its role with appropriate skill or diligence”. There were also issues of transparency over executive pay.
Since that judgement, and following its own review of its governance procedures, the organisation has been working with the regulator to improve Gentoo’s viability and governance.
This included revising its procedures, refreshing its board and renewing its executive team, for instance appointing a new group chief executive. Nigel Wilson took up that post at the beginning of this year.
“We are obviously delighted that the regulator has confirmed we are now compliant with the governance standards,” said the group’s chair, Keith Loraine OBE. “This reflects the huge amount of work and priority given to rectifying the issues that led to the regulatory downgrade in October 2017.
“I would like to thank fellow board members and Gentoo colleagues for continuing to deliver an excellent service to our tenants throughout this process. We will continue to work with the regulator to ensure that we complete our journey to G1, the highest level of compliance.”
Wilson added: “This is a great step forward for Gentoo and confirms my belief that this fundamentally is a strong organisation with committed colleagues and a customer-facing culture.
“Our tenants are at the heart of everything we do and we will continue to progress with our business plan aspirations by investing £417 million on improving our homes and providing an additional 900 homes for affordable rent in Sunderland by 2024.”
In its latest assessment, the RSH said: “The regulator now has assurance that Gentoo’s governance arrangements are supporting the organisation to meet its objectives. However, it still needs to improve some aspects of its governance to support continued compliance…
“Gentoo has made changes to its governance arrangements including standing orders, delegations, regulations, and terms of reference which have increased transparency and facilitated greater board control. The board has received independent assurance that these improvements are operating effectively.
“The independent review of Gentoo’s culture resulted in recommendations which have now been implemented. Independent follow-up has evidenced that recommendations are impacting on the organisation’s culture.
“Gentoo is now establishing and embedding its strengthened governance arrangements throughout the organisation.”
The regulator’s verdict has come in the wake of three other upgrades and accreditations for the Group in July.
Standard and Poors Global Ratings increased Gentoo’s credit rating from BBB+ to A-, reflecting its progress in delivering its strategic objectives, particularly improvements in its asset quality and the consolidation of its group structure.
Investors in People awarded the group a Gold accreditation for its excellence in people management.
And Gentoo became a Living Wage Employer for its commitment to paying all employees a living wage, and ensuring its third-party contracted and sub-contracted partners do the same.