By Chris Cornell / Housing / / 0 Comments

Labour councillors on Canterbury City Council (CCC) have today called on the Conservative administration to carry out an urgent review of East Kent Housing, the arm’s length management company overseeing council housing in the district.

Canterbury’s official opposition group has been angered by a serious dereliction of duty and the discovery that over 500 properties have been found without gas safety certificates. EKH has been jointly owned by the four district councils since 2011, it acts as a management agent for property owned by the council.

Cllr Alan Baldock, Labour’s leader at CCC said: “ For the last four years we have been banging on about the need for greater scrutiny and accountability at East Kent Housing. The current administration has reduced the number of councillors on their board and consistently marginalised the voice of tenants and elected representatives. In the wake of Grenfell this revelation should worry us all.”.

Cllr Chris Cornell, who sites on the Council’s Community Committee said “The very least local residents should be able to expect of East Kent Homes is that their property is safe. We appreciate the swift action taken to remedy the immediate danger but the culture and management of an organisation who acted with such abandon now has to be questioned. East Kent Housing need to prove to us that they can be trusted again, they need to open themselves to rigorous independent scrutiny at once.”

Whilst recent articles have called for the removal of Colin Carmichael, Chief Executive Officer of Canterbury City Council, in wake of the scandal, local Labour councillors are calling for pragmatism. As Councillor Baldock says, “whilst we welcome the immediate dismissal of Mr Anderson, formerly property director at EKH, we need to understand if there are other systemic failures and fix them immediately. We believe there is a growing call to examine how we could bring East Kent Housing in house and improve its accountability”.

Labour is calling on Canterbury City Council to look objectively at how we can proceed, but if not satisfied will be working with Labour councillors across the four districts to bring a vote of no confidence in EKH.Local people deserve better than East Kent Housing.

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By Chris Cornell / Housing / / 0 Comments

The outcome of the Council elections next Thursday will determine the future of housing in this district.

The Conservatives have presided over 12 years of housing failure, leading to falling home-ownership, unaffordable private rents and a big increase in homelessness. Developers have often been allowed to avoid the legal requirement that 30% of new private homes must be affordable, meaning home-ownership for those under 45 has dropped sharply. The failure to build new council homes means that there are now approximately 2,500 families on the district’s housing needs register. That’s 2,500 families without a home. It has also caused a huge increase in the housing benefit bill, as low-income families cannot afford the cost of private rent. The current policy is damaging to residents who cannot afford a home and to the public finances.

No one visiting Canterbury of an evening can have failed to notice the significant numbers of people sleeping rough in doorways and down side streets. This is not acceptable and the new council must intervene.

Pursuing the same old policies will not address these problems and bold new ones are needed. A Labour-run Council would build, or acquire, 2,000 new council homes over the next 10 years. That is the only way that the housing needs of the less well-off will be met. It would also insist on private developers complying with their “affordable homes” commitments and support an all-year-round hostel for homeless people.

The Conservatives are ideologically opposed to social housing and remain committed to 1980s dogma about a “property-owning democracy” and “market forces.” These policies simply haven’t worked for many people and haven’t been much help to the 2,500 families in the district with nowhere to live.

The choice for voters on Thursday is pretty simple. Do we want everyone in the district to have a home or not?

Simon Warley, Labour Councillor for Westgate ward.

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