Housing Issues in South Kesteven – (Nov 20 Report to MDTC #2 of 3)

Report to MDTC Full Council  11th November 2020
from ASHLEY BAXTER, SKDC Councillor for Market & West Deeping.

Continued from previous post

Housing Matters

Last week, District Councillors were invited to a secret briefing about a recent auditor’s report into the awful state of the SKDC Housing Department. The report contains a litany of underperformance and compliance failures over more than a decade (Incidentally, the briefing was attended by all three of the Deepings Independent SKDC Councillors but none of the three Deepings Conservative SKDC Councillors)

The failures include the lack of an up-to-date Stock Condition Survey and the lack of up-to-date electrical and fire safety reports.

In June this year, in response to comments from Market Deeping residents, I personally requested details of the Council’s ‘Void Policy’, i.e. the system for ensuring that Council Houses which become vacant are quickly checked for problems; repaired; and made fit for the next occupants in a timely fashion. In June I was promised that a new Senior Officer was working on a new Voids Policy which should be implemented by November 2020. Surprise, surprise, there is not yet any sign of even a draft Voids Policy.

The Council also claims to have a rolling target (and budget) for delivering 500 new homes over 5 years. In reality, the Council built only 60 houses between 2014 and 2017 and ZERO new council houses since then until earlier this year when 14 single-bed modular build dwellings were completed in Grantham.

The SKDC spin-doctors will claim that the Council did build houses via its wholly-owned subsidiary company Gravitas Housing Ltd which was established to ‘disrupt the market place’. In four years, Gravitas has only completed a single project of 25 homes at Wherry’s Lane in Bourne, most of which remain unsold.

In January this year, Cllr Barry Dobson (Con) presented a report to the Companies Committee outlining proposals to find a strategic partner to support the delivery of new homes as part of the Council’s “strategic ambitions for housing growth and delivery in the District”

The prefaces from 2017 and the 2020 SK Housing Strategies. The text is identical.

Two weeks ago, Cllr Dobson returned to the Companies Committee with a report explaining why a housing partnership will not be pursued at this time but might be considered in the future.

Some of the staff responsible for this mess have now left the authority but some of the Conservative Councillors who presided over this clear dereliction of duty are still in office, for example Cllr Dobson held the Portfolio for Housing between May 2019 and January 2020 and is now the Deputy Leader and responsible for the delivery of the famous new Deepings Leisure Centre.

Hats off to the relatively new Chief Executive, Karen Bradford, and the new Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Robert Reid (Con) for grasping the nettle and self-referring the Council to Housing Regulator.

For ease of reading, my November report to Market Deeping Town Council is split into three. Here are links to the other parts:

SKDC Planning issues including details of the recent shocking audit report

SKDC Leisure issues including a brief explanation of what’s happening with the Leisure Centre


Footnote:
The Auditors identified the following 16 findings where management actions were agreed:

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