Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ Association Annual Report 2015 to 2016
Annual General Meeting: 21 September 2016
Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ Association has undertaken the following activities on behalf of all tenants and leaseholders during the period since the last TA AGM in September 2015:
- Parking enforcement: Appointment of new contractor
- Legal advice for tenants
- Service charge scrutiny and review
- Section 20 estimates: Successful challenge
- CCTV monitoring service: Termination of costly contract and negotiations with management on new arrangements
- Cleaning of vertical drainage stacks
- Proposed redevelopment of the Community Centre site
- Redevelopment of the gas holder site: Engagement with the Council and Berkeley Homes
- New cleaning and grounds maintenance contract
- SGN works in Vauxhall Street and Clayton Street
Early in 2015 HSH management commissioned a contractor, TSS, to undertake parking enforcement on the Estate. The service was hit and miss to start with and deteriorated rather fast. The TA raised the problem of poor performance repeatedly at every meeting with management. It took a long time for HSH management to acknowledge the problem, but a few months ago the contract with TSS was terminated. The TA pressed for the urgent appointment of a new contractor since the failure of TSS last year. Wing Parking (Parking Enforcement and Management Services) is the new parking enforcement contractor and is scheduled to start enforcement patrols and activities in October. There is a new parking permit application process and residents should note that the new process is likely to take longer than before.
Tenants with serious outstanding repair problems have received an excellent service from solicitors, Hodge, Jones and Allen, on a no win, no fee basis. Solicitors have succeeded in holding Hyde to account for disrepair and neglect on behalf of several KPE tenants. In these cases, Hyde has ignored the rights of tenants until challenged by the legal profession on the same legitimate issues already raised by tenants. For advice and support with longstanding disrepair problems, there is an opportunity to consult the solicitor at 6.00 pm on 28 September. Additionally tenants can contact the TA to be referred to the solicitor at any time.
Service charge scrutiny and review
TA Officers continue to keep service charges under close scrutiny on behalf of all residents and leaseholders. Hyde has at last conceded (if not yet formally, in writing) that in communal areas on Kennington Park Estate there are no fire extinguishers, fire alarms or smoke vents and residents cannot be charged for the cost or maintenance of non-existent equipment. It is clear that head office makes no effort to distinguish between different local circumstances and applies standard charges across all properties (until challenged!)
The TA is still pressing for installation of smart meters for the communal electricity supply as we hope this will clarify what we are charged.
Section 20 estimates
Leaseholders were stunned and shocked when they received the S20 estimate for the redecoration programme. The TA lost no time challenging the disproportionate charges for access and, as a result, the total amount for eight blocks was reduced from £760,000 to £570,000. A reduction of £190,000!
CCTV monitoring system
As reported to our residents many times by the TA, the contract for the CCTV monitoring service has cost KPE residents a disproportionately large amount in service charges over nine years, compared with the amount charged to Stockwell properties. The TA has debated the issue with management many times over many years. The TA has pursued two formal complaints through the full Hyde complaints process. Plus it was due to TA insistence that a full review was undertaken of the CCTV monitoring system a few years ago. As previously reported this review concluded the system was not fit for purpose and did not meet operational requirements: also that the monitoring contract was under performing and had not been well managed: ‘Hyde has not been an effective client for the monitoring contract nor Elizabethan an effective contractor’.
The TA achieved a temporary respite this year as the monitoring contract was terminated at the end of June (and replaced with an in-house system not involving contract staff viewing images in real time eight hours a day and, therefore not involving the requirement for residents to pay for those staff). Service charge actuals should be reduced proportionately for 2016/17. The TA remains in negotiation with management in relation to long term arrangements.
Vertical drainage stack cleaning and descaling
Following great persistence and endless correspondence over several years on the part of brave and energetic tenants, Hyde/HSH appears to finally be taking seriously the necessity to maintain the vertical drainage stacks across Kennington Park Estate and to keep them in proper working order (a legal responsibility of landlords). Sadly, our landlord may have been persuaded to take its responsibilities seriously only after formal, legal representations. Over the last few months a pilot project investigating the condition of vertical drainage stacks was undertaken by Hyde. The TA hopes this will be followed by a full programme of stack cleaning and descaling across the Estate.
Proposed development on the site of the Kennington Park Estate Community Centre
At the start of discussions about the possible development of the 8A Harleyford Street site we were told by Hyde head office the Community Centre would close for redevelopment from January 2016. Then at the beginning of this year KPETA was informed by Hyde that our Community Centre would remain open and available for meetings up to the end of 2016. Hyde’s intentions have not been made clear. The TA has been in regular communication with Hyde, but is still waiting for clear, specific details about the future of our Community Centre. The latest information is that it will be available throughout next year, 2017.
As reported to the AGM in 2015, although Kennington Park Estate TA has engaged with Hyde head office to ensure we remain as well informed as possible on behalf of residents, this does not mean the TA agrees with Hyde’s proposals for the redevelopment of this site. Keep an eye on the KPETA website for new information as and when details are released and join us at the November TA meeting
Development of the gas holder site
The gas holders have been decommissioned and the site is to be redeveloped by Berkeley Homes, the new owners, in collaboration with the Council, as the planning authority. Discussions and consultation on the master plan for the site have taken longer than intended. Berkeley Homes is to present the master plan to Lambeth Council’s Cabinet in October. The TA has kept a watching brief, attending all the consultations and briefings, making interventions and representations on behalf of residents of Kennington Park Estate throughout the process. In December 2015, Berkeley Homes held a special event at the Community Centre to give all KPE residents information about the proposed new development and the opportunity to comment.
New cleaning and grounds maintenance contract
The new cleaning and grounds maintenance contractor is to start in October. Our TA representative has followed the procurement process in detail, raising many issues with the Contract Manager on behalf of Kennington Park Estate. A company by the name of Cleanscapes has been awarded the contract on the grounds of value for money. The residents on the panel which interviewed the competing contractors preferred one of the other contractors over Cleanscapes. KPETA will be monitoring the mobilisation of the contract and liaising closely with the Contract Manager.
The current cleaning and grounds maintenance contractor was not awarded the contract and, as a result, the standard of work has deteriorated further. The TA is concerned about the poor condition of the Estate when the new contract starts and the considerable, concentrated effort required by Cleanscapes, the new contractor to improve the situation to an acceptable level. Residents are aware from previous reports that the TA has been raising the issue with management since our 2015 AGM.
SGN works in Vauxhall Street and Clayton Street
The SGN (Southern Gas Network) work to install new gas pipes in Vauxhall Street and Clayton Street has been a great deal more disruptive to residents of Kennington Park Estate than could reasonably be anticipated. Earlier this year the SGN work prevented refuse collection from Grace and Brockwell Houses in Vauxhall Street until irate residents and the TA intervened. Since then the TA has been in constant contact with the Council, with SGN and with HSH management. SGN has been unresponsive to say the least. SGN is now working in Clayton Street and has been responsible for one problem after another. It should be noted that once senior managers within the Council responsible for refuse collection were briefed by the TA on the problems likely to be faced during the refuse collection process, Council operatives responded very well and cleared the refuse despite obstacles. If residents of Lohmann, Read, Sherwin and Hornby experience problems arising from the SGN work, please contact the TA by phone or email so the TA can take the appropriate action. SGN contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 01689 881302, 8 am to 4 pm: 0800 9121700, outside working hours.
Pay to Stay
Under new government legislation Hyde is free to decide if it will make tenants pay extra rent if two members of the household together earn over £40,000 per annum. This decision rests with each individual housing association. The TA discussed this and other new housing laws at a special meeting early this year, following which the TA Chair wrote to the Hyde Chair and Chief Executive to express the deepest concern on behalf of KPE tenants in the event that such a decision was made. The government plans to implement the new laws in April 2017. It will hit some tenants very hard. However, it is likely to cost landlords (housing associations and councils) more to administer than it will generate in extra income or save in housing benefit. The TA will continue to push Hyde on this and to campaign with others locally and nationally against all aspects of the Housing and Planning Act.
Proposed mega merger called off
By mutual agreement Hyde will not be going ahead with the merger (with L&Q HA and East Thames HA). The announcement from Hyde stated:
Hyde staff have learned a lot from the process so we are looking forward to putting this into practice and working with residents towards continuously improving services for you all.
And we all look forward to that!