The Information Commissioner’s Office is to investigate a complaint that Thanet council has failed to release ‘public interest’ information about its contract with building maintenance firm Lakehouse.
The authority and East Kent Housing had a £3.5million contract with Lakehouse to install kitchens and bathrooms in social housing across Thanet. The firm is reported to have won a four year deal in Thanet Area Board minutes from 2012 but minutes from the same committee in 2013 say the contract was subsequently axed due to health and safety issues.
Independent councillor Suzanne Brimm, a trained electrical engineer, submitted a public disclosure request to Thanet council in 2017 for information on what had been actioned to ensure the electrical safety of tenants in the properties concerned across Ramsgate, Birchington and Margate, wat financial probity was carried out and what the ‘serious’ safety issues were that resulted in the contract being terminated.
The ICO has confirmed it is investigating the complaint to see whether Thanet council responded properly to the request.
An email from the ICO says the commissioner regards a request for information over the complaints made about Lakehouse as valid and in the public interest and will therefore open a Section 50 (Freedom of Information) case.
Cllr Brimm, who in September 2018 was cleared of charges brought by the ICO under the Freedom of Information Act of blocking, concealing destroying, and erasing records, says properties in Birchington, Garlinge, Ramsgate, Margate and Dane Valley came under the contract.
Lakehouse were responsible for the installation of the fire alarms and emergency lighting at the Grenfell Tower in London prior to the tragic fire in June 2017 where some 72 people were killed.
A council investigation found some of the fire safety work was “defective, including incorrectly installed alarms and emergency lighting systems”. Lakehouse denied any wrongdoing.
Following investigation into Lakehouse by the Met Police complex fraud team some 10 people were charged with offences including bribery and money laundering. The firm was sold to the to the Mapps Group in 2018 and has since been renamed Sureserve.
Thanet council has been asked for comment.