“I’m absolutely flabbergasted at the decision by the government” – AGSM members fight back in response to dismissive comments from Housing Minister about Gas Access waste

5/11/14

Members of the Association of Gas Safety Managers (AGSM) have fought back strongly in response to the Housing Minister’s comments last week that further powers are not needed for housing providers to allow them to gain access to properties to carry out statutory gas safety checks.

In a survey of AGSM members, who collectively are responsible for two million social housing properties in the UK, strong views were expressed by the people who see first-hand the waste involved in trying to gain access to properties.

The Gas Access Campaign, which is being led by the AGSM, CORGI Technical Services and the Home Group, is calling for changes to legislation to allow easier access to properties to carry out annual safety checks. The Campaign calculates that currently around £50 million a year in public money is being wasted by housing providers who are forced to go to great lengths to gain access to properties to carry out gas safety checks within the legal 12 month period – resulting in a huge financial burden.

“I’m absolutely flabbergasted at the decision by the government,” said Dave Horrocks, Heating and Mechanical Manager at Eastlands Homes. “Gaining access to properties is costing social housing providers significant sums of money and putting some of the most vulnerable people in society in danger. The neighbours of people failing to give access are being put at risk. We really do not need another ‘Dominic Rogers’ tragedy.  I would like to urge the Minister to meet with the AGSM and the Gas Access Campaign so that he can see the whole picture and understand the issues!”

Adding his voice, Gareth Davey, Quality and Compliance Manager at North Lincolnshire Homes said: “The dismissive comments from the Housing Minister are disappointing and surely born out of ignorance to the facts. Housing Associations across the country know that ‘Access’ is a very real issue. Not only is public health being put at risk, but vast amounts of money are currently being wasted year after year and the AGSM have the statistics to prove this! The question should be, what can we do to solve this problem? I hope that Mr Lewis acknowledges this problem and takes the opportunity to become part of the solution by listening to the AGSM/Gas Access Campaigns proposals”

Gas safety campaigners are calling for a meeting with the housing minister, Brandon Lewis MP, to help him fully understand the unnecessary wasted millions spent on gaining access to homes.

The call comes after the Minister revealed that the Department of Communities and Local Government hasn’t carried out any research into the costs to housing associations who are forced to secure court orders as a last resort to gain access to a property to carry out annual gas safety checks.

At present it can take as long as four months for social landlords to gain legal access. The campaign is lobbying for a change in the law which would allow legal access within 24 hours – the time taken for local authorities to gain access.

Sophie Tuffin, Building Services Surveyor at Raglan Housing added: “This doesn’t seem a logical or forward thinking decision by the Minister. Large amounts of time, money and effort go into gaining access to properties within social housing where safety is the main driver. The current process is arduous and does not take into account the safety of other residents or members of the public where a small minority fail to allow access. The Gas Access Campaign looks to make a positive change to this process, so I fail to see that this or the current problems of non-access has been fully understood.”

Other comments from the survey included:

–          “This campaign is of real value to both landlords, tenants, their families and neighbours. The money and manpower used for gaining access could be better used improving the community.”

–          “Please come and listen to the AGSM, to people on the front line who know. Please educate yourself to the facts before another serious incident occurs. You wouldn’t want to find yourself telling a victim’s family that there is no issue with access Mr Lewis, so please be proactive and do the right thing.”

–          “I have numerous examples of tenants who do not allow access for no good reason. Including a lady, with no known health issues, who simply slams the door in the face of housing officers and gas engineers. And a lady who stole the boiler and left an uncapped gas supply pipe in the property.”

–          ”How many people have to die before someone wakes up and ‘smells the coffee’ – because some people will not be able to wake up if overcome by CO.”

–          “In the current economic climate where we are all trying to be productive and efficient, and I think the issue of gas access over the years has been overlooked, the costs involved of £50 million per year is not acceptable, a lot of affordable homes could be built with this money”

Claire Heyes, CEO of the AGSM commented: “Our members have said many times that Access is one of the most challenging and expensive issues that they face in carrying out their roles. We would urge the Minister to listen to the first hand experiences of our members so that he can understand what needs to be done and why. The industry has come together to voice concerns which cannot be ignored.”

The survey gathered opinions from the c500 AGSM and AGSM Gas Forum members during the week of 27th October 2014.

To sign up to the campaign and put your name to a petition calling on the Government to alter the Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998 visit:  www.gasaccesscampaign.org.uk