Housing report

“WHBC risks repeating the same mistakes on the housing report”

3:00 p.m. March 8, 2022

Welwyn Hatfield Leader of the Opposition has claimed the council ‘will be in court over a negligence case that killed a tenant’ if stronger action is not taken on housing security, following the publication of an independent report.

Cllr Paul Zukowskyj, Liberal Democrat for Hatfield Green and Hatfield South, made the remarks after criticizing the council’s response to a report on housing safety checks, which he said risks making the same mistakes.

The borough council said it was in a “much improved” position 10 months after referring itself to the regulator, and is on track to be fully compliant by the end of March in regarding asbestos, water, fire, electricity and gas. security checks.

An independent report released last month found senior council officials were unaware of the serious failings for months, and the opposition leader said the council should take a broader view of health and security in the housing stock.

The report by law firm Eversheds Sutherlands highlighted gas safety versus other areas of compliance, as well as issues of ‘working in silos’ and staff reluctance to raise concerns among the root causes.

Advisers to the council’s Housing Cabinet Committee discussed the report at a meeting on March 7, during which Cabinet Member for Housing Cllr Fiona Thomson, curator of Handside and the council’s chief executive discussed again apologized to the tenants.

The administration also confirmed it was on track to be fully compliant by the end of March and was reviewing the department’s management structure.

Council chief executive Ka Ng told councillors: ‘First of all, I would like to apologize to tenants and leaseholders who have been let down by the council on the issue of housing compliance.’

“Since the problem was discovered, we have put in place a new management team to oversee the housing property department, as the company director and department head were no longer employed by the council. .”

The chief executive said he sometimes felt the board had been ‘left to pick up the pieces’ after those who knew more about the issues left office, but they had started to improve service.

Ms Ng said: “We have met with the social housing regulator to update them on progress on housing compliance.

“We met with them last week with Eversheds to discuss the findings of the independent review. They were happy with our progress so far and no concerns have been raised to date.

However, opposition leader Cllr Zukowskyj criticized the council’s response and said he was concerned the council was taking into account health and safety aspects not included in the six areas of housing compliance , and the new response is focused on compliance compliance rather than health. and security in general.

He told the meeting: ‘I’m afraid to say that I have absolutely no confidence that the measures this council has put in place will keep its tenants safe.

He added: “This council is making the same mistake again, it is all about compliance. Read the cabinet document, it mentions maybe 30 times compliance, but not once health and safety. This is not an appropriate response.

“This council, if it continues in this way, in my opinion, within five years, will be in court for a negligence case that killed a tenant.

“And I don’t say this lightly, this culture will continue until you embed health and safety into everything we do and that’s not right with the response we’ve seen to date.”

Ms Ng said there was ongoing consultation on a restructuring of the leadership team, which could bring together the right teams with the aim of ending the “siloed work” described in the Eversheds report.

Cllr Thomson said she was ‘disappointed’ Cllr Zukowskyj did not support the report, saying the council had been transparent and was addressing the issue to create ‘a more lasting solution’. She added that this was the start of the council’s response and that compliance was only part of their response.

She said: “It’s a bit of a reset button, and it’s clear that we have to move on, we have to continue as we have been doing and it won’t be easy but we don’t have to. option because it’s the right thing to do for our tenants and tenants.

Councilors voted to take note of the report by 8-2.