Council nears full compliance after housing report

Welwyn Hatfield Council could face more housing pressure from those leaving London

The report found around 90 per cent of applicable buildings had an overdue fire risk assessment. - Credit: Archant

Social housing tenants can breathe a sigh of relief with the news that failings in hundreds of safety checks are set to be rectified ahead of a spring target.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council was accused of the failings in management of its properties in a scathing report last summer.

WHBC has said it expects to be fully compliant with all necessary regulations by the end of March.

In an update to councillors this week, officers confirmed the council has installed almost 800 new fire doors in 2021, and is now fully compliant in relation to checks on water, asbestos, and gas and electricity in communal areas, with other checks on the verge of completion.

In July 2021, the Regulator of Social Housing found hundreds of safety checks were out-of-date or hadn’t been completed, and concluded the borough council had breached part of the Home Standard, which meant there was “potential for serious detriment to Welwyn Hatfield BC’s tenants”.

The report found around 90 per cent of applicable buildings had an overdue fire risk assessment, and the council had failed to meet its legal obligations in relation to electric, asbestos and water safety checks.

The report had prompted a failed bid from opposition groups to oust council leader Cllr Tony Kingsbury.

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The council said it had self-referred itself to the regulator as soon as they were made aware of the issues, and had worked quickly to resolve the issues.

Since the report was published, officers have provided an update to councillors on a regular basis ahead of meetings of the Cabinet Housing Panel.

In November, the council confirmed checks in relation to asbestos, and gas and electricity in communal areas had been completed.

In the latest update, published this week ahead of the panel meeting on January 17, the council added they have completed and quality checked 163 fire risk assessments as of January 4, and are on track to complete all the necessary checks by March.

Officers added they had also been able to carry out more advanced type three fire risk assessments at 40 per cent of properties. The council has installed another 199 fire door sets, with a total of 779 installed in 2021.

In relation to gas checks, 99.97 per cent of domestic areas have now been checked as well as all communal areas, with three properties outstanding due to access issues.

According to officers a “significant amount” of access issues has limited domestic electric checks, with 202 properties still to be accessed. However, officers believe they are still on track to be compliant by March, with a five-year programme in place for future checks.

All necessary water checks have also been completed since November’s update.

The borough council has previously confirmed it would investigate the cause of the failings, but no timescale has been set for a report to be published.

Councillors will discuss the update and have an opportunity to question officers during the Cabinet Housing Panel on January 17.