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 2014:
- Representations to the Chair and Chief Executive of the Hyde Group on behalf of all Hyde Southbank Homes residents
- Service charge scrutiny and review
- Challenge to the inappropriate year on year extension of the contract for the CCTV monitoring service including the disproportionate service charge to KPE
- Negotiations with Hyde management with reference to the proposed redevelopment of the Community Centre site
- Engagement with the Council and Berkeley Homes on the plan for the redevelopment of the gas holder site
- Scrutiny of the new cleaning and grounds maintenance contract specification
Meeting with the Chair and the Chief Executive of the Hyde Group about the service from Hyde
In July our Secretary attended a meeting with Hyde’s new Chair and relatively new Chief Executive. Kate Hoey, our MP, arranged the meeting on behalf of HSH residents. It was made clear to the Chair and the CE that in 2005 KPE residents agreed to a transfer of ownership from the local authority for a better, more responsive, local service. We now have a poorer, more remote and less responsive service. From the start the intention of both the London Borough of Lambeth and Hyde was a tenant led, autonomous and local structure. This was the principle on which the proposal to transfer to Hyde was firmly based and on which consultation with residents was conducted.
Residents are deeply disappointed at the serious decline in services in the last few years. A decline running in tandem with centralisation of services and staff. In October 2013 the situation was demonstrated clearly by the poor mobilisation of the poor repair contractor (still performing inadequately in 2015). The exceptionally bad service resulted in an upsurge in complaints (including unprecedented no confidence motions from Kennington Park Estate residents).
Concern has been increasing throughout the reorganisation and restructuring associated with One Hyde One Vision, adding to existing issues of broken promises, increased remoteness of centralised services from those who pay for the service, remote management from Head Office, out of touch with local residents and local concerns along with inadequate IT systems, and inadequate staff training.
The Chair and CE were left in no doubt that the promises made to residents at the time of transfer, had not been fulfilled. For example:
- “The bid is tenant led proposing the establishment of a local housing company – Hyde Southbank Homes – as an autonomous subsidiary of Hyde Housing Association.
- Hyde Southbank Homes will operate largely independently with local control
- If the transfer goes ahead Hyde Southbank Homes would enter into a formal legal contract with the Council. This contract would contain a legally binding commitment that Hyde Southbank Homes would keep all the promises made to you in this document.”
The Chair and the Chief Executive, along with other senior managers, insisted that no other residents were dissatisfied with the service from Hyde. However, there is ample evidence from elsewhere that other Hyde residents feel the same and have reported their dissatisfaction to Hyde.
Service Charge Scrutiny and Review
Residents have been shocked at being asked to pay a staggering increase in service charges for the 2015/16 financial year. For some residents the charges have doubled! Questioning revealed that Hyde had added three additional charges to our bills with no warning or consultation and little explanation. These charges have been added to all Hyde residents’ bills, regardless of whether or not they actually apply to a particular property or estate. (Hyde has promised to show us exactly where the emergency lighting, smoke vents and fire alarms are in the blocks on KPE that we are being charged to have tested!) Consultation before the introduction of any new service charge was promised by Hyde at the time of transfer. The transfer documentation states: ‘All residents would be legally protected against the imposition of unfair service charges and would be consulted before the introduction of any new service charge.’ The TA has submitted a formal complaint about lack of consultation in breach of the transfer agreement. We think it may be necessary to seek legal advice to pursue this further.
As previously reported, the TA is also engaged in protracted negotiations about the charges for communal electricity, which continue to be erratic and insufficiently justified. More than a year ago Hyde agreed with the TA that the best way of ensuring charges are accurate would be the installation of SMART meters. Much to our frustration, Hyde has still not managed to do this.
Extension of the contract for the CCTV monitoring service
The TA has also felt it necessary to submit a complaint to Hyde about the year on year extension of the CCTV monitoring service. Hyde management has conceded that ad hoc yearly extension of this contract since 2007 represents poor practice and is not in line with recognised procurement requirements.
Our complaint is that the monitoring contract has been extended many times with no review of the contract specification, no market testing, no analysis of performance against the contract specification and no assessment of future requirements or the cost of the service and no reference to potential alternatives taking into account up to date technology.
As reported previously, the TA pressed HSH management to commission a full review of the CCTV system and the monitoring service. The review was concluded in 2014 but it took until earlier this year for management to release the report of the review to the TA, despite repeated requests. The review concluded that ‘Hyde has not been an effective client for the monitoring contract nor Elizabethan an effective contractor’.
The report also states that the current system is not fit for purpose and does not meet operational requirements: also that, the monitoring contract is under performing and has not been well managed.
The monitoring contract was extended for another year in August. KPETA specifically asked HSH management to amend the contract specification. The change proposed by the TA would have reduced the cost significantly, however, it was not incorporated in the specification. As discussed at TA meetings many times, the TA continues to object very strongly to the disproportionate charge to residents of KPE for this service.
The complaint has reached the final stage and a formal hearing is expected shortly.
Proposal from Hyde to redevelop the site of the Kennington Park Estate Community Centre
Hyde is proposing to demolish the KPE Community Centre and the old depot building fronting Harleyford Street and use the site for new flats (for market sale), a small supermarket and a new community centre. This proposal is to be submitted to LBL in a joint planning application along with proposals for redevelopment and new housing on HSH land in Stockwell.
Although the 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.
The TA undertook a careful and detailed assessment of the plans as presented by Hyde (in September 2014) and made it very clear to Hyde that many aspects of those plans were of deep concern to the residents of KPE. The TA raised serious objections in response to the plans at the time including:
- Exponential increase in delivery and construction traffic through narrow estate roads. Under the initial plans residents of Alverstone and Lockwood Houses would have suffered from the noise, disruption and potential danger of delivery lorries passing within feet of their front doors on a daily basis to service the retail unit. There would also have been a loading bay permanently located a few feet from the front door of one of the ground floor flats in Lockwood House. (Lambeth planners have also made it clear to Hyde that the proposal to route retail deliveries through the estate is not acceptable.)
- Heavy construction vehicles and equipment passing through those same narrow estate roads throughout the period of the construction is also of great concern. If retail deliveries cannot be approved then a year or more of dangerous, noisy, polluting construction traffic should be totally out of the question.
- Initial plans allowed no outdoor space for the Community Centre. After TA pressure, more recent plans include outdoor space.
Other issues include
- Reduction in daylight received by Blades House which will be in the shadow of the new building
- Residents of the new flats and users/staff of the retail unit are likely to feel entitled to use KPE parking facilities
- Potential for presence of retail unit to result in unacceptable behaviour in and around KPE at the time of major cricket matches or major events at the Oval.
- No social or even ‘affordable’ housing planned for this site. All for market sale, hence potential for ‘buy to leave’ or ‘buy to let’
- Concern over use of KPE space and facilities for both commercial and increased domestic refuse storage and disposal
- Impact of the ground floor plant room on the residents of Alverstone and Blades
- Hyde refuses to contemplate compensation for residents most seriously affected by the new development
Many concerns remain outstanding and the TA will continue to represent residents of KPE and their genuine fears and reservations.
Engagement with Lambeth Council and Berkeley Homes on the plan for the redevelopment of the gas holder site
The gas holders have been decommissioned and the Council is working with Berkeley Homes on a master plan for the site. Redevelopment will have a major impact on our Estate, particularly Read House which directly overlooks the site, and the TA has been attending meetings to represent our residents’ interests. Oval Ward Councillor Jack Hopkins is Lambeth Cabinet Member for Regeneration and in recent meetings with Berkeley Homes, Cllr Hopkins set out specific parameters for community benefit he expects to see in the plans for the site. Berkeley Homes should shortly be producing plans which respond to those requirements. When the plans are issued for public consultation, the TA and Oval Ward Councillors will ensure KPE residents have the opportunity to comment further.
Scrutiny of the new cleaning and grounds maintenance contract specification
Procurement of the new contract for cleaning and grounds maintenance is currently in progress. The new contract will be awarded at the end of this year and start early next year. A major chunk of our service charge bill is for cleaning and gardening and these services are of critical importance to our environment so the TA is doing everything possible to influence the process in the best interests of KPE. It was a struggle for the TA to be allowed to see the contract specification. It has just been released to the TA and many questions, omissions and anomalies have been raised with the Contract Manager.
There will be an opportunity for all residents to learn more about the new contract and the procurement process when Hyde arranges local meetings in the next month or so. If you would like to know more about the process and the details of the contract now, please contact the TA Secretary.
On a more positive note, we have held five lively and well-attended TA meetings this year and our website is flourishing, with 408 visits already this month. We’ve redesigned it this year and it hosts an array of pictures of roadworks as well as publicity for events at the Community Centre and in the Park. Our co-chair, Marco Barrella, moved away from the estate in July. He worked tirelessly for the TA for many years and our massive thanks are due to him. He is missed! Our thanks are also due to our deputy chair, Kerry Young, for all her work organising activities for the community, to our MP and three councillors, who can all be relied on to support and help us, and to all our lovely leaflet deliverers!
M Evers, TA Secretary 23 September 2015