Housing Association Board

Matthew Walker – (FCCA, CIHCM) (Chair)


A Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants, Matthew has worked in housing organisations at a senior level since 1991, including as Finance Director, before becoming Chief Executive in 1994. Matthew is passionate about improving the quality of people’s lives through helping to provide homes that people want to live in, in areas other people will want to move to. Alongside that work, Matthew seeks to provide people with the opportunities for them to improve their own lives through employment and training opportunities. In following a lifelong commitment to learning, Matthew achieved Corporate Member status of the Chartered Institute of Housing in 2012.

Alex Brown – Tenant member


Alex has a long history of involvement in both the tenant and community movement. He is a great believer in community development and has chaired two separate community associations. In addition to this he has, for several years, had a seat on the Bradford Housing Partnership; is Chair of the Bradford and District Tenants and Residents Federation and was a founding Member of the Yorkshire and Humber Tenants and Residents Regional Federation. Since February 2009, Alex has been a self-employed adviser to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  He works closely with Bradford University Department of Peace Studies and their participation team on various projects.


Judith Courts – independent member


Judith’s early experiences as a trustee of a city farm; director of a women’s centre and journalist on a community newspaper provided her first experiences of communities in need. Since that time Judith has committed herself, both in employment and in a number of voluntary roles, to empowering people to make change for themselves. Her experience of the local, regional and national not-for-profit sector is extensive and for the last 13 years Judith has worked as a freelance charity and social economy consultant with specialism in supporting organisations to develop partnership and collaborative working. Judith has been a Board Member of Incommunities since 2006.

Ruby Bhatti – independent member


Ruby is a highly successful Consultant Solicitor with 20 years’ experience in the legal field. She has over 16 years’ experience of various non-executive directorships. Her roles have included Chair of a BME Housing Association, until she had to step down having met the limit allowed for years in that position, however she still Chairs the Audit Committee of that Association. Ruby is also Vice Chair of the Quality and Safety Patients Panel; a board member of a women’s refuge; a member of the Association of Women Solicitors; the Law Society; Bradford Council’s Education Appeals Admission Panel and sits as an independent panel member of the Mental Health Department, Bradford NHS Foundation Trust, a role which enables patients to have their cases considered independently.

Simon Wilson – independent member


Simon is a successful housing professional, (currently a Director of Housing), with over 15 years of experience and a track record of delivering high quality housing and customer services. He has worked in some of the most challenging areas of multiple deprivation and diverse neighbourhoods and has a strong commitment to customer service, community development and diversity.  Simon achieved the Dip HE Housing in 2000, with Leeds Metropolitan University and is a Corporate Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Darren Baines – tenant board member

Darren BainesDarren is a Tenant Member of the Housing Association Board. He has a keen interest social housing and how living standards affect people’s lives. Darren has a wealth of experience in local community involvement in a variety of roles, including school governor, Vice Chair of Aire Wharfe Local Management Trust and non-Executive Director of Incommunities Foundation Ltd.

Darren’s rural background in agricultural experience has been put to good use in the voluntary work he has carried out as part of Keighley West Environmental Project and Braithwaite Peoples Association, which he joined in 2008, including preservation of dry stone walls in the conservation area of Braithwaite and other issues around the Guardhouse estate.


Bartlomiej Swakowski – tenant board member

 Bart SwakowskiBart is a Tenant of Incommunities who is former Director of Incommunities Group Board and has experience of how governance functions at the highest level at Incommunities.  He also has a wealth of experience in the area of social care and has held roles as Health Care Assistant; Senior Care Worker/ Educational Support Worker; Community Support Worker; Educational support worker and Medical Interpreter. His roles in Health and Social Care and in schools have given him an in-depth understanding of disadvantage generally and more particularly how that affects local communities and the everyday challenges they have to face in society. This, together with the voluntary assistance he provides within the Polish community, has given Bart a great understanding of diversity in its many forms.

Simon Cooke – council nominee

Simon Cooke

Simon is a nominee of Bradford Council. Involved at the highest level of the Council as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group, Simon is also on the Health & Wellbeing Board, Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee; and the Shipley Area Committee.

Simon is a professional marketer with a MSc in Urban Regeneration and has a particular interest in local markets, food policy and town centres. Professionally, Simon has worked extensively in the voluntary sector focused on business development, fundraising and policy, he is enthusiastic about the opportunities that localism provides and supports groups, parishes and residents to take up, and make the most of, the opportunities available to them in this area.

Jan Smithies – council nominee

Jan Smithies

Jan is a Bradford Council nominee to the Board, having previously been nominated to sit on the Aire Wharfe Local Management Trust for 10 months. Jan is passionate about health and well-being, particularly health inequality and is continuously working to challenge changes to national policies where they have a disproportionately negative impact on residents in the area.. Her recent successes as a Councillor include bringing into her ward, ‘winter warmth’ funding to enable all primary schools to host breakfast clubs and/or help existing school breakfast clubs bring in more funds; 7 new outlets for the Bradford Credit Union to help local people access easy savings and lower cost borrowing and looking at new ways of enabling people in the ward to access lower cost borrowing and thus reduce the reach of ‘loan sharks’.
Jan’s other priorities include exploring ways in which she can assist local schools to improve their pupil academic and social outcomes and improving communication channels between the Council and local communities, including the use of social media.