Meet Hastoe Board member, John Bruton

John joined the Hastoe board as a new member this year and is currently the Executive Director of Finance at Stonewater.

18 October 2021

John Bruton joined the Hastoe board as a new member this year and is currently the Executive Director of Finance at Stonewater. With a postgraduate degree in mathematics, John first became involved in social housing in the 1980s while he was working for KPMG. He moved to Metropolitan, a large London housing association in 1991, followed by a move to Raglan Housing in Poole nine years later.

My role as Financial Director at Raglan took me from Central London to rural Dorset; a move I was happy to make with my partner Glenn. We lived in Blandford Forum. I got to know what it’s like living in the country from a professional point of view and also on a personal level by just meeting local people and understanding rural issues. Raglan subsequently moved its head office to Reading, so we now live in Newbury in Berkshire.”

After a merger in 2015 John became Financial Director of Stonewater, comprising 28,000 units which has grown to 33,000 units. “Growth is important,” John says, “but so is customer focus and that’s something that I bring with me to the role.”

John is retiring from Stonewater at the end of 2021. But he doesn’t plan on filling his retirement with paid consultancy. Instead he wants to implement his skills into an organisation in a meaningful way. “Hastoe has a very good reputation for design quality and sustainability. I’m keen to be part of it and add value. I bring my experience of living in Dorset, so I’m conscious of rural housing issues.”

With low-income levels in rural areas, many local people struggle to find affordable housing as prices are driven up by those buying second homes or retiring to the country. “There are also planning considerations and ups and downs on policy, so rural housing associations have a considerable role to play to support people in acute housing need.”

John has a great deal of experience of dealing with audit firms, as well as contacts in housing and banking to bring the board, specifically the risk and audit committee.

A lot of important issues come to a head in this committee, so it’s good to be able to combine my hard-edged skills with the people-focussed aims and mission of the organisation. It will also be interesting to work in a non-exec role for a change and to help steer the exec team with encouragement and warning.”

Living in rural locations has given John an opportunity to explore some beautiful countryside. His favourite places are Cerne Abbas in Dorset and Walberswick in Suffolk. “Cerne Abbas is famous for the giant, but I liked that it doesn’t have any street lights. At night the only light you see is what comes out of people’s houses or if a pub door is open. I have great memories of being at Walberswick – it’s a quiet coastal village, it’s very pretty.”

Keen to learn about the issues that Hastoe tenants face, John also wants to identify what can be done to improve customer service. “I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the properties and to find out how they are to live in. I want to ensure we deliver as much as we can of a core product and be exemplars in the sector.”

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