South Kesteven District Council escapes legal action after failing fire and electrical safety regulations in its council houses
A council which broke fire safety regulations in homes it provided to its tenants has escaped legal action.
The Social Housing Regulator has ruled that it will not prosecute South Kesteven District Council because the local authority had "taken action already" to sort out its failing safety record.
As reported in the Mercury in November last year, the council, which provides homes for thousands of people in the Stamford, Bourne, Deepings and Grantham areas, was not meeting the necessary standards set out for the properties’ electrical, fire safety and asbestos checks.
For example, it found that fire risk assessments - which should be carried out annually - had not been completed since 2017, fire alarm testing hadn't been carried out in sheltered accommodation and in buildings with communal areas, and fire extinguishers and emergency lighting had not been checked recently enough.
In addition, electrical testing has not been carried out, adding to the potential risk of fires breaking out.
South Kesteven District Council has 6,000 council houses, 1,185 of which are in Stamford, 461 in Bourne and 304 in the Deepings.
Following an independent investigation into the council’s housing service, it was found that South Kesteven District Council breached part 1.2 of the 'Home Standard' but that it was already fixing this.
Karen Bradford, chief executive of South Kesteven District Council, said: “My focus is delivering a housing service that our tenants can be proud of and I am sorry that, in the past, our service has fallen short of the high standard they deserve.
“It is, of course, disappointing that the council has received a regulatory notice although it is encouraging that the regulator outlines the action that we are already taking to improve our service. Going forward, we will continue working closely with the rgulator and ensuring that our tenants are updated and supported throughout.”
Last year, South Kesteven District Council self-referred its housing service to the Social Housing Regulator in response to the findings of an in-depth audit commissioned by the leader of the council, Kelham Cooke, its chief executive Ms Bradford, and cabinet member for housing and planning, Coun Robert Reid.
Coun Reid said: “Commissioning the audit was an important step in turning around our housing service for our tenants, whose wellbeing and safety is our fundamental priority. The findings identified numerous weaknesses in our systems and processes and the council has been working extremely hard to address these areas.
“Over the last few months, the council has put in place many measures as part of its housing action plan. These include providing a dedicated team to respond to queries, implementing new systems and processes to ensure repairs and inspections are managed more effectively, commissioning a comprehensive survey of its housing stock, and ensuring that it has the right team in place to manage the housing service.”
To lead the housing service, the council has recruited a new director of housing and property, Andrew Cotton, who has more than 20 years' experience in social housing and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing.
On announcing the appointment, Coun Cooke said: “Excellent progress has been made so far but there is much more that the council will be doing to drive up standards. The appointment of Andrew Cotton, who has exceptional experience in leading high-performing housing teams, is a key step in delivering a housing service that we will all be proud of.”
The notice from the Social Housing Regulator can be viewed in full here.
South Kesteven District Council also has a page relating to the audit and regulatory notice which can be viewed by visiting www.southkesteven.gov.uk and searching for 'Housing Audit'.