Part 1: Leaked Fire Safety Report Shows EKH Tenants & Leaseholders Lives Are At Significant Risk
The number of outstanding actions arising from Fire Risk Assessments which need remedial action to be compliant with current legislation across East Kent Housing managed stock, stood at 4,534 as of the June 2020, according to documents passed to the Shepway Vox Team.
In Nov 2019, the Pennington Report made it clear there were 4,767 outstanding actions arising from Fire Risk Assessments which needed remedial action to be compliant with current legislation. So, in ten months just 233 remedial actions have been carried out. The vast majority of these are the low lying fruit, ie incorrect signage, emergency lighting bulbs replaced etc. Nothing of any real significance has been achieved and council tenant and lease holders lives remain at significant risk.
Many of these outstanding actions arising from Fire Risk Assessments should have been carried out as long ago as 2017. Yet three years have passed, and recently have the four councils who own East Kent Housing (EKH), Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet begun to address these significant fire risk issues.
The number will be much higher than 4,494. That is due to the fact one action means the replacement of 40 fire doors in one building, or the fixing of 10 fire compartmentation areas in a single building, for example.
It is estimated by fire safety professionals that it will take a minimum of THREE years to fix the issues outstanding, and cost at least £2.5 to £4 million to rectify.
Many, but NOT all of these still unresolved issues are in semi sheltered accommodation or sheltered accommodation where mainly the elderly and vulnerable live. Here is just a small sample from the Sheltered accommodation in the Folkestone & Hythe District.
It’s clear that sheltered accommodation from the bottom of the district to the top of the district are all affected.
Fire safety and measures to address them for both tenants and leaseholders have been outstanding since 2011, as it made clear in Report Number AuS/14/14 delivered to the Audit & Governance Committee on the 24 September 2014, which states:
Remedial work identified on fire risk assessments carried out in 2011 have not been completed.
April 1st 2011, was the date EKH was born/created. Its main objective was to save money by sharing services. It was a merger of four housing departments of Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe and Thanet Council. EKH set itself an initial target of saving £600,000 per year in direct management costs, however this NEVER happened.
What is clear, is EKH inherited issues from the four councils prior to the councils handing over their stock to EKH to manage.
Report Number AuS/14/14 gave EKH Fire Safety a Limited Assurance, meaning there was evidence of significant errors or non- compliance with many key controls not operating as intended resulting in a risk to the achievement of the system objectives.
On the 2nd Dec 2015 Report Number AU/15/18 went before the Audit & Governance Committee. This report looked at Fire Safety in Sheltered Accommodation and noted the following:
As at 09 June 2015 the Fire Risk Assessments (FRA’s) for the sites visited (108) are past their suggested review dates.
80 of the 156 high risk recommendations listed on the Fire Risk Assessments for the schemes visited are past their suggested implementation dates.
Again it received a limited assurance meaning there was evidence of significant errors or non-compliance with many key controls not operating as intended resulting in a risk to the achievement of the system objectives.
In Report Number AU/15/21 presented to the Audit & Governance Committee on the 9th March 2016, Fire safety at EKH received a limited assurance.
On the 7 March 2018, Report Number AuG/17/15 went before the Audit & Governance Committee. The audit report on EKH Fire Safety states:
Fire risk assessments have not been kept up to date in respect of follow ups based on the suggested dates shown in the original assessments that were carried out in 2014 by an external company.
There is no central monitoring of the outstanding actions for each location at the time of this audit.
The new single system is not able to assist in record keeping of fire risk assessments which has meant that a separate software solution is having to be procured.
no monitoring by senior management either at EKH or the 4 partner authorities of the outstanding fire risk actions and expected costs has been completed.
In Dec 2019 the death of EKH was announced. As of midnight 30th Sept 2020 EKH will not exist.
It is clear EKH never got on top of fire safety, but that in part was due to the Councils stifling it of money to do its job.
Below is the spreadsheet for all four council areas, as leaked to the Shepway Vox Team; which shows all the outstanding fire actions which currently need remedial action under the current legislation.
Fire Safety Status Report
Council Tenants and leaseholders lives matter, wherever they live in East Kent.
These reports are meaningless unless they actually carry a penalty for Councillors and their executives. Unfortunately, if it is a financial one, they will simply pass it on to the taxpayer, they will ensure they themselves are not out of pocket.
As an EKH tenant, I can say the fire alarm system in our block does NOT work. Nor has it for the last 36 months.
Most of the doors in the block are not fire safe for 30 minutes. Time and again, I and others have flagged this up to our cllr, EKH and FHDC, but over the years nothing got done. Tenants such as myself were ignored.
Our local district Tory cllr was absolutely useless, in fact it would be fair to say, he was a hindrance. God help us all if there was to be a fire.
You’re right in that it is now the Chief Executives of the four Councils who are fully accountable for this inaction. They are now the governing board and they are putting their tenants’ lives at risk.
It has been far too easy for them to just sling mud at East Kent Housing for too long whilst starving them of funds and making them carry out their functions in 4 different ways. Now this is on their watch.
The Chief Executives will no doubt find this exposure very embarrassing and will be asking serious questions of their “client officers” who seem to be asleep at the wheel once again.
It is as the Shepway Vox Team have said before, Council officers and Cllrs are a protected species.
They are all useless and many ought to be in prison, but that won’t happen, more’s the pity.
Residents will carry on paying rent and services charges and NOT get the level of service they should.
Meanwhile the Chief Exec of Folkestone & Hythe will no doubt receive another pay rise for overseeing this mess.
Keep up the good work.
I live in Mackeson Court, Hythe, which house pensioners. It is featured in the image in the article. It makes clear there are 13 outstanding fire safety actions need doing. I’ve previously contacted both my Hythe Town Cllr, and my district Cllr, neither have responded. Meanwhile, us pensioners are expected to continue paying our rent and services charges for items we are not receiving.
Surely, someone should be held accountable and responsible for this bloody mess.
I have long suspected nobody gives a damn about pensioners, this just confirms it.
Our councillors do not care about anyone else but themselves, their cronies and their bank accounts.
The situation will not be rectified all the time it is kept within the boundaries of the councils, it needs to be making headlines in the press with maybe even a channel 4 despatches exposè, then you will see the likes of the HSE, housing regulator and god forbid the local MP start to stir.