Exclusive – Updated 22/10/19 – 08:30am
The Shepwayvox Team has acquired a growing body of evidence that tenants living in the 17,000 plus properties owned by the four Councils of Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet and managed by East Kent Housing (EKH), have suffered from Carbon Monoxide poisoning while occupying their homes, and have been hospitalised. These hospitalisations all occurred during the P & R contract. The numbers of tenants affected are in double digits. We suspect the figures will be much higher, as not everyone recognises the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
The four Councils carry the ultimate legal responsibility for its tenants Health & Safety and it has failed to keep its tenants safe in their homes. However, that said at Page 3 of the EKH Health & Safety Policy Sept 5th 2019 it states:
3.2.1 The Chief Executive of East Kent Housing [Deborah Upton] has the ultimate responsibility for Safety, Health and Environment (H&S)
It is therefore explicit that both EKH in the undertaking of the management of any contract for and on behalf of the four Councils are also responsible for Health & Safety, as well as the four Councils. Both parties have been negligent with respect to their Health & Safety duties, we honestly believe.
Furthermore, the Regulator of Social Housing critical report issued to all four councils, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe, Thanet on the 11th Sept 2019, page 2 states:
The regulator considered the case as a potential breach of part 1.2 of the Home standard which requires registered providers to have a cost-effective repairs and maintenance service in place, and to meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of occupants in their homes. The regulator has concluded that Folkestone & Hythe DC did not have an effective system in place to allow it, through EKH, to meet its statutory health and safety responsibilities across a range of areas.
The Councils and EKH have no defence in our considered opinion, as it is a published fact that:
The Contract Administrator (EKH employee) has confirmed he has not undertaken any pre or post inspections of new boiler installations undertaken in 2017/18.
The report makes clear that a new Contract Performance manager was put in place, but despite this, the report further states:
Despite the Contract Performance Manager being in place since early 2018, the [Redacted] failed to date to undertake any pre or post inspections. This matter is already being followed up by EKH Management.
The four Councils, via there client officers became aware of these issues on 3rd Oct 2018. So for eighteen months, the four Councils allege they were not aware that EKH was failing to undertake any pre or post inspections on new boiler installations, as it is evidenced they did not. Surely the Councils are as equally culpable as EKH
The evidence the Shepwayvox Team has amassed, clearly shows tenants in Council owned and EKH managed properties were attending hospital in this period for Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Both the Health & Safety Executive and the Regulator of Social Housing have been informed.
However, it doesn’t stop there. We now have further evidence that tenants since Oct 2018 – through to June 2019 have been poisoned by Carbon Monoxide across all four Council areas, and been hospitalised. The numbers of tenants suffering from Carbon Monoxide poisoning across the period 31st March 2017 – June 2019 is in double digits. However, we suspect the number is far higher, as many tenants might not have recognised the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
co-gasafety.co.uk the only dedicated charity for Carbon Monoxide poisoning collect figures, but they like us suspect these figures are only the tip of a large iceberg. Below are the figures for unintentional deaths and near misses from unintentional Carbon Monoxide poisoning in the UK, from 1st Sept 95 – 31st Aug 2018. This is the best available data on Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
It is time all four Councils issue tenants with a carbon monoxide alarm. Prevention is better than cure.
It is also known that P & R did not undertake Landlord Gas Safety Certificates between April and May 2019. The numbers of Council properties without the Landlord Gas Safety Certificates reached 924
It has also come to light that the four councils paid P & R in breach of their respective Council contracts. As the 3rd Oct report states:
It has been established that the Council payment processes (invoices being submitted by contractors direct to the Council Finance Departments) does not reflect the process set out in the contracts. This has resulted in contractors submitting invoices that are not valid under the contract or EKH being contacted by contractors chasing payment of invoices that EKH has not seen.
In all P & R were paid £5,788,861 pounds by all four Councils over the lifetime of the P & R contract, according to their published Payment to Supplier data .
This is very concerning, as it would appear all four Councils have breached their own internal financial procedures and breached the P & R contract, plus paid to allow tenants across all four Councils to be gassed by Carbon Monoxide. It is Councils who carry the ultimate legal responsibility for its tenants Health & Safety and their financial procedures.
It is made clear in a report issued by the Deputy Chief Executive of Thanet District Council at Page 7, Para 5.2
The review identified 3 separate amounts across East Kent, of which one amount is agreed by P&R, as overpayments. A summary of each of the 3 sums has been provided by EKH and is set out below:
530k – This sum has been acknowledged and accepted by P&R and is being set off against contract payments.
353k – EKH have advised that this sum was being treated as a payment on account/payment in advance and that P&R would inspect all properties at the next service visit, evidence work carried out and provide the certification required under the contracts. However the early termination of the contract
meant that this was insufficient time to complete this work and this amount is now viewed as an overpayment, although it is disputed by P&R.
596k – EKH advised that this sum related to services, such as co-located administrators and resident liaison officers, where evidence of the service hadnot been provided. P&R strongly disputes this sum and have argued that these services were provided, albeit from a different location
And in the Tenant Engagement on withdrawal from East Kent Housing Arm’s Length Management Organisation Dover District Council report issued to their Cabinet on the 2nd September 2019 and the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 9 September 2019 at page 3, Para 3.8 it states:
Problems have been encountered with a number of contracts including those for external decorations and gas maintenance and installations. These problems have included a FAILURE to detect and challenge poor performance by contractors, a FAILURE to challenge overcharging by contractors, and a FAILURE to detect and challenge a pattern of charging that appears to be a systemic fraud.
How could the Councils responsible heads of finance, and their teams, plus East Kent Housing Ltd auditors, RSM UK Audit LLP and the Council auditors, Grant Thornton, not have discovered double payments, overcharging and alleged fraud? Payments were being made to P & R throughout 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 .
It is clear there is misstatement in the accounts and that more likely than not that was due to fraud or error by failure to manage the contract by all parties.
What all this shows is that senior Council officers in finance and housing, and senior management at EKH were not doing their jobs. It shows that the proper checks and balances were not in place and as such tenants were poisoned in their own homes by carbon monoxide and hospitalised because of it. Heads should role for this significant and sustained breach of Health & Safety.
Invicta House, Margate, a tower block owned by Thanet District Council and managed by East Kent Housing has suffered from a spate of fire’s recently, according to tenants
Tenants staying at a Margate tower block are furious after their smoke alarms ‘didn’t go off’ during the latest fire at the troubled tower block – Oct 18th 2019.
Ellie May-Gregory and Catherine Mardell both suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of the smoke at Invicta House, which Catherine claims ‘engulfed her without warning’.
‘I found out yesterday that not a single (fire) alarm had been fixed above the ground floor’. EKH are running the contract for this block of flats.
This is just further evidence of poor management by East Kent Housing to ensure what should work, works. As we have said before, it is time for senior officers at the Councils and EKH to go as they are NOT fit for purpose.
The Shepwayvox Team
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