Interview: Barbara Spicer, Plus Dane Housing

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The adviser to Liverpool’s mayor discusses the challenges and rewards of regeneration in northern England

Some of the longstanding residents of the Victorian terraces of Liverpool’s Welsh Streets remember Barbara Spicer when she was, as they tell her jokingly, “a nobody” working at a housing association. Since then, Spicer has become a powerful voice for housing in the region while the Welsh Streets, targeted for demolition well over a decade ago, are being refurbished. Spicer is an adviser to metro mayor Steve Rotheram, a board member of the Northern Housing Consortium, and chief executive of housing association Plus Dane Housing, the latest move in a career trajectory that started at Knowsley council and has included the chief executive’s role at Salford council.

Plus Dane has brought Spicer back to the Welsh Streets, as it is working with Liverpool council and Homes England on a major home refurbishment programme. Spicer joined the housing association almost five years ago, putting it on a fresh business track, but the sector’s human focus remains her passion. The day before we speak, Spicer has been practising what she preaches on the latter, going with colleagues to see Under the Wire, the film about war correspondent Marie Colvin. It was an opportunity for the team to discuss the importance of the association’s work in helping to resettle Syrian refugees, she says.

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