Safety set back for a Council’s car park revenue

Swan shopping centre car park in Leatherhead (image Google)

Safety work to repair crumbled concrete and rusted steel reinforcements at the Swan Car Park in Leatherhead could cost a council more than £200,000.

Mole Valley District Council is set to approve the repair work after its emergency budget passed through its extraordinary scrutiny committee.

The car park is fully owned and operated by the council with all revenue going straight into its coffers. The flip side is that it is also responsible for 100 per cent of the maintenance costs.

The work will be carried out over a three-year period, which the council hopes will prevent anything more significant from developing.

It has set aside £116,496 for the first year, £49,745 in year two and  £50,910 for the final year of the project for a total of £217,151. 

The meeting heard from cabinet member Councillor Keira Vyvyan-Robinson, who said that in 2022 the council carried out a five-year maintenance report that warned of the need to “monitor concrete and rebar (reinforced steel) ” within the car park – and remedy any failings. 

For financial reasons the council decided not to go ahead with any work but the situation earlier this year “had deteriorated.”

She said: “It’s not a health and safety issue at the moment however it is important that the works are remedied  in order that they don’t deteriorate any further.”

The majority of the project’s budget is expected to be used “primarily in relation to the concrete frame and repairs to concrete which has crumbled.” Cllr Vyvyan-Robinson added.

A final decision on whether to proceed will be made by the council’s cabinet committee on July 17 2024.

Officers told the meeting how surveyors had been monitoring the car park “visually” and that its condition has since stabilised.

The repairs, the council hopes, would eliminate the need for regular observations. 

Asked if there was a risk of concrete falling off the walls, and onto people or their cars, officers replied that there wasn’t an “immediate risk but the longer they leave it the greater that risk becomes”.

Work will be scheduled to avoid the busiest times of the year and be done piecemeal to limit impact on people parking and minimise any revenue losses for the council. 

Image: Swan shopping centre car park in Leatherhead (Google)

Surrey’s cyber sleuth students at work

Students at computers

Cyber-curious students from Ash Manor School have been inspired to consider future careers in the sector after taking part in a special one-day workshop.

The event was hosted by Surrey County Council in collaboration with the Surrey Cyber Security Cluster (SCSC) and SATRO Education Charity as part of the Inspire Surrey pilot programme, and was held at the Hogs Back Hotel in Farnham.

The ‘Digital Detective Challenge’ was developed to harness the imagination of the students and encourage them to consider a future career in this exciting and fast-growing industry.

At the end of the day, almost all of the year 8 students taking part (28 out of 31) said they would now consider taking up a career in cyber – a resounding success for the day.

Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Economic Growth, said: “Cyber security is a growing, highly innovative sector of huge importance to our regional economy. Events like this are fantastic to really capture the interest of enquiring young minds – the vital future leaders of this sector – and ensure cyber security’s continued growth and success in Surrey. I’m delighted the event was such a triumph for all participants.”

Surrey is a world-leader in cyber security, as home to a large and growing number of security firms and consultancy agencies including BAE Systems, CGI and F5.

Two of the UK’s five Gold Standard Cyber Security Universities (Royal Holloway and University of Surrey) are also based in the county, helping to drive innovation in the sector.

Surrey County Council is further nurturing the sector and supporting growth through its involvement in the Surrey Cyber Security Cluster.

Mr S Coomber, Head of Computer Science at Ash Manor School, said:“Events like this enable students to explore what it’s like to work in cyber security. By showcasing the breadth of opportunities available, we hope to empower students to make an informed decision about considering a career in the cyber sector.”

Jane Sheridan from SATRO Education Charity, said: “Today’s event was not just about solving puzzles; it was about igniting passion and curiosity for cyber careers among young minds. We wanted to provide students with a glimpse into the exciting world of cyber security while emphasizing the importance of critical thinking and problem-solving skills.” 

Hani Momeninia, Director of the SCSC, highlighted the significance of nurturing future talent in the cyber field. He said: “As the cyber landscape continues to evolve, there is a growing demand for skilled professionals capable of defending us against emerging threats. Initiatives like this play a crucial role in inspiring and nurturing the next generation of cyber leaders. It’s been great to work with the Surrey Cyber Security Cluster and SATRO Education Charity to design and host an engaging event for our budding cyber professionals.”

The event was one of a number of initiatives intended to inspire a range of audiences to consider a career in cyber by the Council’s Economy & Growth Team, in collaboration with the Surrey Cyber Security Cluster. Other events included a workshop for mums returning to work and a cyber careers fair at Brooklands Museum for secondary school students across the county.

Business Surrey, the Council’s new business initiative, is committed to supporting sectors, such as cyber security, with support to grow. Discover more at www.businesssurrey.co.uk.

Those businesses looking for support and advice with workforce needs can contact the team for free support at www.businesssurrey.co.uk/advice-and-support/business-support-form.

The Surrey Careers Hub also works to connect employers with schools and colleges to support young people to take their next best step. Find out how you can get involved at https://www.businesssurrey.co.uk/workforce/careers-hub/.

Call to landlords to help Council help housing need

Street with to let signs

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council is looking for landlords of three-, four- and five-bedroom houses to sign up to their Private Sector Leasing Scheme.

The Private Sector Leasing Scheme allows the council to assist local families in housing need, while reducing the risks and hassle of renting for landlords.

The council will lease and manage properties for a period of three to five years. Landlords will be guaranteed rent, with six months being paid in advance. During the tenancy, the council will carry out any minor repairs up to the value of £500 per year and ensure the property is returned to landlords in the same condition as when the agreement started.

Landlords who lease their properties to the council will enjoy the following benefits:

  • no inventory or inspection costs
  • no letting agent or management fees
  • no need to register deposits with a tenancy deposit scheme
  • a single point of contact within the council
  • Right to Rent checks carried out by the council
  • an option for routine and major repairs to be dealt with on the landlords’ behalf for a fee.

Councillor Clive Woodbridge, (RA Ewell Village) Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Committee, said,

“We are all aware of the housing crisis that is affecting cities and towns across the country, and Epsom & Ewell is no different. It is a priority for the Council that we can provide good quality temporary housing for families in the local area.

“If landlords sign up to our Private Sector Leasing Scheme, it enables us to house local families within the community and minimises the disruption to their home life, work and school at what can be an already stressful time.

“The scheme is also good value for landlords and is relatively low risk when compared with letting the property on the open market.”

Landlord Lee Wiffen said, “I cannot praise the Epsom & Ewell Private Sector Leasing Scheme enough. In my six years letting my property through the scheme, the professionalism of the team in the housing department is first class.

“The security of having great tenants and regular on-time rent payments, means I would not look any further, as a landlord, when looking to rent a property than the Epsom & Ewell Private Sector Leasing Scheme”

Full details of the scheme can be found in our PSL landlord information pack and PSL landlord application form.

Image Albert Bridge licence

Average house price in Epsom and Ewell over half- million.


Epsom and Ewell saw the largest increase in new build completions in the South East between 2021-2023, new data has revealed. 

The study, conducted by architectural visualisation experts at Modunite, investigated ONS data on the number of new build completions from 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, to find which local authority has seen the biggest increase in new build completions year-on-year. 

Key findings: 

  • Epsom and Ewell saw the largest increase in new build homes, at 133% – compared to the English average of 21% 
  • Tunbridge Wells ranks second with an increase of 130% new build completions
  • West Oxfordshire had the biggest drop in house prices across England (13.10%)  
  • Milton Keynes saw the largest volume of new build homes in 2022-23 (2,480) in the South East, and the second-highest in England

For the full study, head to: https://www.modunite.com/a-review-of-englands-new-build-market/

The results: 

Local Authority  Average house price 2022  Average house price 2023  % decrease in house prices 2021-2022 2022-2023 % increase 2022-2023
Epsom and Ewell £543,670 £533,491 1.90% 90 210 133%
Tunbridge Wells £454,657 £446,490 1.80% 270 620 130%
Hastings £271,727 £270,043 0.60% 10 20 100%
Arun £351,693 £350,191 0.40% 490 930 90%
Eastbourne £298,348 £296,227 0.70% 40 70 75%
Dartford £355,378 £353,765 0.50% 400 660 65%
Canterbury £361,144 £357,128 1.10% 370 600 62%
Thanet £315,384 £310,705 1.50% 290 410 41%
Chichester £470,413 £452,668 3.90% 590 810 37%
Tonbridge and Malling £438,694 £431,931 1.60% 270 370 37%

Please find the full dataset here

Modunite can reveal that Epsom and Ewell has seen the largest increase in new build completions in the South East, with a 133% increase from 2021-2022 compared with 2022-2023. Between 2021 and 2022 90 new builds were completed, in comparison to 210 in the following year. House prices in Epsom and Ewell also dropped by 1.90%, down to £533.491. 

Hastings ranks third

Hastings ranks third. From 2021-2022, Hastings completed 10 new build homes, increasing by 100% by the end of 2023 with a total of 20. This is largely higher than than the average number of new build completions across all the local authorities in England (21%). House prices in Hastings have also fallen by 0.60% between 2022-2023, to an average of £270,043. 

Tunbridge Wells ranks second, with a 130% increase in new build completions between 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. A total of 270 new builds were completed in 2021 -2022, in comparison to 620 the following year. House prices in Tunbridge Wells have also decreased by 1.80%, down to £446,490 on average.

Image: https://oaktondevelopments.co.uk/henrietta-place-new-build-homes-epsom-surrey/

90% of Surrey road hole damage claims go to pot

Pothole in Woodcote Road Epsom

Pothole damage has given rise to 5,619 claims for compensation from Surrey residents to the county council since May 2021.

Since the last local election three years ago, only 581 claims were successful (just over 10 per cent) resulting in £190,000 spent on repayment.

in 2024 so far, up to May, only 12 out of 1,204 claims have been repaid by Surrey County Council (SCC), with £4,435.15 being paid.

As the local highways authority, SCC is only liable to pay for damage to vehicles if it can be proved it has been negligent in the inspection and maintenance of its roads.

“Rather than 90 per cent of the claims being fraudulent, it is more likely that only 10 per cent of people are determined enough to see through a difficult process to the end,” said Cllr George Potter (Lib Dem/Guildford East) at a county council AGM meeting on May 21.

Cllr Potter said the process is “very difficult and time consuming and bureaucratic” which will “discourage many people from going all the way through with their claims.”

Residents can apply for compensation if they suffer personal injury or property damage due to council-owned roads.

For their claim to be successful, they must provide a long list of information such as the details of damage plus two independent estimates for repair, exact location, proof of ownership and current MOT and insurance, travel direction as well as time, date and weather conditions.

Rebutting the accusation, cabinet member for finance and resources, Cllr David Lewis (Conservative/Cobham) said he did not believe the claims were “fraudulent” in any way but that the criteria was not met.

“We have a duty to protect our finances and money raised from residents,” Cllr Lewis said. “[SCC] simply can’t have a process where every claim put in is paid out. The system we currently have is fair.” He added there are no plans to review the criteria or the process of compensating pothole claims.

Fixing approximately 50,000 potholes a year on average, Surrey County Council has budgeted to spend £5m of its annual budget on repairing potholes and other road safety defects.

SCC inspects its major roads (A roads), roads connecting traffic between A roads and smaller roads (B roads) and some smaller roads (often linking a housing estate or a village to the rest of the network) once a month. Rural roads connecting to smaller communities are inspected once every three months, according to guidance on SCC’s website.

As a general rule, the county says, the diameter of the pothole at the surface level should be less than 150mm on carriageways for cars to require it to be repaired within five working days. If it is not possible to permanently correct or repair the defect within the time period, a permanent repair should be carried out within 20 working days.

Related reports:

Pothole payouts and repairs penalise Councillor projects?

On the Hunt for pothole repairs

Don’t blame us for potholes say Surrey’s highway authority.

Going potty about pot-holes?

Give back OBE for SEND failures parents demand

Parents protesting Surrey County Council\'s special needs provision. (Credit: Emily Dalton/LDRS)

Parents say “children and families lives are at stake” after the repeated “failings” by Surrey County Council (SCC) over special needs provision for children. Local authorities are legally obliged to carry out Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessments for children with special needs, and have a statutory duty to deliver special educational provision.

“It needs to be like the Post Office scandal,” said Erika on a rainy morning outside SCC Headquarters Woodhatch Place. Five women gathered outside Woodhatch Place in Reigate to protest against SCC “failing” children with special needs. She said SCC is “flouting the law” and “criminal” for failing to provide EHC plans for many children with special needs.

One parent, Sharren Bridges held a placard of her daughter Jen who committed suicide in 2021, aged just 17. It read: “a multi-agency, systemic failure”, referring to the coroner’s conclusion that SCC, amongst other organisations, failed to ensure Jen’s needs were met which contributed to her tragic death.

Diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at age 10, Jen did not have an EHCP plan which reflected her mental health needs. The coroner also found that opportunities were missed to make an EHCP application at an earlier stage, to ensure she was in better educational setting.

Cllr Clare Curran, (Conservative Fetcham West) Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Lifelong Learning, said in a press statement: “We take the findings from the Coroner extremely seriously and sincerely apologise for any part our services played in Jen Chalkley’s tragic death and the distress of all those who love her. Following the hearing, we are working hard to ensure we learn from the findings and to ensure necessary changes are made as quickly as possible.

“We are resolute in our ambition to improve services and outcomes for children and young people with additional needs and disabilities so that they are happy, healthy, safe and confident about their future.”

Susanne Stonewood, a single mum, has paid more than £12,000 in legal fees fighting for her son’s EHCP. Her son waited 64 weeks (the legal requirement for the process is to be completed within 20 weeks) for an allegedly ‘inappropriate’ EHCP.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) outside the SCC meeting that she was informed “in no uncertain terms” by a SEN professional that her son is “too academically and socially vulnerable to ever set foot in a mainstream secondary school”. Going into Year 6, Ms Stonewood is “fighting” to get the EHCP to meet her son’s needs ready for secondary school.

“SCC are blocking the process at every single stage for [educational] provision for their children.”

Parents protesting outside the council offices were also calling for the council’s Director for Children, Families and Lifelong Learning, Rachael Wardell, to hand back her OBE.

Mrs Rachael Wardell, who is also vice president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services for 2024/25, was awarded an OBE in the King’s Birthday Honours List. She was granted the honour due to her services to children’s social care both inside and out of Surrey.

But parents claim it is under her watch that SCC has dismissed its legal duty to support children with SEND. They argue it would send a devastating message to families and belittle their struggles and legal battles to try and secure the education children are entitled to.

Ms Stonewood said. “We feel it’s inappropriate that Rachael Wardell has been handed an OBE and she should give it back.”

More than 1,900 people signed a petition asking for her OBE award to be blocked. Many parents have commented they feel this has echoes of the Post Office scandal in which Paula Vennells was handed an OBE despite presiding over the Horizon scandal.

Cllr Curran added: “We acknowledge as a council that we have not always got things right for all families and that the service received by some children and young people with additional needs and disabilities has not always been as good as we would like it to have been. We apologise to impacted families for that.

“We are committed to continuing to improve our services and a recent Local Area SEND Inspection found that, although there is more to do, the right actions are being taken and we are starting to see progress.

Councillors Fiona White (Lib Dem/Guildford West) and Cllr Robert Evans OBE (Labour/Stanwell and Stanwell Moor) praised Mrs Wardell and Leader Tim Oliver in Surrey’s full council meeting on July 9.

Meanwhile, Cllr Joanne Sexton (Residents’ Association/Ashford) said parents and carers in her borough were “appalled that Surrey received an honour in the King’s birthday honours list.” She said that residents in her borough have shared their struggles with her, particularly with the fight for children’s education despite clear legislation meant to support them.

Cllr Sexton spoke of parents’ and carers’ “fight against the council which continues to fail to meet its legal and moral obligations”. She added that parents win 97% of legal cases, “highlighting the council’s systemic failure to comply within the law”. Ending her statement at the council, Cllr Sexton was greeted with a round of applause from other members.

SCC has seen a 64% increase in EHCP needs assessment requests across Surrey since 2020, at a time of a national shortage of educational psychologists, and this has naturally had an impact.

Cllr Curran said they have been prioritising the timeliness of statutory assessments through additional investment and focussed work with families. The service has reduced the number of delayed EHCP requests from 1,658 in October 2023 to 56 by the end of June 2024. SCC said it has also issued over 1,500 new EHCPs this year up to the end of June.

She added: “53% of EHCPs issued in May were done so within the statutory 20 week timescale, returning Surrey rates to above the 2023 national average of 50%. We are striving to improve this further over the next few months and are aiming to reach 70% timeliness during the autumn term.”

SCC was invited to comment on campaigners calling for Rachael Wardell to give back her recently-awarded OBE.

Related reports:

King’s Gongs for Surrey leaders

Council pays £3,900 to mother of SEND child

Surrey County failed SEND boy

Image: Parents protesting Surrey County Council\’s special needs provision. (Credit: Emily Dalton/LDRS)

Bet your boots on skill camps?

Hundreds of residents across Surrey can fast track their careers for free thanks to a range of courses in nine exciting and growing sectors.   

Surrey County Council is offering anyone aged 19 and over the opportunity to gain new skills and boost their earnings via a range of Skills Bootcamps. 

These government-funded courses are flexible and can be completed in up to 16 weeks – meaning individuals can learn new skills easily and quickly at a time that suits them. Businesses can also use them as a low-cost way to upskill their current workforce.  

More than 500 courses are available across Surrey over the next nine months, in sectors such as health and social care, gaming, cyber, construction and advanced engineering. 

For most courses, no previous knowledge of the subject is required.  

All offer a guaranteed interview on completion – meaning they are ideal for those looking to progress in their current role or change careers. 

The first courses start this month with several Skills Bootcamps providers at the Camberley Careers Fair on Monday (July 15) at Camberley Theatre from 9.30am to 12.30pm. 

Anyone can attend the event and discover more about these career-boosting courses, while also getting advice from local organisations on personal finances, starting a business and how to secure a job.  

Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Economic Growth, said: “Our continuous support of improving skills in Surrey is essential to our local economy. Whether learning a new skill or upskilling existing skills these free courses will help Surrey residents. 

“We are delighted to have been successful in securing £2.7 million from the Department for Education to support residents improve their career prospects through these Surrey Skills Bootcamps.   

“Ensuring our residents have the right skills to secure good-quality jobs in growing sectors within Surrey is vital to us maintaining our position as one of the UK’s largest regional economies. These free flexible courses are a great way to do that. 

“Supporting local people into great careers is good for our economy and good for our communities – ensuring we can offer a better quality of life for all, ensuring no one is left behind.” 

All of the Skills Bootcamps courses have been developed closely with industry to ensure they meet the future needs of local businesses and the wider economy. 

Any adult living in Surrey can sign up to a course, providing they have the right to work in the UK and they can commit to completing the course. 

Skills Bootcamps can also be used by local businesses to upskill current employees at a discounted rate. 

A full list of courses and start dates can be found on the Surrey County Council website

Register your interest at www.surreycc.gov.uk/skillsbootcamps

  • Skills Bootcamps were first launched in 2021 by the Department for Education (DfE).   
  • Skills Bootcamps are one of several skills products promoted as part of Skills for Life and DfE’s It all starts with skills campaign. This aims to get more people to start their skills journey by increasing supply of and demand for technical qualifications and skills offers among employers, young people and adults. 
  • Skills Bootcamps are now being delivered at a regional level by Surrey County Council through training providers, allowing local government to identify the skills needed for economic growth and development. 
  • Within Surrey, training is available across nine key sectors: 
  • Cyber 
  • Game development 
  • Construction – insulation 
  • Construction – retrofit 
  • Construction – heat pumps 
  • Green electrical – electric vehicles and solar panels 
  • Sustainability and carbon management 
  • Advanced engineering 
  • Health and social care 
  • More information on Skills Bootcamps, including information on how to apply, can be found on the County Council website.  
  • You must be over 19 years of age, have the right to work in the UK and be available to study according to the cohort start and end dates (March 2025). 

Mutual easing of access benefits Epsom development

East Street Epsom aerial view.

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council has agreed to enter into a mutual deed of easement with the developer of the SGN Gas Works site in Hook Road, Epsom. This site is situated next to the council-owned Hook Road car park, and the deed of easement grants reciprocal access rights over each site’s roads.

This agreement is an important step in the council’s long-standing ambition to promote the redevelopment of this combined site, in order to provide an improved, attractive, better connected and rejuvenated area that would attract new residents and businesses to Epsom Town Centre.

The combined site has previously been included in the November 2023 consultation of the Epsom Town Centre Masterplan, and the Reg 18 March 2023 consultation of the Draft Local Plan.

The deed of easement will enable the Gas Works site developer to design a scheme that could use the council’s Rainbow Leisure Centre access road as the main entrance off East Street. In return, the council would have access across the Gas Work developer’s estate road infrastructure from the current Hook Road car park entrance. By removing the need for separate, duplicated road infrastructure, the Gas Works site can be designed to maximise open space and connectivity across the wider combined site.

The deed of easement is conditional, which means it will not be completed or take effect until such time that the developer of the Gas Works Site is granted planning permission for development. This will ensure the council can maintain its two separate, independent capacities as landowner and as Local Planning Authority.

Cllr Hannah Dalton, (RA Stoneleigh) Vice Chair of the Strategy & Resources Committee, said: “Members unanimously voted for the mutual deed of easement at a special Strategy and Resources Committee held on Wednesday 19 June. This is an excellent example of the council working in partnership with other landowners and we hope that, as a result of this decision, we can deliver wider benefits for the community through appropriate high-quality redevelopment and regeneration of the SGN Gas Works site.”

Image aerial view East Street Epsom – Google.

Epsom County Councillor win for childminders

Child care banner. Children with carers

Surrey County Council (SCC) has announced a significant change in the payment system for childminders, following a successful campaign led by Residents’ Association County Councillor Eber Kington (Ewell Court, Auriol & Cuddington). The new system, which will see childminders receiving monthly payments, comes as a response to overwhelming feedback from the childminding community.

Currently, childminders in Surrey receive 60% of their term’s funding upfront at the start of each term, with the remaining 40% plus any necessary adjustments paid by mid-term. This staggered payment system has been identified as a barrier by nearly half of the respondents in the 2024 Early Years Provider Survey. Additionally, SCC’s in-person consultation revealed that 95% of childminders favored a shift to monthly payments.

Councillor Kington highlighted the discrepancy in SCC’s public messaging, which he argued favored larger group providers over individual childminders. He was approached by a childminder from his division, expressing the need for a spokesperson to advocate for a payment system that supports their financial stability and professional efficacy.

The childminder stated, “It would be good to finally have a spokesperson who can support us in calling for a change and enabling us to make a choice in how we are paid, so we are able to continue doing our jobs to the best of our ability, without worrying how or when we will be able to pay our mortgages.”

Councillor Kington emphasized the importance of this change, especially in light of the upcoming expansion of early years entitlement, which will require more childcare places. He argued that ensuring a reliable payment system is crucial for recruiting and retaining childminders.

After lobbying the Council, Councillor Kington raised the issue at the July Council Meeting. In response, Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children, Families, and Lifelong Learning, confirmed that SCC is transitioning to a new software system for early education payments. This system, set to be implemented in September 2024, will include the option for monthly payments.

Following the meeting, Councillor Kington expressed his satisfaction with the outcome. “This is excellent news, but it is a shame that childminders have had to work hard to get the change despite the clear evidence of need shown in SCC’s own consultation results,” he said.

The move to monthly payments aligns SCC with other local authorities, such as the London Borough of Sutton, which already offer this option to their childminders. This change is expected to provide greater financial stability and support for childminders, enabling them to focus on delivering high-quality care without the added stress of managing inconsistent payment schedules.

Image from www.childcare.co.uk

Surrey Borough fails social housing tenants

© Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has failed to meet new rules on social housing a judgement has rules.

The report published by the Regulator for Social Housing (RSH) said the social landlord for around 5,200 homes is “failing”on a number of legal health and safety requirements.

Around 1,700 homes have been left without an up-to-date electrical condition report and another 1,000 with unsatisfactory certificates, according to the RSH’s report. GBC told the RSH it does not have evidence of a current electrical condition report for more than 100 communal blocks, and it could not provide evidence it had completed around 1,300 fire safety actions.

Introduced on April 1 this year, the new consumer standards intended to drive landlords to deliver long term improvements for tenants. In the first bunch of regulatory judgements RSH gave Guildford a ‘C3’ grading, which means there are serious failings and it needs to make significant improvements.

Reports by the RSH, published July 9, said: “The information provided by Guildford BC to us during our engagement with it demonstrates that Guildford BC is failing to ensure that it meets a number of legal requirements in relation to health and safety”.

Findings from the report also showed GBC had not collected Tenant Satisfaction Measures from tenants, which all social landlords are required to do. RSH judgement report said: “Guildford BC has been unable to explain the reasons for its failure to collect this data, and as a result, tenants are not supported to effectively scrutinise Guildford BC’s performance in delivering landlord services.”

In December 2023, GBC said it identified some areas of concern within its landlord housing function included potentially unnecessary repairs being carried out to tenants’ homes. Referring itself to the government’s Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), GBC has since identified other concerns relating to its legal landlord health and safety compliance.

Commenting on the Regulator’s report, Leader of the Council and Lead Councillor for Housing, Cllr Julia McShane responded: “Everyone living in a council property deserves to have a safe and secure home. Since December 2023, we’ve taken urgent action to improve our service. We can evidence progress across all areas of compliance and building safety which includes a real time compliance dashboard, recruitment of expert officers and procurement of building safety contracts.

The leader of the Liberal Democrat-run council said it has reviewed all electrical information data to confirm an accurate position of where it is. GBC has also procured two short term contractors to complete the certification work by July 2025.

McShane said a fire risk validation exercise has confirmed there are no outstanding high-risk actions. She added that a new contractor is now revisiting the low to medium risk properties to validate them, arrange any works required and update the council’s position.

“Our engagement with the Regulator will be ongoing and plays an integral and intensive part of our improvement plan as we work to resolve all of the issues identified and achieve full compliance for our residents,” McShane added.

 Image: © Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.