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Regulator Finds ‘Serious Failings’ in GBC’s Council Housing Safety Compliance

Published on: 10 Jul, 2024
Updated on: 10 Jul, 2024

Wodehouse Place where tenants have complained that fire-safety compliance was stopped in September 2022.

By Emily Dalton

local democracy reporter

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has failed to meet new rules on social housing, a judgement has ruled.

The report published by the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) said the social landlord for around 5,200 homes is “failing” on a number of legal health and safety requirements.

Around 1,700 homes have been left without an up-to-date electrical condition report and another 1,000 with unsatisfactory certificates, according to the RSH’s report. GBC told the RSH it does not have evidence of a current electrical condition report for more than 100 communal blocks, and it could not provide evidence it had completed around 1,300 fire safety actions.

Work to improve council properties and make them compliant with regulations was interrupted by the sacking and suspension of officers in September last year in connection with ongoing investigations into a £18 million overspend on maintenance contracts and possible fraud.

See: GBC’s New Chief Exec Hopes to Draw a Line Under the Fraud Investigation

In December 2023, GBC said it identified some areas of concern within its landlord housing function included potentially unnecessary repairs being carried out to tenants’ homes. Referring itself to the government’s Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), GBC has since identified other concerns relating to its legal landlord health and safety compliance.

Regulator of Social Housing Judgement (click on image to link)

Introduced on April 1 this year, new consumer standards are intended to drive landlords to deliver long term improvements for tenants. In the first bunch of regulatory judgements RSH gave Guildford a ‘C3’ grading, which means there are serious failings and it needs to make significant improvements.

Reports by the RSH, published July 9, said: “The information provided by Guildford BC to us during our engagement with it demonstrates that Guildford BC is failing to ensure that it meets a number of legal requirements in relation to health and safety”.

Extract from the report

Findings from the report also showed GBC had not collected Tenant Satisfaction Measures from tenants, which all social landlords are required to do. RSH judgement report said: “Guildford BC has been unable to explain the reasons for its failure to collect this data, and as a result, tenants are not supported to effectively scrutinise Guildford BC’s performance in delivering landlord services.”

Cllr Julia McShane

Commenting on the Regulator’s report, Julia McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough), leader of the council and lead councillor for Housing,  responded: “Everyone living in a council property deserves to have a safe and secure home. Since December 2023, we’ve taken urgent action to improve our service. We can evidence progress across all areas of compliance and building safety which includes a real time compliance dashboard, recruitment of expert officers and procurement of building safety contracts.”

The leader of the Liberal Democrat-run council said it has reviewed all electrical information data to confirm an accurate position of where it is. GBC has also procured two short-term contractors to complete the certification work by July 2025.

Cllr McShane said a fire risk validation exercise has confirmed there are no outstanding high-risk actions. She added that a new contractor is now revisiting the low to medium risk properties to validate them, arrange any works required and update the council’s position.

“Our engagement with the Regulator will be ongoing and plays an integral and intensive part of our improvement plan as we work to resolve all of the issues identified and achieve full compliance for our residents,” Cllr McShane added.


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Responses to Regulator Finds ‘Serious Failings’ in GBC’s Council Housing Safety Compliance

  1. John Perkins Reply

    July 11, 2024 at 6:28 am

    It’s interesting that the serious failings identified by the regulator consisted of missing reports, certificates and inspections rather than actual failings.

    Box-ticking at its finest.

    • Richard Benson Reply

      July 12, 2024 at 7:56 pm

      All Airline pilots have to complete comprehensive check lists before take off. This box ticking helps to avoid plane crashes.

      GBC has crashed Guildford Borough. If they had diligently completed the comprehensive check lists they would not be in the astonishing mess they are now in.

      The old adage still stands : “If it ain’t measured, it ain’t managed.”

      • John Perkins Reply

        July 22, 2024 at 6:45 pm

        That the problem was not managed is obvious from the fact that no action was taken.

    • Dale Askew Reply

      July 12, 2024 at 9:17 pm

      It is far from ‘box ticking’, we know that the tragic fire that started at Grenfell Tower was due to a faulty fridge-freezer, these checks can be life saving and it is worrying they have not taken place as is required by law.

      • Mike Johnson Reply

        July 16, 2024 at 9:21 pm

        As Dale Askew said, a few months ago before when the now dismissed and suspended were here we actually got safety works carried out and works that had been needed for years but now we are back with the same officers managing the works who failed us for years.

        I have been told and it needs investigating that Waverley Borough Council before the partnering with Guildford had to self report themselves for compliance failing so what chance did the residents of Guildford stand with this poor merger of getting better safety.

        I say bring back the dismissed; they were making us all safer and I further understand that we are being conned further about an over spend by use of wording. The overspend was on a contract but the dismissed never actually put anyone at financial risk as always stayed within the financial budget for the year.

        I would love for The Dragon to interview one of the dismissed and get the truth as we are obviously still being taken for fools by the current officers.

      • John Perkins Reply

        July 22, 2024 at 7:15 pm

        Checks were carried out at Grenfell, though not by the relevant authorities. Grenfell Action Group made many complaints about fire safety and in 2016 London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority served a fire deficiency notice, listing many safety issues that required action by May 2017, a month before the fire occurred.

        In any case, the fire turned into a catastrophe because of the external cladding. Internally, the building would almost certainly have contained the fire in one flat saving most, if not all, the lives lost. It will not be known if the cladding was inspected until the Inquiry Panel publishes its final report.

  2. Mike Johnson Reply

    July 12, 2024 at 2:07 pm

    Just imagine, before the now suspended and removed staff started working on compliance there were over 2,700 high and medium fire actions overdue. Over 5,100 electrical safety test not undertaken. 100 fire risk assessments overdue. Not one communal electrical certificate in place.

    No asbestos register, it is still not in place despite the hard work the dismissed were putting in to correcting that.

    I think this goes to show further that the suspended and dismissed were obviously doing work that was required, not as suggested by GBC work that was not required.

    We need a full order by the regulator as we know, even now, they are not reporting the actual position.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 20, 2024 at 10:25 am

    When is the council leader, Julia McShane going to accept responsibility for these scandals, which happened on her watch, as portfolio holder for housing. Was she asleep at the helm?

    Nothing else can explain this scandal.

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