Minutes of the meeting of the Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ Association held on 16 April 2014 at Kennington Park Estate Community Centre
Present: Marco Barrella (in the chair), 18 residents of Kennington Park Estate, (tenants and leaseholders)
In attendance: Jose McKay, HSH Housing Officer, Jack Hopkins, Oval Ward Councillor, Ishbel Brown, Oval Ward Councillor, Claire Holland, candidate in Council elections.
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and invited residents and guests to introduce themselves.
1. Apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were received from Jane Edbrooke, Oval Ward Councillor, Nigel Walker, HSH Resident Services Manager
2. Minutes of the last meeting held on 19 February 2014
The minutes of the last meeting were approved as a correct record of that meeting.
3. Matters arising from the minutes of the last meeting
3.1 Urgent repair issues including drainage stack maintenance
Alex Reuben from Hornby House reported that despite a plethora of correspondence between him and Shaun Holdcroft, the Hyde Regional Director, there had been no improvement to the unacceptable situation in Hornby with reference to back surge and flooding caused by blocked drainage stacks. The situation had taken a turn for the worse with further flooding inside flats in Hornby House. Alex also reported on an unhelpful response from the call centre resulting in one resident of Hornby feeling obliged to use the services of a private plumber. In another case, a resident reported flooding on a Thursday and the response from Hyde was to offer the attendance of a plumber the following Monday, four days later. Jose McKay, HSH Housing Officer, confirmed this incident should have been treated as an emergency by the Hyde call centre.
Two residents reported that the call centre had told them they would be liable to pay for the call out if it was their own fault and/or they would have to pay for it next time. TA representatives confirmed that Hyde/HSH had been asked many, many times when the stack clearance programme was to start and no satisfactory response was forthcoming. TA representatives agreed to pursue the issue at meetings with Hyde officers and in writing.
A resident from Sherwin House reported she had suffered from a leak from the premises above since January, she had reported it to her Housing Officer and was deeply upset that nothing had been done to deal with the leak and to repair the damage to her home. TA representatives agreed to intervene on her behalf
4. Housing management and estate management issues
Residents reported on the increasing difficulties with making contact with the Housing Office. It was noted that as a result of the very poor service in terms of repairs since the start of the new contract with Mears, and the problems encountered when contacting the call centre, our local Housing Office had been overwhelmed. TA representatives confirmed it was an issue which was raised with Hyde/HSH staff at every meeting and in frequent correspondence. Senior Directors at Head Office were working on the problem since the start of the contract with Mears but appeared to be having little effect after six months of effort.
5. Progress report on new arrangements for parking enforcement
It was reported that the resident ballot on options for parking enforcement arrangements had concluded on 10 March 2014. There had been no further communication to residents from the Housing Office. TA representatives were pressing for an announcement from the office and pressing for a confirmed date by which the new parking enforcement arrangements were to be implemented.
6. Report from Tenants’ Association Executive Committee
6.1 Report on scrutiny of service charges
Joan circulated a written briefing on the work the TA was undertaking with reference to scrutiny of service charges on behalf of residents of Kennington Park Estate. Joan confirmed that this work had thus far resulted in a 16% reduction in actuals from 2011/12 to 2012/13. However, this does not feed through at once into the amount we pay as the amount we are charged is based on estimates. Joan reported that the TA was focusing on cleaning and grounds maintenance charges. The TA has asked for more detailed, transparent invoices to facilitate a better understanding of the charges. A full review of the CCTV service across HSH had been undertaken at the specific request of KPETA, as KPE pays a disproportionate charge compared with the Stockwell properties. Joan referred to charges for communal electricity. It had been impossible to make sense of this element of the service charges and the TA had expressed serious concern over a lengthy period of two years. Pressure from the TA had at last resulted in a proposal from Hyde to commission a specific piece of work to identify all the communal electricity meters and the exact section of each block served by that meter; also a proposal to install smart meters to ensure accurate recording of communal electricity use across KPE.
Joan also confirmed that if resident had been charged for maintenance of phantom TV aerials it was possible to claim back the cost by contacting 0800 359 3576.
The TA thanked Joan and colleagues for the persistence and hard work devoted to this time consuming task.
6.2 Report on correspondence with the Hyde Chief Executive
Joan read the following text direct from a letter from the Hyde Chief Executive to the individual who had written to him on behalf of residents of KPETA: a number of staff have reported that when attending KPETRA meetings, the tone has been aggressive and hostile. …I accept there may be frustrations but I do not believe it unreasonable to expect your members to convey their views in an articulate, mature and professional manner. My staff remain keen to work with all residents and will continue to attend future KPETRA meetings. However, if I receive further reports that staff have been subjected to these behaviours then I will take action to protect their wellbeing. Joan reported she had written to the CE to object to the TA being characterised in this way. Residents reacted with the utmost dismay to the tone of the comments in the CE’s letter. Residents expressed the view that if our landlord fulfilled its obligation to residents then staff would not be required to respond to complaints. Residents also felt that whilst they were almost definitely assertive at TA meetings, the description given by the Chief Executive significantly misrepresented the situation. An active, involved and assertive resident made the point that on the basis that the TA did not always agree with Hyde and challenged Hyde on behalf of residents, Hyde head office could only resort to accusations of this nature as opposed to responding positively and responsibly. KPE residents refused to behave like sheep and were rewarded for their temerity in this way.
The new Chief Executive was due to start in post on 6 May 2014 and the TA might take up the matter with her in due course.
7. Report from meeting of HSH Resident Forum
Marilyn confirmed that the HSH Resident Forum consisted of representatives from KPETA and the Stockwell TA which met with the Resident Services Manager on a quarterly basis. She reported that at its last meeting on 1 April 2014 the Forum had been presented with a schedule of planned and cyclical maintenance work extending as far as 2019/20. AS Kennington Park Estate had not had a properly planned programme of maintenance and decorating undertaken since 2005/2006 immediately following transfer of ownership, this meant that for some blocks no external maintenance would have been done for over twelve years. This was unacceptable and was in breach of the tenancy agreement which stipulated a regular programme of planned and cyclical maintenance and redecoration every five years. This included the drainage stack clearance programme which the Hyde Chief Executive had told the TA in writing had already started in March. The TA was not aware of the programme of drainage stack clearance having started and Marilyn asked residents if work had been undertaken to clear their drainage stack. This was, of course, a major exercise which could not possibly have been undetaken without informing/warning the residents of flats affected because of the potential for backsurge into sinks and loos etc. The TA had written formally to Hyde to put it on record that a programme extending to 2019/20 was not acceptable and was in breach of the tenancy agreement. The TA continued to pursue the issue.
8. Report from Resident Assurance Committee and HSH Board
Sonia Reid, a member of the HSH Resident Assurance Committee, informed the TA there was nothing new to report from the RAC as it had not met since February. Sonia agreed with the TA that services to residents left a great deal to be desired. However, Sonia challenged the perception that the RAC was ineffective. Joan asked for information about HSH finances, for example a basic income and expenditure account. Sonia was not able to supply information to account for the way HSH residents’ money was spent.
Any other business
A resident referred to the tone of the letters issued to residents in the course of making arrangements for the annual gas inspection. It was agreed to explain the problem to HSH and suggest that the letters to residents be amended appropriately.
Date of next meeting of Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ Association
The next meeting of Kennington Park Estate Tenants’ Association was scheduled for 1900, 9 July 2014, thereafter, 24 September (AGM), 19 November 2014
(Meeting of Steering Group to organise next meeting, 1830, Monday, 23 June 2014, 1A Lockwood House)