The End Of The Beginning For East Kent Housing

So the beginning ends.  Folkestone & Hythe District Council Cabinet has agreed in principal to withdraw from East Kent Housing and begin a consultation process with all its tenants who occupy Council homes in our district.

The consultation will be run by Canterbury City Council for and behalf of all four Councils. It will begin at the end of this month and go onto Christmas. The results will be analysed in Jan 2020 and then the results be brought back to Overview & Scrutiny, then to full Council for discussion, and finally to Cabinet to make the final decision in the early months of next year.

Folkestone & Hythe District Council are the third council along with Canterbury & Dover to ratify withdrawal from EKH in principal. This now means they will proceed to consultation with tenants. This just leaves Thanet’s new Labour Cabinet to take their decision later today (17th Oct). We suspect they to will follow the other three councils.


At Overview & Scrutiny on Tuesday night, Cllr Connor McConville (Lab) (pictured)made it clear to the committee, that he had asked both the Chief Exec of EKH Deborah Upton and the new Chairman of the Board James Weir, if they would like to say anything to the committee through him. They did not respond to his offer. He also mentioned he is the new F&HDC Board member.

Screenshot from 2019-07-17 01-49-28

The Chief Exec of EKH is Deborah Upton, she is also the company secretary for East Kent Housing Ltd, the company owned by the four Councils of Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Councils.

The company secretary is an officer of the company and it is they who advise the EKH board on all governance matters. Other duties can be wide ranging. While the Companies Act does not generally specify the role of the company secretary, they usually undertake the following duties:

  • Maintaining the company’s statutory books, including:

    • a register of present and past directors and secretaries

    • a register of all shareholders, past and present and their shareholdings

    • a register of any charges on the company’s assets

    • minutes of general meetings and board meetings

    • a register of the debenture holders (typically banks)

It is clear from Companies House, the Company Secretary, Deborah Upton has NOT removed Cllr David Godfrey (Con) and replaced him with Cllr Connor McConville, as is necessary under the Companies Act 2006. It has been more than a fortnight since Cllr McConville joined the board. Again this demonstrates that responsibility and leadership is not a skill set which Deborah Upton, Chief Exec of East Kent Housing has. This is now self evident because of the mess EKH are in. The Board must now remove her from office in our honest opinion, the sooner the better.

NO EKH Ltd accounts have been filed for the period up to March 31st 2019, yet. That said, they can be filed as late as Dec 31st 2019. Only one set of accounts has ever been filed in Dec, and that was in Dec 2014, according to companies house. In most other years EKH Ltd accounts have been filed in July/Aug. We would ask the company secretary when the accounts will be filed. Is she reluctant to disclose to the public, any pay rise she may have had? If she has had a pay rise while these failings have been happening on her watch, we would ask her to return any increase on her £110,000 salary; which is noted in the 2018 accounts.

In the last twelve years wherever Deborah Upton has worked – be it Medway Council, Circle Housing or East Kent Housing, issues with gas contracts, scaffolding contracts, disrepair, poor maintenance standards, overcharging and fraud have repeatedly surfaced under her leadership. As we said she should step down graciously, or the board she vote to remove her from post. She should NOT receive any golden goodbye.

Doing some horizon scanning, we anticipate all four councils to end up in mediation to try to resolve the financial dispute between P & R and the Councils. However, it is our belief mediation in this matter may not be successful and this matter may well end up in the courts. This is because the four Councils see “a pattern of charging that appears to be a systemic fraud” by P & R, which may have been intentional rather than a mistake, as the report released to F&HDC Audit & Governance in Dec 2018, and produced in Oct 2018 appears to indicate.

 The Shepwayvox Team

Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

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13 Comments on The End Of The Beginning For East Kent Housing

  1. A Christchurch Uni Student // October 17, 2019 at 08:45 // Reply

    As a Christchurch Uni student (Kent), I am very concerned not least because she is according to the Uni website responsible for governance here too –

    I would think it wise and prudent that the University Board ask her to step down given all the facts in the public domain about her lack of competence.

  2. Another EKH Tenant // October 17, 2019 at 09:02 // Reply

    Odds on she gets a Golden Goodbye for this mess under her leadership.

  3. One would hope that in light of the shocking failures of Ms Upton to “govern” the risks both financial, in relation to legal compliance and physical ( EKH tenants have died), fraud and overcharging has been rife at the last three organisations she has been in charge of.

    I would hope that both Christchurch University (Kent) and the Law Society will be taking swift and positive action to deal with the situation, but somehow I seem unable to see that happening anytime soon.

    To dismiss her would be tantamount to admitting that they failed to show due diligence in employing her in first place?

  4. Of interest, who will pick up the cost of the 1.2m spent on software by EKH (Not ammortised but in their assets?) and the significant shortfall (I believe it shows circa £10m) in the Final salary scheme – I guess this will be the Councils = Ratepayers!?

  5. doggerbank56 // October 17, 2019 at 15:46 // Reply

    Since one can file Companies House documents electronically Deborah Upton has no excuse for not keeping the register of directors up to date. Perhaps she has been too busy “airbrushing” (sorry “updating”) her CV in preparation for her next job search!

    I would like to thank Councillor McConville for offering Deborah Upton and James Weir the opportunity to speak to the Committee via himself. Their reluctance to do so speaks volumes. However, they may have been advised by the lawyers representing all 4 Councils to keep quiet lest it prejudice future legal actions in which they may be compelled to give evidence.

  6. No doubt that you are right digger, but I do wonder why Ms “ don’t you know who I am,I’m a very important lawyer” Upton would consider taking the advise from anyone, she hasn’t so far and look where it’s got us!!!
    In my experience leopards don’t change their spots especially when to do so might confirm some of the quite serious issues that have recently come to light ?

  7. doggerbank56 // October 18, 2019 at 16:14 // Reply

    First, wonders never cease. Yesterday, the Companies House website listed 4 director resignations at East Kent Housing Ltd(link below). Perhaps next week we will see some appointments being registered with Companies House! The ShepwayVox website is clearly very influential and attracts a wide range of interested readers.

    Secondly, I agree with Rosie that leopards do not change their spots. On this occasion however, Deborah Upton, her senior colleagues and the past and present board members of East Kent Housing Ltd will need to consider their legal positions very carefully.

    I assume that East Kent Housing and/or the respective local authorities who owned it will have taken out insurance cover (information links below) to protect themselves against possible legal liabilities. I do not know what cover is in place or which insurer(s) have provided the cover.

    However, I do know (from personal experience) that an insured party must notify its insurer/insurance broker if they consider that they are at risk of facing a claim. Once the insurer is notified it will appoint lawyers to assist them in managing the claim. In such cases they can give instructions to the insured organisation, its directors and senior managers on how the claim will be defended and critically who can say what to whom.

    Any failure by an insured party to follow that advice could result in their insurance cover being voided. The threat of criminal prosecutions or civil claims for damages arising from loss or injury tends to concentrate the minds of those accused. I suspect that none of the parties concerned would want to go to court but, if an out of court settlement is not forthcoming particularly with the former contractors then we could see the writs starting to fly.

    This story will run and run.

  8. Of course Upton and Gough are hanging around for a big pay off. They won’t be sacked. They have too much on the Councils and will completely expose their lack of oversight and management of EKH. There has been plenty of opportunity to sack them so far and no one has done it purely because there will be plenty more questions asked about very senior Council officers.

  9. Now that you mention Mr Gough I realise so far he is the only senior manager not to have been the subject of much attention, seems to me that if Ms Upton does walk away he may well be the one to pick up the baton by default, After all there can’t be too many numpties willing to put their name forward can there???

  10. Am a new subscriber and will be keeping a close eye!

  11. So with it clearly stated in kentonline today by a Cllr that offences meriting large fines and/or a prison sentence have collectively been committed relating to breaches in health and safety, why is it that there appears to be no prosecution’s under way, we have seen evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning, failures in fire risk management, gas safety management and electrical safety let alone massive fraud of a magnitude that would I’m sure attract a not inconsiderable custodial sentence, one has to wonder why the police, hse and fire brigade appear to have collectively developed a selective form of blindness ?

  12. As an afterthought, if a serving councillor (or any local authority employee for that matter) is in possession of evidenced facts that lead him to believe that offences that Carry a prison sentence have been committed surely he has a duty as an elected public servant to report these matters to the relevant authorities and to ensure matters are investigated thoroughly and those responsible dealt with accordingly ?
    If not why not ?

  13. doggerbank56 // November 17, 2019 at 13:29 // Reply

    Rosie is absolutely correct – failure to notify a suspicion that a criminal offence may have been committed could be construed as misconduct in public office particularly if it turns out that an offence was committed.

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