Leeds BME housing association launches search for new Chief Executive

Shruti Bhargava, Chair, Unity Homes and Enterprise

One of the country’s leading BME housing associations has begun the search for a new Chief Executive.

Unity Homes and Enterprise, which has its headquarters in Leeds, is seeking a permanent replacement for Ali Akbor OBE who left his post after more than two decades to join the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Panel.

Established in 1987, the association manages more than 1,300 rented and shared ownership homes in Leeds and Kirklees – with ongoing developments continuing to increase its affordable housing stock – and holds the highest available (G1/V1) gradings for governance and viability from the Regulator of Social Housing.

Unity also provides affordable business units for more than 80 diverse businesses across three centres in Leeds and has dedicated financial inclusion and employment support teams to help stimulate social and economic regeneration, improve life opportunities and address inequalities.

Unity Chair Shruti Bhargava said the Board was “open-minded” about where the rigorous recruitment process might take them but made clear that the association’s unwavering commitment to diversity and social purpose was “non-negotiable.”

She said: “This is a great opportunity for a creative person with the right track record and who ‘gets’ what we are all about to work with the Board, staff, tenants and local communities, to put their stamp on our next stage of development.

“The successful candidate will have the vision to further advance our distinctive identity, build upon the success of our enterprise centres, deliver change through the development and involvement of local communities and have the ability to make sound financial decisions.

“We have also progressed an innovative draft corporate plan – produced by our Interim Chief Executive, Cedric Boston – which has social purpose at its heart and will guide Unity’s journey over the next five years.

“The new Chief Executive will have the opportunity to bring their own creative thinking to the task of delivering this plan in a way that enhances our customer service and engagement, improves our business performance, strengthens our partnership working and invests in our social purpose which underpins everything we do.”

The recruitment process is being delivered in collaboration with leadership recruitment consultancy Green Park which specialises in identifying talent from diverse communities.

A microsite dedicated to the Unity vacancy has just gone live with a range of avenues being explored over the coming weeks to encourage top level candidates to apply.

The selection process will move into a new phase in early August when applications close with interviews in differing formats and an assessment centre due to be held.

It is expected that that identity of the new Unity Chief Executive will be announced in September.

John Jeffries, a Unity Board member who serves on the task group overseeing the recruitment procedure, said: “Unity may be small in size but has always punched well above its weight – locally, regionally and nationally.

“Alongside responsibility for the day to day running of the association, the successful candidate will be tasked with building new working relationships with partners and agencies which can help us to grow our core business and progress our social purpose ambitions.

Andy Welsh, who also sits on the task group and is a member of the Unity Enterprise Board, said: “We exist to provide high quality affordable homes, but also to fight inequality and empower BME people to improve their lives by creating opportunities and helping to regenerate communities.

“That is our commitment to social purpose and it will also be the mission of Unity’s new Chief Executive.”