East Kent Housing chief exec quits amid health and safety failures at council properties

Deborah Upton has quit

East Kent Housing’s Chief Executive Deborah Upton has  stepped down from  her role following a string of failures by the organisation.

This month the board of East Kent Housing, which manages local authority properties in east Kent, was dismissed and replaced by the chief executives of Thanet, Canterbury, Dover and Folkestone & Hythe councils.

The action came 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.

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.’

A statement from Thanet council issued today (December 23) says: “East Kent Housing’s Chief Executive Deborah Upton has considered her position in light of the four councils’ consultation with their tenants and leaseholders on taking housing services back in house as well as the recent changes to the board.

She has decided now is the right time to step aside. We are working on putting interim measures in place.”

A report by Pennington Choices, published this month, into what went wrong at EKH said a number of factors led to the failure around health and safety compliance including:

  • The role of the board, appointed to set the strategic direction of EKH and oversee its day-to-day running, was not understood by either side effectively making it redundant
  • A lack of leadership at EKH combined with a lack of challenge and holding to account by the four councils
  • The perception of staff at EKH that saving money was a key priority
  • The poor quality of the data being used by EKH and a lack of IT capability
  • A collective failure between EKH and the councils to award contracts and engage suppliers in a timely manner
  • The difficulty encountered by EKH working for four different councils with different political, strategic and operational priorities leading to a dysfunctional relationship

A resident consultation over plans to axe arrangements with East Kent Housing has taken place.  

The results will be reviewed and a final decision will be made by councillors in February.


  1. If private landlords were to act like EKHA they would be prosecuted and they would not be allowed to let their property. One rule for one and another for private landlords.

    • Plus TDC would shout about prosecutions in the press making the usual assertions about rogue landlords, but when its on their own doorstep its “we apologise and are working to rectify our mistakes”.
      Lets wait and see how much sorting out the backlog of neglected maintenance, repairs and compliance costs. Though seeing as TDC knew it was going on and kept funding to a minimum , are they really the right people to take the task back in house?

  2. Sad to see this terrible debacle, pointed out by the then Councillor Suzanne Brimm, was not mentioned in this report. Brimm was dismissed by the TDC, had Police Raid at her home, and was barred from entering TDC unless escorted, for starting this enquiry in 2015-2016. Senior TDC Heads are on the block, and they should be prepared to roll…. soon!

  3. Gas safety certificates ha ha.
    In my opinion East Kent Housing (ekh) had to be dismissed , The lady as decided to “step aside” , of course it would be the right time.

    I had no heating for 3 Months (well it worked a bit like 15 mins). Just as well it was May and not November.
    I had no hot water for 4 weeks and had to boil kettles to have a bath , I rang the company for days/ hours trying to get through ,no luck.
    I emailed ekh on 2/5/19 and 30/5/19 , auto response they aim to reply within 10 working days, i never got a reply.
    Try again me thinks i sent a recorded / signed for letter to ekh , it took 2 weeks to get there , (the post office did refund me as it was next day post).

    I did think the only way to sort my problem was to get on top of the council rooftop with a big banner “please give me some hot water” or i jump, (lol).

    During this period we did get a few cold nights (not many) but i had to purchase 2 electric rads to keep warm , my electric consumption doubled , i got fed up with boiling kettles so had to get a cab to my daughters and back to have a bath.

    Due to the neglect of the landlord or its contractors it cost me about £400.

    A landlord has responsabilites same as the tenant , in my case my landlord failed.
    If i failed to pay my rent on a Monday , I would get a letter by the Friday.

    There are 100s of ekh tenants (according to post) who have had problems for one reason or another, but now the landlord has been dismissed i dont think any claims can be made.

      • My late uncle was a crown court judge for years not in this area so i have an idea about the law, one is innocent until proven guilty , i have no proof of anything , no reply to any letter, e-mail etc, a court may assume i making this all up, i can assure you i’m not.
        Ok it cost me £400 at a guess so that’s gone i not happy about it i just think its wrong

    • We need to oust the feckn lot out
      We need a new council not with existing
      Wait for my pension fund story hits the news.
      As soon as I mention offshore leaks local don’t touch me. For allegations reasons but it’s about action not words

  4. Well that’s the head of East Kent Housing gone for her role in this debacle. Who will now do the honourable thing at TDC and decide to “step aside” in light of the criticism aimed at TDC too? Both EKH and TDC are equally culpable

  5. No. She needs to be held to account. My story will hit the serious fraud squad and if they don’t listen I will want serious answers to why.
    Spent all Friday evening following the money to get my story and I will take it to channel 4 or Panorama
    To those who served on the company, yes it was registered at companies House as a feckn business you should also resign but you too will be held with contemot

    • Rebecca A story , Nice sunny morning Mr A playing golf with Mr B,
      A has a small company.
      B is top man in say woolworths, he has a 500K ( a K = 1000) contract to award.
      Time for a beer mate (set the scene) 50K to you mate , need i go on.
      This started off with ekh being dismissed , next it will be the company that could face fraud charges , go into liquidation only to start up another, same staff. different name and number.
      I think over 4 different councils its a lot more money than in this story.
      Mr A and B will be playing another round of golf next week/month.

  6. Not many i think if any TDC need to raise a lot of money for the three travelers sites , TDC has a duty to support these people , they tried to sell the old pleasurmar site but tdc sold the lease an its got years to go. Bless em eh , we got a new road as good as new as only used by drug people , its called the harbour approach road, cost 1000s that but handy for any car repairs / engine change all in the dry

  7. Thanks Kathy xx happy Christmas this report saddens me
    You know who you are councilors on the board of a company getting paid shares

  8. Kathy. It may be worth asking the question about the terms on which she “stepped aside” I may be off the mark but this has all the hallmarks of a taxpayer funded compromise agreement where the Chief Exec of EKH has been given a pay off to leave rather than just quitting as the article suggests.

    Given what has happened there should be an uproar if this is the case

    • Thanetian blind , i don’t think you are off the mark, however one can ask any questions but one will not get a result/ answer , As a normal working person in my younger days its called backhanders , however if one is rich/well off , one joins a group it starts with an f, (not a swear word) . I can only to when i was earning £19 a week , to join these groups one had to be earning £500 a week that’s 50 year ago. They well known as all over the country . They are a law to their own and always will be.

  9. The Shepwayvox Team gave the data about electrical certificates to Cllr Brimm in Dec 2016. She then did an FoI in Feb 17 and funnily enough the electrical certificates had all been destroyed, not just for Thanet, but the other three councils as well. The ICO came and visited EKH and said their data was appalling and that was buried as well. None of this debacle would have been known if it were not for the SV Team tenacious reporting. Brimm trying to climb on the bandwagon just shows how desperate she is to be part of a story that she as the former Cabinet Member for Housing allowed to happen from May 2015.

    • Were TDC not also criticised by the ICO a few years back over dealings around the ramsgate tunnels and the asbestos register ( or whatever its called)?

  10. The Shepwayvox Team passed info to Cllr Brimm about electrical issues in Thanet Council housing stock in Dec 2016. She had been Cabinet Member for Housing and didn’t have a clue what was going on, till the SV Team pointed it out. In Feb 2017, she decided to act by doing an FoI. Alas due to a re-organisation a lot of data was thrown away including the electrical certificates for Thanet and all the other three Councils. The ICO took a dim view, but took no action against EKH for their data management failings. We note Brimm never mentioned that.

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