Consultation opens over plans to ditch East Kent Housing

Thanet council

A resident consultation over plans to axe arrangements with East Kent Housing is now underway.

Cabinet members approved moves to get views on plans to bring council properties back in-house earlier this month.

Currently East Kent Housing manages all the council housing stock for Thanet, Dover, Canterbury and Folkestone.

But the consultation 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 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 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 said: “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.”

Bringing services back in-house is now being proposed.

A 5 week consultation will run across the four council areas from now until Friday, December 20.

The results will go to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel and Cabinet in early 2020 for consideration and decision.

At a scrutiny meeting last night (October 23) Birchington electrical engineer and former council Cabinet member Suzanne Brimm called for a housing task force to be created, made up of councillors, tenants and experts, to make sure the in-house service was not “just rearranging the deckchairs.”

Ms Brimm, who ended up being forced out of UKIP’s Cabinet after raising the issue in July 2017 of gas and electrical safety certificate failures and contractor overcharging, said keeping the same senior staff in charge of housing could mean families would still be in “hazardous” situations.

She said she retains evidence of category one breaches in Cliftonville’s selective licensing area. She added: “The safety of tenants must be made a priority.”

Find the consultation on East Kent Housing and future options here