Four councils in east Kent have regained control of the management of around 17,000 homes from the arm’s length management organisation (ALMO) East Kent Housing.
Last week Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council, Folkestone & Hythe District Council and Thanet District Council took back control of the services provided on their behalf by East Kent Housing (EKH), along with almost all the ALMO’s staff.
Each council has now created its own housing service to serve tenants and leaseholders of council homes in their own district, in an outcome brought forward from an original completion date of April 2021.
The decision to break up EKH comes after several health and safety failings were discovered at homes managed by the ALMO back in May 2019.
In a joint statement, the councils said: “The idea of taking council housing back in house was overwhelmingly backed by those tenants and leaseholders who took part in a comprehensive consultation last year.
“All four councils are determined to put the needs of tenants and leaseholders at the heart of the four housing services that have been established as evidenced by the creation of an extra 70 frontline posts.
“We want them to see real improvements to the service they receive and the way their homes are managed.
“We realise this is not a magic wand and it will not solve every problem overnight. This incredibly complex project is just the start of the journey and there is a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
The four councils decided to dismiss the board at EKH last December and took direct control of the organisation after the ALMO’s failings were laid bare in a damning independent report.
The local authorities commissioned an independent report by housing experts Pennington Choices after a small number of council homes managed by EKH were found to have problems with gas safety checks, water hygiene checks, electrical checks and fire safety checks.
The report found that several factors led to EKH’s failure around health and safety compliance, such as a lack of leadership at the ALMO, an internal culture of cutting costs, and a collective failure by EKH and the councils to award contracts and engage suppliers in a timely manner.
The councils consequently asked tenants and leaseholders for their views on taking their homes back in-house, a process which has now been completed.
“We would like to thank EKH and council staff for putting in an enormous amount of work behind the scenes to make this process run as smoothly as possible,” the councils said.
“The loyalty, professionalism and dedication of staff at all levels means EKH has been able to prepare its services and team for transfer to the councils while delivering an improving service to tenants day after day.
“We would also really like to thank the tenant and leaseholder consultative groups in each of the districts who have been an invaluable source of help and advice throughout this process.”
The Regulator for Social Housing has been closely involved in the councils’ work to address the failings outlined in Pennington Choices’ report.