Richard James

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Richard James's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Richard James is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Managing Director Sue Gidney
Caroline Schaefer – Rising Star
at Agent Rainmaker of the
Year Awards 2018
In the modern world of digital communication and faceless
transactions, there is a real risk of losing some of our most
essential human characteristics. Richard James, a Swindon-
based residential lettings and property management company,
share this concern, and have decided to do things differently
as a result. As a company, Richard James believe that “it’s
all about people” – which is to say that a business is only as
good as the people who comprise it and who buy from it.
By committing themselves to this ethos, they’ve managed to
achieve an enviable position in the property market in Swindon
and its surrounding areas. Speaking on behalf of the lettings
side of the business is Managing Director Sue Gidney, who tells
The Parliamentary Review
more about Richard James and their
forward-looking, people-centred approach.
An essential focus on people, not things
As a wider organisation, Richard James cover a large section of the property market
– from estate agency and lettings to the sale of new homes. To provide a more
thorough understanding of the company, I will cover my side of the business: the
lettings and management operation. The broader, people-centric ethos of Richard
James finds particular expression in the lettings side of the business. We never lose
sight of our core principle of listening and catering to our staff, our tenants and our
landlord clients, which is why we’ve so routinely been in receipt of letting awards over
the last six to seven years – awards, I should add, that are won on the basis of votes
»Managing Director: Sue Gidney
»Established in 2011
»Based in Swindon
»Services: Residential lettings
and property management
»No. of employees: 30
»Number of managed
properties: 1,600
Richard James
Highlighting best practice
from landlords and tenants themselves.
In some sense, property is incidental
to the whole picture; our commitment
to people is the root from which every
other aspect of the business stems.
It’s not only our clients that we
communicate closely with, though; we
also ensure that communication within
our organisation is equally strong. This
is especially important for us, as the
company was the outcome of a merger
between two fairly large businesses
and the subsequent mergers and
acquisitions of others. In this regard,
we have centralised the system in such
a way that there are no duplications
of function, loops of communication
or conflicting signposts. Instead, there
is a system that applies uniformly
across the organisation, which not
only helps us conduct our operations
effectively, but also ensures a smooth
experience for our teams and as well
as for our clients. Among other things,
this has resulted in the formation of an
exceptionally tight-knit team.
What’s more, our organisation is
structured in such a way that every
member of staff is a specialist in their
own domain. We do this because, in
some organisations, people are expected
to take on every kind of task, even when
they are not sufficiently experienced,
trained or capable of carrying out the
task. Taken in sum, all of these strategic
measures that we’ve adopted have
made our organisation exceptionally
efficient and therefore valued by both
our staff and our clients. All of this is
especially necessary in an industry that
is as process-driven as ours.
Our focus on people has reaped
rewards in every facet of the business.
The degree of our success is perhaps
most clearly reflected in the fact that
every single one of Swindon’s top ten
individual letting agents in 2018 was
one of ours.
One of the greatest issues of
our time
As good as processes can be, nothing
will be of salvation for some letting
companies in light of the enormous
legislative and regulatory changes
that are due to come. Competitive
introduction of more letting agents
has, over the course of the last
couple of decades, already driven
down management fees – that is, our
turnover. It used to be the case that
the fees that we charged to cover
management were roughly 14 to 15
per cent of the costs involved; these
days, though, it can be around 8 to
9 per cent. This has been the result
of quite natural market forces, and
Team photo with Phil
Spencer at ESTAS 2018
Rebecca Barrett – Best Lister at Agent
Rainmaker of the Year Awards 2018
Every single
one of
Swindon’s top
ten letting
agents in 2018
was ours
has prompted us to do more with
less. However, the new changes
being introduced will be a defining
generational issue for letting companies.
The key change here is the tenancy
fees ban. Despite initially saying
that they wouldn’t introduce it, the
government have nevertheless brought
it about. As a letting agency, we could
formerly ask for an upfront fee from
our tenants that would go some way to
cover our considerable administration
costs,the costs incurred by viewings,
negotiations and property inspections,
as well as those of the significant
communications and queries raised
by applicants and tenants before and
during tenancy. Now, however, we will
now be legally barred from asking for
such a fee. Our industry predicts that
this could slash letting agents’ turnover
by anywhere between 15 and 25 per
cent. This is a terrifying prospect for
many in the industry – many, I’m sure,
will go under as a consequence, as in
very many cases this will exceed any
Surviving the storm
To survive this storm, agents will have
to introduce new sources of revenue,
and many agents, us included, out of
necessity do have plans in place. Above
all, though, we will inevitably have
to adjust our pricing structure and
increase our landlord fees slightly. This
will have the obvious knock-on effect
of ramping up the cost of renting. Not
only is this contrary to the measure’s
intended aim of reducing costs to
tenants, it will also reduce the number
of landlords in the private rental sector,
adversely affect stock levels, and has
already caused the closure of a number
of existing agencies. It has and will
continue to put many people out of
work. It’s hard to think of who will
actually benefit from this initiative.
We also plan to introduce services
with separate layered fees, (these
are the type of services and tasks
that we could once do without extra
charge, but sadly that must change).
Ultimately, if we want to survive
as a business, these are the sort of
measures we will have to employ.
Whatever occurs, though, we are
confident that we will weather the
storm. Our already strong position
in the market, combined with our
exceptionally efficient organisational
structure, will put us in good stead for
the future.
The key change
here is the
tenancy fees ban.
Despite initially
saying that they
introduce it, the
government have
brought it about
Head office team

This article was sponsored by Richard James. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy