Four into one a positive step, claims housing group

Proposals to amalgamate four Flagship housing associations into one organisation are being hailed as a positive step for its customers.

Currently the Flagship Group runs Flagship, Flagship Peddars Way, Flagship Suffolk Heritage and Flagship King's Forest, owning and managing more than 21,000 homes throughout East Anglia, predominately in the Norfolk and Suffolk area. But it is proposing to streamline the organisation into one single entity, called Flagship, led by a single board.

While this will mean some job losses in the administration side of the operation, chief executive David McQuade said there would be significant savings made which would enable them to reinvest in the areas which are most important to its customers, such as more front-line staff in their communities.

'The number of jobs lost will be small but because we will be reinvesting there will be an increase in jobs overall,' he said.

'Restructuring our staffing will reduce the number of administration jobs in the central company – we will only need one team of support services like finance, IT and marketing instead of four.'

He said as well as front-line staff and services Flagship also promised to invest, over a period of two years, in additional community rangers and managers, a 24/7 freephone number and the introduction of customer services stations making their staff more accessible at a local level.

'It will not make any difference to our overall housing stock,' he added. 'As an organisation we are building 500 new homes a year. We will continue doing that even if our changes are progressed, because despite the difficult economic climate we are committed to building. We have a wide range of customers who will benefit, including older and more vulnerable people, because our staff will be closer and more accessible which is a positive move.'

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A customer consultation over the proposals in its 'One Future: working together for a better tomorrow' document is currently being carried out and a specially equipped bus is travelling through Norfolk this week.

It is stopping at various locations to give customers the chance find out how the plans would benefit them and ask staff questions about the proposal.

Bernie Soer, chairman of the Flagship customer board, said participation was vital. 'Knowing Flagship customers' views will give confidence to the customer board when the time comes to decide whether One Future will become a reality,' he said.

The consultation period ends on October 29, with feedback being presented to the four boards during November to aid their decision as to whether or not to proceed with the changes.

n The roadshow will be in Fakenham today at Quaker Court, Quaker Lane from 4pm to 5pm and in Dereham tomorrow at Michael Chaplin House (Station Road), 10am to 4pm.