Tag Archives: Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee

Electrical testing and urgent works contract (Paper 19-254)

Background

The fire safety measures which Wandsworth Borough Council has instigated with the current attempt of retro fitting water sprinklers has resulted in another measure which adds to the costs for leaseholders and council tenants. It is up to readers to interpret the new proposed contract for electrical testing and urgent works contract and what it means for them.

Council Meeting and Papers

Paper 19-254 was first discussed at the Borough Residents’ Forum (BRF) on 11th September 2019 – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=488&MId=6123&Ver=4

When it was in draft – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s68574/Electrical%20testing%20and%20urgent%20works%20contract.pdf

Then at the Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee (HROSC) meeting on 19th September 2019 – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=575&MId=6153&Ver=4

Where Paper 19-254 was produced – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s68804/Electrical%20testing%20and%20urgent%20works%20contract.pdf

Queries to the Council.

One Residents’ Association raised various queries at the BRF and the followed this with queries post the meeting and this is outlined below:

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“With reference to Council Paper 19-254 which was discussed at the Borough Residents’ Forum of 11th September 2019 there are asks please with regards to the queries raised on the night along with subsequent queries and they are referenced below on 15th September 2019:

Link to Paper 19-254 – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s68574/Electrical%20testing%20and%20urgent%20works%20contract.pdf

Costs

The following queries were raised at the BRF and it would be most helpful if the answers could be provided in time for the [removed] meeting which takes place on [removed].

With regards to the testing costs of an estimated £533,294 per annum for testing the Council was to revert on how this figure is:

#1 – Divided between testing of tenanted property and communal areas and

#2 – With the communal areas how this divided between what is recoverable to leaseholders and for tenanted properties.

#3 – For the answers to #1 and #2 above could the please be Minuted or at least referred to as a post-meeting note.

Additional queries have been subsequently been raised be RA members which asks the following and these too would be greatly appreciated if they could be answered in time for the Residents’ Association meeting.

#3 – What will be the average annual cost of this being added to the annual service charges? This has been raised by some leaseholders which are concerned by continual increases in service charges with varying degrees of transparency.

#4 – Under which service charge cost will these charges be allocated against?

#5 – A couple of tenants have asked whether this will feed into costs for them and how this be paid for by them?

One contract

In terms of the mention of this contract being under one contract and not two, as referenced at the BFR this was raised off the back of the recent lift maintenance contract fiasco, the response was that this was going to be under one contract.

#6 – It is asked that this is Minuted along with the brief background mentioned by an RA of what had occurred with regards to the lift maintenance contract especially as the amount of blank faces around the table indicated that many attendees did not seem all that aware of what had happened. As a BRF and as a HROSC item this should be discussed as to how such situations will be mitigated in future.

#7 – Could it also please be Minuted that in response to an RA question the Council will not be requesting from the contractor a Bid Bond as this is not Council policy.

Fire safety in purpose built blocks of flats

With regards to paragraph #3 which states – “The Local Government Association (LGA) guidance ‘Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats’ (2012) recommends periodic testing of electrical installations in both tenanted properties and common parts of blocks. The guidance recommends an interval of ten years between electrical inspections and testing for individual dwellings and five years for communal areas. It is proposed the Council adopts this guidance, maintaining the flexibility to increase frequency when required particularly in relation to future changes in the regulations”.

#8 – Could it please be Minuted that in response to a question asked by an RA in terms of what was happening between years 2012 and now that tenanted property is currently checked only when the property is vacated and for communal areas this is not currently undertaken.

#9 – In addition to this could the document please be shared? It was a bit surprisingly not to see a hyperlink footnote reference to this at the end of page 2.

#10 – Could a response to the following query raised by a few members of RAs please be provided as well. This being that given the focus on fire safety by Wandsworth Borough Council since Grenfell what are the reasons for instigating this fire safety programme now rather than say in 2017 as it would seem this would be a quicker to implement measure?

Thank you in advance for the replies.

END OF EMAIL

Council’s reply

On the 19th September 2019 the Council reverted with the following:

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I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Housing and Regeneration Department with regards to your enquiries about Council Paper 19-254 discussed at the Borough Residents’ Forum of 11th September 2019. I have answered all the questions, where I can. All matters with regards to the minutes of the meeting will be considered by Democratic Services.

For ease of reference I have answered your questions as you have numbered them in you enquiry.

With regards to the testing costs of an estimated £533,294 per annum for testing the Council was to revert on how this figure is:

#1 – Divided between testing of tenanted property and communal areas and

£415,400 is allocated to the works to the communal areas and the remainder to the tenanted properties.

#2 – With the communal areas how this divided between what is recoverable to leaseholders and for tenanted properties.

As with any works to the communal areas the cost of the testing of the communal electrics and any work arising will be recharged in accordance with lease percentages. Testing of tenanted flats will not be chargeable.  Works arising maybe subject to Sec 20 consultation depending on their value.

#3 – What will be the average annual cost of this being added to the annual service charges? This has been raised by some leaseholders which are concerned by continual increases in service charges with varying degrees of transparency.

Costs from block to block will vary so we would not wish to give a figure at this stage but the testing itself will only make a small  difference to annual service charges.

#4 – Under which service charge cost will these charges be allocated against?

These will appear under the repairs element of the service charge.

#5 – A couple of tenants have asked whether this will feed into costs for them and how this be paid for by them?

All additional spending is a factor  to be taken into account when setting the rent annually.

#9 – In addition to this could the document please be shared? It was a bit surprisingly not to see a hyperlink footnote reference to this at the end of page 2.

For information the Local Government Association (LGA) guidance ‘Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats’ (2012) can be found at  https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/fire-safety-purpose-built-04b.pdf  .

#10 – Could a response to the following query raised by a few members of RAs please be provided as well. This being that given the focus on fire safety by Wandsworth Borough Council since Grenfell what are the reasons for instigating this fire safety programme now rather than say in 2017 as it would seem this would be a quicker to implement measure?

The Council has prioritised fire safety work since the Grenfell fire and has focused on issues such as dangerous cladding, the fire safety front entrance doors and communal  fire doors where risk is greater –  over matters which are recommended but not currently mandatory.

If there is any further information you require with regards to the electrical testing do not hesitate in getting in touch.

END OF EMAIL

Caveats

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

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Feel like leaving a comment?

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Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

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Resident Working Group – opportunity to improve resident engagement?

Social Housing Green Paper

The Government produced a paper titled ‘A new deal for social housing’ which is summarised as;

“The social housing green paper – published today (14 August 2018) – aims to rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords, tackle stigma and ensure that social housing can be both a stable base that supports people when they need it and support social mobility”.

Link to documents and further information – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/social-housing-green-paper-a-new-deal-for-social-housing

The Council is looking to review its participation structures

As can be seen from the letter below it can be seen that the current housing participation structure is being reviewed.

Thoughts

Maybe something to worry about quite early on is that the letter refers to ‘tenants’ and ‘leaseholders’ though there are ‘freeholders’ who live on council estates and they are permitted to be part of Resident Associations (RAs). The lack of the mention of ‘freeholders’ might be an ominous sign? Also, ‘freeholders’ too are part of the demolition area of the Alton Estate regeneration and that should be perhaps food for thought regarding this topic.

More information

At the Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee (HRSOC) meeting of 17 January 2019 Paper 19-09 was presented which provides some more information. Note it was the second last item at the HRSOC at hope this is not what the Council thinks of this initiative?

Link to Paper 19-09 – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s63405/Formation%20of%20a%20Residents%20Working%20Group.pdf

Caveats

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

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Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

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Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

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How much will the Council spend on water sprinklers….really?

Background

At the Borough Residents Forum (BRF) of 10th January 2019 a question was asked about how much the average cost of the water sprinklers would with regards to what had been budgeted. The question is, are Councillors aware of what they have signed up for?

 Average cost of water sprinklers

In Paper 19-01 presented at the Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee (HROSC) meeting of 17th January 2019 the following was noted regarding average costs.

A link to paper 19-01 – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s63703/19-01%20BRF%20report%20to%20HROSC%20-%20final.pdf

The latest estimate of costs

In paragraph 107 of the Council’s Statement of Case which has been presented to the First Tier Property Tribunal (FTPT) and to leaseholders the latest estimate ‘is between £3,500 and £5,000’.

 Where did this question come from?

Well, in Paper 19-03 presented at the Borough Residents Forum (BRF) in Appendix A-C on page 24 is stated the following;

That is £12m for 2019/20 and £12m for 2020/21 for a total of £24m.

Link to Paper 19-01 Appendix A-C – https://democracy.wandsworth.gov.uk/documents/s63265/APPENDIX%20A%20-%20C.pdf

What could this mean?

That the Council seems to have budgeted the costs on the lowest estimate of average sprinklers costs? So if the cost works out to be £5,000 as an average then that would be a 43% increase taking the budget to £34.32m and if so, have Councillors been made aware of this?

Caveats

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

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Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

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 Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

Retro-fitting water sprinklers – impact on building insurance?

What has the Council commented on regarding the impact of retro-fitting water sprinklers on building insurance?

At the Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee (HROSC) meeting of 14 September 2017, the following was stated in Council Paper 17-269 with regards to the potential impact on building insurance should the retro-fitting of water sprinklers take place.

“24. It is anticipated that retro-fitting sprinklers in high rise blocks in the Borough will result in a reduction in Buildings Insurance premium costs to the Council and subsequently to leaseholders. It is not known at this time whether this will have the same effect on Home Contents Insurance costs, or whether this would make it easier for residents in high rise blocks to obtain Home Contents Insurance cover if the property has sprinklers, as the Council has no involvement in arranging Home Contents Insurance for Council tenants and leaseholders”.

So, there is, according to the Council scope for leaseholders to save some £££s on their buildings insurance if water sprinklers have been retro-fitted?

How much do leaseholders pay in buildings insurance?

This would, one would guess, vary depending on estate and block charges and  how many bedrooms the apartment would have?

Let’s have a look at an example which is 2 bedroom flat on the Alton Estate for the 2016/17 service charge period.

So, the building insurance paid was £13.16(!). Let’s say, for an example, that retro-fitting water sprinklers reduced the building insurance by 20%, the savings would be £2.62. This does not take into account inflation or future changes in pricing.

How much could the Council save in buildings insurance?

According to Paper 17-269 the numbers impacted are “Wandsworth Council has 99 blocks of ten storeys or more containing 6,401 residential flats and maisonettes – 4,043 tenanted, 1,315 resident leaseholders and 1,043 away leaseholders”.

As a very rough proxy, let’s say that each of the 6,401 residential flats and maisonettes then we minus the leaseholders from the overall numbers as they are the ones paying the buildings insurance themselves. That leaves 4,043 flats which the Council is responsible for, meaning that the total savings would be 4,043 x £2.62 = £10,592.66. This does not take into account inflation or future changes in pricing.

Please note all figures have been provided on a best efforts basis in an attempt to try and assess the potential savings to the Council and to leaseholders.

Summary

If part of the retro-fitting water sprinklers sell is the savings on buildings insurance, then leaseholders, individually may not see much in the way of a benefit?

It is wondered how much the Council stands to gain from such potential savings?

Caveats

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

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Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

Fire in Highcliffe Drive (18 January 2018)

It was a little ironic that the same day as retro-fitting water sprinklers was to be discussed by the Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee (18 January 2018) there was a fire in Highcliffe Drive, SW15 4PS.

It was covered by;

Putneysw15 with the article ‘Firefighters Save Cat From Blaze in Roehampton’

Wandsworth Guardian in the article ‘Cat rescued after fire broke out at block of flats in Roehampton’

Have a read and see what you think of this in regards to retro-fitting water sprinklers and why this was not mentioned at the Council meeting the same evening?

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

To receive blog articles as they are uploaded please ‘follow’ the blog.

 Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate

Alton Leaseholders meeting (13 December 2017)

This was the third meeting of the newly created Alton Leaseholders group. Given it is the third meeting in just over a month (November 6th and 20th being the others) this highlights that there is a desire to create a leaseholders group which can positively influence change on the Alton Estate. In attendance there was about a dozen people who braved the cold and very wet weather who offered their views. It should be considered that over a period of a couple of months, driven primarily by one individual getting up early on weekends, that 56 leaseholders from mainly the tall buildings on the Alton Estate have expressed an interest in participating in this group.

Update on actions

The Chair was very keen to get updates from attendees on the progress of their actions. Like any meeting there was progress on some actions and not on others, which seems to be the case for almost any group depending on the capacity of individuals to commit and their ability to resource the action with life.

One action where the Chair was keen to emphasis was that an ask had gone out prior to the meeting requesting what items should be considered as part of a leaseholders group. Only one person provided any feedback on this.

To know what the actions are and what the progress was, that will be something for you to find out by attending a future meeting.

Water sprinklers

It has been mentioned at both of the previous meetings that there is need to not be focused only on water sprinklers, though this seems to be driving focus for many at the moment. This could be understandable given for many they have (1) have paid large sums on service charges mainly in part due to the installation of double glazing, (2) are having retro-fitting of water sprinklers forced on them without a choice and (3) there are far too many queries which need to be answered.

There still seems to be a slow take up of residents requesting a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment for their block. The numbers of Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) seen to date is only eight out of the 42 for the ward. The number 42 being the amount of buildings in the ward being retro-fitted with water sprinklers.

In terms of Councillor Govindia being able to obtain funding from the Government for water sprinklers there is some scepticism as an earlier request has already been turned down.

There was some discussion on whether the Roehampton & Putney Heath ward Councillors would assist. It was commented that Councillor Sue McKinney met with four residents during a Labour Saturday surgery and they convinced her that water sprinklers were not required (though this had to be discussed with the Opposition speaker at the Housing and Regeneration Overview Scrutiny Committee) yet a few days later at the Council meeting it was agreed and Councillor McKinney did not even speak on the topic despite representing a ward which has the most tall buildings to be impacted.

A general consideration was what, if any, support can be gathered from the ward Councillors. It was mentioned that at a June Western Area Housing Panel (WAHP) it was mentioned by Councillor McKinney that the retro-fitting of water sprinklers was with cross party agreement.

An update was highlighted that someone who is very concerned by the looming expense of this sought assistance from Councillor Sue McKinney who then pointed that individual to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

One theory which was expressed was that this could be a long term strategy by the Council to make the blocks appear as though they were unsafe which might make it harder for owners to sell, in turn making this easier for the Council to buy back at lower cost than what otherwise might have been the case. This is assuming that, one day, the Council might buy these apartments back under possible future regeneration work.

Legal challenge

Those impacted by the possibility of having water sprinklers retro-fitted discussed the prospect of challenging this through the legal system. There was a desire to explore this option more fully at the next meeting.

Next meeting

That is to be confirmed though is currently pencilled in for 8 January 2017 (though this is yet to be confirmed).

Please note that all information is provided on a best efforts basis and that readers should make their own efforts to review and assess the provided content.

Contact

Email us at – roeregeneration@yahoo.com – and let us know of any concerns/thoughts you may have or add a comment at the end of the blog entry in the ‘Leave a Reply’ section.

Or email your Roehampton and Putney Heath Councillors at;

 Or email your local Member of Parliament at;

For a different view of Roehampton, especially the Alton Estate