East Kent Housing likely to be ditched and properties brought back under Thanet council control

Housing Photo Tom Thain

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.

10 Comments

  1. About time no Faith EKH housing what so ever put in numerous complaints they never sort anything out. Been a council tenant for 36 years and I’ve never known the council to be so bad at doing a job. Not worth the wages they are paid

  2. I hope a criminal case is taken against p&r.
    I was left with no heating or hot water for over 3 weeks , I had to boil kettles to have a bath, this cost me a lot more in electric , This does not include my cost in extra phone calls , only to be told by machine phone back tomorrow.
    I have written to East Kent Housing (recorded) to ask if they would cover my extra expences no reply .
    It is the landlords or their contractors to carry out urgent repairs in “reasonable time” in which in my case i dont think they did.
    Be intresting if any other tenants have had the same problem as me.

    • I also had a bad experience with an extractor fan. They left the extractor fan broken for over a year asked to remove it myself they said no they sent in a contractors in to remove it and fit a new one left a terrible mess and an upside down extractor fan. When I asked if they were going to board it in with the piping. they said all they would be boarding in was the extractor fan and leave the piping showing so I ended up having to pay for someone to build it in for me it was a right mess they left my house in. Ask them if they were going to cover the costs and they said no because they was going to send someone into built in the extractor fan but even that was going be 4 months time. All they are interested in is taking our rent money. Lining their own pockets and leave people in run down properties

  3. The proposal supposes that TDC wiill be any better, seeing as staff worked alongside EKH and TDC always defended EKH in full knowledge of what was going on, ( i have emails) , TDC is hardly a fine example of local government.

  4. Ha Ha, i have lived in my council home for 39 years , i get the odd inspections , like my home is tidy etc , (forget the heating problem or gas safety checks for now). Yeah they say all is fine , Yet i have the old abestos (i carnt spell) tiles on my 3 bedrooms they meant to be a fire hazard , neither TDC or EKH notice them .

  5. You have got to remember that East Kent Housing is already under TDCs control. They jointly manage them. EKHs failings are TDCs failings. TDC haven’t managed them properly and the results are there for everyone to see. It’s all very well TDC throwing them under a bus like this but people have to remember this is already a TDC failing so how could people possibly have any faith in them doing a better job?

    • In relation to why some buildings don’t comply with the 2005 fire safety order act “ high risk buildings are being dealt with first”, “such delays from a private landlord would be unacceptable and council would take action, but council can’t prosecute itself”.

      In respect of legionella, “no assessment required as these homes have combi boilers” (incorrect) once assessment was done 3 years later no action taken regarding the risks found. When flats were changed to combi boilers insufficient works done to existing pipework and tanks to mitigate the legionella risk.

      All known to TDC, responses above regarding fire safety were from TDC housing officers. Local councillors have been made aware years ago. But none wished to take action.

      Be interesting to see if the same officers/ councillors have anything to say.

    • I want officers and those councillors to bugger off
      You managed to put people’s lives at risk don’t deserve to be in post and sacked
      I traced it all back to the people who set fire to the grenfell tower

  6. Many decades ago I was employed as a Consultant to two Local Authorities, who were intending to out source their Social Housing Stock, and later I saw the result! Poor, and under qualified management, frequently young women who were supposed to know about Long and Short Term Maintenance Planning! Builders running rings round them, because of poor accountability! I could go on, but its so depressing! Can anyone name one public service that has been privatised that actually works for the public good, instead of its shareholders?

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