Published: 06:00, 22 October 2019
Serious fire risks have been uncovered at 17 council-owned residential buildings across one part of Kent, it has been revealed.
Daily checks on the hazards have been enforced by Canterbury City Council as it looks to rectify “substantial” safety issues.
At the same time, 1,570 council homes and 425 communal blocks are said to have unacceptable levels of asbestos, with hundreds more posing a risk of legionella - the bacterium that causes potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease.
The discoveries were made public as Canterbury City Council voted to take back control of its own stock of homes from the scandal-hit East Kent Housing (EKH).
Cracks first appeared in June when it emerged the company - which is owned jointly by four east Kent councils - had allowed more than 500 vital gas safety checks to become outstanding.
The Regulator for Social Housing later found there was “no assurance” from EKH when it came to fire safety, electrical safety, lift safety and legionella.
Now, EKH’s latest report for Canterbury City Council has found that hundreds of its communal blocks require action to tackle fire and water risks.
It said: “Gas, fire alarms, legionella risk assessments, fire risk assessments and lifts are all showing 100% compliance although the fire risk assessments identified a number of actions, which contractors APL have been tasked to complete within the next 18 months.
“Of those actions, 17 are deemed substantial risks and these have been prioritised and until rectified there will be daily inspections of these buildings.
“In terms of water risk actions, there are 342 identified risks of which 192 are deemed high. The plan is to tackle these block by block, starting with tower blocks and sheltered schemes.”
At last week’s policy and resources committee meeting members voted in favour of proposals for the local authority to ditch the housing association – which also manages properties on behalf of Folkestone and Hythe, Dover and Thanet councils.
Instead, the homes will be run by each of the local authorites.
A report prepared for the committee states the city council would have to make a number of one-off payments associated with transferring the service, including legal fees and redundancy costs.
It also says that a law could be triggered forcing the four authorities to take on all of the workers “wholly or substantially employed” by East Kent Housing.
A consultation is due to be carried out with tenants before a final vote in January.
Yesterday we revealed how a fifth of all public buildings in Kent failed to meet fire safety standards.
More by this authorJack Dyson