We interviewed our new Chair of Homes for Lambeth Group Board, Caroline Pillay. The interview covers why Caroline applied for the role and how she will lead our board to fulfil our ambitious programme.
What made you apply for the role of Chair of Homes for Lambeth (HFL)?
"When I saw the advert in the press that HFL was looking for a new chair I did not initially see myself in this role, but then I reflected on how our society has changed and that, along with encouragement from several senior sector leaders, motivated me to apply for it. This past year has seen a global awakening, and in the face of a global pandemic, there is an urgent need to do things differently for a different future. The wave of change following the tragic murder of George Floyd should only be seen as the beginning of the literal dismantling of some of the restrictive social constructs and entrenched institutional practices which for centuries have held back so many people who look like me."
"I wanted to be part of this re-framing, part of the change and securing the role of group chair of Homes for Lambeth would mean disrupting the archetypal frame for senior Non-Executive Directors in our sector. What better place to lead that shift in London than at Lambeth Council and with its wholly-owned company - Homes for Lambeth - as the catalyst to lead the transformation. My personal and professional development owes much to Lambeth as the place I forged much of who I am today. I want to give back to the borough in the best way I know how, applying my personal and professional experiences in contributing to the community I came from."
What will be your focus in this new role?
"My focus will be to work with the Homes for Lambeth Executive, the council as shareholder and the community to build more, better quality and well-managed homes and environments designed to meet the requirements of now and the needs of tomorrow. As part of our regular process of good management, we have undertaken a comprehensive review of our governance structures to ensure HFL is fit for the future. This will include appointing residents onto our boards and establishing a framework to enhance resident involvement, influence and participation throughout our planning, development and delivery. Regular governance reviews are the backbone of delivering good services for our communities. This will be a regular feature of our work to ensure that those who need our services most are also receiving the best we can offer."
"Over the next three years, I want to focus on building on the excellent work which has already begun. Creating an organisation that puts people at the forefront of what we stand for and, therefore, what we do. I want the HFL board and executive leadership to be more visible within the community as a company that truly reflects, understands and responds to its operating environment."
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Homes for Lambeth?
"As ever the changing funding environment remains a significant challenge for us, as well as the enhanced public scrutiny of our practices. Whilst these present as challenges, they are also inherent opportunities which we must seize to ensure we can continue to serve our communities. The post COVID-19 world and the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement will require us to innovate and better direct the impact of our services on our tenants, especially those who are most disadvantaged in our society. This will include creating new ways of enabling engagement and hearing residents' voices. Over the coming months, we will be working to understand and begin implementing the Social Housing White Paper requirements. Part of this will be to establish more resident panels to provide oversight and report on satisfaction levels with services provided."
What are your immediate priorities as Chair?
"To provide vision and leadership in meeting the business plan's stated objectives in light of our changing operating environment whilst ensuring Homes for Lambeth’s governance framework is robust and able to stand up to both regulatory and resident scrutiny. To establish a golden thread of resident and stakeholder involvement at every stage of the organisation."
Where do you see Homes for Lambeth in a year?
"I see Homes for Lambeth operating as an exemplary house builder in London and the South East, developing and delivering genuinely affordable homes for the residents of Lambeth. Alongside this sits a resident service that is listening and responding."
What do you get up to in your spare time?
"I am fortunate to live very close to Richmond Park, in my spare time I spend much of it walking. I’m also a keen photographer and I enjoy taking lots of photographs of the park’s sights."