ACHA chairman ‘humbled by staff effort’ in pandemic

ACHA's outgoing chairman, Jim Milne MBE, left, is being replaced by Councillor Roddy McCuish, right.
ACHA's outgoing chairman, Jim Milne MBE, left, is being replaced by Councillor Roddy McCuish, right.

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Staff at a social housing association have been praised for maintaining services to tenants in 2020 despite the pandemic.

Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA) is Scotland’s eighth largest housing association and provides more than 5,000 affordable homes for rent, equivalent to more than 10 per cent of the population for Argyll and Bute.

Jim Milne MBE, the outgoing chairman, praised the workforce in the recently-published report for 2019-20.

Mr Milne wrote: ‘Every staff member, from the chief executive Alastair MacGregor down, has endeavoured to maintain as normal a service as possible given the restrictions placed on them.

‘I have been proud to have been your chair during this period and been humbled by the efforts made by the staff, many ‘over and above’, to keep a safe roof over the heads of our tenants.’

He added: ‘We will come through this crisis, but the way ACHA operates will probably be different and some changes will depend upon medical advances over the next few months and possibly years. It would be wrong to speculate on the future at this moment in time.’

At ACHA’s annual general meeting in September, Mr Milne bowed out from the chairmanship after five years in the role, handing over to Councillor Roddy McCuish.

Chief executive Alastair MacGregor said: ‘We are always pleased when we meet or exceed our targets but that doesn’t mean we are relaxing our efforts to provide the best service for our tenants and stakeholders.’

He said a major focus for the association was energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty.

Figures for 2019-20 show that £56.9 million passed through ACHA during the financial year.

There was £26 million of income – the bulk of which was £22.5 million from rents and also grants worth £2.7 million and other income amounting to £800,000.

The report said: ‘Over the year we paid out £30.9 million. Of this, £16.3 million was spent on the existing houses, £9.8 million through the investment programme and £6.5 million on repairs and maintenance.

‘We spent £7.3 million on services and running the organisation, £3.4 million was paid out on building new houses, there is £2 million of other costs and we paid £1.9 million of interest on loans we have borrowed.’

Nearly 90 per cent of tenants feel that rents they pay are good value for money – higher than the Scottish national average.

The report said: ‘We are working hard to improve the quality of your home and deliver excellent service for you. This year we managed to collect 98 per cent of all rent due.’

Some 2,856 households – equivalent to 54.97 per cent tenants – had part of their rent
paid by housing benefit or universal credit.

The total of £10.1 million received represents 46 per cent of the rent collected in the year, the report said.

ACHA has houses across 11 islands and in every major settlement in Argyll, employing around 200 staff.