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.

By Chris Cornell / HousingWelfare / / 0 Comments

On the 4th of January the Labour Group will be asking the council to consider promoting a “Community Switching” scheme for Gas and Electricity tariffs to save local residents money.

Collective or Group Switching schemes (such as www.ichoosr.co.uk) are set up to work with Community Organisations and Local Authorities who promote enrolment of residents in a Collective Switching scheme.

These schemes primarily gather the names of residents who have expressed an interest in switching energy tariffs and once signed “signed up”, the group go out to auction in the energy market several times a year, with huge leverage, and lower tariffs. The residents signed up are sent a no obligation offer a few days after the auction, it’s then up them, if they decide then the switching schemes will oil the wheels to make sure it’s hassle free.

Using the council’s reach means that even reluctant switchers can save up to £250 a year which is a lot for people on fixed and low incomes.

A very simple idea,  apart from active and effective publicity, the cost is minimal and the risk sits with the Collective Switching Organisation (such as ichoosr for example).  Schemes are already in place and helping hard pressed residents in several local Councils namely Dover, Dartford, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling and Tonbridge Wells.

If you are in support of this idea or want more information please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

By Chris Cornell / HousingJustice / / 0 Comments

Two years after the government made coercieve or controlling behaviour a criminal offence, over 50 members of the Labour Party in Kent have signed an open letter calling on the government to reverse their planned housing benefit cap for domestic violence refuges.

Currently, Housing Benefit makes up around 50% of the revenue refuges rely on. The letter notes that “if Housing Benefit entitlement is removed for those in refuges, it will mean vulnerable women fleeing abusive partners will not be able to pay for their accommodation using housing benefit – the last guaranteed source of income available to refuges.”

In October 2017, a document was published by the Department of Work and Pensions and Department for Communities and Local Government, ‘Funding Supporting Housing’. Proposals contained in this document state that instead of being able to use housing benefit to fund refuges, a ‘ring-fenced’ grant to councils for short-term supported housing would be given. However, the majority of women (77.6% in 2015) in refuges come from outside the authority, having left their original home in order to escape the perpetrator.

If these reforms proceed, Labour is concerned that this will result in a postcode lottery of domestic abuse support services, with further refuge closures who provide such an invaluable service, and more women and children being turned away from the lifesaving support they offer when escaping domestic abuse and violence.

The letter was signed Councillor Alan Baldock, Leader of the Labour Group on Canterbury City Council alongside Labour leaders in Dartford, Medway, Thanet and Medway.  Elected Labour representatives from North Thanet, South Thanet, Maidstone & Weald, Faversham & Swale, Rochester & Strood, Gillingham & Rainham, Chatham & Aylesford, Dover & Deal have also made a stand.

The letter asks that the government “reconsiders and abandons its plans to remove refuges and other forms of short-term supported housing from the welfare system.”

Signing the letter on behalf of Canterbury Labour Party were Helen Bintley and Mel Dawkins who serve on the Executive as Women’s Officers. In lending their support they said ‘we support this letter and hope those in power consider the effects that these cuts will have on the lives of women and children in Kent; it’s about time the government starts listening to the true stories and how it effects these people on a daily basis.”