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East Suffolk Council posed 'serious detriment' to housing tenants, investigation finds



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An investigation has found that East Suffolk Council posed a 'serious detriment' to its tenants and overcharged on rent by £2.58million.

The council referred itself to the regulator for social housing earlier this year, who confirmed it had breached part 1.2 of the Home Standard regulations.

A number of health and safety failures were revealed, including the lack of fire risk assessments on a buildings and timescales of inspections on amenities such as electricity and water.

East Suffolk Council office in Lowestoft. Picture: East Suffolk Council
East Suffolk Council office in Lowestoft. Picture: East Suffolk Council

Council officers have a statutory duty to assess the risk of fire in properties, but the regulator found over 100 risk assessments were overdue.

The investigation found 200 communal electrical inspection certificate records were overdue, as well as 150 EICRs. It is estimated that some of these had not been completed for 10 years.

Almost 100 lift inspections were overdue, as well as reviews of all asbestos surveys and water risk assessments.

Councillor Steve Gallant says a remedial programme is underway to solve the issues. Picture: East Suffolk Council
Councillor Steve Gallant says a remedial programme is underway to solve the issues. Picture: East Suffolk Council

A statement said: "The regulator considered the case as a breach of part 1.2 of the Home Standard and has concluded that East Suffolk Council did not have an effective system in place to allow it to meet its statutory health and safety responsibilities across a wide range of areas."

East Suffolk Council had also informed the regulator that in 2015 they entered into a consortium under the Affordable Homes Programmme.

Through this, they constructed an agreement with the Home and Communities Agency, which allowed for 260 homes to be converted from social to affordable rent.

However, the council believes more than 1,000 additional tenancies had been converted outside of the agreement, subsequently overcharging tenants in the region of £2.58million.

In response to the findings, leader Steve Gallant said: “Following a report provided to me earlier this year by the Council’s newly appointed Head of Housing I announced that an immediate and thorough review of issues dating back to the time of Waveney District Council was urgently needed.

"I am pleased that a wide-ranging programme of remedial work is now underway both in relation to the issue of rent setting and health and safety.

“The regulatory notices which have now been published are fair, and essentially present what we already knew, incorporating a range of issues which we are working hard to resolve. The work will continue and it will be completed as soon as possible.”