ILA’s Dr Potter asking Islington Council staff Ian Swift and Councillor Una OHalloran at last nights February ILA meeting on 14.02.24 why individual Leaseholders are getting huge bills for £46K and £72K.
Dr Brian Potter, sent the Letter of October 23 from MP Michael Gove to Victoria Lawson, CEO Islington Council to the tribune this week obo the ILA.
The Tribune published it in this weeks edition…
The letter discusses the Housing Ombudsman’s Special Report condemning Islington Councils “severe maladministration rate [which] is four times the national average”.
Gove goes on “This is unacceptable. The report identifies unreasonable delays, poor record keeping and communication with your residents, and a failure to follow your own policies and procedures. You failed to identify underlying issues – instead, you took a superficial look at problems such as damp and mould. It is not surprising that, as a result, many of your residents have suffered prolonged periods of distress”
Since it was dated Oct 23., Dr Potter suggests the Questions we should ask are… Why did we not know about it until this week…? and what has/will the council do about it now that it is in the public domain…?
Judging from what I have read in the press of late, plus the horror stories which I hear at the monthly meetings of the Islington Leaseholders Association, (in Islington Town Hall), leaseholders are being unmercifully targeted financially by the council and their contractors.
Whilst the Cyclic/Major works costing are of primary interest to leaseholders, of secondary concern is the actual “Quality” of the work observed. Unfortunately this aspect of leasehold complaints is probably, due for the main part to the overall neglect of adequate inspection by the councils own building control department.
On behalf of the ILA I have frequently asked the upper echelon of the council how many surveyors do the council directly employ in order to provide a sufficient degree of control over their contractors, and even more important, SUB CONTRACTORS on council estates…their answer has always been 70…!!!
My secondary question has always been, how many are RICS members, the answer is invariably, none, except on one occasion when they corrected themselves and stated, one..me, but I do need to pay my fees, straight way…
A further question as to why were they not RICS, elicited the reply, “cost of membership”.
So, Just who will inspect the INSPECTORS. In the main, the problems associated with massive bills, enforced on both leaseholder, as well as TENANTS, who pay for the councils disgraceful lack of control by way of ever increasing rents, sits firmly on the council shoulders as result of their inability to control the contracts they issue on our behalf…
Any way you look at it…since the council use our money to pay the contractor directly, surely they must be considered to be simply a managing agent…and as such responsible to the Residents of this borough…Corporate responsibility…???
Unfortunately, leaseholders constantly labour under the illusion that their huge cyclic maintenance bills are subsidising tenants rents! So, in order to debunk this assertion I recently requested clarification on this issue under the “Freedom of Information Act”.
According to the council no less than 33% of council rents are allocated to repayment of the tenants portion of costings associated with cyclic / major works on council estates. So, why are rents so high, when the tenants annual rental increment is set by Government, (currently 24/25) at CPI +1pw.
Obviously, it takes a great deal of money to run a borough, and since tenants rents are the main source of income to the Housing Revenue Account the council have to find alternate ways to Balance the Books, pay staff, fund priority projects. Etc. Notably, one innovative area identified, is in it’s issuing of building contracts.
All building contract issued by the council attract a 11-14% charge for council services.Therefore the bigger, and more contracts issued, the higher the contractors bills, and the more the council claws back (Un-ring Fenced) to supplement its coffers. Consequently, this bonus to council funds simply means that the council is collecting extra money from the tenants as well as the leaseholders from subsequent maintenance billing.
Notably, leaseholders receive detailed accounts, and consequently can identify where their money is going, and are able to challenge its veracity, sadly, tenants do not receive similar information and are unaware of what the outrageous bills are costing them personally in their rents!
If the council simply monitor the bills they issue closely, rejecting all forms of over pricing, leaseholders and tenants would not be subjected to this horrendous form of financial blackmail, enforced under the guise of cyclic maintenance / major works, and service charge billing…
From: Rt Hon Michael Gove MP Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Minister for Intergovernmental Relations
Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities 4th Floor, Fry Building 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF
To: Victoria Lawson CEO Islington Council
222 Upper Street, London, N1 1XR
I write with grave concern following the Housing Ombudsman’s Special Report on Islington Council.
This report was prompted by your organisation’s high maladministration rates in respect of complaints about damp, mould, and leaks. I was incredibly disappointed to read that your severe maladministration rate is four times the national average. This is unacceptable. The report identifies unreasonable delays, poor record keeping and communication with your residents, and a failure to follow your own policies and procedures. You failed to identify underlying issues – instead, you took a superficial look at problems such as damp and mould. It is not surprising that, as a result, many of your residents have suffered prolonged periods of distress.
I was also concerned to read that you seem not to have recognised when you failed your residents. It took intervention from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman for you to take action to address complaint handling delays.
There is an urgent need for culture change within your organisation. You stopped listening to your residents and failed to deliver the service they deserve. You also failed to recognise the seriousness of the issues raised by your residents and the impact your failings had on them.
Everyone should be able to live in a decent home and have their complaints taken seriously. Residents should be treated with respect and courtesy by their landlord and their health and safety should be paramount. The Social Housing Regulation Act brings in a tough new regulatory regime to help achieve these standards, and this Government expects social landlords to double-down on their efforts to provide the high-quality social housing that residents deserve.
I note that you have been open and transparent with the Ombudsman. You have begun to address some of the issues raised but there is still significant work to be done to improve the service you deliver to your residents. I will be taking a personal interest in the evidence you provide to the Ombudsman about how you intend to address the failings identified in the report.
I would like to meet with you to discuss the findings of the Ombudsman’s report and the steps you are taking to improve your services. My office will be in contact to arrange this.
I am copying this letter to Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP, Rt Hon Emily Thornberry MP, Councillor Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Mayor Gary Heather, the Select Committee for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and the Housing Ombudsman.
A special report by the Housing Ombudsman has found “underlying issues” at Islington LBC including a “disjointed approach” to dealing with complaints.
The report, which was published today, found that the landlord had a “severe maladministration rate” of 24.7% which is nearly four times the national average of 6.7%.
In all 30 cases it concluded either service failure, maladministration or severe maladministration for at least one aspect of the complaint. The report also stated that with regard to the landlord’s complaint handling every case had a 100% maladministration rate.
Growing numbers of people are getting demands for ‘completely unaffordable’ sums.
by Shane Hickey ( excerpt from The Guardian)
Like many people, teacher Neil Hosken is being careful with money as the cost of living crisis pushes up his food and energy bills, and his low-cost mortgage deal comes to an end. So he was shocked to receive a letter from the council warning of a bill of up to £44,000 for repairs to his home.
Hosken is one of a growing number of leaseholders being hit with enormous bills from local authorities for their estates. Emma Clarke, a neighbour on the Taverner and Peckett Square estate in Islington, got a bill about the same size as the deposit she put down on her one-bedroom flat last May. Another neighbour, who lives in a three-bed flat, faces a bill of up to £61,000.