THE failure to carry out gas safety checks in hundreds of Redditch council houses sparked a broadside from the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee – aimed at their own officers.
It was caused by the non-appearance of a report into the issue delivered by the officers to the Health and Safety Executive and the Homes and Communities Agency – a report which, although written on behalf of the council, hadn’t been seen by any of the councillors present, despite them asking for a copy of it.
Back in August the council had issued an urgent public appeal to tenants to get in touch after it was discovered that 927 of the borough’s council homes hadn’t had a gas safety check – something that should be carried out annually.
Members of the committee – which has a remit to hold the council to account – heard that, had anyone been killed or injured as a result of the failure to do those checks, councillors would have been held liable.
“I find it surprising that although this is an interim report we should still not be able to see it – it has gone out to other bodies on behalf of us as councillors,” said Councillor DavidBush (Con, Redditch West).
“We asked for this report at our last meeting and we were promised that we would have it. It is wrong to withhold information from elected members.”
However Deputy chief executive Sue Hanley described the report as interim and on-going: “We are keen to share the findings but at the moment that would be premature,” she told members, adding that it was still considered confidential.”
She added that as soon as the regulators had concluded their enquiry the findings would be made public.
Council officers have moved to make ensure the authority is never again faced with hundreds of homes failing to have gas safety checks.
Two dedicated gas engineers have been tasked with doing the checks and tenants are now being warned well in advance of the impending safety visits.
“I am confident that what we have put in place will prevent this from happening again,” said head of housing Liz Tomkin.