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Company given Havering’s council homes contract was axed by another council over ‘life threatening incident’

The group will be in charge of repairs to all of Havering's 10,000 council homes The group will be in charge of repairs to all of Havering's 10,000 council homes

Friday, March 14, 2014
8:45 AM

The construction company awarded the £35million repair contract for Havering’s 10,000 council homes had previous works with another council terminated following a “life-threatening incident” and “extremely poor-quality work”.

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Cllr Lesley Kelly said the council had undertaken 'rigorous' checks on the Breyer groupCllr Lesley Kelly said the council had undertaken 'rigorous' checks on the Breyer group

Havering’s housing chief, Cllr Lesley Kelly, said the council had carried out “rigorous” checks on Harold Hill-based Breyer Group before the firm won the contract in November.

But it emerged this week that Breyer, in combination with poor contract management by Southwark Council, had caused “significant distress and inconvenience” to residents, according to a report by Southwark’s housing scrutiny committee.

The report said: “At the end of November 2012, a serious, life-threatening incident occurred as a result of work being carried out by the contractor.”

Repairs to Draper House in the borough were halted when a gas leak led to a resident needing hospital treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning.

A long list of failings

Concerns expressed in the Southwark Council scrutiny report from May 2013 include:

- “Breyer’s intransigence around taking instructions or looking for alternative solutions – this was especially relevant around the issue of netting that surrounded the scaffolding.

- “New windows not properly matching the dimensions of the original windows.

- “Issues raised by Breyer’s sub-contractors about delays in receiving payment for work carried out beyond acceptable timescales.

- “Snagging problems with the new fire doors (so serious as to result in sacking of staff by the contractor). Some fire doors were not securely fit into their frames.

- “Long delays in making good damage caused by the removal of asbestos.

- “A dangerous occurrence took place on November 26, 2012, when the window sub-contractor appointed by Breyer removed a flue when installing new windows and did not replace it. The resident suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Last week, Breyer began its projected 10-year maintenance programme in Havering.

When the firm won the contract last year, Cllr Kelly said: “We underwent a rigorous process to appoint these contractors and we were very specific in what we wanted from them.”

But five months earlier, Breyer’s contract with Southwark Council was “mutually terminated” after 2012’s “serious health and safety failing”. The south London flats remain unfinished two years on.

When asked about the consultation process, a Havering Council spokesman said: “No we didn’t consult with Southwark.

“The contract only started [this month] and so far there are no complaints and we are monitoring it. If anything changes, we will take action on that.”

Labour’s Cllr Paul McGeary said: “Rigorous checks must be in place to make sure they are competent and they have a good history of health and safety and performance. It’s clearly not the case – it’s very worrying.”

This week Breyer spokesman Ashley Powell said: “We aim to deliver an excellent service through our specialist responsive repairs division.”

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