A tragedy waiting to happen

When land becomes more important than thousands of people’s safety then something is wrong, horribly wrong.

On the 6th June 2019 Cllr Tim Prater (pictured below) and Cllr Lesley Whybrow (pictured below) put down a motion to the 26th June District Council meeting calling on the Council to withdraw its own proposals to develop Princes Parade, and instead build a new leisure centre and swimming pool at Martello Lakes in West Hythe.

Screenshot from 2019-06-15 13-10-11  Screenshot from 2019-06-15 13-07-55

In the scheme of things the The Shepwayvox Team believe people’s safety comes before Princes Parade. We hope at full Council, on the 26th June, the Labour Party Cllrs will bring a motion to hold an extraordinary meeting of the council. This would allow full council to discuss the safety of tenants regarding – gas safety certificates, electrical tests, asbestos issues and previous issues around fire risk assessment –  in all the 3,365 Council owned homes across the district.

On Wednesday 12th June 2019, we raised the fact there has been a failure to undertake electrical safety tests across all four councils housing stock of East Kent. Between them they own in excess of 15,800 council homes. Although not compulsory by law the Code-of-Practice for the Management of Electrotechnical Care in Social Housing (Jan 2019) states at page 8:

  • It is recommended that an electrical installation in a domestic tenanted property is inspected and tested at least every 5 years, resulting in the creation of an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR).

It goes onto say

  • A full electrical inspection and test, which results in the completion of an EICR, should always take place at change of occupancy, including voids and mutual exchanges, to confirm the electrical installation is safe for continued use.

Let’s remember – it was an electrical fire which started the tragedy at Grenfell Tower – rightly commemorated for the second anniversary on Thursday 14th June 2019.

Also we raised the issue that hundreds of gas safety certificates have not been issued. These two significant concerns raise questions about the validity of insurance cover for the council housing stock and also the important subject of Public Liability as a duty of care is owed.

We also now understand an Asbestos contractor was recently terminated due to unsafe practices – and that Mark Anderson Director of Property Services at East Kent Housing (EKH), was in a meeting with Mears on Wednesday discussing this issue, a variety of well placed sources have confirmed. Mr Anderson was previously Director of Assets and Regeneration of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation and  was a lead on the planning and ‘consultation’ on the botched Grenfell Tower refurbishment, including cladding.

Also how could we forget that East Kent Audit Partnership Report (pages 12/13 and 14)  in March 2018 reported to the Audit & Governance Committee that EKH Fire Safety (Fire risk assessment process & records management) received a Limited Assurance  which means there was evidence of significant errors or non-compliance with many key controls not operating as intended resulting in a risk to the achievement of the system objectives.

The report makes clear

  • Cladding has not been looked at in this audit.

  • Fire risk assessments have not been kept up to date

  • 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.

We hope and pray that the Labour Cllrs will use the powers under Part 4 – 14.1 Q (page 4/14 &15) of the constitution to call an extraordinary meeting at the full council meeting on the 26th June 2019, to discuss these urgent matters. This part of the constitution states – The following motions may be moved without notice:

  • To resolve to request the Head of Paid Service to call an extraordinary meeting of Council; and

Is the safety of 8000 plus residents of Council homes in Folkestone & Hythe District more important than Princes Parade?  The answer to that is simple. Yes.

Tenants are more important than Princes Parade, far more important and the wrong motion was tabled by Cllr Prater and Cllr Whybrow, we believe.

CC naziz susan-priest Screenshot from 2019-06-12 09-41-42

We know that all four leaders of Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe & Thanet Council’s (pictured above) discussed a variety of issues including their Council’s liability at a meeting on Wednesday 12th June. This is the day we highlighted the issue in our blog post – East Kent Councils failing hundreds of tenants over gas safety checks – whether or not the meeting was scheduled, or called after our blog post, is not known.

We also know that the Health & Safety Executive will investigate imminently. If fined for failure to have undertaken what was a legal requirement, the fine would be north of £5 million pounds potentially and it could well be the ratepayers of all four councils who foot the bill.

The crux of this appalling, unacceptable and frankly dangerous situation at East Kent Housing is that when public services such as social housing are outsourced and passed on to other organisations to run, they become progressively less and less accountable and transparent in the way that they are managed, and the democratic control and scrutiny which used to exist when services were directly provided by the Council becomes almost non-existent.

Lack of democratic control and scrutiny and a reduction in accountability and transparency allow for poor management to thrive and mistakes to go unchecked, which in turn can, and sometimes does, lead to tragedy. That’s why we believe the outsourcing and privatisation of public services should be halted immediately and that organisations such as East Kent Housing should be closed down and liquidated.

Cllrs have a responsibility both morally and legally to raise these issues set out above at an extraordinary meeting. If they do not use the powers the constitution affords them they will be abandoning the tenants of all Council homes, not just those who occupy council properties in Folkestone & Hythe District Council, but all the other three districts as well.

It is clear what all Cllrs on on four Councils must do. The question is will they have the resolve or the inclination to step up to the plate to investigate and resolve these significant issues. By doing so they will be protecting the tenants to whom the Councils have a public duty of care. By failing to discharge their responsibilities they would be liable for any tragedy waiting to happen.

The Shepwayvox Team

Dissent is NOT a Crime

About shepwayvox (881 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

5 Comments on A tragedy waiting to happen

  1. An EKH Employee // June 16, 2019 at 09:24 // Reply

    As an EKH employee, I fear for the lives our tenants as senior management is so incompetent. I hope the Cllrs of all four Councils do the right thing and call for an inquiry into this unholy mess.

  2. An EKH Tenant // June 16, 2019 at 09:46 // Reply

    Criminal Behaviour. The Heads of the Councils and senior management at EKH should be behind bars. Thank you for highlighting this.

  3. A Green Councillor // June 16, 2019 at 10:01 // Reply

    Preventing building on Princes Parade was an election promise. As a recently elected Green Councillor, I am personally right behind the Shepwayvox Team for raising this. The Shepway Green Party have rather scored an own goal on this. I think we should take it on the chin put up our hands and admit we got it wrong.

  4. A Dover DC Employee // June 16, 2019 at 13:29 // Reply

    Mr Anderson should go of his own accord, without any payoff or non-disclosure agreement. As for the Cllrs if they don’t do the right thing I am sure the electorate won’t forget. As for the Greens won’t ever be voting for them again

  5. All the local Councillors and political parties should see the scrutiny you apply as a positive and good thing for the area. For too long it has been a closed club with servile local press who fail to hold the politicians, especially the self-serving, to task.

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