Stock Condition Survey

The title is a little misleading. This was not a stock condition survey, but rather an asset inventory report. We waited for years but finally Savills produced their lists with which the City will plan a series of upgrade projects over the next 30 years. A large amount of the cost for these projects will be for our service charge and so the RCC’s Asset Maintenance Working Party is keeping a close eye on things.

Gouged Out Holes in Window Frames

For those of you with holes chopped out of your window frames (done during the surveys) (I believe just John Trundle and Bunyan Court), we are repeatedly trying to get something done about these before winter sets in and there is damage from the cold or water ingress.

We have been informed that before any long term repair can be carried out the Project Manager, Philippe, was looking into a treatment coat to be applied with K&M. The BEO has yet to receive the final outcome on this from Philippe but they have a meeting with him on Wednesday 13th December for an update. Jason Hayes

BEO management are aware of these holes and the ultimate person in charge, Jason Hayes, Head of Major Works is also on board with this.

Window Survey Reports

As you know, window replacements are a huge part of our service charges.

For two years now residents have been asking for a project to be organised which rolls out efficiently costed replacements and/or repairs.

Property Services have, to our understanding, commissioned 4 surveys which incorporate window frames. The RCC has managed to obtain the reports from the surveys but flat numbers have been redacted so not as useful as they could be. Please find the links to the reports as follows:

  • The Savills stock condition survey. The RCC has been given access to summary reports.
  • The K+M “survey while decorating the externals” survey. The RCC has asked for these reports.
  • Keldea terrace blocks top floor window frames survey. The RCC has been given access to the block by block reports
  • Abseiling survey (perhaps the contractor was Martech but nothing mentioned other than in the block reports) after the RCC pointed out that Keldea had failed to survey the frames not accessible via balconies. The windows like this are only on the blocks north of Beech Street.

Published
Categorized as RCC

Update on the City’s S20 Dispensation

Please find below an update on progress on the City’s Application to the First Tier Tribunal for a Section 20 Dispensation, from the Sub-Committee co-ordinating the BA response. 

Update on the City’s S20 Dispensation

The BA response is being co-ordinated by a sub-group comprising: 

  • Adam Hogg, Chair BA; 
  • Sandra Jenner, Chair RCC; 
  • Brendan Barnes, BAGC member; 
  • David Graves, Lessee who is also a Solicitor 
  • Richard Tomkins, Lessee who originally identified the City’s unlawfulness. 

Background:

  • No City S20 consultation in 2017 for an important contract for Agency Workers which contributed significantly to our service charges to the tune of £2+mn – unlawful
  • City Solicitors did not answer for six months after a resident queried a charge for agency workers and asked if a contract had been entered into without consultation. 
  • City took a further year to apply for a dispensation after conceding that S20 consultation should have been undertaken – unreasonable and compounding of unlawfulness
  • City applied for a S20 dispensation with an ill-considered and perfunctory Application seemingly without considering whether any other residents/estates may be affected – unreasonable and unlawful
  • City Solicitors sought agreement from respondents to the original dispensation application to a withdrawal stating the reason is to pursue settlement. The prime reason is actually because other HRA residents need to be included if the case goes ahead.

Current position:

  • The City has been told by the FT Tribunal that it must notify all residents of its Withdrawal Application, not just those who have objected to the original Dispensation Application.
  • We shall be applying for our costs associated with the Withdrawal Application to be reimbursed by the City and also for the City’s costs not to be charged to our Service Charges 
  • The City will need to make another S20 Dispensation Application in due course. The ball is in their court. 

Recent Letters from City of London to Lessees

Dear Barbican Lease Holders

All lessees will have received two letters from the Corporation on or around the 16th of August:

  1. An application to the First Tier Tribunal seeking dispensation from consultation from the City Solicitor.
  2. A Section 20 Notice of intention to enter into a qualifying long term agreement.

The two are related and refer to the City’s failure to consult in 2017 when setting up a contract to provide temporary labour.

As significant sums of money are involved the RCC and the BA are seeking legal advice on your behalf.

We will report back to you with more detail and advice on how we should respond to these letters as soon as possible.

Adam Hogg & Sandra Jenner

Creating a Better Barbican

Please help create a Better Barbican by volunteering to join the Leaseholder Service Charge Working Party that:

  1. Works with City Officers to improve the City’s processes and policies that ensure service charges provide good value when delivering the services defined in our Service Level Agreements
  2. Examines leaseholder service charges and the basis of their calculation, ensuring that information about service charges is transparent and is communicated effectively to residents and the Barbican Residents’ Consultation Committee (RCC)  

Membership of the working party is for three years. Residents with specialist knowledge and experience are particularly welcome.

The Service Charge Working Party reports quarterly to the RCC and its work covers six key areas:

  1. Reviewing and commenting on the service charge reports to be presented to the RCC 
  2. Examining past service charge expenditure to compare with current or planned levels of expenditure
  3. Reviewing draft service charge budgets and discussing with officers the basis on which these estimates have been made
  4. Engaging with officers to understand the processes and policies around achieving value for money within the service charge
  5. Considering whether more forecasting is required and review what is and isn’t currently forecasted
  6. Forwarding any relevant comments that may impact on service delivery to the Working Parties of the RCC including the Asset Maintenance Working Party and Service Level Agreement Working Party

If you would like to know more, or would like to volunteer, please email chairspeedhouse@outlook.com by Friday 15 July stating:

  • Your name
  • The skills/knowledge you have to offer
  • The areas of the working party’s activities to which you aim to contribute
  • That you will take the Minutes on a rotational basis
  • If you are a current/prior member of this or another Barbican Working Party

Current and prior members of this working party are welcome to apply as their valuable knowledge will complement the fresh perspectives brought by new members. Decisions on membership will be made by the residents delegated by the Barbican Residents’ Consultation Committee.

Thank you for helping to create a Better Barbican.

Christopher Makin

Chair Residents’ Consultation Committee (RCC) http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=188

New interim manager to head Barbican Estate Office (BEO)

Rosalind Ugwu has been appointed to manage the BEO whilst a permanent replacement for Michael Bennet is ​sourced.

For the past ​seven months the ​Leaseholder Service Charge Working Party has been meeting with City Officers to get a fuller understanding as to how the BEO operates and identified key issues meriting a full independent review.

Rosalind will be focusing on these key issues, as well as overseeing the work of the BEO. They include:

  • The independent review of the structure and performance of the BEO (in conjunction with residents’ representatives).
  • Working with residents and their elected representatives on matters relating to the Barbican Estate.
  • Review of processes and procedures within the BEO (including appraisals, one-to-ones, training and development, absence management, performance management and reporting, reviewing and updating Job Descriptions). Some of this will, of course, link into the independent review above.
  • Proposals around cost savings and the wider financial position with the Barbican car parks (including resident consultation and liaison).
  • Customer service provision, customer satisfaction, complaints and estate surveys.
  • Staff morale.

We welcome Rosalind to her new role and the City’s commitment to work with the Residents’ Consultative Committee through the Leaseholder Service Charge Working Party on these issues.

Adam Hogg              Chairman Barbican Association        

Christopher Makin    Chair Residents’ Consultative Committee

Published
Categorized as RCC

Update on the future of the Concierge / Car Park Attendant Service

Dear residents

Future of Concierge/Car Park Attendant Service

We write to update you on progress. The Leaseholder Service Charge Working Party (LSCWP) was charged with seeking opportunities to make savings, without reducing levels of service, to offset any additional costs to residents incurred from maintaining the Car Parking arrangements.

The BEO has provided the LSCWP with much of the information requested and subject to some points requiring further clarification is coming to the end of its study.

Whilst the LSCWP did not find any quick wins, it has identified potential opportunities to make significant savings which we believe could be sufficient to offset the Car Parking arrangements. These savings will not affect the delivery of current agreed services. The next stage in the process will be to work with the BEO to realise them.

Whilst these discussions are going on we have requested that there should be no changes to the Car Parks and that there is no question of any further levy on residents.

The Barbican Residential Committee charged the BEO to produce a number of alternative proposals for the Car Parks. These are still awaited.

Michael Bennett, Head of the Barbican Estate retired at the end of March the appointment of his successor provides an opportunity to enhance the management, the efficiency and the effectiveness of the BEO. We have stressed this with senior Officers.

The ‘levy’ averaging £127 per flat (excluding Tower blocks who pay 100% of their Concierge costs) that was agreed last year has not yet been added to our service charges.

Regards

Christopher Makin
Chair Residents’ Consultation Committee
Adam Hogg
Chairman Barbican Association

A shock in the car parks

It came as a shock to learn that the the City was planning to remove six of our Concierges (car park attendants). This plan would eliminate the Concierge service from one car park and move another to daytime only.

The fact that residents heard about this from anonymous sources, rather than through the diverse consultation methods used by the City is, writing at my most restrained, very disappointing.

The Residents’ Consultation Committee and the Barbican Association, which always work together closely, flew into gear to save our Concierge service. Whilst it would have been ideal to take a slower and more consultative approach, we needed to deliver results fast to meet the City’s timetable.

My thanks go to all involved in this effort, particularly Mike Cribb who led the residents’ response assisted by Sandra Jenner, Richard Tomkins and Roger Tynan. It soon became clear that the City had backed itself into a financial corner, having agreed to cut costs in nearly every area of its operations, and the only way to keep our Concierges in place was to find a financial solution. 

It also became clear that losing six Concierges was not the end of the matter. The Concierges at two more car parks had been identified as being the next in line to go, so the service residents value greatly was at the top of a slippery slope.

I hope you had the opportunity to make your voice heard on this matter through your representative on the Barbican Residents’ Consultation Committee (RCC) that I chair. Your representatives were invited to two meetings (one jointly with the Barbican Association General Council) to discuss the future of the Concierge service and all were encouraged to garner residents’ views by Zoom, email or as appropriate.

At the RCC meeting on 27 September there was a further hour of debate. The terrace block representatives then unanimously agreed the following Guidelines and Resolution to the Barbican Residential Committee, the relevant decision making body. The representatives from the tower blocks abstained as Concierges provide a service to the terrace blocks, so tower residents are not being asked to pay extra.

Guidelines: that the BRC is asked to consider the following points during subsequent negotiations :

  • Work flexibly and imaginatively and in good faith; i.e. the proper disclosure of service charge accounts with service charge payers and the RCC, to find a longer term solution to this issue within the structure of the current lease and freehold transfers;
  • In carrying out this work, identify specifically what services are provided by the Estate Concierges, how much they cost and who receives them;
  • To assist an RCC Working Party in finding ways to significantly reduce service charges, without materially affecting the level or quality of front-line services offered by the Barbican Estate Office.

Resolution:

RESOLVED, that – The Barbican Residential Committee is asked to note that the terrace block representatives on the Barbican Residents’ Consultation Committee have voted in favour of retaining the current number of Estate Concierges.

‘We will support the City of London Corporation in levying a one-off surcharge on terrace block service charge payers, to cover the pro-rata share (for the remainder of the 2021/2022 financial year) of the direct costs of employment of the six Estate Concierge roles scheduled to be removed, pending more detailed negotiations between service charge payers and the City Corporation. These costs were estimated by the Barbican Estate Office to be approximately £232,000 per year.This is being offered as a matter of goodwill and is not an acceptance that the City Corporation would be entitled to reduce services in this way, or of the calculation of the terrace block car park inputs and outputs used to arrive at service charges. If an agreement is reached with the City Corporation, service charge payers will ask for a commitment (from the City Corporation) to that agreement in writing.In consideration of accepting the one-off surcharge, service charge payers would ask City Officers to work flexibly and imaginatively with the RCC to find a longer term solution to this issue, within the structure of the current lease and freehold transfers, and to assist the RCC Service Charge Working Party in finding ways to significantly reduce service charges, without materially affecting the level or quality of front line services offered by the Barbican Estate Office’.

This Resolution was accepted by the Barbican Residential Committee (BRC), subject to advice from the City Solicitor and consultation with residents. Please take a moment to view the BRC meeting at https://youtu.be/6hFfB_65TDo

In closing, I understand that the future of the BRC – the City being keen on a leaner committee structure – will be decided soon. Whatever decision is taken, my goal is to ensure that promises made to Barbican residents in 2003 regarding a formal consultative mechanism for the management of the Estate, are kept. Whist I do not doubt that the current method of resident consultation can be enhanced, I also know that what we have today is better than that enjoyed by leaseholders elsewhere so it is not to be disregarded lightly.

The next RCC meeting is scheduled for Monday 17 January and I hope you will make time to watch the meeting using the details that will be provided the City of London’s website.

Christopher Makin, Chair, Barbican Estate Residents’ Consultation Committee (RCC) that represents residents in their relationship with the City as their managing agent and landlord.