Door opens on an £11m Hackney spend

HACKNEY COUNCIL’S housing operation has spent £10.8 million on supposedly secure front doors for its properties, but has quietly been replacing them because they have been falling apart.

The council says that Hackney Homes, started a “front door replacement programme circa 2006” of more than 8,000 social-housing properties with new doors made by Gerda Security Products, a Suffolk company. Details may not have come to light without a Freedom of Information Act request by Liberal Democrat councillors to get answers from Hackney Homes, a council-controlled company.

Councillors have been told that soon after installation, tenants and leaseholders reported defective exterior facias on the £1,300 doors: the mock-veneer finish peeled off. Hackney Homes assured occupants in 2008 that it would repair or replace all the failing doors but there are “still a large number of Hackney Homes” residents with defective front doors.

Seemingly minor, but chronic cosmetic problems, it was said, could “encourage crime and anti-social behaviour”, affecting residents’ quality of life and the values of adjoining private properties.

Forced by the FoI request to respond to LibDem questions, Hackney Homes said that the manager who had commissioned the doors “unfortunately… no longer works for Hackney Homes”. Gerda had installed 8,241 “to date”.

LibDem councillor Abraham Jacobson, of Cazenove ward, told Loving Dalston: “These doors are a complete eyesore. It has taken a motion at Hackney council and an FoI request to jerk Hackney Homes into action… everyone walking past can see the problem.

“If these properties were managed by a private landlord, Hackney council would have thrown the book at them.”

Hackney Homes said that Gerda was one of five firms to tender for the original contract, which was approved by the council cabinet in July 2005.

A Hackney Homes representative said: “When issues with the doors were initially discovered, Hackney Homes ensured that known affected doors were replaced.
“We have been in regular discussion with Gerda to put in place a programme for the remainder of the affected doors.” The work was scheduled to be completed by December 2012.

Gerda door 0712 © DA
Peeling: a Gerda door in north Hackney

“In spring this year, Hackney Homes and Hackney council commissioned a review to ensure that we achieve best value for money, in terms of price and quality from the front entry door programme. As referred to in the council motion this process will involve members and residents.”

Alastair Thompson, managing director of Gerda Security Products, said: “Gerda has supplied and installed over 33,000 residential door-sets in London and the South East. We have been supplying residential high-security doors and other security products to Hackney Homes since 1996 and Gerda spearheaded the Safer Cities Campaign MADIH (Making a Difference in Hackney) to reduce repeat burglaries.

“We have never had a reported break-in to any of our doors through forced entry. This is a remarkable record for a door manufacturer.” Home Office statistics showed that from 2002 to 2010, the number of recorded burglaries in Hackney had fallen by 59%.

“A single batch of doors was manufactured using a specialist foil coating supplied by a top European company. It advised us that there was a potential problem with this batch.

Gerda “acted swiftly”, informing Hackney council that a number of doors would be affected and that the problem would be rectified “under our warranty terms”.

Thompson added: “At no point was the residents’ security or fire safety put at risk. This problem is purely aesthetic.

“We have implemented a full replacement door programme at no cost to Hackney Homes or any residents. We will continue to work with the residents and Hackney Homes to ensure the remainder are completed.” Sometimes the process could be delayed because it was difficult to obtain access to a property.

David Altheer 040712

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