HUNDREDS of GreenSquare housing association tenants in Wiltshire could be affected by a proposed merger.

The Chippenham-based group is in talks with the Accord housing association based in the West Midlands about a potential merger.

Shareholders of the Westlea Housing Association Ltd in north Wiltshire and tenants of GreenSquare are being asked whether they think the merger proposal is a good idea.

GreenSquare’s chief executive Ruth Cooke is inviting GreenSquare and Westlea shareholders to voice their opinions at annual meetings on Monday and Tuesday, September 21 and 22 respectively.

GreenSquare plans to proceed with the merger by what is called a ‘transfer of engagement’ – meaning tenants and Westlea shareholders with tenancies could end up with a change of landlord.

The group says the merger would not have “any other effect on tenancies or lease agreements.

“Your legal rights and the terms and conditions of your tenancy or lease would not change,” GreenSquare says.

But one Wiltshire tenant, who did not wish to be named, has warned that terms and conditions of tenancy agreements could change following a merger.

She warned that tenants, including Westlea shareholders, could be asked to sign agreements that do not give them secure tenancies.

She said: “Their landlord will then be based in West Bromwich. No matter what Ruth Cooke says they will have to sign a new tenancy agreement.

“Many of the new tenants don’t have secure tenancies, whereas many of the older tenants do. If they have a different landlord, they may be asked to sign a different tenancy agreement.”

GreenSquare is asking tenants and shareholders to return documents by September 3 telling them what they think of the merger proposal.

The group says the merger could help it to improve services for existing customers, enable it to invest more in local communities and to build more affordable new homes.

GreenSquare announced in February it was in talks with Accord to explore a potential partnership. Together, the two housing groups would manage a combined total of 25,000 homes.

Earlier this year, Ruth Cooke said: "A partnership between Accord and GreenSquare could provide an excellent opportunity for both organisations to expand and enhance services to customers.

“Although conversations are at an early stage, I am looking forward to exploring what might result from us combining our strengths.”

In June, she added: “While there is a strong financial case for a merger, we will now look more closely at operational alignment, culture and values; and what potential there may be for our organisations to achieve our business goals faster if we operate as one.

“Our board has always been clear that it is not interested in seeing GreenSquare ‘taken over’ or becoming part of one of the very large housing groups in the region.

“But we have been equally clear that we would be open to, and interested in, opportunities to partner with other organisations with similar ambitions and values.

“We think that a merger with Accord would create a stronger and more resilient organisation, better able to cope with future challenges, both financial and operational, and better able to deliver a brilliant service to customers right across the enlarged geographical operating area.”

Accord chief executive Dr Chris Handy said: "Accord’s Board is always assessing opportunities that present themselves and early discussions with GreenSquare have shown that our organisations are very well aligned."

GreenSquare owns and manages 12,000 homes in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

The proposed merger comes after it was revealed in March 2019 that GreenSquare breached the Home Standard on fire safety after the organisation failed to implement a large number of high-priority actions arising from fire risk assessments.

Following this, the regulator downgraded GreenSquare’s governance grading to ‘G2’, as an in-depth assessment found “a clear lack of leadership around health and safety issues”.

The GreenSquare group’s focus is on providing homes and landlord services for those who cannot afford to meet their housing needs in the open market; building new homes for sale helps fund more social homes and improved services. The group has set a target to build 1,500 new affordable homes by 2023.

Its subsidiaries include GreenSquare Community Housing Ltd; GreenSquare Estate Ltd; GreenSquare Construction Ltd; GreenSquare Homes Ltd, a joint venture with Lioncourt Strategic Land (Sharpness) Limited; GS Energy Services Ltd and Westlea Housing Association Ltd trading as GreenSquare.

Accord is one of the largest housing and social care organisations in the Midlands. Based in West Bromwich, it provides 13,000 affordable homes and supports around 80,000 people with health and social care.

It is also the lead partner of the Matrix Partnership, a group of nine social landlords managing more than 100,000 homes across the Midlands between them.

It has signed a strategic partnership agreement worth £77 million with Homes England, the government’s housing delivery agency, to provide 2,257 homes.