New Roddons chief on her passion for Fenland and the challenge of a 3,000-strong waiting list
MUM-OF-ONE Debby Bunn is used to hard work. At the age of 37, she has already answered phones in an emergency control room, helped disabled children at a special school and become the youngest Mayor of March. She’s also worked for this newspaper.
But now Debby faces a new challenge as she takes on the role of managing director at Roddons Housing Association – and the waiting list of more than 3,000 names that comes with it.
“The list had started to diminish but with financial times as they are now, it’s no surprise that it’s growing again,” said Debby. “Often these applicants are young people, with young families.”
Roddons Housing Association was formed in 2007 with the transfer of 3,754 former houses from Fenland District Council. As part of this deal, Roddons promised to build a further 500 homes by 2016. To date, 96 have been built.
Debby, who was born in March and is a former student at Neale-Wade Community College, will oversee this ambitious new build programme as part of her �75,000-a-year new job.
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She said: “It’s going to be hard work but I’m very passionate about the community and I’m very passionate about Fenland. Unlike some larger organisations I believe in giving local people a chance.
“When you look at large organisations, often the chief executive and managing director live hours away.
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“I think it’s wonderful that Roddons has openly embraced the fact that I’m a local woman, who has worked really hard to get where I have.
“I’m passionate about what happens in Fenland on a personal level as well as a professional one.”
Debby left school at 16 to enter a career in media and marketing. She moved into a police role, as operations manager for Cambridgeshire Police Countryside Watch, and became Mayor of March in 2005, aged 30. She joined Roddons in 2008, as head of customer care.
She said: “In the first few months after FDC transferred the stock, customers used to ring up and get whoever was around to answer the phone. We basically started a whole customer service team from scratch and that was really interesting.
“It’s challenging but rewarding. Our customers do have very high expectations and I’m pleased to say that they are not afraid to say thank you when we get it right.”
Debby said that the association often had to make hard decisions to accommodate people in suitably-sized houses, which could lead to rehoming tenants.
She said: “A lot of people have had lifetime tenancy agreements where they have lived in a home for 20 or 30 years, had one or two children who have now grown up and left spare bedrooms.
“There are situations where sometimes the difficult decisions need to be made, obviously with sensitivity.
“We will always have the odd issue from customers but I came from the police and I can tell you I’ve heard a lot worse from people calling the 999 control room.
“Every month, we receive more compliments than we receive complaints.”
Debby, who took over from former managing director Christopher Smith a fortnight ago, said Roddons will continue to hold special panels to allow residents to scrutinise the business.
“It’s a really good opportunity and I have got a great board,” she said. “We have got a bunch of really hard-working people who want to meet the promises that have been made – better homes and better estates, while putting residents at the heart of everything we do.”