EKH Chief Exec Deborah Upton Has Stepped Down


Updated: 16:40

East Kent Housing’s Chief Executive Deborah Upton (pictured) has stepped down from her role following a string of failures by the organisation.

Well placed sources make it clear she walks away with a £160,000 golden goodbye for her three years of failures.

The action came on the heels of revelations earlier this year that 924 Gas Safety Certificates were outstanding between April and June of this year, due to failures in the £27 Million pound P & R contract. Other issue such as fire safety, electrical safety, legionella and issues with lifts emerged from June 2019 onwards.

In an email from the four Chief Executives of CanterburyDover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet councils, at 14:30 today to EKH staff, said:

  • “Deborah Upton has considered her position  in light of the four councils consultation with tenants and leaseholders on taking housing services back in house, as well as the recent changes to the board, she has decided now is the right time to step aside.”

The relationship between the parties (the four Councils & EKH ) was dysfunctional; and trust was in short supply.

In Sept 2019, Cllr Tim Prater (Lib Dem) asked Deborah Upton why she hadn’t resigned over the Tenant Health & Safety report issued to Cllrs at the O & S Committee on the 10th Sept.

It emerged in May 2018 that there were concerns about Gas Safety, Fire Safety; and a pattern of charging by P & R that appeared to be a systemic fraud.

Now there is real possibility of a criminal case being brought due to £1.5 million pounds worth of overpayments made to P&R; overpayments which could ‘constitute fraud.’

However, a report in Oct 2018

  • “established the Council’s payment processes (invoices being submitted by the contractor (P & R) direct to the councils finance departments) did not reflect the process set out in the contracts (with each of the councils). This resulted in contractor (P &  R) submitting invoices which are not valid under the contract”; and being paid

The P & R contract managed by East Kent Housing and procured by the four Councils of Canterbury Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet, paid P & R, £5,788,861 between April 2017 and July 3rd 2019. It is known P & R overcharged all four Councils to the tune of £1.5 million.

Screenshot from 2019-12-19 21-44-59

The £1.5 million of overcharging is broken down as follows.

  • 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 had not been provided. P&R strongly disputes this sum and have argued that these services were provided, albeit from a different location.

None of the three sums had been collected by the Councils prior to the termination of the contract in July 2019. Each Councils amount of the initial £530K is broken down as follows:

Canterbury City Council were overcharged £128,457, this is equivalent to 8% of what they paid P & R in total.

Dover District Council were overcharged £184,974, this is equivalent to 10.6% of what they paid P & R in total.

Folkestone & Hythe District Council are refusing to disclose how much they got taken for, but it is approx £111,569. This is equivalent to 9.5% of what they paid P & R in total.

Thanet District Council were overcharged £105,000, this is equivalent to 8.7% of what they paid P & R in total.

The four councils suspect “a pattern of charging that appears to be a systemic fraud”. We personally suspect fraud, as there is a plausible suspicion of wrongdoing with an evidential basis for it.

Let’s not forget the M & R contract, procured by the Councils and managed by EKH  who overcharged Folkestone & Hythe District Council the sum of £184,984

The total amount of overcharging  that happened on Deborah’s watch  was £1,663,984.

Mr Mark Anderson the former EKH Director of Property Services was moved on in June 2019, due to his failure to manage the P & R contract.

Mrs Upton has form for overcharging and fraud happening on her watch. At Circle Housing, overcharging of £170,000 happened. At Medway  half a million pounds was overspent on its first year’s repairs, but only half the work was done. Add that all together and there is sufficient evidence to say that £2,333,984 of overcharging has happened on her watch at Medway Council, Circle Housing and East Kent Housing.

EKH were not doing pre & post inspection on 22 out of the 30 contracts they managed on her watch. For all the faults that emerged in EKH, Deborah Jospehine Upton gave no leadership , failed in her governance responsibilities and put tenants lives at significant risk for a substantial time, for this she has been dismissed thankfully.

A year since overcharging was discovered; and the Councils have not recovered a penny of the £1.5 million overcharging to date.

Eighteen months since we began our investigation into East Kent Housing and finally the Chief Executive has gone. We thank all our sources for their amazing bravery and assistance.

The Shepwayvox Team

The Velvet Voices of Dissent

About shepwayvox (1801 Articles)
Our sole motive is to inform the residents of Shepway - and beyond -as to that which is done in their name. email: shepwayvox@riseup.net

13 Comments on EKH Chief Exec Deborah Upton Has Stepped Down

  1. petertheteacher // December 23, 2019 at 16:33 // Reply

    Brilliant work —- local journalism as it ought to be!!

  2. Verbatim Inc // December 23, 2019 at 18:13 // Reply

    Congratulations to the Shepwayvox Team for their tenacious and dogged reporting.

    I see difficulty in the Council clawing back a penny of the overcharging, as the Oct 2018 report makes it clear they paid P & R in breach of their respective councils contracts.

    This is the end of UPTON & ANDERSON, but it is not the end of this sorry and unforgivable saga.

  3. A Former EKH Employee // December 23, 2019 at 18:35 // Reply

    As a former employee at EKH who was moved on because of Anderson’s and Upton’s incompetence; this headline brought a smile to my face and gave me the best Xmas present I could want for. There is such a thing as karma.

    Thank you for your persistent reporting of this matter.

  4. Well well well, how the mighty have fallen ?
    For a very important lawyer, director of governance at a prominent university and someone who wrote a book on local authority law she seems to be having a bad hair day?
    Mind you if I had my head stuck me own a#%*e as far as she has I may also be suffering from delusions of grandeur ?

  5. How was it that no one spotted the fact that DU only ever got rid of those honest and hard working staff that tried to highlight the problems and not the ones that were paid to monitor, manage, prevent and resolve them but obviously did not – why was that I wonder?
    How the hell has she been allowed to walk away from this without some kind of sanction; which effectively gives her the green light to latch on to another victim doesn’t it?

  6. Doggerbank56 // December 24, 2019 at 21:22 // Reply

    Excellent news and congratulations on your dogged reporting. However, this sorry saga is far from over and close attention now needs to be paid to how the 4 local councils rectify the mess that they played a large part in creating both through their deliberate acts, gross omissions and criminal incompetence.

    I hope that Dr Susan Priest and her fellow chief executives have an unhappy Christmas. Both they and their senior management teams need to look very hard at themselves and ask themselves whether they are fit for purpose.

    I would like to be proved wrong but, based on their lamentable performance to date I see few grounds for optimism. I wait to be surprised, but the Peter Principle of Management is alive and flourishing in East Kent.

  7. Whilst I agree the Peter Principal no doubt had an effect somewhere in this sorry episode I’m not sure it applies to DU or her flunkies and anyone else that was both in it for the opportunity to fleece the taxpayer and solely because of they were part of her crew.

    You just have to wonder just how many of them ever got promoted because they were good at the job role they were in?

    DU was definitely not promoted because she was good at her job at Medway. She was living with the Chief Exec ( Neil Davis) for Christ sake, and as history as shown she’s made a career out of costing the taxpayer millions time and time again !!!

  8. doggerbank56 // December 30, 2019 at 12:03 // Reply

    Happy to amend my comment to say it is the Peter Principle plus local nepotism.

  9. doggerbank56 // January 13, 2020 at 16:16 // Reply

    Bizarely, she is still listed as Chief Executive on the East Kent Housing website. Perhaps they are in such a mess that they have not got around to updating it!


  10. The East Kent Accounts have been published at companies house for the year ending March 2019. Interesting what the top Directors earnt!

  11. doggerbank56 // January 27, 2020 at 13:53 // Reply

    Their website has been updated to tell us about their new management team. There is now an “Acting” Chief Executive and an “Interim” Director of Property Services in post. One wonders how long they will be staying – presumably until East Kent Housing is broken up and dismembered. Its early demise might however be hindered by outstanding investigations and potential legal actions against it.


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