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.
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