Thanet council is proposing to ditch arrangements with East Kent Housing and bring its social housing service back under authority control.
Cabinet members are expected to approve moves to put the plans out to council property residents for consultation next month with a report coming back to council early next year.
The action comes on the heels of revelations earlier this year that hundreds of council property tenants across east Kent had been awaiting gas safety certificates due to overdue Landlord Gas Safety Register assessments.
It then emerged that there were also grave concerns over potential further issues with electrical certification, lifts, fire safety and legionella testing.
The issue of electrical safety certification was first raised by former Thanet councillor Suzanne Brimm some three years ago.
In addition there was the possibility of a criminal case being brought due to contractor P&R overpayments to which could ‘constitute fraud.
P&R has terminated its contract with EKH and work is currently being undertaken by Swale Heating.’
East Kent Housing (EKH) was launched on 1 April 2011 to look after the housing stock for Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council, Folkestone and Hythe District Council and Thanet District Council, amounting to some 17,000 properties.
Following the concerns the councils had to self-refer to the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) which decided they were non-compliant, resulting in a Regulatory Notice being issued. The notice remains ‘live’ for 12 months or until full compliance is achieved.
The four councils have appointed Pennington Choices Ltd, a housing consultancy service, to undertake a review of health and safety management. The resulting report is due to be completed by late November.
Thanet council owns 3,426 homes, mostly houses (51%), medium to high-rise flats (42%) and low-rise flats (7%), with around 3,033 tenants and 393 leaseholders. A report to Cabinet members says: “Serious issues regarding performance, compliance and procurement support by EKH have had a detrimental impact on the model. This has resulted in a general loss of confidence in EKH by the four authorities, whose priority remains that tenants living in council housing properties are kept safe and receive the best possible service.”
Four options will be considered:
Option 1: Retain and refocus the current EKH ALMO arrangement.
Option 2: Withdraw from EKH and return the provision of housing management services back in-house under direct management of each council.
Option 3: Withdraw from EKH and form a new shared housing service with one or more of the other councils (this would not be an ALMO).
Option 4: Withdraw from EKH and outsource the service to one or more external providers
Bringing services back in-house, is the preferred option. The document to Cabinet members says: “Option 2 (the in-house option) offers the best opportunity to make improvements and provides each council with the strongest levels of control. This option puts the housing management service in a better position in relation to each council’s wider corporate plan priorities to secure improved outcomes for residents.
It will be necessary to look at how this option will address elected member and resident engagement and there are various options that could be pursued. For example, an elected members and residents committee may overcome / replace the loss of the ALMO Board under the in-house option. However, if the council does agree in principle to progress the in-house option, it is recommended that further exploration should also be given to future shared service opportunities.”
If agreed a 5 week consultation will run across the four council areas between Tuesday, October 22 to Friday, December 20.
The results will go to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel and Cabinet in early 2020 for consideration and decision.
Thanet’s Labour Party had previously called for Thanet’s social housing to be brought back under direct authority management.