Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Tenant Services Authority starts the fight back

This week's Inside Housing cover story is about the housing sector rallying to support the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) in light of criticism by Grant Shapps, the Shadow Housing Minister. 

The campaign, dubbed Operation Pink owing to the TSA's love of fuchsia, originates from the Chartered Institute of Housing and the G15 group of the largest housing associations in London among others.
In the past year Grant Shapps has said publicly of the TSA:

From a communications perspective, Grant Shapps' frustration with the TSA provides an interesting challenge. Every time I read one of these quotes I flinched, putting myself in the position of the TSA's comms team. How would I respond if I was managing public relations for an organisation that had been roundly scorned by the very person that in six months time could hold its fate in his hands?

My tactic would be to come out fighting. I'd put up a strategic communications calendar up on the wall of the office and I'd mark every day leading up to the election, indeed every minute of every day, for proving the organisation's worth. I'd use every communications tool in the book to show pound for pound value for money and efficiency. From speeches to web presence, media relations and events, I'd lobby the Conservatives hard, emphasising the TSA's adaptability to change, capability to drive service improvements and complete commitment to put tenants first and I'd ensure not one penny was wasted in the process. I'd call on supportive organisations with clout to back us up and I'd make as much noise as possible while doing it. I wondered why the TSA didn't appear to be doing any of these things.

Then on Wednesday, the TSA's annual report dropped into my inbox. Judging by that publication, Operation Pink and the five press releases issued in the last two weeks, the fight back has started. The Conservatives may not win next year's general election but whatever the result, the TSA can only improve its position by standing up for itself. I will watch its progress with interest.


  1. Hi Kate

    Tactically, I'm not sure the fact that the 15 biggest HAs are in favour of TSA regulation is likely to be a point in its favour as far as an incoming Tory government is concerned.

    "Shall we get rid of this gamekeeper?"
    "I'm not sure. On the one hand he's spent the past year sitting in his hut rearranging the furniture. On the other hand all the poachers seem very keen on him"

    The problem with politically charged issues like this is that the debate becomes a For and Against. What we really need is a consensus around what tenant matters need to be regulated. The manner of that regulation seems to me to be very much a secondary issue.

    The TSA has made a good fist of developing this consensus. If I were advising them on PR, I'd get them to focus on that. It's evidence based and difficult to challenge. If the TSA really is the right solution for that, it will be easy to demonstrate. If not... that's what governments are for.

  2. Good point Ben - thank you. I absolutely agree that it is what matters to tenants that is important and the TSA should focus on demonstrating that they have pulled together the standards from rigorous consultation. Whether that will be enough to safeguard its future who can say, but you are right that as long as tenants get the service they deserve, it doesn't actually matter who does the regulating.


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