Agenda and minutes

Housing Scrutiny Commission
Monday 9 March 2020 7.00 pm

Venue: Ground Floor Meeting Room G02A - 160 Tooley Street, London SE1 2QH. View directions

Link: Livestream/Video (YouTube)

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies

2.

Notification of any items of business which the chair deems urgent

3.

Disclosure of Interests and Dispensations

4.

Minutes

5.

Council's Response to District Heating Failures

    As part of the scrutiny review into district heating the commission will hear from council officers and residents of the Aylesbury Estate who have experienced systematic breakdown and failures of estate boilers.

     

    The commission will also hear from the cabinet member for housing management and modernisation on how the £3m investment into district heating will be allocated.

    Supporting documents:

    Minutes:

    The commission heard from Aylesbury Estate residents (Stephen Davis, Donna Grant, Harry Matthews, Keith Bent) on their experience of district heating on the estate.  The commission also heard from local ward councillors, Councillor Paul Fleming and Councillor Lorraine Lauder, Faraday Ward.

     

    The following issues of concern were raised by the residents and local ward councillors:

     

    Problem with heating system and lack of hot water has been on going, year after year and never properly fixed.  

    Planned shutdowns always in the winter.

    When boiler breaks down council issues tenants with a heater which results in residents having to pay extra money for energy used for electric fan heaters.  Residents paying a lot more for electricity than the council gives back. Having to boil kettles to have hot water for which one resident who is registered blind needs to carry up two flights of stairs to the bathroom which is a health and safety issue.  If having to keep doing this why can’t the council install electric showers.

    Particular problem for people who have to go work or children going to school. Having to boil water and share bathrooms, impacts on children’s time when they are supposed to be in school.

    Have scheduled outages, but are now seeing outages between scheduled outages.

    Temporary boilers installed but there are still issues with these.

    Perception of poor maintenance.

    Young Aylesbury Estate resident with nieces and nephews and friends who do not have heating and hot water as well – this is a shared experience amongst them and he questions the mental health affects this may be having on residents in the area.

    If having to travel a distance to work, having to heat hot water impacts on the day.

    This time round heating has not worked properly since December, including the Christmas holiday period which had a significant impact on Christmas.

    OCO contractors not having key to cupboards to carry out work.

    Lack of heating and hot water has knock on effects on the daily lives of the people that live in the area, this needs to be considered.

    Contempt tenants are treated with by engineers, being told anything just so engineer can get in and out of the property as quickly as possible.  Unclear whether engineers get paid per visit [incentivising them not to complete work first time round].

    Workmen not completing jobs as they are being called to other jobs.

    The breaking of access points by workmen creates a point of entry for mice which aree a problem on the estate.

     

    The commission heard from local ward councillors, Councillor Paul Fleming and Councillor Lorraine Lauder.

     

    Councillor Fleming reported that the issue of heating in particular has been largest area of casework since he became a councillor in 2014.  A lot of money had been spent during that time fixing or mitigating problems with the system.  Residents recognised that there is a systemic problem with the district heating system due to its size and being encased in concrete with pipes that cannot be  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

The Council's Relationship with Housing Associations in the Borough

    The housing scrutiny commission will be receiving information on how the council interacts with housing associations, particularly when there are problems. 

     

    As part of this session the commission will hear from council officers, ward councillors, residents of Clarson House, SE5 who have indicated that they have experienced problems with their housing association.  The commission will also hear from Wandle the registered housing provider.

     

    The commission sought to hear from the Regulator of Social Housing.  The body was however unable to send a representative on this occasion.

    Supporting documents:

    Minutes:

    The commission heard from Ms Emily Wilson and Mr Ben Pygall, residents of Clarson House.  The commission also heard from Councillor Eleanor Kerslake, local ward councillor.

     

    The residents addressed the commission and highlighted concerns in the following areas:

     

    Experience with Wandle consistently negative and was getting markedly worse.

    Issues around service charges, poor standard of customer service and lack of responsiveness.  Independent survey commissioned by Wandle found low satisfaction levels.  Long running issues – seen little in the way of effort from Wandle to try and make any improvements.  Tenant meetings organised by Wandle, sporadic and short lived.  Meetings replaced by email newsletters – this only last for about a month.

     

    High service charges, going up year on year.  Slow response to service charge disputes.

     

    Concerns were also raised around fire safety throughout the building and red rated defects, along with uncertainty on whether they have been addressed.  Poor upkeep of the building, external windows not cleaned in eight years.  Action plan relating to schedule of works provided to residents not adhered to or changed without consultation.  Action plan was not issued on a regular basis and housing association eventually stopped providing.  Resident meetings held at times not convenient to residents and held away from the premises.  Meetings also convened at short notice and often in school holiday period.

     

    Poor building upkeep, weeds growing out of foundations, main access door not closing properly since November and as a consequence is allowing rough sleeping in the building and drug taking problems in stairwells.  Leak in reception area in November not properly fixed resulting in damage to the building.  Concerns about wooden cladding on the building in relation to fire safety – awaiting response from Wandle on whether the building is safe.  Hatch which allows smoke to egress from the building, damaged during high winds and subsequently forced shut due to water penetration causing damaged to the building.  Given it has been forced shut it can no longer open in the event of a fire.  Independent fire safety assessment was due to be carried out – residents have not heard anything back.

     

    Ongoing issue with mice in the building which haven’t been addressed over a four-year period.

     

    Maintenance of the heating system – poor maintenance resulted in both boilers needing to be replaced within two years of the building opening.  There have been ongoing leaks and corrosion issues throughout the system as a whole, including damaging to the HRU units within flats.  No reassurance has been given that a proper survey has been undertaken to fix these issues.  Costs now being passed on to residents through service charges or as urgent charge of £240 which is just under the requirement for section 20 notice, thus avoiding the need for requirements of a Section 20 notice being undertaken.  Further surveys are being carried out in connection with the heating system which are likely to incur further costs.

     

    Standing charges high – approximately three times the standing charge of British Gas.  Energy  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

The Housing Repairs Service - Report from the Southwark Housing Scrutiny Commission