The Long Read: M & R Refurbishments Ltd.

East Kent Housing (EKH), the largest arms length management organisation in the country, recently employed a contractor to undertake external painting of its Council housing stock. The company who won the contract is M&R Refurbishments Ltd (M & R). M & R have a number of contracts with social housing landlords. However, it has come to light that there are major issue with this contract and the respective councils, Thanet & Folkestone & Hythe District Council are considering Police involvement.

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It is alleged that the contractor – M & R – has overcharged in the region of £250,000 on the Thanet and Folkestone & Hythe District councils external painting contracts. This is due to misinterpretation and over measurement of the contract by both contractor and East Kent Housing Surveyors, according to documents leaked to the Shepwayvox Team.

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The overcharging by the contractor M & R appears to be centred around scaffolding and other similar issues. In Section 2 of the Contract – Carrying out Work scaffolding is already built into the contract cost. Scaffolding is included Also The National Housing Federation Schedule of Rates.

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Mark Anderson (pictured) is the Director of Property at EKH, he is an architect by profession, with previous director roles at a range of housing and property organisations including MHS Homes, Hyde Housing Group and Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation.

Mark brought in a Quantity Surveyor, Kevin Pease to undertake re-measure costs as it was believed that M & R were overcharging. The overcharging figure arrived at by the Quantity Surveyor for the Folkestone & Hythe contract was £185,000 and Thanet approx £65,000. However, this initial investigation was halted and the Councils, Thanet & FHDC are now considering Police involvement, due to possible fraudulent claims, by M & R.

Re-measures are …calculation of the actual quantities of work ordered on the contractors in order to certify the payment due to a contractor. In the Libre Calc spreadsheets leaked to the Shepwayvox Team, it would appear that on the Folkestone & Hythe District Council contract £185,000 of overcharging by the Contractor has been found by the Quantity Surveyor.

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One of the way such frauds can be perpetrated is by throwing in a lot of invoices to East Kent Housing at once. Perhaps 10% may get checked and the rest will sail through. Simple.

Of course, EKH do not want any adverse publicity of the mismanagement of these contracts, especially as the councils involved could ask for the overcharge to be recovered from EKH itself.

Recently East Kent Housing were found wanting over fire risk assessments. What worries the Shepwayvox Team is that Mark Anderson the Director of Property at EKH, previously worked as the Interim Executive Director of Assets & Regeneration at the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO). He was directly involved with the issues around the cladding on Grenfell Tower(page17).

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It’s not just Mark, we are concerned about. We are very concerned about the Chief Executive of East Kent Housing (pictured). She is responsible for leading East Kent Housing and ensuring that it delivers on the priorities agreed by the Board and the four local authority owners. Deborah is a qualified solicitor and has held a number of senior roles in local authorities, over a twenty year period.

As you can see below, Deborah worked for Circle Housing in London as an Executive Director (Governance).

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Anyway, in Deborah’s time at Circle Housing (on £125,000 a year) similar issues relating to overcharging and scaffolding arose. Deborah as the Executive Director responsible for Governance drew up a report which concluded that £173,650 had been overcharged.  Now the same is happening at East Kent Housing and it took whistleblowers to bring this to her attention on both occasions.

In the Report AuG 17-15  which deals with Fire Risk Assessments for EKH, the East Kent Audit Partnership Auditor at page 12/13 states:

  • There appears to have been no monitoring by senior management either at East Kent Housing or the 4 partner authorities of the outstanding actions and the expected costs.

It appears that Mark – Director of Property & Deborah – Chief Executive have failed to monitor not just Fire Risk Assessments, but the M & R contract and the P & R gas maintenance  one too. What are the four Council going to do? After all Debroah & Mark do run the largest arms length management organisation in the Country; which looks after more than 17,000 council owned homes .

We just hope the figure of £185,000 if correct, is recovered. In these cash strapped times our Council and the Tenants of EKH need to know that the senior management at EKH are up to the job. They should not and must not be financially rewarded for the lack of leadership and failure to monitor these contracts.

Also is the EKH Board aware of what is going on? The Board is  chaired by James Queay – a Chartered Surveyor (pictured below left) and the Vice Chair  – Neil Tickle (pictured), who works for Optivo Housing Association.  Mr Tickle has worked for several Housing Associations, including London and Quadrant and Amicus Horizon, where he was Development Director for 8 years. I’m primarily responsible for all Development activity across Kent and Sussex.  Now M & R happen to have thirteen contracts with Amicus Horizon.

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The Tenant Board Member for Folkestone & Hythe District Council is Nigel Lawes (pictured), who also sits on EKH’s Finance & Audit sub-committee. He is currently unemployed.

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There are currently no Dover or Thanet Tenant Board Members according to EKH’s website.

There is more, much more to come about East Kent Housing. However, with a litany of complaints building against EKH’s senior management, regarding the contracts set out above, we hope the Folkestone & Hythe Tenant Board Member, Nigel Lawes,will raise the alarm on these issues, to the Board, pronto. We are talking about potentially £185,000 of overcharging, the Police and potential fraud. So Cllr David Owen and Cllr Alan Ewart James, please might you tell us what is going on?

If you’d like to contact Deborah or Mark you can do so by emailing – please be polite:

deborah.upton@eastkenthousing.org.uk

mark.anderson@eastkenthousing.org.uk

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And of course, FHDC cannot escape partial responsibility on this issue as they too have been failing to monitor contract reports. These failings create risks which cannot and must not be sensibly ignored.

If you have any questions you should direct them to Cllr David Owen Folkestone & Hythe representative on the Board and Cllr Alan Ewart James Cabinet Member for Housing, who sits on the, East Kent Home Improvement Agency Combined Support Group and the East Kent Housing Owners’ Committee. Please be polite.

alan.ewart-james@folkestone-hythe.gov.uk  (pictured left)

david.owen@folkestone-hythe.gov.uk

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Do let us know if you get a reply from any of them.

shepwayvox@riseup dot net

The Shepwayvox Team – Dissent is NOT a Crime.

 

About shepwayvox (582 Articles)
Our sole motive is to inform the residents of Shepway - and beyond -as to that which is done in their name. email: shepwayvox@riseup.net

3 Comments on The Long Read: M & R Refurbishments Ltd.

  1. In my opinion this isn’t a simple “Peter Principle” matter.. It’s actually an example of the “Dunning-Kruger Effect” where “… Essentially, low ability people do not possess the skills needed to recognize their own incompetence…..In many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious,” wrote David Dunning in an article for Pacific Standard. “Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

    https://www.verywellmind.com/an-overview-of-the-dunning-kruger-effect-4160740

  2. In my opinion Meldrew there is more relationship to the ‘Kerching’ Principle, where maximum financial gains can be garnered from minimal effort. The word “Fraud” springs to mind.

    Concerned Councils need to step-up their game in monitoring their costs. After all, it is our money, not theirs.

    As an example, should your Dentist charge you for more extractions than you actually had, would you not challenge the charge?

    Good luck to those Councils brave enough to attempt recompense for these overcharges, and I would hope that some Councils are also brave enough to bring a legal case.

    • “Good luck to those Councils brave enough to attempt recompense for these overcharges, and I would hope that some Councils are also brave enough to bring a legal case”

      I sure that you’ll agree that there should have been “checks and balances” within the EKH accounting system, so things like this can be easily identified before payments are made.

      And yet this stunning piece of incompetence will probably cost EKH money for lawyers etc., and to pursue repayment – the costs of which probably be passed on to their tenants or SDC unless the court awards costs.

      Perhaps the Directors should be held financially responsible for their oversight failure?

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