Epic Housing > About us > Our Board & Executive Team

SENIOR MANAGEMENT TEAM

Len Gibbs, Chief Executive and Company Secretary

Len has been the Chief Executive of EPIC Housing since its creation in 1997. He has previously worked for Knowsley Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and in various consultancy roles with local authorities. Len was also the chair of Sandwell Homes ALMO for seven years until 2012. He has worked in the field of social housing since 1986.

Len graduated from Manchester University in 1986 with a degree in Economics. Since then he has also achieved the CIH Professional Qualification and an MBA from Birmingham University. He has worked in the fields of social housing, planning, economic development and education. He has also worked closely with academics from various universities studying the effects of large scale regeneration projects and neighbourhood housing systems. He has served on national committees concerned with issues such as housing allocations, worklessness and neighbourhood statistics.

Len is currently a part-time PhD candidate at the University of Manchester. The study is concerned with analysing how rental investors in deprived areas make key decisions about their stock.

In his spare time Len enjoys hiking, cycling and travelling.

 

Rachael Fullwood, Finance Director

Rachael is a qualified finance professional having gained the AAT Technician Level NVQ 4 in 2004. Since then she has also achieved Chartered Membership of the Chartered Institute of Housing. Rachael joined EPIC in August 2016, moving from Shropshire Rural Housing Association in Shrewsbury, where she was employed from 2009. Rachael is committed to personal development for both herself and those around her.

Rachael has acquired a wide range of experience working for a range of organisations; both in the private and charitable sectors; from very small owner managed to large companies. Rachael has led on the development of existing systems and the implementation of new systems. A number of these roles had elements of operational responsibility providing Rachael with a holistic view of the Association's requirements.

Rachael has led on projects dealing with new legislative and regulatory requirements, providing both financial and systems expertise. As a member of the Senior Management Team, Rachael is equally responsible for appraising the framework of policies and procedures of the Association ensuring they meet the Association's objectives and aims, are fit for purpose and for ensuring the policies and procedures of the Association comply with the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) Regulatory Framework.

Rachael is a member Regional Finance Forum; and of the National Housing Federation (NHF) National Smaller Housing Group, which was established and exists to:

  • Support the NHF in developing and testing new policy ideas
  • Ensure that the NHF see every new issue through the critical lens of smaller associations
  • Support the NHF in engaging their wider membership of smaller associations in these debates
  • Inform NHF responses to government and other key stakeholders
  • Provide constructive challenge to Federation thinking

 

Neal Hopkins, Director of Housing

Neal has worked in a wide range of housing roles over the last 20 years and is currently Director of Housing at EPIC.  Neal has a wide span of experience in all aspects of delivering a high quality and customer focussed housing service and has overall responsibility for income collection, customer service, housing allocations, tenancy management and legal compliance.  Neal also manages EPIC's housing acquisition programme which involves the purchase and renovation of around 40 properties per year.  Neal takes the lead on contract management with the Homes and Communities Agency and Stoke-on-Trent City Council who are the main funders of this programme.

Neal has an excellent grasp of housing law and policy development and uses this knowledge to achieve high performance alongside legal compliance.  He has effectively managed a team that achieves performance that is consistently in the top 1% of housing association results for income collection, swift reletting of empty stock and customer satisfaction.

Neal is a qualified practitioner in Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Housing Management from the University of Salford and is trained assessor for the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) model.  He is experienced in the management and delivery of a wide range of projects ranging from multi million pound capital programmes through to bespoke projects to achieve effective change.  Having worked in the public sector (Stoke-on-Trent City Council), private sector (for a software house delivering housing management systems) and the charitable sector Neal brings a wide diversity of experience which results in adept problem solving and strategic level thinking.

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

John Gething, Chair of the Board and Independent Board Member

John joined the Board in 2010 and is currently serving his last term as Chair and an Independent Board Member, having already served two terms.  His current term will end in September 2019.

John is currently retired, but has worked in the public sector in professional and management positions for over thirty years and has extensive experience of managing multi-disciplinary teams of professionals. His experience includes:

  • statutory land-use planning,
  • master planning,
  • community regeneration and housing renewal
  • leading four successful bids for Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) funding (£80m direct grant, £200m levered funds)
  • strategy development (including the North Staffs Regeneration Zone Prospectus)
  • direct delivery of large-scale capital programmes in excess of £1m

John has worked extensively with public, private and voluntary sector organisations and within local communities.  This has included direct liaison with government departments, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), Government Office and membership of regional working groups.

John was the Strategic Co-ordinator for the Economic Development and Environment block of Stoke-on-Trent's Local Area Agreement for three years. He attended Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Board meetings and worked closely with colleagues across the LSP to ensure that LAA delivery plans were prepared and implemented to meet National Indicators. These covered issues such as enterprise development, skills, environmental sustainability,  health, community safety and housing supply.

John is also a Governor of Stoke-on -Trent Sixth Form College and is Vice Chair of the College's Audit Committee

John has a keen interest in local regeneration. He has a Bachelor's degree in Sociology, a postgraduate degree in Town Planning and is a Chartered member (retired) of the Royal Town Planning Institute.

 

Darshan Singh Matharoo, Vice Chair and Independent Board Member

Darshan joined the Board in September 2016 and is also a member of the Audit Committee. Prior to his appointment as the Head of Regulation Darshan worked as a Consultant for his own company called DSM Housing Consultancy Ltd. Previously Darshan was Chief Executive of United Housing Association in Bristol and Director of Housing and Support Services at Beth Johnson Housing Group in Stoke-on-Trent.

He has also worked for the Housing Corporation (London HQ) as Assistant Director Investment, Birmingham City Council Housing and Social Services departments where he held a number of posts, such as, Community Safety Regeneration Manager, Area Housing Manager and Policy Officer.

Darshan is also an independent board member of the Pioneer Group in Birmingham and a Trustee of a Birmingham Charity called Women Acting In Today's Society (WAITs). He has also held non-executive director positions with Chartered Institute of Housing, Sandwell Homes (3* ALMO) and Ashyanna Housing Association.

Darshan holds MBA in Public Service from the University of Birmingham and is a Fellow member of the Chartered Institute of Housing.

 

Alex Fury, Local Authority Member and Chair of Audit

Alex has been a Board Member since 2012 and formally representing the local authority in this capacity since 2016. Prior to that Alex served on the Quality Panel and in addition has Chaired the Audit Committee since 2016.  Alex has a strong background in the Housing sector beginning in 2001 and continues to work in the sector with Stoke-on-Trent City Council today.  Alex has undertaken a broad range of roles within Housing Associations including urban and rural Development, Housing Management and front of house reception. In addition Alex has worked in development delivery for a National Housebuilder and for Stoke-on-Trent City Council since 2010, where he has covered policy and development roles focussed on both Housing Revenue Account and market housing sectors.

Alex's skills are largely focussed around the development sector bringing a number of years, experience which includes work areas such as – project management, construction, regeneration, development viability, and budget control, planning; grant funding, HCA relationships, establishing a Housing Company, tenancy management and other associated themes.

 

Andrew Stone, Independent Board Member

Andrew retired from Staffordshire Police in 2015, having served as a constable, sergeant and Inspector in a variety of roles.  He has experience in decision making, problem solving and managing people, dealing with complaints, researching and writing policy and procedure, designing new processes and implementing changes. He has been involved in recruitment and interviewing, employment disputes, as well as redeployment and redundancy situations. As a Police Federation workplace representative, he regularly supported and represented colleagues, particularly around the work-life balance and wellbeing of officers.

His management experience has included work with local authorities, government agencies, third-sector services, and health and social services.

Andrew has a Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems and Psychology and holds a Graduate certificate in Leadership and Management.

Andrew is used to communicating with a wide range of people, at all levels, in the most extremes of circumstance and emotion, assisting them and advising them, both face-to-face or over the telephone.  He trained to an internationally recognised level in Hostage and Crisis negotiation and was routinely deployed to critical incidents.

Andrew is now a Freelance Tutor, regularly delivering training to Witness Service volunteers and staff to prepare them for their new roles.

A long-standing Volunteer School Governor and Academy Trustee at Christ Church Academy, Stone, involved in the oversight and management of the school, including finance and appeals committees. He is also Churchwarden at Christ Church, Stone - a varied office, with responsibilities for the buildings, property, the correct administration of the church and supporting the vicar.

Volunteering as an Advisor with Staffordshire South West Citizens Advice Bureau, he has seen that housing issues, rent and landlord disputes, are a significant area of worry for clients. Recent and pending changes in legislation and support will continue to place housing high on the list of concerns.

 

Matt Thompson, Independent Board Member

Dr Matthew Thompson is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice at the University of Liverpool, where he is also Module Leader for Urban & Regional Regeneration, teaching both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the Department of Geography and Planning. He is currently researching the scale, scope, social value and political potential of the social economy across the Liverpool City Region, of which housing associations are a key part.

Matt completed his PhD at the University of Manchester in 2015, which looked into Liverpool's history of developing collective alternatives to council housing such as co-ops, and is now turning this into a book to be published with Liverpool University Press. Matt has since worked in the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), where he contributed to the formulation of urban policy, and began his research into how to incorporate the social economy into local economic development strategies.

 

Kirsty Holmes, Tenant Board Member

Kirsty has been a tenant of EPIC Ltd since 2013 and was keen to join the Board of EPIC to help to improve the area within which she lived.  Having previously worked with EPIC both in a voluntary capacity and then later as a Trainee Housing Assistant for 12 months in 2014, she has had the benefit of seeing 'both sides of the coin'.

Kirsty currently Chair's our Quality Panel which is the forum for service reviews and monitoring standards within our front lines services.  Back in 2014 Kirsty completed a Certificate in Mentoring with the Institute of Counselling.

 

Stephen Funnell, Co-opted Member

Stephen is the elected ward member for Bentilee and Ubberley (the ward within which EPIC operates), and treats this as a full time occupation.  Stephen also holds the Housing portfolio on the Labour Group's Shadow Cabinet.

Stephen has a MA and also an MPhil both in Employment Relations from Keele University. Prior to being an elected councillor he taught Management and HR on a casual basis at Derby, Keele and Middlesex Universities.

Prior to this he worked in a clerical capacity in the civil service and NHS, and also in a company secretarial capacity in the accountancy field.

Becoming A Board Member

For information on becoming a Board member, visit Becoming a Board member.

EPIC is also governed by an Audit Committee and Quality Panel. For more information please complete the contact form found under 'Contact Us'