Serious disrepair and safety issues in Folkestone & Hythe District Council housing stock
“I feel trapped.” “Nobody is listening to me – that’s what it feels like.” “My mental health is going downhill rapidly due to this,” are just some of the hundreds of comments our public face heard from tenants living in Folkestone & Hythe District Council social housing stock managed by East Kent Housing. Serious disrepair and safety issues are evident wherever one looks across the Council’s housing stock.
At Overview & Scrutiny Committee last night Cllrs, Head of Paid Service for Folkestone & Hythe District Council Dr. Susan Priest (pictured below left) and Chief Executive of East Kent Housing (EKH) Deborah Upton (pictured below right) were present to discuss the Gas Safety Certificate fiasco and other significant emerging issues.
However, one thing nobody touched upon were the issue of disrepair and safety to many of the properties owned by F&HDC and managed by EKH. That’s because it was not on the agenda when it should have been. Gas Safety Certificates, electrical issues, overcharging, potential fraud are important, but so to is the state of our Council owned housing stock.
Question: When does anybody in East Kent Housing, or the Councils go out and visit the housing stock they maintain for and behalf of Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Councils?
It’s clear from this image taken less than a week ago, not very often. And we saw plenty of flourishing gardens such as this across much of the housing stock in East Kent.
Would you like a down pipe which takes away raw sewage and other material leaking in through your window and down your walls? No! Thought not. This is what East Kent Housing tenants are having to put up with, even if they log the matter with EKH, nothing gets done.
Even with windows open and the flats ventilated, conditions regarding mould is rife across many properties. We could show you literally hundreds of pictures like the one below from all across the housing stock owned by the four councils and managed by EKH. This is what working families are having to pay for.
My mental health is going downhill rapidly due to this,” says the tenant gesturing at the black-green spores.
Now under the Housing health and safety rating system damp and mould such as above is a category one hazard. The tenant in this flat provided evidence of emails and telephone calls to EKH. Five months on nothing has been done. Nobody has been to visit. The walls have been bleached yet the mould returns in less than a fortnight. It is NOT a ventilation issue.
And this is how people repair things in an EKH managed property. Holes left in something which was plastered. And yes the paint is peeling because of damp.
And internally water continues to leak through the ceiling of a good number of tenants properties affecting the lights in their bathrooms. So much so they cannot use them, so have to bathe in the dark.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council have contracted Mila Maintenance & Installation to repair, maintain and replace windows and door across the F&HDC housing stock. However, this window needs fixing and not just this one, we saw a good number just like it.
It’s great there is a forensic investigation into the overcharging by P & R which was known about as long ago as March/April 2018.
It’s great these investigations will hopefully uncover how our F&HDC and EKH got it so badly wrong. And it’s great these investigations may potentially lead to some criminal prosecutions. But what’s not great is how insecure these buildings are especially given that some very vulnerable people live in them.
Our public face did a walk around of several EKH managed properties just last week. He had no difficulty in accessing many of the properties due to doors being broken. Below is a video he made while walking around Rowan Court in St Peter’s Street Folkestone.
While our paid Cllrs and highly paid Head of Paid Service of F&HDC and Chief Executive of EKH sat on their rear ends at Overview on Scrutiny on the 16/07/19 pontificating about how they got into the mess, they might want to think about fixing the disrepair which is so evident across much of the local council housing stock. The sooner the better, as no tenant should have to live in such conditions.
An answer to how the four councils and EKH got into this mess is staring them in the face. There are no board meeting or finance meeting Agenda’s, Report’s or minutes of East Kent Housing available to the public for the whole of 2018 and 2019. They stop at Dec 2017.
So no Cllr except Cllr David Godfrey, Cabinet Member for Housing, Transport and special projects, the Council’s board member on the EKH board, and his predecessor former Cllr David Owen, could see what was in the pipe or coming down it.
We will be coming back to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee meeting held yesterday, but for now, we ask one question. Will the Overview & Scrutiny Committee members get of their rear ends and go visit some of the local council housing stock? This way they would see for themselves the shocking conditions some of our most vulnerable tenants live in. Then, and only then, could they begin fixing the whole problem rather than part of it.
The Shepwayvox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful
I have visited TNA Solicitors – http://www.tnasolicitors.co.uk 01303243500 and started a case of disrepair against the Council and EKH. I suggest anyone else with a case of disrepair who have waited for something to be done for 3 months or month go to them.. Disrepair is covered by legal aid, so is free.
I would encourage all the affected tenants to take legal action. http://www.tnasolicitors.co.uk 01303 243500 . I would also suggest that they contact their local councillors’ and ask that their concerns be added to the agenda of the next Overview and Scrutiny Committee. It is quite clear that Dr Susan Priest and Deborah Upton are both unfit to perform their respective roles and the sooner they are removed the better.
As a working mum with a young daughter, we have to put up with smack addicts jacking up and disposing of needles in the communal areas. This is what my daughter has to see regularly. I and many others in the block where I live have told EKH and even emailed our local Cllr with evidence, and yet nothing gets done. EKH are NOT fit for purpose imho
Having worked with Deborah Upton she is the better part of useless. A Solicitor of little ability and much bluster, waiting for the pay off, while the good people lower down the food chain loose their jobs with no pay off. She won’t care as she does not know how to spell loyalty or where to find it in the dictionary either. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Of course the above is my personal experience having been at Circle when a similar set of circumstance emerged there and she was found wanting. Has she started her witch hunt yet?
The real tragedy is that the witch hunt for a scapegoat has no doubt started at EKH, and as you suggest it happened at circle , however at medway council do people realise she victimised 3 whistle blowers over their reporting of safety and fraud issues on a mears contract, at the time she was the chief legal officer, head of housing and the monitoring officer and orchestrated their dismissal, but she did not get away with it, she lost ALL 3 CASES at tribunal and the council (tax payers)were ordered to pay compensation for her unlawful actions
If she does start a witch hunt any concerned member of staff should contact “Protect” formerly Public Concern at Work which operates a free help line (link below).
Still nothing has changed. Our roof lost a lot of tiles in the wind end of last year. Still not been replaced, lived here since 1987 and they have done virtually nothing in that time. Wind will get under the roof this year with the amount of gaps and lift it for sure. Appalling upkeep from the council