Housing association downgraded after fire safety failures
KNOWSLEY HOUSING Trust (KHT) was downgraded to non compliant status by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) after ‘major’ failures of fire safety were discovered in its blocks.
In June, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) assessed Quarry Green Heights in Kirkby following the Grenfell Tower fire, and found that hundreds of residents in the blocks ‘were left at risk from fire for months’, KHT having ‘failed to complete fire safety work on time’. MFRS warned in follow up letters that August and September of actions required, which KHT ‘failed to perform’.
Among the actions required were repair of fire doors, better compartmentation between flats and ‘improved safety’ on rubbish chutes, while the RSH had also learned KHT ‘had a number of high-risk safety actions outstanding’ at other properties, which ‘potentially affected hundreds of tenants for a number of months’. MFRS issued three enforcement notices to KHT last November, while an internal KHT audit found ‘systemic failure’ to comply with fire safety regulations.
Now, Inside Housing has reported that the RSH has downgraded KHT to ‘non-compliant status’ as a result, with the G3 grading for governance in a regulatory judgement indicating ‘there are issues of serious regulatory concern’. The news outlet points out that this is the ‘first time a housing association has been deemed non-compliant on fire safety grounds’ since Grenfell.
The RHS stated in its judgement that ‘it lacks assurance that the board of KHT has been managing its affairs with an appropriate degree of skill, diligence, effectiveness, prudence and foresight’, and while ‘the immediate issues have been resolved’, it had uncovered ‘weaknesses in governance, and in the effectiveness of board oversight and scrutiny including incidents of inadequate reporting’.
In turn, services provided in KHT homes by other companies owned by parent group First Ark ‘were a contributing factor to the failings’. First Ark appointed a new group chief executive recently, while KHT underwent a board ‘shake-up’ as it develops a ‘comprehensive recovery plan’, with the RSH stating that both organisations have been ‘open and transparent’ as well as demonstrating a ‘commitment to putting things right’.
Helen White, chair of KHT, stated: ‘Our key focus at this time will be to return to our previous G1 status as a model of good governance whilst ensuring we provide our tenants the highest quality homes that offer a safe and secure environment in which they can thrive. We will continue to work with [the RSH] to provide them assurance that the recovery plan we have in place will ensure that in the future we will operate in full compliance with the regulatory standards.’