Thanet councillors due to approve axing of East Kent Housing contract


Cabinet members at Thanet council are expected to approve the axing of East Kent Housing and the return of housing management services under direct control of the council when they meet next week.

In December 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 last 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.’

East Kent Housing’s Chief Executive Deborah Upton stepped down the same month.

Damning report

A report by Pennington Choices 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 then took place.  

Public consultation

The results of the consultation event for Thanet District Council show 3,422 consultation surveys were issued, although only 427 were returned (12%). Responses came from 403 tenants and leaseholders, 17 other individuals, Addington Street Community Group, Newington Community Association,1 shared ownership resident and 1 former tenant with 3 respondents not saying in what capacity they were responding.

Of these 60% strongly agreed with bringing housing back under council control.

Costs and timescale

Thanet council says the process of withdrawing from East Kent Housing, including  the TUPE transfer of staff, will have one off transition costs estimated at up to £250k plus £55,000 for an interim post of Transition Project Manager.

This process will take up to one year. A report to councillors says: “ Establishing an in-house service, if agreed, is complex and will take time to set up. It is therefore assumed that this would need to be completed and the new in-house service fully operational by 1 April 2021.”

A decision to bring the ALMO back in house may result in a TUPE transfer of staff from EKH to TDC but it is not revealed how many staff will not be covered by that process.

The report says: “The councils will want to retain as many staff as possible with key specialist skills that will be required in the new in house services and local arrangements to facilitate the transfer of staff not protected by TUPE will be needed.”

Residents who took part in the consultation say the main areas that need focusing on are repairs and maintenance, anti-social behaviour, value for money for  rent and service charges, building new council homes, estate services (such as grass cutting, cleaning communal areas etc), dealing with customer enquiries and complaints and involving and listening to residents

Other issues included improving the dialogue with disabled residents.

Next steps

If agreed all four councils will need to agree termination of the EKH contract and then take the action needed to close the organisation and pass responsibility to each council.

Officers from the four councils will establish a Transition Board to co-ordinate the project and a  Tenants and Leaseholder Panel will be created in each local authority area – Thanet already has a panel.

Fees to EKH of around £3.6million over two financial years will be clawed back into the budget  to help pay on-going revenue costs of the service.

Cabinet members will discuss the issue at a meetng on Monday (February 17).

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.


    • Correct
      They don’t like truth seekers
      More truth coming out soon.
      4 local councils on board being paid wages and pension.
      On top of their own councilors wages
      Why was chief executive hiding the truth about gas safety it’s in all feckn reports

      • Councillors don’t get wages or pensions.They get a taxable allowance of £4500 per annum. Post-tax that’s equivalent to £82 per week but don’t let the facts get in the way, Rebecca Hooper!

  1. Lets hope things will soon be working as they should and all legal obligations taken care of. This has been a scandal as of the fraud taking place with overpayments. The leaders should be struck off, taken through the courts and stopped from taking up similar roles elsewhere.
    I cannot see much sense from privatisation of public entities to private businesses when those companies main roles are just making profits for shareholders and themselves, without improving the outcome and satisfaction for the service users. It is the same with power companies and public transport which was privatised. All that has done is increase inflation with the end users paying more for less.

  2. They already had paid board members the 4 councils need to be gone
    We are people not profit
    And you all knew about it before it blew up in your face good job you didn’t kill anyone but that’s stackable the lot of you

  3. And so the deckchairs are again rearranged. Why does anyone think that TDC will do a better job, they were well aware and complicit in the failings of EKH. EKH will have been in existence only 10 years by the time its gone, how much has been wasted and will be.

    Has anyone got any insight to the “re-provision” of insulation to the isles high rises and what exactly is wrong with the current systems, which are not grenfell style rainscreen systems, if they are to be removed and redone, why? Who is responsible for the design that was used? Is this being recovered under any insurance?

  4. East Kent housing started off ok when they first took over the council home’s. But it didn’t take long before it was a lot of fraud a lot of backstabbing and EKH took no notice of their tenants they left their tenants in danger all they were concerned about was lining their own pockets never answered the phone when you rang and fob you off all the time

  5. I just hope we learn the lessons from this mess. Privatisation is not the answer.
    For too long, we have been told that publicly-run services were all bad and that the “Private sector” is, magically, much better at running everything.
    Even without full privatisation, East Kent Councils created a body, East Kent Housing, that acted like a private business even though senior Councillors sat on the management body.
    It has all come crashing down.
    Pretending to be a private business didn’t work (except when it comes to paying the senior staff lots of cash).

    Privately-run Railways are a disaster. Private Water services are a rip-off. The gas and electricity keep going up in price. Post Offices are disappearing.

    The era of privatisation is over. But by electing Boris Johnson to power, we have just delayed the inevitable, when we take them back into public hands. It looks like East Kent Councils are among the first to realise the truth and are dissolving the pretend-business, EKH.
    The other privatised services are like zombies, dead already, but still kept going by sucking the public’s blood, thanks to Boris the Bluffer, pretending not to notice.

    • Correct Keefogs! The Tory mantra to privatise public services has been a disaster for Britain, its only purpose is to divert our tax money into the pockets of their business mates! Can anyone name one privatised public service that actually works for the benefit of the people, no I didn’t think there was any! And who thought selling off schools was a good idea Duuurh!

  6. TDC are such a shambolic organisation how on earth can they think they can do a better job? You only have to look at their waste and recycling “service” to realise they can’t be trusted to run a bath, let alone these sorts of services.

    Also, it is worth repeating that East Kent Housing has always been in TDCs control. They had reps on the board and highly paid client officers. TDC are equally culpable for East Kent Housing failing but no one would ever fall on their sword at Cecil Street as they are way too self serving and would rather fling the blame elsewhere.

  7. Hw the tide has turned !

    Over previous decades, many of the Council’s functions were put to to ‘private companies’ in the interests of cost cutting and efficiencies. Now, slowly but surely, the profiteering of providing public services has seen to be a mistake. Parks and Gardens, Refuse, and now Housing Services have returned to direct control.

    Such a shame that all the professional officers who more effectively ran these services in the past but were made redundant are no longer available. (This happened under all colours of political leadership so please do not re-introduce the political blame game !).

    • Not quite sure how you can equate EKH to privatisation, the 4 councils decided to set up a single social housing provider to manage their properties, it was always bound by housing association rules and was meant to offer economies of scale in terms of staff and buying power for contracts.
      That the 4 councils could not present a united front and policies meant that effectively EKH has had to provide a separate service to each council, rather negating the idea of it all. Then TDC has starved EKH of the funding required to maintain the estate properly, instead deciding to defer as much work as possible and also to have little oversight of what has been done.
      TDC could at anytime have directed EKH to perform any duties they deemed fit, but they didn’t, nor were they monitoring performance correctly.
      Many of the TDC staff transferred to EKH including the first chief executive of EKH. TDC are well aware of the failings and have even said that their own compliance with the fire safety regulations falls short of the performance expected but that they can’t prosecute themselves, so they carried on as they wanted.
      Quite how TDC with such an attitude is seen as the best body to take over the housing is frankly mind boggling. A district with no money is going ( it would seem) to spend millions ripping off and replacing insulation to its tower blocks, quite how much money we have to throw away and where it comes from is beyond me.
      Who authorised the highrise insulation works in the first place? Do they still work in TDC?

  8. Quite a tragic outcome here, as TDC’s just as complicit in the failings as EKH. TDC has had members on the board, alongside a client officer and the chief exec, all tasked with scrutinising what was happening. For them to now take on housing management, is far and away not going to improve the situation. In fact, there’s a very, very good chance it’ll only get worse for the residents.

    The real issue with EKH was that the councils were never able to act as one. That meant that EKH was forced into brokering four separate contracts for services such as fire safety and the now infamous gas safety. However, the councils (all hellbent on saving money) would pay as little as possible from their HRAs (in fact, EKH only got around 10 pence from every ‘rent pound’ while the councils retained the rest for ‘other’ things). That was on the basis that EKH was achieving economies of scale – but because the councils all demanded different contracts, those economies were never actually created. Therefore, EKH was doomed purely because of council failings, rather than anything else.

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