Long-standing chief executive says ‘time is right for a new challenge’

The chief executive of L&Q has announced his intention to step down from the firm after 12 years in charge.

David Montague L&Q

David Montague, chief executive, L&Q

David Montague, who has been at the organisation for more than 30 years, said that he had “decided that it is the right time for a new challenge”.

The association, which is targeting the construction of 100,000 homes over the next decade, said it was starting a search for Montague’s successor immediately, in order to have a new chief executive appointed in time for the next financial year, beginning April 2020.

Montague said he will remain in post until the successor is able to join, and focus his remaining time on drawing up a new five-year plan for the association, designed to “help us deliver the best we possibly can for our residents and communities”.

Montague is credited with turning the association into a major force in the residential development industry, overseeing a marger with East Thames Housing and a take-over of strategic land business Gallagher Estates and nothern housing association Trafford Trust.

L&Q now owns and manages 110,000 homes, mainly across London and the South east, making it one of the UK’s biggest social landlords. However, it has faced significant challenges in recent years in the wake of a weak London housing market and bills for fire safety work which have impacted upon its surpluses and development plans.

Last autumn it told staff it was “pausing” its development programme given the difficulty selling homes and the need to invest in fire safety work, with recent quarterly financial updates revealing starts on sites dropped by 40% even prior to the covid-crisis.

However, the group’s development director, Fiona Fletcher-Smith in the spring said the association was still committed to its 100,000-home development target, stating that the group could ultimately be a bigger builder than Barratt, the UK’s largest housebuilder by volume.

Gascoigne estate, Barking

L&Q’s Gascoigne estate scheme in Barking

L&Q stopped construction work during the lockdown, and completed construction of just 150 homes in the three months from April, a drop of 78% on the 691 built in the same period in 2019. The organisation built 2,439 homes in its last financial year, to March 31 2020.

Montague joined L&Q’s finance department in 1988 before becoming group director of finance in 2003 and then chief executive in 2008.

L&Q’s chair Aubrey Adams said Montague had been a leading light not just for L&Q but for the housing sector in general. He said: “His commitment to our residents, homes and communities has enabled L&Q to face some of the toughest economic and structural challenges in the company’s history, and he has always done it with our social purpose firmly and passionately at his heart. We are thankful for everything he has championed.”

Adams said the search for David’s successor will be “focussed on enabling us to secure the skills and diversity needed to continue our focus on safety, quality and customers, and steer L&Q through our next chapter.”

“We will be working towards a smooth handover and transition by the start of the new financial year,” he said.

Montague said: “It has been a pleasure leading L&Q in such extraordinary times and working with talented, dedicated and values driven people for the past three decades to deliver our social mission.

“I couldn’t be more proud of what we have achieved in my time as chief executive but I have decided that it is the right time for a new challenge.”