Agenda item

Election of a Chairman

To elect a Chairman in accordance with Standing Order 29.


The Town Clerk advised that, in accordance with Standing Order 29, the position of Chair was uncontested and it was RESOLVED, that – being the only Member expressing a willingness to serve, Mark Wheatley be appointed as Chair of the Barbican Residential Committee (BRC) for the ensuing year. 


The Chair thanked Members for re-electing him and then spoke of the sad passing of Mark Bostock, paying tribute to his passion and commitment to the Barbican residents, during 6 years of service to the  BRC.  Members joined the Chair in sending condolences to his family.


The Chair welcomed new Member Dawn Frampton.


The Chair then invited the Chair (of the RCC) to address the BRC and

comment on the meeting of 4th September 2023.  The first draft of the Minutes, which had been approved by the Chair, had been tabled for BRC Members.  However, the Chair (of the RCC) would have preferred the draft minutes and resolutions to have been circulated ahead of today’s meeting.   


In summary, Members noted the following points of concern:


1.       Generally, the RCC found the reports lacking in background detail and the tone overly positive.


2.       The action tracker lacked clarity in respect of chasing outstanding items.     The Executive Director, Community and Children’s Services, agreed to review its format.


3.       Although recognising the initial work, the Barbican Estate Office (BEO) Review Action Plan needs refinement to make it an effective management tool.


4.       There are residual problems with electricity billing, and residents had not seen the reconciliation exercise requested a year ago.  However, an audit would be undertaken, by external consultants, to reconcile actual energy usage with the correct charges for 2021/22 and 2022/23.   Furthermore, two resident representatives are now working with the Energy Group in respect of Terms of Reference for the Audit, selection of consultants and reviewing outputs.


5.       The current Repairs and Maintenance Contract is due to expire in April 2024 and, despite this being raised at the February 2023 meeting of the RCC, there is now insufficient time to undertake a procurement process.   Therefore, the current contract will be extended and residents are deeply dissatisfied. 


6.       The Service Charge Outturn was not provided to the Service Charge Working Party for review and it is unclear as to whether the surcharges resulted from significant overspend against estimates on repairs. 


7.       There are issues with the quality of the redecoration work.  Two house groups have entered the formal complaints procedure, another has made an application to the First-tier Tribunal and others are considering their position. Therefore, the RAG green status with a low risk is misleading.


8.       The cost of the 5-Year Asset Maintenance Programme is still reflective of 2021 prices and excludes management fees , so the true cost is likely to be considerably higher.  A page and a half of questions and comments from the Asset Maintenance Working Group remain unanswered.   The RCC feel that such a costly, technical and risky programme needs a Programme Board, comprising of stakeholders and resident representatives, and passed a resolution to this effect.  The Head of Major Projects subsequently advised that responses had since been formulated to the above questions and would be shared with Members of the RCC and BRC.


9.       The issues with the windows was first raised in June 2021 and a commitment was made to establish a programme of repairs/replacements to achieve economies of scale.  To date this has not been done and there has been no explanation. This matter had now been the subject of at least one formal complaint, which was upheld at both the 1st and 2nd stages and the complainant might take it to the Ombudsman.  Many windows have been replaced on a piecemeal basis, which is more expensive and does not provide a long-term warranty.  Further, this has only been done after residents had serious problems with water penetration, which is also now evident on balconies.  Therefore, the RAG status is, again, misleading. This matter was raised at the Service Charge Working Party and the Assistant Director agreed it should be part of programmatic work.  


10.    There was no resident involvement in the procurement of the window cleaning contract because the process started too late.  There is no explanation as to why some houses’ charges have doubled but others are less.


The Chair thanked the RCC Chair for bringing these points to the BRC’s attention and stressed the need to work with the Estate Office to ensure a balance between acceptable service charges and effective outputs.


The Chair then advised that the major works resolution would be taken under the relevant agenda item and a resolution passed in respect of underfloor heating would be taken under ‘Any other Business’, later on this agenda.  


In response to a question about a high level response to the works that have been either delayed and/or shelved, the Chair advised that some of these would be explored during the reports on  today’s agenda. The Chair was also confident that the more general issues, concerning the fabric of the Estate, would be addressed as part of the Transformation Programme, arising from the Barbican Estate Office (BEO) Review.


The Committee agreed that, as Sandra Jenner and Adam Hogg had both given written commitments to uphold confidentiality, they should be permitted to stay for the confidential discussion on the BEO Review, noting they had also been full participants in the Review Steering Group.   However, they would leave the room during the non-public section on the more general exempt items.