What is on the horizon for 2024?
2023 was a year of change and challenge. The continuing cost-of-living crisis, yet another government reshuffle, high interest rates and tax burden, the rise of Artificial Intelligence, investment in renewable energy, and the resurfacing of enduring global conflicts – to name just a few! Charities, housing associations, health and care providers, councils, and other public bodies have had to manage increasing demand for their services with shrinking resources, on top of rapid change. Yet the resilience, innovation, and adaptability of many in the face of these challenges have also come to the fore.
So, what’s in store for 2024? We asked the Campbell Tickell team what organisations should look out for in the year ahead. Here is what they had to say.
1. Political change
2024 will be a bumper year for elections. Will Labour’s opinion poll lead combined with tactical voting spell an end to 14 years of Conservative government in the UK (United Kingdom)? How will the mayoral elections in London and nine other English combined authorities work out? Will Sinn Fein’s strength in Ireland’s opinion polls bring them into government?
There are big questions across the globe too – Can Biden hold off Trump for US President? Will populism advance or retreat in the European Parliament? Will the ANC lose its parliamentary majority in South Africa? And with national elections in 14 other African countries, will there be discernible overall trends? Will Modi’s BJP retain its strength in India’s general election? And will the Taiwanese presidential election see the country shift closer to China or maintain its distance?
There is one election though with little doubt about the result: Russia’s presidential election is on 15 March.
For the UK, the immediate key question is the date of the general election. The latest possible date is 28 January 2025, but much more likely is May 2024 or (our expectation) October.
2. Housing policy
It looks like housing policy will be a major area of focus in the UK’s general election. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are putting such matters as homelessness, affordability, housebuilding, planning, and homeownership front and centre of their campaigns. While the Conservatives have focused on planning policy changes, can they afford not to respond on housing issues more broadly?
In any event, many people feel that a critical element in terms of tackling housing supply, increasing homelessness and the surge in temporary accommodation costs, is the availability of additional targeted government funding. Similar concerns apply in such areas as social care, of course. But with further spending cuts baked into future post-election government spending rounds from the Chancellor’s 2023 Autumn Statement, a critical question is how much money will the next government – whoever wins the election – have available.
3. Exempt accommodation
The introduction of licensing guidance for local authorities and the requirement to develop supported housing needs assessments. Will these improve the landscape of non-commissioned supported housing?
4. Homelessness and rough sleeping
The end of the Rough Sleeping Initiative (RSI) 5 will be in 2024/25. Will we see an RSI 6? Will rough sleeping continue to rise? And will we be able to turn around the housing crisis and the exponential rise in temporary accommodation costs for Local Authorities? It seems unlikely.
5. Local government finances
English councils went nearly 20 years without anyone having to issue a ‘Section 114 Notice’, freezing all non-committed expenditure. Since 2018 though, eight councils have issued 12 such notices between them, including Birmingham and Nottingham City Councils last year.
According to a recent Local Government Association survey, almost one in five councils is at risk of doing the same this year, due to a lack of funding to run key services. Similar notices have also involved specific localised issues regarding governance and/or commercial activity. The wider backdrop is of unsustainable financial pressure on councils arising from increasing costs of social care, temporary accommodation, and SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) in education. Will 2024 bring further Notices and how will the Government respond?
6. Consumer regulation
With proactive regulation by the English Regulator of Social Housing of the new Consumer Standards starting in April 2024, organisations are keen to understand the implications for how a housing business operates and is governed. The new standards and approach (alongside the increased profile and activity of the Housing Ombudsman) will shine a light on service outcomes and increase the importance of taking a structured approach to assurance across your customer-facing services.
The Scottish Housing Regulator will also finalise its revised regulatory framework for implementation from April 2024. While not as fundamental a review as south of the border, it is likely to see a stronger emphasis on the safety of tenants and residents, as well as listening and responding to their views and feedback.
Leading up to the General Election, there will be greater scrutiny of charities campaigning on issues that are likely to be caught up in polarised debates. Post-election, whichever party wins (or if there is another coalition), the economic situation will remain challenging. This will mean a continuing squeeze on charity income and an ever-increasing need for services. With these financial pressures, will more charities close, or merge?
Charities are likely to be under pressure to become more diverse, rather than merely making broad commitments, and are also likely to be challenged to show their environmental credentials. During 2024, the Charity Governance Code is also due a review.
8. Recruitment market
There will be continued challenges in the year ahead, with increased competition for candidates helping drive up starting pay. Although pay will remain important, the full benefits package that employees receive, from professional development and pensions to flexible working, and wellbeing considerations, must meet changing expectations. Indeed, organisations need to be thinking about their succession planning and designing jobs accordingly for the next generation in order to meet competition.
9. Artificial Intelligence
The inexorable march of Artificial Intelligence will continue, with social landlords tentatively exploring how they might use it to improve efficiency and services, by turning raw data into targeted insights and knowledge. The all-singing and all-dancing AI landlord is some years off, maybe five or even ten. But the journey has begun. A likely first stage for many will be using AI to identify data gaps and anomalies so that the starting point can be one of gold-standard information about tenants and about properties. Charities will also consider how AI might be used to communicate with and support users. How far will things progress in 2024, and – on the dark side – will malign AI be able to wreak further havoc though cyber-attacks and sabotage?
10. Climate change
With some of the highest temperatures on record last summer and the misery of flooding across winter, a curious bystander might wonder where climate change is on the British political agenda. The commitment to achieve net zero by 2050 may remain on the agenda but is heavily caveated by a bizarre government promise to avoid ‘seven recycling bins’ and legislation to sanction fresh drilling in the North Sea. It is a move that has already triggered one upcoming by-election. Will 2024 be the year we start to take the biggest challenge to humanity a bit more seriously?
In any case, housing providers across Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland are likely to be pressed on how they will achieve decarbonisation, whilst ensuring affordability for tenants and maintaining financial viability.
11. The world of work
Debate will continue about whether remote or hybrid working is the long-term future for many people in jobs that can be done without being tied to a physical location. While this was seen by many during the pandemic as being the future, more recently there has been pushback from some large employers keen to get all their staff back into the office four or five days a week. And of course, it has always been true that many people are in jobs that can’t be done remotely – health, social care, transport, shop-based retail, sports and leisure being a few obvious examples.
But what are the longer-term trends here for traditionally office-based workers? While some may allow fully remote working, these will be the exception rather than the rule. However, we see hybrid working – in the office two/three days a week and working remotely two/three days – as the long-term future for many. Certainly in a time of relatively low unemployment, this is an expectation for many jobseekers. And employers who refuse to allow flexibility will struggle to attract the talent they need.
Meanwhile for investors, commercial property is not the place to be to drive high returns. Residential investment is another matter.
12. New frontiers for regulation
The days of football clubs being treated as playthings by unscrupulous owners who ignore their fans and local communities could soon be over. Legislation for an independent regulator for men’s football in England is due to be introduced soon. And women’s football too is under the spotlight.
Whether the legislation will be in place before the general election remains to be seen. But the cross-party political support for independent regulation means it is likely to proceed whether before or after the election. So regulation could possibly be in place for the 2025/26 football season.
Football of course is not the only sport where problems such as poor governance, financial mismanagement, lack of accountability and other failings have been highlighted. See for instance the issues around diversity in cricket identified through the Azeem Rafiq case. So in the coming years, we could well see independent regulation being extended to sports such as cricket and rugby.