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Onwards from Symphony as housing group restructures corporate leadership

One of the North West’s largest housing groups has restructured its governance and management arrangements as part of a relaunch under a new name.

The organisation formerly known as Symphony Housing Group has rebranded to become Onward Homes, a name it claims reflects its aspiration to become an important player in the regeneration of the region.

The group structure remains in this new guise, at least for now, but its internal reorganisation is claimed to have simplified management and governance by creating a new unitary board to lead the group.

Between them, the group members – Contour Homes, LHT, Peak Valley housing association, Ribble Valley Homes, Hyndburn Homes, and Cobalt housing association – own and manage over 41,000 homes across the North West. This is set to change, however, since Cobalt, as announced prior this rebrand, intends to de-merge from the group later this year.

The creation of the unitary board has seen the appointment of four new non-executive directors (NED), bringing between them experience in health, transport, finance, social care, and property development.

Paul High is a chartered surveyor and recently retired executive director of the Orbit Group. He brings extensive property development experience having led the development of more than 1,700 homes in 2016/17.

Charlene Wallace is a NED at Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams, and comes with a strong history of senior managerial roles in a range of air, sea and road transport businesses.

Michael Verrier is a chartered accountant and, until recently, was group treasurer of Wolseley plc, an international trade distribution business with a turnover of more than £13bn. He is currently a NED of Family Mosaic, a social housing provider, where he chairs the finance and development committee.

Wyn Dignan is chair of the North West NHS Ambulance Service, having previously chaired the Manchester Health & Social Care Trust. Apart from bringing extensive health and change experience across public service networks across the North West, he also brings additional experience from her commercial career in banking and finance.

These NEDs join two others appointed from the former Symphony Housing Group Board. Breda Dutton, who had a long and successful career in local government working closely with the housing and health sectors; and Brian Roebuck, a qualified mathematician, engineer and accountant who has worked primarily in social housing but has also held senior management positions in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Dr Neil Goodwin CBE, board chair of Onward, said: “We are very proud to launch Onward, the new name for Symphony Housing Group. The new unitary board will provide clear, corporate leadership and signals our intention to increase our impact and continue to make a positive difference in the communities we serve.”

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