Updated 08:30am 15/10/19
It’s not just Cllr Stuart Peall (Con) (pictured) Cabinet Member for Enforcement, Regulatory Services, Waste & Building control, at Folkestone & Hythe District Council who has concerns. On Oct 1st, at Win Pine House, Hythe, the Shepway Tenants & Leaseholders Board and East Kent Housing raised their concerns about Gas Call Services Limited, the new contractor for heating systems, servicing, maintenance, inspections and installation works. They are due to start the contract in just eighteen days time and will work directly to and with East Kent Housing in the delivery of the contract for all 17,000 plus Council homes owned by Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Councils.
On July 3rd, P & R Installation Company Limited – the previous contractor for heating systems servicing, maintenance, inspections and installation works – contract ended after a dispute of £1.5 million, and allegations by the four Councils of Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Councils, who own East Kent Housing, due to “a pattern of charging that appears to be a systemic fraud”.
P & R were replaced by Swale and others on a temporary contract 4 months, to allow the Councils to find a permanent replacement. On the 07/08/2019 in a joint procurement tender, led by Dover District Council, Gas Call Services Limited were appointed for a period of 33 months – Nov 2019 – March 2022, with a possibility of a year’s extension. The total value of the new contract with the extension is £18.5 million, approx £9 million pound cheaper than P & R’s £27 million pound contract.
One week before the Contract was awarded( July 31st) Councillor Peall (Con) raised the concern that the bid price [by Gas Call Services Ltd] was also less than the previous contractor (P& R), who had given lack of profitability as one of the reasons for termination. This was also mentioned in Report-Number-C-19-16 at Para 5.1.
Now as we understand both the Shepway Tenants & Leaseholders Group and East Kent Housing raised similar concerns amongst other things and a letter has been written to the four Council CEO’s highlighting their concerns. Will they heed these concerns of residents?
But who are Gas Call Services Limited? Well they are based in Glasgow and have their nearest office in Southhampton, according to their website. We understand that Gas Call have opened an office in Canterbury & Folkestone and are according to their website looking for qualified persons. Gas Call are ultimately owned by Duality Group Limited and has its headquarters in Liverpool. At year end March 31st 2018 Duality made a loss of £2.6 million year and had net liabilities of £5.7 million. At year end March 31st 2019 Duality made a profit up of £83,000 and had net liabilities of £5.6 million. There are two persons of significant control of the company, they are:
according to Companies House. Between them they either have been or are the directors of 68 companies.
Gas Call successfully tendered for the heating systems servicing, maintenance, inspections and installation works and will work directly to and with East Kent Housing in the delivery of the contract. It’s tender was 32% cheaper than P & R’s, who cited a lack of profitability as one of the reasons for termination of their contract. P & R were backed by Bilby PLC – a company quoted on the London Stock Exchange. Gas Call do not have that sort of financial backing, or any local presence. Will it mean buying cheap, means buying twice? And can you at some point in the not too distant future, see Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Councils placing a new tender because of a lack of profitability in the contract.
On both Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, Overview & Scrutiny, and then Cabinet will discuss the possibility of withdrawal from EKH and return housing management services back inhouse under direct management of the council, subject to formal consultation with all tenants (and leaseholders) to satisfy the requirements of Section 105 of the Housing Act 1985. (Otterpool Park has been put back to Nov 2019). However, the full Council on Wednesday will not have any input into this decision which affect many of their constituents.
If Cllr Connor McConville – Leader of the Labour Group in the Council, who is pursuing the destruction of East Kent Housing, gets his way, EKH may not be around for too much longer and Gas Call Services Ltd might be working directly with all four Council, or off back to Glasgow, potentially leaving tenants in the lurch.
The Shepwayvox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime