Agenda item

Public Open Forum

The public open forum will commence at 1.00 p.m. and the following formal business of the Council will commence at 1.30 p.m. or whenever the public open forum ends, if earlier.

Minutes:

Question 1

 

Question to: Councillor Barry Dobson

From: Phil Gadd, Grantham

 

“Since December 2016 I have continued to highlight issues regarding the failure of the communal hot water and heating supplies to 90 SKDC controlled flats at Riverside. Earlier this year I asked questions at both the January and March meetings of this council relating to the problems.

 

The Cabinet Member for Housing outlined and apologised “for errors made in 2016 including finding evidence of the risk assessments that were undertaken at the time”.

He also stated this year

 

“I assure you we have the most competent officers working on this”

 

“I can answer nobody in that complex will be out of pocket because of the problems”

Deputy Leader Kelham Cooke also added

 

“wanted to say sorry to the residents”

 

“we will reimburse reasonable costs. I am very sorry for how this has happened”

 

At the March meeting I thanked the Council for promising to complete the repairs before winter.

 

At that meeting - The Cabinet Member confirmed that surveyors and contractors had been on site carrying out assessments and scheduling the work that was involved in delivering the new pipes and that work was scheduled to start in April 2019.

 

It eventually started in May and since that time has been a catalogue of errors, bad management, missed deadlines and has finally caused health and safety issues to over 100 elderly residents.

 

The system was totally shutdown on the 28 August. The letter from SKDC stated the work would be completed within 4-6 weeks. That deadline was missed.

 

The switch -on was extended twice again until the end of October. That also failed to be delivered.

 

Since August the residents have relied on 1 or 2 oil filled radiators for heating and a small wall mounted heater for washing.

 

Then after nearly a year (November 2019) we find asbestos backed tiles, despite inspections, assessments, risk assessments, surveyors and a lengthy lead in time.  But, by this time the main piping ducts had still not been excavated, the main system was not completed, so the boilers or main underground ducts could not be pressure tested – confirmed at the meeting 13 November. The pipes under the community room were not installed and connected until Friday 15 November. The pressure testing began on Monday 18th November when the boilers were restored. So, despite the ‘asbestos’ tiles problem no-one could be restored until 20/11/19 in any event.  

 

1.     Could SKDC confirm that a full enquiry will be carried out led by an independent person because lessons have not been learnt by SKDC since 2016. I would also like to provide evidence as would several residents.

2.     Confirmation that a substantial compensation payment will be made for the Fourth winter of suffering endured by some of these elderly residents. The sum being calculated pro-rata depending on how long they have been residents, since problems were highlighted in December 2016”.

 

Before he asked his questions, Mr Gadd said that the people who had now been assigned to the project, had been excellent but it was a pity that residents had gone through this to get the job done right.

 

The Cabinet Member for Housing responded by stating that an investigation would be carried out by an independent body.  The outcome of the investigation would be scrutinized to identify whether the cause could be attributed to an individual, management or whether it was improperly documented in the Council’s standard operating procedures.  The Cabinet Member stated that he had not been involved at the time when the heating failed but added that as the system was old it had been decided to renew it.

 

Work was outstanding at five properties as there had been a problem with access.    The new team had done some excellent work and he hoped that everyone would be satisfied when everything was completed, which was on schedule to be in time for Christmas. It had been essential that residents had hot water and heating so small oil fuelled radiators and a heating element for water had been supplied. Whilst residents had not been without, it was recognised that they had been inconvenienced and that inconvenience would be recompensed. The Cabinet Member indicated that consideration was being given to appropriate compensation for residents, but details had yet to be finalised.

 

 

Question 2

 

Question to: Councillor Barry Dobson

From: Phil Gadd, Grantham

 

“Recently asbestos was found during replacement works at SKDC owned and maintained properties in Grantham. This obviously has serious implications for the contractors, workers and tenants exposed to this risk.

 

1.     Could you please explain how this asbestos was identified?

2.     What precautions and advice had been raised at the pre-contract stage regarding this risk.

3.     Why did on-going daily risk assessments, meetings or supervision not identify these risks.

4.     Could SKDC confirm that the work at Riverside, Grantham were registered as a CDM site for the period of the contract.

 

Mr Gadd also added another question, which related to whether the asbestos release would be notified under RIDDOR (Reporting Of Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) as a dangerous occurrence.

 

The Cabinet Member for Housing responded by stating that as an independent investigation was ongoing, he could not say too much. He indicated that minute traces of asbestos had been found but the indications were that it was not hazardous to health, but that would also be investigated.

 

Mr Gadd replied that he was worried about the asbestos part of this because it came right at the end of the project and in some of those places it was drilled through months in advance where people were walking in and out. He indicated that SKDC had spent £750,000 in 2009 on a 100% stock survey, paying an additional £20,000 for a type 2 asbestos survey which would have given them the information they needed.  He also stated that the Council had an asbestos register which records the type and location of asbestos containing materials in a property.  He expressed concern that the survey identified where asbestos could be found but it was not identified prior to the commencement of works”.

 

The Cabinet Member for Housing responded by stating that this would also be investigated.  His understanding was that asbestos had only been found recently when they had drilled into the floor rather than the walls. He added that work would be done to find whether the stock survey did not pick up asbestos, it had not been flagged-up in the asbestos register or the register had not been checked prior to works.

 

Mr Gadd clarified that there was an asbestos register held within SKDC for all social housing adding that it was worrying that it was not used in this case. The Cabinet Member for Housing responded that this would be looked into.

 

The Leader of the Council stated that the inquiry as to why no checks related to the works had not identified the presence of asbestos.  He reiterated what he had stated previously, that on behalf of the Council he apologised for what the Riverside residents had had to go through, he could not imagine what they had put up with over the last few years and he was incredibly sorry for that.   As it had been said a full inquiry was to be carried out into which he wanted residents to feed. He also wanted one of the Council’s scrutiny committees to consider the findings of the review and take it through the internal process of the Council. 

 

Outside of the inquiry, an urgent review of all the Council’s existing premises across the district had been carried out to ensure that this sort of issue did not reoccur.  The Leader said that by the end of the week it was hoped that all properties at Riverside would be connected, and he was receiving daily updates to ensure that work was on track.  The Leader that he and the Chief Executive would visit Riverside to personally apologise to residents.  He reiterated that a compensation package for residents was being put together and he did not want to see this happen again in the district.