A comprehensive report into why problems with health and safety arose at some properties managed by East Kent Housing (EKH) has prompted swift and decisive action by four east Kent councils.The detailed report by independent housing experts Pennington Choices was commissioned by Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council, Folkestone & Hythe Council and Thanet District Council after problems were discovered with gas safety checks, water hygiene checks, electrical checks and fire safety checks at a small number of council homes managed by EKH on their behalf.
Because of the report’s conclusions, the four councils today dismissed the board at EKH and took direct control of the organisation.
In a statement, the Chief Executives of the four councils said: “After reading the conclusions reached by the independent experts into what went wrong at EKH, we had no choice but to take swift and decisive action to take direct control of the organisation, along with its hard-working and committed staff, to ensure any outstanding health and safety checks are completed and any faults found are tackled as a matter of urgency.
“While significant progress has been made on tackling health and safety issues and gas safety checks are now up to date, the new board will be better placed to direct resources to tackle the issues raised.”
The four chief executives are Canterbury’s Colin Carmichael, Dover’s Nadeem Aziz, Folkestone and Hythe’s Dr Susan Priest and Thanet’s Madeline Homer.
The Regulator of Social Housing has been kept informed of developments.
The new board is committed to working with tenants, leaseholders and EKH staff in the months ahead to continue the progress that has already been made.
The statement adds: “We are sorry for any distress this situation has caused to our tenants and leaseholders.
“We paid independent experts to investigate and we are taking their findings incredibly seriously because we have to recognise where we are before we can move on and rebuild the trust with the tenants and leaseholders who rely on us.
“Putting tenants and leaseholders’ needs first is at the heart of this process and we are working on ways we can have an effective two-way conversation so we always take their views into account when making decisions that affect their day-to-day lives.”
The report by Pennington Choices into what went wrong at EKH says a number of factors lead to the failure around health and safety compliance including:
- The role of the board, appointed to set the strategic direction of EKH and oversee its day-to-day running, was not understood by either side effectively making it redundant
- A lack of leadership at EKH combined with a lack of challenge and holding to account by the four councils
- The perception of staff at EKH that saving money was a key priority
- The poor quality of the data being used by EKH and a lack of IT capability
- A collective failure between EKH and the councils to award contracts and engage suppliers in a timely manner
- The difficulty encountered by EKH working for four different councils with different political, strategic and operational priorities leading to a dysfunctional relationship
The statement by the Chief Executives continues: “We are in the process of asking tenants and leaseholders for their views and they will be reported to councillors in each authority for them to make a final decision in the new year.”
The consultation closes on 20 December 2019, and the outcome will be reported to Cabinet early in the new year.