Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The council is effectively bankrupt, after lending £200m to a house-building firm that delivered just three purpose-built council homes in five years. Yet some of the council’s existing housing stock has been shamefully neglected, according to a TV report tonight

The living conditions in a couple of council flats in a tower block off Regina Road in South Norwood have been condemned as “dangerous squalor” and “appalling” in a devastating television news report due to air this evening.

The damp and mould in a Croydon Council flat in South Norwood in 2021. No one from the council was available for interview

“Before you even see the black mould and the damp inside the flats, you can smell it in the corridors,” ITV News reporter Dan Hewitt says.

“Not even the pictures you can see do justice to the dangerous squalor residents, some of them young children, have been forced to endure for months.”

One young mother, who is living in the flat with her two children, says that she has been ignored by her landlords, Croydon Council, for months despite repeated complaints and appeals for help.

ITV News will be broadcasting its report from Croydon at 6.30pm and in the News At Ten, claiming the flats to be “the worst housing conditions ever seen”.

But when the film goes out, it will have no one from Labour-controlled Croydon Council to offer any explanation. The council refused requests to put up someone for interview.

According to the ITV News report, the leaks in the flats have made family homes dangerous and uninhabitable. Complaints have been made since October 2019.

“The floors of the flat are now soaking wet; black mould has taken over the kitchen, rendering it unusable,” the ITV News report states.

The dangerous flats are in one of three blocks off Regina Road in South Norwood

Fransoy Hewitt lives on the ground floor of the council block with her two sons, aged five and seven.

To prevent the risk of electrocution, the fridge has been unplugged for more than three months. The ITV News report states, “She has no light in the bathroom, her sofa has been destroyed along with many of her children’s shoes and toys.

“The only room in the entire flat undamaged is the small bedroom the family of three cook, eat, play and sleep in.”

The young mum believes the state of the flat is making her children and herself sick. She has to put vapour rub on her youngest son’s chest to help him breathe at night.

She says that the way she has been treated by the council “makes me feel like I am not even human”.

At one point in the TV report, she says, “I’m not coping.

“There is only so much I can get angry, and pull my hair out – I just feel like I’m going to kill myself if I continue like that.”

Hewitt has kept a careful log of the calls she has made to Croydon Council. She says she has called the council at least 20 times since December, to no avail.

Fransoy Hewitt: ‘I just feel like I’m going to kill myself’. Picture: ITV News

Then, on Friday, just hours after the council had been contacted by ITV News with an interview request over the appalling conditions the young mother and her children were having to endure, Hewitt and her boys were moved by the council to a hotel.

According to ITV News, the damage to the flats – Hewitt’s and that of her upstairs neighbour – is so bad it has been described by both the chief executive of the UK’s biggest housing charity, Shelter, and the former chair of the UK Health and Safety Executive as “the worst housing conditions they have ever seen”.

And environmental hygienist Jeff Charlton, called in by the television producer to pass his verdict on the flats, said, “It’s hard to believe this is Britain in 2021.”

Charlton’s report found, “Serious health hazard and danger to occupants”, “Risk of electrocution”,  “That the long-term water ingress from the flat above is negligence on the part of landlord”, and several potential legal breaches including “landlord failure in the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018″. There was additionally an unconfirmed “Potential exposure to asbestos”.

In a statement issued to the broadcasters, a spokesperson for Croydon Council said, “We were very concerned to learn of these issues at these properties, and the photographs we have seen show conditions that are clearly not acceptable.

“We are sorry that these residents have not had the level of care for their homes that they rightly expect, and we will be looking into what has happened as a matter of urgency.”

Read more: The appalling and ‘unliveable’ council housing conditions some have endured during lockdown

Tomorrow, exclusive to Inside Croydon: Read Fransoy Hewitt’s own account of her struggles to get Croydon Council to do something about the appalling conditions in her home


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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31 Responses to Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats

  1. Billy says:

    Absolutely shocking report if you see it…

  2. miapawz says:

    this poor lady lives like this and negreedy has a £400k pay off. words fail.

  3. miapawz says:

    Brick by Brick is supposed to be building social housing – where is it for this lady and the poor guy upstairs ? where is the repair team on this block?

  4. Chris Flynn says:

    I’ve been watching “Our Friends In The North” recently. It’s obviously fictional though, as there were consequences for the landlords and politicians there.

    • Simon Hodgetts says:

      I remember Our Friends In The North well – fictional, but based on facts. Local government officials were incentivised by large construction firms to adopt inappropriate system build methods for tower block schemes, which were then quickly and badly constructed by underpaid labour, often working piecework. There are news reports from the 1970s and 80s showing that joints which were meant to be fully bolted together and grouted to keep water out, were often fixed with one bolt then stuffed with newspaper. In many respects, it’s time that all of these shoddy tower blocks were demolished and housing association built traditional homes constructed to replace them.

  5. judy kennedy says:

    Who is the Housing Officer of this block? I was a housing officer 20 years ago! Who the fuck has allowed this? UNBELIEVABLE

  6. June Kay says:

    This is a disgusting way to have people living, sorry doesn’t do it. Find the source of the water and fix it. Our politicians are being overpaid and poor people are living like this I. One of the wealthiest counties in the world. The wealth goes to the wrong people.

  7. John Giannelli says:

    Absolutely shocking. How shameful. The entire council management need to closely examine themselves. Many heads should roll.

    • Elaine lee says:

      This should not be happening. Council should be ashamed and investigated and heads should roll!

  8. Jacqueline Lawler says:

    It’s disgusting how these people are having to live..the whole if the council that have know about this want sacking ..no one should have to live like this is appalling these people have children how can they take tent and let people live like this ?? Think they need to go into some tmrealky plush hotel and put the council in those homes for a few months

  9. Just watched ITV News at Ten. The Council, both officers and elected members, responsible for dealing with this should be ashamed. In fact they should resign forthwith. I was once proud to say I worked for Croydon Council but seeing this I think I might keep quiet in future.

  10. Raj says:

    They are not fit to run anything. How much tax payers money has been wasted paying these clowns?

    FIRE THE LOT OF THEM. TOTAL WASTE OF SPACE.

  11. Derek sheffield says:

    Unbelievably jaw dropping to witness this on ITV news tonight !! 2021 and people are being forced to live in these disgusting conditions. For GOD SAKE have councils not learned their lessons from Grenfell ? One wonders if it’s because of their race ??? Croydon Council the loy of you should hang your heads in shame ,it would appear not one of you are fit for purpose.
    I sincerely hope these human beings aren’t forced much longer to exist like animals.
    Thanks to the British media things will now start to improve and heads roll !!!

  12. K mcguinness says:

    Chief executive earns£192450 Per annum yet families in there social housing stocks live in horrendous squaller. 2021 this is never acceptable, serious management failings within Croydon council

  13. Sophia says:

    I thought at first it was a third world country I was watching until the lady spoke. I could not believe what I was witnessing! That women needs to fine them for the long term effects on her and her children’s health. Mould is extremely toxic!

  14. Gill says:

    Sack the leader of the council now and the useless Director of crime who is doing
    nothing about Anti social behaviours.

  15. Veronica says:

    CEO needs to do a house swap as does the Director of Housing and Children’s services. One week living in one of these squalid flats see what its really like for these people.

    Shame on you – you cant ignore the people who vote for you.
    Time also for an inquiry into institutional racism.

  16. Luke dougherty says:

    I had same problem in my bedroom walls I got told off council to wipe the black off walls simple fact is council ignore your repairs and say they have ran out of money bull …. they don’t do lobs properly they are in a hurry to sit in there vans for a cuppa all these people in Croydon need compensated after I watched documentary on my tv what kind of world are we living in let senior council official live in your houses for a week Croydon residence instead of getting bumper pay rises

  17. jazzerpete says:

    Council leader needs to go NOW. She made a weak “apology” at last night’s Cabinet Meeting and looked completely out of it, not paying attention and reading her screen – no doubt as all the tweets, etc, following the ITV News feature were piling in.
    As well as the hopeless Councillors, where have all “our” MPs gone, by way of comments and action? Not a word.
    I believe that Sadiq Khan has commented, but that is the first we have heard from him, with nothing about the Council bankruptcy, nor from “our” MPs about that same problem.
    Robert Jenryck has to do something about the complete failure of the Council.
    What an absolute disgrace. I have lived in Croydon for 70 years and feel ashamed to call myself a Croydonian.

  18. carol longmuir says:

    I came from the East End 50 years ago where our houses were pulled down because they were deemed “slums” Its like going back in time now, but in Croydon!!!!!

    • jazzerpete says:

      A friend just told me that when she was working in Social Services in Glasgow, she regulaly had to deal with similar sad situations – but that was nearly FORTY YEARS AGO.

    • Dan Kelly says:

      At least in the East End they were Victorian two up two downers.
      The Croydon flats are not all that old. Is it down to a bad design or bad maintenance or both?

      • Nick Davies says:

        You can build up to a standard or down to a price. Read up on Parker Morris

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parker_Morris_Committee

        As for Victorian terraces: those two up two downers are fine for a small family today; but when they were built they aften accommodated large extended families, often with grandparents and six or eight kids. There were no bathrooms, an outside bog if you were lucky.

  19. Michael Etheridge says:

    I did see this report on the ITV news last night , I cannot imagine what has happened at Croydon Council Housing Department (As was). I am familiar with the block of flats and had minor inputs on the electrics associated with the overcladding.as I did with most of the 11 storey Wates blocks in the Borough. I seem to remember that the council added sprinkler installations in a number of high rise flats in the borough following the Grenfell disaster. I wonder if they added frost protection? . My own experience with the council is that it is now difficult to talk to anyone on the phone regarding any council issues as they try and manage everything ‘on line’. I am not surprised they have won the award for being the worst council two years on the trot.

    • Lewis White says:

      Mike has hit the nail 0n the head regarding the difficulty of talking direct on the phone to people who know about the topic in question.

      Now– I know from being a former local Govt officer mysef- that once in a while, there are “diificult customers” who are perpetual demanders and complainers, but these are rare.

      However, reasonable people who have a valid reason to talk direct to an officer get deeply and quickly frustrated–and eventually, angry, when they call the “help centre” and find that “you are number 2 in the queue, and the person who is no 1 has been waiting……. 10 minutes. Or get directed round a wild-goose chase of a Kafka-esque loop of messages, questions and options and …. after several minutes find the line go dead, or find themselves back in the queue with an even longer wait.

      In the old days of traditional switchboards, the calls were picked up within seconds. The operator tried and usually succeeded in connecting the enquirer up with the officer or at least, their personal voicemail or the “team voicemail”.

      If you want to find an officer’s contact details, the sad fact that it is easier to google and find their “LinkedIn” account, than try to get their phone number out of the help centre.

      The help centre should be properly staffed, so that the waiting times are seconds not minutes. The automatic “say the name of the person you wish to speak with and we will put you through” facility never seems to work.. No doubt, it is a form of rationing, cynically based on the premise that most people will give up and go away.

      My experience of the staff at the help centre is that they try to be helpful, but they are up against a system that sets them up to fail.

      A local authority should not set up telephone help centre firewalls, to stop public talking to officers. They need to trust the public to be adult, reasonable and not waste council staff time. As it is, I feel –when contacting some councils, that they really hate to give out any names and never give out phone numbers.

      That is so different from my experience as a council officer, when my phone numbers, office and mobile, and e address were on every letter or consultation I initiated.
      If people had a question, I was happy to answer it, or at least, look into it and get back to them, even if the answer was not always the one they wanted.

      I have found that seemingly angry and difficult people often just need an opportunity to talk, get their issue heard and understood, then they calm down and start listening as well as talking. Of course, there are ranters and rude people. But even they sometimes be turned to being reasonable, with a bit of patience.

      There is something deeply wrong about most local authorities now, in that when it comes to open communication with the public, that they act like secret societies.
      It is counterproductive. They need to open up.

      It is possible to deal with some issues just by reporting them, but once in a while, it is important to talk to a real person in the actual team — who understands the issue.
      Sometimes, sending emails is not enough. Particularly when they remain unacknowledged and unanswered. Help centres are too often the opposite

      And by the way– I am not just talking about Croydon here, but about many councils.
      It’s a sign of the times maybe.

      I would like to look forward — with hope but a degree of realism– , if not to a new Golden Age, but at least to a new era of responsive council communication.
      But does the council really want to bring that about?

      I see some green shoots. The council website and bulletins seem generally to give links to allow the enquirer to find out more.

      But getting through to a decision maker by phone ? Unlikely.

      Council officers and councillors need to remember one important fact. They are public servants. Not slaves, but servants.

  20. Christos Polyviou says:

    ABSOLUTE DISGRACE!!
    This should NEVER happen and Croydon Council have sunk to new depths. As soon as they have been rumbled – surprise surprise the families have been relocated.

    I was born and bred in the borough – but have gradually watched and experienced the Council ruin a borough with such great potential.

    Lets just get a few things into perspective:

    * The Council charge massive fees to private landlords for a landlord licence – to allegedly improve living standards…but cant look after their own and let residents live in squalor. – How can they justify this? Where does the money go? JOKE!!

    * They Spent £30+ Million buying a hotel that was running at a loss – why? And surprise its shutdown. Spend the money on services that are needed.

    * They Loaned £260+million to their INTERNAL Brick by Brick company that has delivered just three purpose-built council homes in 5 years and missed its 2019 sales targets by 83%, – WTF!?!?

    * Ruined the negotiations for the Westfield development by continually procrastinating SINCE 2012 – which has killed the centre of Croydon – WHY? Business and residents suffer!

    * Misspent so much that the council is now bankrupt and the residents will now be paying for the consequences for years to come. 5.8% increase in council tax already – let alone what we are going to get hit in taxes due to the pandemic.

    I could go on but I’m trying my best not to write an essay!!

    The residents deserve accountability, excellent management and leadership – especially with the wages that some of the councillors are on. What is going to happen next?

    ANSWERS AND ACTION IS REQUIRED – NOT JUST APOLOGIES AND BLAME GAMES

  21. Terry W says:

    How could any right minded person allow this to happen, to be aware of it and to do nothing. This just isn’t neglect, this is criminal.

  22. Avril Nott says:

    This is totally disgusting. These are human beings living in this squalour. Sack those coucil chiefs. Waste of space. Where is the housing money gone. Where was social services checking these peoples health.

  23. Linda says:

    Mould can trigger a cascade of health issues, I can’t even imagine the serious damage this has done to the people in the building.

  24. Ian Ross says:

    I was a student in Leeds over 40 years ago and thought I’d seen squalor. This trumps anything I saw. To echo others, how is this possible in the 21st century? There is utterly no excuse. Those responsible have to be publicly exposed and, of course, fired.

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