EKH rocked by safety issues looks set for closure after two of its owner councils voted to take housing stock back in-house
After more than a year of investigating by the Shepwayvox Team, East Kent Housing looks like it may have run its course after eight years of existence.
On Wednesday 9th Oct Canterbury City Council Policy and Resources Committee voted to withdraw from EKH and bring its housing services in-house subject to consultation with residents
It follows Dover District Council agreement last month to start consulting on pulling out of EKH
Our Council, Folkestone & Hythe District Council will vote next Wednesday 16th Oct on officer recommendations to do the same, with Thanet District Council to follow suit on Thursday 17th Oct
Final decisions on EKH’s future are expected early next year.
Last month the Regulator of Social Housing issued a critical-report which found all four councils non- compliant with its consumer standards over the failings.
The Shepwayvox Team spent more than a year investigating EKH and brought to light issues with P & R who provided central heating, emergency 24/7 gas and hot water repairs to over 17,000 council homes across Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet, otherwise known as East Kent Housing.
The four councils suspect “a pattern of charging that appears to be a systemic fraud” may well have happened by P & R, potentially costing all four councils £1.5 million. P & R’s contract with all four council had a value of £27 million over 5 years. The potential fraud was something we said was more likely than not happening when we first wrote about P & R in May 2018.
Questions about all four council’s failure to ensure P & R’s undertook Landlord Gas Safety Records – Gas Safety Certificates between April – June 2019 were raised in the House of Commons in late June of this year.
The Shepwayvox Team also raised issues regarding electrical safety checks. All our efforts resulted in all four councils launching investigations into East Kent Housing. We hope this now means that the Chief Executive of East Kent Housing, Deborah Upton (pictured) and Director Matt Gough will lose their jobs as their management of EKH has been inept and dangerous to tenants lives. Mark Anderson, former Director of Property Services at EKH lost his job in June of this year.
Officers reports prepared for Canterbury, Dover, Thanet and Folkestone & Hythe District Councillors said sorting through the compliance issues at East Kent Housing is expected to cost more than £1 million between all four councils.
We hope that all four Councils and all Cllrs will bring the employees of EKH back in house – for they are the innocent party – as they have been failed by the leadership of Deborah Upton in our honest opinion.
(Part of this blog post first appeared in Inside Housing)
The Shepwayvox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime
They reckon “two out of three ain’t bad”. So it looks like Ms Upton did remarkably well when she managed to allow the third organisation in a row that she’s been in charge of to experience the same issues when it comes to fraud, failure to manage and control compliance and put the tenants safety at risk. She did it at Medway Council, Circle Housing and now EKH. She has written a book on local government law, maybe she’d be better qualified to write one on how not to manage a social housing provider imho.
What I personally find so disgraceful is that all the political parties across East Kent are piggy backing off the hard work of the Shepwayvox Team. Without them none of us, including myself as a tenant, would have been any the wiser of these significant failings. Thanks for all your efforts SV and keep up the great work.
What is clear is that tenants and council tax payers have been massively failed by Deborah Upton and her management team. If fraud has taken place individuals need to be prosecuted. You should offer Deborah Upton the opportunity to explain her multiple failures. I hope she does not receive a redundancy pay-off. Congratulations on all your hard work and to all the EKH employees who anonymously helped you.
IF I was a betting man I’d put me pennies on a deal whereby she is allowed to “retire” with a full pension AND a not insignificant pay off in return for going quietly and not letting any skeletons out of the cupboard, publicly available evidence suggests fraud , potential criminal breaches of health and safety law and possibly misconduct in a public office may have occurred , so why indeed is no one (personally and not as an organisation) being investigated?
I note in a comment by the public face of the Shepwayvox Team on FB, there are already concerns over Gas Call Services Ltd, the company who will replace Swale and others, and they haven’t even begun yet. A letter has been written to the Council CEO’s on behalf of the Residents Panel highlighting these concerns relating to Gas Call.
The real tragedy is that “taking the service back in-house” won’t mean totally as in a direct labour organisation, with a 100% council workforce, the service will be manned on the tools by outside contractors many of them from the likes of P&R with only a cursory council management team to sign off the invoices