The Governance Manager of East Kent Housing witnessed an East Kent Housing tenant address Deborah Upton, the Chief Executive of East Kent Housing (pictured), about a forged gas safety certificate. This issue has never been reported by either Mrs Upton or the Governance Manager. Yet Deborah Upton categorically denied any such incidents had happened when she appeared at the last Overview & Scrutiny Committee (O & S Committee) on the 16th July 2019. She went as far as informing the O & S Committee that is was illegal and then made suitable noises that none of P & R‘s gas engineers would be so stupid as to forge a gas safety certificate (36 mins onwards). Yet her own Governance Manager witnessed a tenant inform her that just such a thing did happen.
We believe the Governance Manager is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
At the next Overview & Scrutiny Committee on the 10th Sept 2019, (agenda item 7) we note that three of the seven documents relating to the investigation into P & R have been withheld under paragraph(s) 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972. If we cannot have Openness or Transparency with regards to monies that has been passed to P & R – who no longer exist as there mother company Bilby PLC closed them down on the 1st August 2019 – when the elected opposition Greens, Labour & Liberal Democrats all vowed to bring Openness & Transparency, what was the point in voting for them, if they cannot keep their promises and get these documents into the public domain?
EKH has since commissioned the Housing Quality Network (HQN) to undertake an independent investigation into non-compliance of LGSR across its housing stock. The report was presented to the EKH Board on 22 August 2019, the results of which will be shared with the four councils.
Even given the benefit of the doubt that there was a mistake and they meant the 2nd of August, there are no documents available for the public to see for this meeting either This though is NOT unusual as the Agenda Packs may be disseminated to the EKH Board but no minutes have been published in 2018, none whatsoever. So EKH is an organisation which appears not to be an open and transparent organisation. Deborah Upton is the Chief Exec and the buck stops with her. When will all the documents be available or are they to be redacted and hidden from public view? If so what is there to hide Mrs Upton?
Cllr Peall was concerned over the price of the bid and the quality of the bid and this is made clear at Para 5.1 of Report Number C/19/16 where it states:
There were however two concerns raised, firstly the company (Gas Call Services Ltd) has no current operation in East Kent so it would need to establish its service here from the ground up. The second concern was that the total price of the contract was significantly less than the next best ranked bidder and the overall average bids received. For comparison the bid price was also less than the previous contractor (P& R), who had given lack of profitability as one of the reasons for termination.
Gas Call Services Ltd based in Glasgow are owned in turn by the Duality Group Limited based in Liverpool. The Duality Group make clear in their accounts there may be potential legal costs on the horizon. They state at note 22 of their accounts, lodge at Companies House on the 8th March 2019:
In the near future we will take a much deeper look at the Duality Group and Gas Call Services Ltd. But for now we’ll leave you with what Dover District Council have discovered across there housing stock:
1,490 actions identified in the fire risk assessments
That only 63.8% electrical installation condition report (EICR) were in place.
There were 275 high and 240 medium risk legionella actions that need to be undertaken
EKH did not historically hold asbestos data. However, EKH were able to access asbestos data through the contractor’s portal and arrangements were being put in place to ensure that in future the data would be held by EKH as well.
We hope the same information will be released across the Folkestone & Hythe District Council stock. Dover District Council’s report clearly demonstrates that East Kent Housing is NO longer fit for purpose and must go. The service ought to be brought back in house as too many tenants have been placed at an unacceptable level of risk and the buck stops with the Chief Executive of East Kent Housing Deborah Upton, who too ought to be sacked with immediate effect.
The Shepwayvox Team
The Velvet Voices of Dissent.