A Birchington electrical engineer says the revelation that East Kent Housing, which manages properties for councils including Thanet, had hundreds of properties with overdue Landlord Gas Safety Register assessments(LGSR) is just the latest safety concern to affect isle tenants.
It has been revealed by KentOnline that as of May 24, 544 properties across Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone and Hythe were still awaiting overdue checks, That figure currently stands at around 180 properties after urgent checks were undertaken.
It comes just two months after The Isle of Thanet News print edition revealed former district councillor Suzanne Brimm had been investigating for two years why a £3.5million contract to install kitchens and bathrooms in social housing across Thanet was axed and important electrical safety certificates destroyed.
Ms Brimm submitted a public disclosure request to the authority in 2017 for information on the reasons for the termination of the contract between Lakehouse and Thanet council and East Kent Housing.
This was refused so the mother of two made a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office which this year deemed the request valid.
Lakehouse won a four year deal to install kitchens and bathrooms in social housing across Thanet in 2011. But according to Thanet Area Board minutes from 2013 the contract was subsequently axed due to health and safety issues.
Ms Brimm requested information on what had been actioned to ensure the electrical safety for tenants in the properties concerned across Ramsgate, Birchington,Westgate, Minster, Garlinge and Margate, what financial probity was carried out and what the serious safety issues were that resulted in the contract being terminated.
Paperwork passed to Ms Brimm showed £2.12 million was spent on installations at just over 300 properties but she says there is only evidence of 196 safety certificates being issued.
She said: “There are still more than 100 properties to account for. If these did not have electrical certificates that is a lot of lives at risk I have had one lady tell me her work was never signed off.”
According to an email from Thanet council, seen by The Isle of Thanet News, safety certificates were available to be viewed by Ms Brimm from March 20 but were destroyed on March 31.
East Kent Housing said it does not hold records of the contract and hard copies were passed to TDC’s housing department when documentation was cleared from the former Post Office building in Margate after its sale.
Dispute over figures
Thanet council disputes the housing figure given by Ms Brimm saying Lakehouse worked on 200 properties and of those 193 are still managed by East Kent Housing with the remaining seven sold under Right to Buy.
A council spokesman says the contract was ditched in 2013 following an annual review where key performance indicators were not reached.
The spokesman said: “The key performance indicators covered a range of areas including resident and client satisfaction, meeting agreed deadlines and safety. Much of resident dissatisfaction related to the number of missed appointments by contractors which would have inconvenienced them.”
However a letter from 2013 written by the council’s interim deputy head of asset management said: “Two of the issues relate to serious breaches of safety regulations, one electrical, one gas.”
He also wrote: “We have been working hard with Lakehouse Contract Ltd to endeavour to improve their performance. I regret that their communication with residents’ co-ordinator and quality of workmanship has not improved sufficiently for me to recommend their continued employment under this contract.”
Ms Brimm has questioned what those serious breaches were. She said: “A serious breach could mean a massive health and safety risk to tenants, I am seriously concerned. It is so important that electrician and gas installations are properly signed off. Lakehouse did not lose a £3.5million contract for no reason, it had to be something serious.”
The Thanet council spokesman said: “Each of the properties that had kitchens and bathrooms installed by Lakehouse was inspected by a TDC or an East Kent Housing (EKH) surveyor. Contractually Lakehouse was obliged to have any works completed inspected and ensure that a safety certificate was issued.
“All electrical certificates were provided by a NICEIC or similarly approved contractor. In a small number of cases where the company had failed to issue a safety certificate we have subsequently reinspected these dwellings and issued certificates.
“We have no cause to believe that any of the work was below standard or that tenants were at risk.”
The spokesman added that gas inspections are annual and all electrical inspections were completed by 2017.
Canterbury City Council is now urgently investigating the backlog of gas safety inspections. It is understood that EKH property services boss Mark Anderson has left his role in light of the uproar.
Mr Anderson served as Interim Director of Assets and Regeneration at the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation in 2012 where he was responsible for planning and ‘consultation’ on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment.
East Kent Housing has apologised for the backlog and said it has brought in extra gas engineers to carry out the remaining works.
Ms Brimm is calling for an internal investigation into EKH and TDC over the refusal to provide the information asked for in her public disclosure.
Lakehouse were responsible for the installation of the fire alarms and emergency lighting at the Grenfell Tower 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.