Thanet District Council is being urged to carry out an urgent review of a housing authority after it emerged more than 500 homes were overdue gas safety checks.
Labour councillors at the authority say they have serious concerns about East Kent Housing, which manages social housing for Thanet, Canterbury, Folkestone and Hythe, and Dover councils, and want the contract to be scrapped.
It follows the revelation by Kent Online earlier this month that since May 24, tenants in 544 council homes had been awaiting gas safety certificates due to overdue Landlord Gas Safety Register assessments.
Hundreds of the homes across the four districts have since had urgent checks carried out.
Cllr Helen Whitehead, Labour’s deputy leader at Thanet council and shadow portfolio holder for housing, says the party has always had serious concerns about the lack of accountability in the arm’s length model.
“The first duty the council owes its tenants is to keep them safe,” she said.
“Thanet, along with other councils, has stepped in to tackle the gas certificate issue and thankfully the number of missing certificates is coming down, but it is clear from this that there is a wider governance issue and that EKH cannot be trusted to look after our housing.
“We campaigned in the recent election to bring the service back in-house and now we want cabinet to look objectively at the opportunity to do just that.
“If we aren’t satisfied that is happening then it is something we will look to bring before full council ourselves.
“Ultimately this is about providing a better service to tenants and their views matter most, but we do not believe the EKH model works.”
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “First and foremost our concern is for those tenants who have been affected and have been contacted by East Kent Housing (EKH). We’ve worked quickly with EKH to resolve this issue and understand that the number of outstanding checks has fallen significantly.
“An independent investigation is now underway to review what has gone wrong and to seek assurances that this will not happen again. Each of the four east Kent councils will be reporting back to its Councillors to set out the circumstances of this issue, the actions required and to review the future options for this service.”
Indeed this is appalling and a great discredit to the governing group of the TDC – and its UKIP predecessor – but also to the council officers responsible for ensuring these checks are regularly made
Another example of the dangers of putting Council services “out to contract” ie privatisation. At one time ,the Council ran its own services so, if there were any problems, you went down to the Council offices to sort it, or you contacted your local Councillor. The Councillor would, literally, walk along a corridor and have a word with whichever official was involved. Simples!
But, these days, our local services are run by separate , private companies who are several steps removed from the councillors, let alone from the residents, so that nothing is quick, nothing seems to get done, and all concerned spend days trying to work out which private company has got the responsibility for which cock-up as they need to “read the contract”.
Back in the day, if a Trade Union delayed matters by checking whether some work was part of their agreement (called “working to rule”) there would be uproar and angry condemnation. But, now, private companies do the same thing, refusing to do more than the bare minimum, or even less, and it’s regarded as “sound business practice”! This country has lost its way!
Surely it is still the responsibility of a specific council officer – and the councillors to make regular checks that the contractor is actually doing the work . Also there should be a clause in the contract stating that normal performance led to a financial penalty
Does the Council that it would have been in Court if there had been a disaster as a result of its negligence? Surely the Council should respond to the comments above. We need reassurance !
It’s got more to do with East Kent housing changing contractors to P&R instead of swale heating, and then P&R ending the contract early.
That does nothing at all to excuse the lamentable failure of the council and its staff! Both have fiduciary details to the people of Thanet
Hopefully there will be a strong statement berating east kent council from Councillor Lesley Game similar to that she put out regarding the councils prosecution of a landlord who had’nt applied for a licence (though no mention of the property being dangerous) . But of course there won’t be as the council considers itself above the law, they could also look into the damming audit of east kent housings record on fire safety and the lack of oversight from its owner councils of which thanet is one.
I made a public disclosure to the CEO and to the Monitoring Officer in 2017 when I was Cabinet Member of Operational Services regarding East Kent Housing and safety checks they were warned but chose to ignore it.