News Update – May 2019

Topics in this Update


Forum Meetings
Leaseholder Services Advice Surgery
Committee Meetings
Estate Regeneration Ballots
Building Safety – Hackitt Review & Camden 2025
Caretaking Review
Responsive Security Patrol and CCTV
New Landlord Structure for Council Owned Properties
Survey of Tenants and Residents (STAR)
Thames Water charges
Fire Safety Advisory Panel (FSAP) papers
Other Concerns

Forum Meetings
The next Forum meeting is on Tuesday 28 May at 7pm in the Council Chamber at Crowndale Centre, 218 Eversholt St, London NW1 1BD (around the corner from Mornington Crescent Underground Station). A full list of Forum Members can be found here. To contact a member representing your district please email camden@leaseholdersforum.org.uk with “FAO [Member Name]” at the top of the message.

The draft minutes of the February meeting are posted here on the Council website. The agenda pack for this next meeting will be available on the website a week before the meeting.

Please note that whilst leaseholders and other observers are welcome to attend, only Members have a right to speak. To address the meeting on an Agenda item, known as a deputation, please send in a written request no later than 5pm on Thursday 23 May, to the Committee Support Officer outlining the points you wish to make. More information on making a deputation is available here on the Council website.

Leaseholder Services Advice Surgery
Just before the Forum meeting there is also the Leaseholder Services Advice Surgery running from 5.30pm to 7pm. You can arrange to meet with a member of the Leaseholder Services team who will help to explain bills and resolve outstanding issues. You must make an appointment – email leaseholderservices@camden.gov.uk or call 020 7974 4444.

Committee meetings
To read more on the news information below, click on the link to the relevant Committee papers:
– Housing Scrutiny Committee meeting held on 28 March 2019 (Link: HSC28mar2019)
The next meeting of the Housing Scrutiny Committee is on Tuesday, 16th July 2019 at 6.30pm

– Fire Safety Advisory Panel papers for meeting held on 22 January 2019 (Link: FSAP22jan2019)
– Fire Safety Advisory Panel papers for meeting held on 9 April 2019 (Link: FSAP09apr2019).
The next meeting of the Fire Safety Advisory Panel is on Wednesday, 26 June 2019 at 6.30pm.
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Estate Regeneration Ballots
A report of the Director of Development sets out the Council’s proposed approach to estate regeneration ballots.

It is Camden’s commitment to residents that their voice will be heard within major decisions about their homes, neighbourhoods and communities. The Council is proposing to adopt all of the Greater London Authority’s (GLA’s) requirements for estate regeneration ballots, meaning that any Council led scheme involving the demolition of affordable or leasehold homes, that also involves the construction of more than 150 homes, will result in a ballot of all eligible residents to determine if it goes ahead. This will be subject to the same exemptions as the GLA has made to schemes that are to facilitate major infrastructure schemes, sheltered housing decommissioning and others.

The Council is working with residents of Wendling and West Kentish Town Estates to develop options for possible regeneration of their estates. Part of the consultation with residents over the next few months would include discussion on the Council’s approach to ballots. The intention was that any changes to the proposed approach to ballots set out in this paper as a result of consultation with residents would then be agreed at Cabinet prior to any ballot. Also any changes that were made would have to remain consistent with the GLA’s ballot guidelines.

The GLA had brought in the need to allow tenants to have a ballot on estate regeneration schemes which involved demolition so the community felt that they had the ability to halt such proposals. The Council does not expect to ballot any approved CIP pipeline schemes / phases that secured planning permission on or prior to 18th July 2018 as these are covered by the GLA’s transitional arrangements.

The ballot would be a paper based vote that would take place over 21 days, with a yes no answer. The ballot would be based around the landlord offer, with further work following a positive vote to develop the proposal to planning submission stage. The GLA guidance noted that a further ballot might be necessary if the proposals change significantly from the balloted landlord offer, but there is room for interpretation around what would constitute a significant change. Camden would be consulting with the GLA throughout the process. GLA guidance suggests buy-to-let landlords are not eligible to vote.

For more, read the Committee papers here HSC28mar2019
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Building Safety – Hackitt Review & Camden 2025
A report of the Cabinet Member Better Homes sets out the work to date to deliver ‘Camden 2025 Safe Homes’ – the Council’s commitment to achieving the highest standard of safety in all Council homes – and the on-going work required to embed resident safety in the way the Council does things, planning the Council’s response to the Government’s Hackitt Review and the prospect of a new statutory safety framework. The report also recommends that the Council co-produce a Camden resident safety charter through a community conversation with residents.

Immediately following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, and the evacuation of the Chalcots estate in 2017, the Council appointed the first local authority Director of Resident Safety in the country, supported by a small Resident Safety Team – Heads of Engagement & Strategy, Compliance and Governance, and Safer Homes.

The report refers to the programme of independent cladding testing for high-rise residential blocks. Testing at the Chalcots estate identified ACM cladding panels that did not have a fire retardant filler (the same type of panels used at Grenfell tower) fitted to the five towers. The cladding was removed between December 2017 and January 2018 and an independent review of the Chalcots evacuation was commissioned. Since publication of the Review report in June 2018, officers have been working through the report recommendations and the lessons learned from the evacuation process. Extensive resident engagement has been a fundamental part of the selection of a solid aluminium panel system for the replacement cladding at Chalcots. The aim of the process was to ensure that resident feedback informed selection alongside technical engineering advice from specialist consultants. This engagement and selection process has also been followed regarding the replacement of the curtain wall and windows on the estate.

Early work with residents in shaping safety processes included setting up the Fire Safety Advisory Panel (FSAP). The FSAP meets in public with its papers published on the Council’s website; meetings are co-chaired by the Cabinet Member for Better Homes and a resident panel member. There are five full and five reserve resident members recruited through an interview process, with participation by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) who are also members of the Panel. The Panel supports the Director of Resident Safety in ensuring that tenant and leaseholder voices are central to the Council’s developing approach to resident and property safety and residents are members of the stakeholder panel for the recruitment of Directors of Resident Safety. The LFB has a monthly ‘partnership’ meeting with the Camden Fire/Resident Safety team, to discuss trends, provide advice and work alongside the Council in community outreach engagement. (There is more information below on the work of the FSAP).

The Council has regulatory, safety responsibilities for both its own and private sector property delivered through Environmental Health and Building Control Teams. As a result of under investment in construction industry training there is a shortage of professionally qualified staff. Post Grenfell demand for building control and safety professionals has increased steadily, Camden has responded by developing in-house service capacity, training existing staff and recruiting graduate building control officers to build talent, skills and available resources.

Part of the Camden 2025 Safe Homes commitment is a programme of periodic fire risk assessment (FRA) for Council homes and the wider property portfolio. To help deliver the fire safety programme, the Council has invested to increase the in-house resources dedicated to safety and recruited a dedicated Fire Safety Team based in the Property Management Division. The Team has an establishment increased from 5 to 14 staff reporting to a new post of Head of Fire Safety and Health & Safety Delivery, and includes in-house Fire Safety Advisers. External Fire Risk Assessors undertake FRAs in line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and Camden property managers develop programmes of works to individual homes based on these fire risk assessments.

In September 2018 Camden began to carry out new Type 4 FRAs, which include intrusive checks in communal areas and a sample of homes. Tenant & Resident Association representatives are invited to participate in the fire risk assessment of their homes and receive copies of the FRA reports that are checked by in-house Fire Safety Advisers and made available on the Council’s website. The resulting FRA work varies from property to property but where a fire risk assessment has identified something as necessary, fire safety actions include new signage, emergency lighting, redecorating communal areas using fire retardant paint, replacing or upgrading fire doors & door closers, smoke detectors & alarms and ensuring adequate fire stopping (to prevent the spread of smoke & fire). (There is further information below under ‘FSAP’)

Following the Grenfell fire, the Government commissioned Dame Judith Hackitt to review building regulations and building safety to establish a new statutory framework for the regulation of the design and construction of new buildings, their maintenance and management. The final Hackitt report recommended a new statutory system with an initial focus on multi-occupancy high-rise residential buildings 10+ storeys in height. The Government has accepted all of the 52 recommendations made by the review and has published its response – the Building Safety Implementation Plan. A White Paper consultation is expected to begin in May 2019 and it will be some time before the detail of the proposed new safety regime and the timescale for implementation is known. In the meantime, the report concludes that the Council should continue with the development of its own resident safety approach and undertake a programme of internal system review against the Hackitt recommendations and to co-produce with residents a Camden Resident Safety Charter to make clear what the Council’s safety commitments mean in practice.

For more, read the Committee papers here HSC28mar2019
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Caretaking Review
The Cabinet Member Better Homes has reported on the Caretaking and Estate Cleansing Review which considers whether an updated caretaking model is required to meet current resident’s needs. Whilst cleaning remains a major part of the service and was a key priority for residents, there was a range of other demands on caretakers such as increased anti-social behaviour, rough sleeping and monitoring resident safety requirements.

The final decision on the proposal for the external cleaning service and the reorganisation and modernisation of the Caretaking Service would be taken by the Cabinet Member Better Homes, before Summer 2019. The proposed approach would be shared with the DMCs at their June cycle of meetings so they were aware of the final arrangements. Officers would send the final report to all Members of the scrutiny committee so that they were aware of the proposed approach.

The proposed approach for the Caretaking Service, would enable caretakers to fully undertake the new roles as they would cover fewer estates than they did now so they could focus on the role in hand, have a higher level of community visibility, enable them to get to know the people living on the estate, and through that better understand their service needs. Veolia would continue to deliver the collection of bulk refuse along with the Council’s street cleaning contracts. Taking an element of the service back in-house would not lead to any increased service charges. However, if the service model was changed then this may lead to some increase in service charges.

For more, read the Committee papers here HSC28mar2019
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Responsive Security Patrol and CCTV
The Director of Property Management provided an update on the Responsive Security Patrol (RSP), the plans for CCTV on housing estates and the joined up work carried out between Property Management, Housing Management and the Community Safety teams to tackle anti-social behaviour.

In January 2018 the Council mobilised a new contract for the RSP with the contractor Croma Vigilance, taking the opportunity to introduce new contractual requirements and ways of working.

The aim of the RSP is to reassure and engage with the community, responding to specific call outs from residents, carrying out pre-determined patrols and acting on intelligence provided by the community safety team, housing management and Police. The RSP also gathers evidence that can be used by the Police and other teams to take enforcement action. A breakdown of RSP call-outs in 2018 shows the greatest number (48%) being about noise.

The RSP is funded through leaseholder and tenant service charges and is a dedicated service for the Council’s housing estates. Tenants are charged a weekly service charge to cover the estimated cost of the service for the coming year, the charge is currently £0.61 per week. Leaseholders are charged an annual amount based on the actual cost of the service. In 2018/19 the Council provided additional funding of £0.15m to help develop the patrol and the RSP now consists of five vehicles and operates from 4PM to 4AM.

To help monitor the performance of the RSP a panel is being established with residents. The panel will be co-chaired by a resident and the Cabinet Member Better Homes. The Terms of Reference have been finalised and were signed off at the March 2019 District Management Committees. The recruitment processes for panel members are underway.

The Council will be upgrading the CCTV system and wireless network across the borough, at an estimated cost of £4-5m. Leaseholders will be charged a share of the capital cost of the installation in line with the conditions in individual leases. Installation of the first new camera is likely to be at least 18 months away, according to the security consultant.

The upgraded CCTV digital control room was installed in January 2019 and will go ‘live’ later in the year. The Council owns the CCTV cameras currently in position; Croma Vigilant holds the existing contract to operate CCTV in Camden; a further company has responsibility for repairs. The upgraded control room will be able to monitor 100 cameras at a time. As the new cameras will all be digital, algorithms could identify when something was occurring that required a human operator to review images.

For more, read the Committee papers here HSC28mar2019
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New Landlord Structure for Council Owned Properties
The Cabinet Member Better Homes reported that recruitment is underway for the new Neighbourhood officer role which will replace the Housing officer role. When tenants contact their Neighbourhood officer with a problem, the new way of working will mean they will be taken through all the way to resolution, instead of being passed on to another service. Neighbourhood officers will be empowered to make decisions to address resident’s needs. The new service is set to be implemented in two stages, first in June 2019 for properties in Kentish Town, Gospel Oak and Hampstead Housing Districts, and then in September 2019 for the remaining properties.
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Survey of Tenants and Residents (STAR)
Independent research company Acuity has been commissioned to conduct a new STAR Survey during Summer 2019. Tenants and residents views will be sought on a number of different housing matters including repairs and maintenance. This information will be analysed and comparisons made with the 2016 survey to see how Housing Services was performing.
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Thames Water charges
There has been some considerable concern from tenants at the news about Thames Water terminating its contract with the Council to collect water charges on its behalf. This issue does not apply to leaseholders as they are already invoiced directly by Thames Water.
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Fire Safety Advisory Panel (FSAP) papers
The Fire Safety Advisory Panel (FSAP) was established in January 2018 to bring together residents, relevant professionals, staff and Members with the relevant knowledge and skills, in order to put in place measures to ensure that Camden residents never have to experience another Chalcots like incident.

The following extracts are taken from agenda papers for FSAP meetings in January and April 2019 and the minutes of the January 2019 meeting. There is a link to the papers at the end of the thread.

The Fire Safety Advisory Panel considered a report of the Director of Housing Management titled ‘The Council’s tenancy conditions and fire safety’ to inform the panel’s work. The report:
– explains the process for changing the Council’s tenancy conditions
– explains in broad terms how the tenancy conditions currently support fire safety
– Looks in detail at the relevant recommendations in the Hackitt report and the corresponding Council tenancy conditions
– Considers the similarities and differences between the Council’s tenancy conditions and lease terms.

The following are extracts from the report Summary:
5.1 The Council’s tenancy conditions provide a solid basis for staff to take forward fire safety related activity. They stand up well alongside the Hackitt report recommendations and, taking these into account, there are no obvious gaps.

5.2 Although lease terms present additional challenges the Council’s standard leases contain very similar key clauses relating to fire to those in the tenancy conditions.

6.3 As to the position concerning leaseholders, there are a number of different leases, so that although the terms are identical, or virtually identical, in form they are found in different places within the differing leases.

6.4 In contrast with tenants, the approach can also be very different. With reference to, e.g., changing the doors which are demised to the lessees for safety purposes presents the council with 2 potential choices as to utilising different parts of the lease to argue either:- (a) for an implied right to undertake the works; or, (b) contend that the lessee is in breach of covenant, such that: (i) s/he must replace the door, or (ii) that the Council will waive the breach and undertake the work itself.

6.5 There may also be service charge disputes centred around the construction of the lease that are adjudicated in the First Tier Tribunal. One recent example was: E & J Ground Rents No. 11 LLP v Various (24/01/18) where the Tribunal held that the costs of a `walking watch` were reasonably incurred, and noting that otherwise there was a real risk that the landlord may be in breach of its insurance policy if it did not implement a `walking watch`. A comment of note too was made by the Tribunal in a similar case about a `walking watch` and cladding charges in Firstport Property Services Ltd v Various leaseholders of Citiscape (09/03/18) that they did not consider any previous legal authorities of assistance “in the highly unusual circumstances that arose in this and other similar cases following the Grenfell Tower fire”.

The current standard lease gave the Council the ability to carry out gas safety inspections if it wished, though the Council had never sought to impose this for resident leaseholders. Further legal advice is being sought about how the Council could take forward this power if it wished to do so. The Council was also considering other approaches to ensuring leaseholders undertook annual gas safety checks, this included incentivising the process where for example the Council undertook this service for leaseholders free of charge.

A working group arising from the Hackitt recommendations is looking into the issue of the rights and obligations of leaseholders. This matter was also being discussed at London Council’s level who recognised the importance of clarity on the rights and obligations of tenants, landlords and regulators in relation to safety generally and specifically the right of entry to undertake safety works. It was expected that primary legislation would be required to provide the necessary powers for this to be taken forward.

A number of tenants had fitted metal grills to doors and windows of their homes, and it was unlikely that they had sought the Council’s permission to do so. Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) were picking up where these were located and officers would then have to consider what action they should take on this. The London Fire Brigade did not support metal grills being fitted to doors and windows as they required specialist equipment to cut through and were an unnecessary hazard when having to fight a fire. Should a tenant still wish to fit metal grills then the fire service could recommend the most appropriate ones to use, as some were easier for them to deal with than others.

The Fire Safety Advisory Panel considered a report of the Director of Property Management titled ‘Fire safety programme update’. The following are extracts:

The Council has commenced a new round of Fire Risk Assessments. The new FRAs are “Type 4” meaning that they include intrusive checks in communal areas and a sample of dwellings. The first batch of this new type of FRAs focussed on purpose built blocks between 6 and 9 storeys. The second batch of FRAs, focussing on purpose built blocks below 6 storeys commenced in September 2018 and was expected to be complete by February 2019. Once checked and verified, the new FRAs will be uploaded onto the Council’s website here. At 1 May 2019 there are listed FRAs for 92 buildings.

To help deliver the fire safety programme the Council is putting in place a new structure. The Council has already appointed two experienced fire safety advisors to work alongside the Principal Fire Safety Advisor and they joined the Council towards the end of 2018. The Council has also appointed a new Head of Fire Safety and H&S Delivery and they joined the Council in January 2019.

The Council has a wide ranging programme which is delivering fire safety works. The programme is complex, covers a large number of properties, is often subject to leaseholder consultation and access can be required within dwellings to install smoke and heat detection. To help track the programme the Council has a fortnightly programme review in place and is also setting up new processes to address ‘no access’ properties.

A wide range of works packages have been established – some are property specific and some form part of wider Better Homes projects. The report identifies five geographical works packages underway, totalling to £20 million. These works are due to complete by August 2019.

The Council is aware that the current approach being undertaken to contact TRA representatives in relation to a Fire Risk Assessment being undertaken on an estate, had not been working as well as it had been. Officers from the Resident Safety Division would now be discussing with colleagues in the Tenant Participation Team regarding the best way of contacting TRA and DMC representatives in relation to Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) being undertaken on estates. This information would then be shared with the contractor undertaken the current programme, and officers would put in place plans to monitor the way this was working going forward.

The start date for the Chalcots Replacement Cladding and Curtain Wall works contract was February 2019, with the overall programme of works taking approximately 124 weeks. The actual start of works would be determined by the detailed design process and the full system fire test of the proposed cladding system.

For more, read the Committee papers here FSAP22jan2019
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The Fire Safety Advisory Panel April meeting received a report from the Director of Property Management tilted ‘Street Property FRA Works Update’. The Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) programme is prioritised according to risk and includes a total of 1,968 street properties. Properties rated as High Risk in the previous FRA will be assessed every 2 years with the expectation that the risk rating will decrease following the fire safety works. Properties rated as Medium Risk will be assessed every 3 years, and properties rated previously as Low Risk will be assessed every 4 years. In financial year 2018/19, there were 400 street property FRAs carried out and in financial year 2019/20 FRAs will be carried out to the remaining 1,568 street properties. This phasing reflects the works that are currently being carried out and the next FRAs will be undertaken when works are completed.

The Camden Association of Street Properties (CASP) has highlighted concerns over the delivery of the recent fire safety works to street properties not having consideration for the original features and aspects of the build types during installation works. This feedback has initiated a renewed focus with closer working with contractors to ensure, where possible, care is taken to preserve the character of communal areas. To improve consideration of the original aspects of street properties during programmes of work, the Council’s Quality Assurance team is to arrange joint site visits with CASP to consider work completed on street properties and the approaches taken.

The Fire Safety Advisory Panel April meeting received a report from the Head of Resident Safety Division titled ‘Supporting Residents affected by Emergencies’. The report provides information on the support offered to residents in the event of emergency evacuation and incidents such as floods or fires.

The Fire Safety Advisory Panel April meeting received a report from the London Fire Brigade Borough Commander titled ‘London Fire Brigade Performance in Camden’. The report includes operational statistics, community fire safety performance and regulatory fire safety information.

The Fire Safety Advisory Panel April meeting received a report from the Head of Resident Safety Division titled ‘Camden 2025 Resident Safety Programme’. The report sets out the Council’s work to date to deliver its commitment to resident safety and the on-going work required to embed resident safety in the way it does things; the Council is also planning its response to the Governments Hackitt Review and the prospect of a new statutory safety framework.

For more, read the Committee papers here FSAP09apr2019
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Other Concerns
If there is a particular matter of concern to you, please post details on the website Discussion Board or email your suggestion to camden@leaseholdersforum.org.uk

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