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Dear Leaseholders and Tenants,

I am writing further to the article published in The Comet on Wednesday 19 May 2021 under the headline ‘Council breaks safety laws in major refurb of flat blocks.’ As pointed out in the article, the council has received a “notification of contravention” letter from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The notification explains that Stevenage Borough Council should review its processes and procedures for the planning and monitoring of construction projects to ensure that, so far as is practicable, the health and safety of individuals are not affected by the work that is carried out. We take the health and safety of our tenants, our employees and contractors very seriously and are extremely disappointed that the Inspector has found any part of our procedures to be lacking.

As part of the ongoing Major Refurbishment Contract, we have already put in place strenuous steps to ensure that all health and safety risks are identified, mitigated and managed. We have taken steps to ensure that all of the properties that are being refurbished are assessed and have undertaken Refurbishment and Demolition surveys extensively. For those properties that are privately owned (our Leaseholders) we will continue to work closely with the owners to ensure access to all and any parts of the buildings that we do not have direct access to or control of. We have made efforts to ensure that all of the contractors working on our sites are trained in both recognising that asbestos containing material and crucially, once such material has been identified, the procedures required to stop work and refer to specialist contractors for removal.

In this instance, however, and despite our strenuous efforts the last protective step (contractor recognition) did not work in this case. As we progress with the refurbishment contract we will redouble our efforts to ensure that all works meet our very high expectations of safety. We will be reaching out to those who privately own property within the blocks seeking and ensuring their full cooperation with Refurbishment and Demolition surveys – as we have already ensured for those properties in public ownership (our tenants).

I am also able to let you know that, before we had received the formal notification from the Inspector, we had already worked with our key partner, Mulalley, who have accepted the need for continuous improvement on the delivery of the contract and we have been able to inform the Inspector of the following changes, which are now fully in place:

  • All existing Refurbishment and Demolition Surveys should be reviewed and no work carried out unless or until all materials are identified, tested and where required removed;
  • Every part of each block being surveyed must be accessed before work is undertaken;
  • We will be undertaking random samples of these surveys during weekly site visits to ensure compliance with the new processes.

As a Council we aim to work cooperatively with our residents to achieve the best possible outcomes for all those who live and work in Stevenage; we have produced a range of supporting information about these works which can be found on the Council’s website on the Major Refurbishment Contract page. We also want to hear from our leaseholders (email major.works@stevenage.gov.uk) and tenants (major.worksinvestment@stevenage.gov.uk) if they have any concerns or comments about the work that is ongoing.

Finally we wish to recognise the input from Mr Endersby in drawing this to the attention of both the HSE and the council. We are now reviewing our processes and will put any necessary corrective action in place - ensuring the very best possible health and safety practice for all.

Your sincerely,

Councillor Jeannette Thomas

Portfolio Holder for Housing, Health and Older People