The Long Read: All 4 East Kent Chief Executives should resign over Gas Safety Certificate fiasco

All Cllrs of Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe & Thanet District Councils ought to bring a motion before their respective full councils regarding the lack of management oversight of East Kent Housing (EKH), declaring their Chief Executive’s resign immediately over  the Gas Safety Certificate fiasco and non-compliance issues with Fire Safety, breaching their legal responsibility as the landlords. It is clear that they too may be criminally negligent, not just the senior management of East Kent Housing. Hence we call for their heads.

The calls to close down EKH by Simon Cook, the former leader of Canterbury City Council and the threat of removal from office of the Chief Executive of Canterbury City Council  Colin Carmichael are welcome news to the Shepwayvox Team ears. However, Councillors at the other three councils ought to be calling for the heads of their respective chief execs –  Nadeem Aziz (DDC) Dr Susan Priest (F&HDC) and Madaline Homer (TDC) (all pictured below). In our humble opinion their Councils and them have each been negligent as they have a duty to others (tenants), They have breached that duty through an act or culpable omission (no legally required Gas Safety Certificates provided to tenants), as a result of that act or omission, the tenants suffered an injury, even if it be nervous shock, the injury to the tenant was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the Councils and Chief Executives acts or omissions.

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

Will the Councillors of their respective Councils have the courage to call for Heads of their Chief Executive, as they are no longer fit for purpose. We believe not. This means we’ll limp on with weak and ineffective leaders of the four Councils and ineffective leadership to act and their failure to act, will continue to place tenants lives at significant risks over gas and fire safety.

All the Chief Exec’s can give to their respective Cllrs across the four chambers is reassurance that everything is tickety boo, rather than assurance based on solid reliable evidenced data. We say this because we know that EKH’s data and record management capability is very limited and that’s putting it mildly.

We understand a legal case is to be brought against all four councils and paperwork is being drawn up to begin the first steps in the process.

Moving on, we have looked at the mechanism that would be necessary to close EKH, but before we do so it would be wise and prudent to understand how this fiasco, regarding Gas Safety Certificates, occurred.

By their own admission, the four councils who own 25% of EKH admit that constraints on inflationary increases in the management fee paid to EKH has caused significant issues.

In 2016/17 Housemark benchmarking data shows that East Kent Housing provided their services at a lower cost than all others in their peer group. This is because they have been pared to the bone due to the management fee being able to do less each year because of  price increases made by suppliers, for example.

In 2018/19 the EKH management fee, across all four districts was £8.425m and is broken down in the chart below.

Screenshot from 2019-06-21 20-43-24

This means on average Folkestone & Hythe District Council spent £11.35 on each dwelling per week across the year.

In 2019/20 East Kent Housing have received an additional £729,000 on top of the £8.425m to deal with the significant issues identified in the East Kent Housing Improvement Plan.

If the four Councils decide to consider terminating the current shared arrangement with EKH and take the service back in house or into another local authority trading company there is a formal process which needs to be followed to terminate the agreement. However, before this process could be started the Councils would need to consider the full implications and costs of the alternative options and a detailed timeline for the processes. This analysis would take time and resource to complete and once an approach was agreed additional time and resource would be required to undertake as much of the process as possible prior to handing in the formal withdrawal notice.

With regards to the formal process the Councils CCC, DDC, F&HDC and TDC would have to give each other not less than 28 days’ written notice of their intention to end the agreement.

Thereafter the Councils could serve a notice of withdrawal from membership of EKH pursuant to Article 16 of the Articles (the Withdrawal Notice). If the Councils served a Withdrawal Notice such notice would take effect three months following the date on which it is deemed to have been received under Article 94.

Following serving the Withdrawal Notice, the formal process would start and this would include any TUPE provisions including Local Government Pension Scheme (if applicable) and ensuring that the team is able to provide the services the Council’s require considering that these would only be around 1⁄4 of officers dealing with each Council’s service requirements in comparison to EKH as a whole. Furthermore all four Councils would have to continue to honour its existing obligations (whether under the Owners Agreement or a Management Agreement) so as to ensure that the other Councils and EKH can honour their obligations to third parties.

The in-house option would require a dedicated Housing Management team which would change the shape of all 4 councils, significantly increasing the size of their workforce and the full suite of support services: HR, payroll, ICT, procurement, management, health and safety, administration. From a legal perspective, in order to consider the local authority trading company, the company would need to meet the ‘control’ test for Regulation 12 of the Public
Contracts Regulations 2015, in order to exclude the need to follow a regulated procurement process before a contract can be awarded (the Teckal Exemption).

So if each respective Council wishes to close down EKH it would take anywhere between six to nine months to do so.

Meanwhile the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are investigating issues relating to the Gas Safety Certificates, Asbestos and Electrical legionella and fire safety issues. A spokesperson for HSE said: “HSE has been made aware of concerns regarding East Kent Housing and are currently investigating the issues you have mentioned. We cannot comment further at this time.

It is known three weeks ago Mark Chandler-Bird acting Director of Property Services at EKH was looking for compliance software to manage risk around Gas Safety Certificate compliance, according to his linked in page. What does that say?

Screenshot from 2019-06-23 09-28-34

Now in the House of Commons Rosie Duffield MP (Lab) raised the number of Landlord Gas Safety Requirements (Gas Safety Certificates) stating it was five hundred and forty four (544).

However, the number Rosie initially raised was revised upwards in her letter to James Brokenshire MP, Minster for Housing, Communties & Local Government (MHCLG) to nine hundred and twenty four (924). We believe the figures were actually higher than that and at one time were closer to one thousand seven hundred (1,700) evidence suggests.

Now there is something ironic going on. Our Public face asked for the number of LGSR’s (Gas Safety Certificates) and the number of boilers replaced since April 1st 2018, via an FoI to all 4 Councils. Each Council said they did not hold the figures requested and that he contact East Kent Housing.

Now we find their individual responses rather odd. Each LGSR undertaken by P & R (the company responsible for overcharging and much of this mess) would have been charged to the Councils and the Councils would have paid the invoice. So are the Councils saying they are paying for work and do not know the number of boilers or LGSR’s they are paying for? If so that would be negligent of them, as who pays for anything not knowing what they are paying for? Nobody in their right mind. But as we said earlier the Chief Execs are not fit for purpose.

Screenshot from 2019-06-22 23-48-58

Finally, we want to make it very clear, the staff at East Kent Housing lower down the food chain do a fantastic job with the resources they have. They are NOT responsible for the mess East Kent Housing finds itself in presently. The people responsible are the Chief Exec Deborah Upton (pictured), who has failed to manage contracts properly not once, but twice and given this fiasco, for a third time. The saying is: Once Is an Accident. Twice is a Coincidence. Three Times is a Habit. Hence our call for Mrs Upton to go. As we have informed you, the former employee Mark Anderson has gone and Director of Customer Service Matt Gough has failed to deal with tenants issues safely and massaged the Key Performance Indicators EKH produce, we honestly believe. Obviously the Board of East Kent Housing needs to be culled with immediate effect as do the four chief executives of the four councils who own EKH. It probably won’t happen because nobody has the stomach for it, let alone the backbone.

The Shepwayvox Team

The Velvet Voices of Dissent

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9 Comments on The Long Read: All 4 East Kent Chief Executives should resign over Gas Safety Certificate fiasco

  1. An EKH Employee // June 23, 2019 at 05:51 // Reply

    So Deborah Upton screwed up at Medway, Circle & EKH. Each of those f**k ups were related to overcharging and poor management of the contracts on her watch, yet still she remains in position. Hmmm, I wonder how?

    Mark Anderson screwed up at Kensington &Chelsea over the cladding on Grenfell. Then screws up at Circle overcharging and poor management, where he meets and works with Deborah Upton. Then he screws up at East Kent Housing overcharging and poor management. Hmmm

    Matt Gough wet and useless full stop

    Thanks for the vote of confidence in the staff lower down much appreciated.

  2. East Kent Housing Employee // June 23, 2019 at 07:58 // Reply

    WTF! Upton and the Four Chief Execs MUST resign for putting so many lives at risk.

    Upton & Anderson worked together at Circle, well, well.

    Both of them and the Chief Execs should be charged with criminal negligence.

    Cheers for supporting the staff lower down the food chain. It feels great somebody is fighting our corner. Go, Go the Velvet Voices of Dissent.

  3. An Employee of EKH // June 23, 2019 at 09:17 // Reply

    Thank you, thank you thank you for supporting us more junior staff at EKH. The top management have fucked up all our hard work and it makes me livid.

    Upton Anderson & Gough all fail yet move onto better jobs. Oh the revolving doors. When will any company learn they are SHIT at their jobs. Always were, always will be.

  4. The question is who watches the watcher?

    How is it possible that someone of Ms Uptons seniority and professional standing with such a high public profile to repeatedly make the same basic mistakes, be forced to leave and then move on to the next victim. I would have thought that the duty to show due diligence in employing a new chief officer should have meant that her past history of failure were uncovered, after all its all in the public domain, did no one even google her at any of the four councils at the interview stage?

    Did the councils have any say in Ms Upton’s decision to appoint Mark Anderson fresh from managing Grenfell ?

  5. A Canterbury Labour Cllr // June 23, 2019 at 09:34 // Reply

    We will do our best to remove Colin Carmichael in Canterbury. As you say, I hope our elected Labour Colleagues will call for the heads of their respective Chief Executives and put in the motions.

    Thank you to the Velvet Voices of Dissent for all your hard work on this. It’s refreshing to see a media outlet challenging our Councils once again.

  6. An EKH Tenant // June 23, 2019 at 09:51 // Reply

    What about those forged gas certificates by P & R! Mine was done as were many many others. We are not all lying and it makes me ecstatically happy when people like the Shepwayvox Team believe us all. It’s refreshing as the top echelons ignored us all.

    People should be going to prison as what they have done is criminal.

  7. A Folkestone EKH Tenant // June 23, 2019 at 10:31 // Reply

    After coming back from Majorca where the family spent 2 weeks holiday Aug 2018, there was a Gas Safety Certificate through my door with my forged signature. I informed my Cllr, EKH and Folkestone & Hythe District Council. I was ignored.

    EKH had not forced entry.

    So how could P & R bill for a Boiler Check and Gas Safety Certificate? P & R are criminals and people should go to prison

  8. petertheteacher // June 23, 2019 at 22:23 // Reply

    Anyone who lives in a block of flats where the gas safety certification is in the hands of a third party should be on the alert. In our block, there is one flat where the gas boiler is on the outside wall of the flat in an open void between flats, open to the elements apart from a Heath Robinson perspex “roof”, with an access platform consisting of two planks on scaffolding. By the way, it’s on the fourth floor……………… and no prizes for guessing who owns it.

  9. The respective Chief Executives should consider their legal responsibilities very carefully. If any tenant is killed or injured as a result of the defective safety checks they could also be held liable for corporate manslaughter. The fact that there have been no cases to date does not mean that one could not happen. They have been warned.

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