Croydon Council has been roundly criticised for its failures to act over the chronic and dangerous water leaks and long-term damp in its block of flats in South Norwood.
The appalling conditions – described as “the worst I have ever seen” by the head of a housing charity – brought condemnation for Croydon’s bankrupt council from Labour and Conservative politicians, but utter silence from the MP for the area and local councillors.
The leader of the Labour-controlled council, Hamida Ali, who represents the neighbouring Woodside ward, claimed that she knew nothing of the appalling conditions in the flats on Regina Road until the council was approached by ITV reporters last week.
Robert Jenrick, the housing minister, said last night, “People living in social housing must be treated with dignity and respect. And their complaints handled effectively.
“I’m appalled by what has occurred in Croydon and will be seeking urgent answers from Croydon Council.”
It is Jenrick, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, who recently approved a £120million bail-out for bankrupt Croydon Council. So Jenrick’s conversation over the housing conditions in the borough could prove interesting.
Croydon will also have to provide answers to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, one of the biggest funders of housing provision in the borough, who was also critical of the appalling conditions.
In a statement issued to ITV News following an early evening broadcast and ahead of the News At Ten, the Mayor said, “I am shocked and deeply disturbed by the appalling conditions faced by these residents.
“It is completely unacceptable. I have contacted Croydon Council to request they re-house the residents immediately. Nobody in our city should have to live in such accommodation.”
Meanwhile, Jon Trickett, a Labour MP for Hemsworth in Yorkshire, tweeted his disgust last night. “No one, absolutely no one, should be forced to live in these conditions, especially so in the UK which is the fifth wealthiest country in the world.
Another Labour MP, Zarah Sultana, described the TV report as “extremely upsetting”.
She tweeted, “No one, in any part of the country, should be living in hazardous, unsafe and undignified conditions like this.”
But neither of Croydon’s two Labour MPs, Steve Reed OBE nor Sarah Jones, had made any public comment by the time of publication. Jones was until recently Labour’s shadow minister for … housing. Reed, the MP for Croydon North, represents the area where the flats are located.
Reed had been contacted for help by his constituent featured in the TV news report, and he did take up their case with the council, by writing a letter. There was no further intervention from the MP after that.
The ward councillors have also been oddly quiet on the matter. For Jane Avis was the cabinet member for housing, but resigned as a councillor last week. Her resignation was not connected with the TV news report. South Norwood’s other councillors are “Thirsty” Clive Fraser and Patsy Cummings, Labour’s candidate for the Croydon and Sutton seat in May’s London Assembly elections.
Today, Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South, described what he had seen on the television news as “sickening” and “shameful”.
Philp said, “The Croydon Labour Party has left people living in squalor due to their neglect and indifference. They chose to spend nothing on providing decent homes for the borough’s most vulnerable.”
The ITV News report included an interview with Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, the homelessness charity, who said, “Can you even imagine having to live like that in lockdown, I mean not in lockdown there’s absolutely no excuse for it at all, but at the times we are living through as well?
“You can’t overstate the level of stress and lack of mental wellbeing it causes for parents and especially for children.
“This is really bad, I mean it’s probably the worst I personally have ever seen, I’m not sure if it’s the worst Shelter has ever seen, but it’s definitely the worst I have seen. Just in terms of the sheer unliveability of it, there isn’t really any possible way that those properties are fit for human habitation, so there’s absolutely no excuse for it at all.”
And Dame Judith Hackitt, the former chair of the Health and Safety Executive who led the government’s independent inquiry into building safety and regulation following the Grenfell Tower fire, told the broadcasters, “When I talked to residents in the wake of Grenfell, when I talked to residents in other tower blocks as part of my review, one of the common complaints from residents was ‘nobody listens to us – we express our concerns and nobody acts on it’.
“That, I’m afraid, is typical. That is one of the fundamental cultural issues we’ve got to get over – where someone actually feels responsible and takes responsibility for fixing things.”
Last night, Patricia Hay-Justice, Croydon Council’s new cabinet member in charge of housing, issued a public apology to those affected by the appalling conditions in their homes, and confirmed that the tenants had been moved to safer environment and would be re-housed. There would also be an investigation, she told a council cabinet meeting.
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
Read more: ‘Is it because the council don’t care? Where is their humanity?’
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This is pretty horrendous but is not an isolated case. There are many and they have been raised to the Council and Councillors as have many other matters. What I find amazing is that Ms Ali wants to have an investigation into this. I have a lot of emails from Croydon council about how they are going to investigate matters and have yet to have one single outcome from those purported investigations.
So let us be a bit more to the point – Exactly what Ms Ali and Ms Kerswell is preventing you from rectifying this persons living accomodation this week?
Let us hear that you both have instructed the Housing department to move the person to a home that is fit to live in and get that flat fixed. If you cannot do that then please let everyone in Croydon know why you are unable to do this.
If you are unable to do either of these then please resign as you are not fit for the purpose you are elected or employed, and let others take over who can get things done.
Totally disgusting…no one should live like this in this day and age. What makes it worse is that when the council was wasting money on B2B , buying buildings etc these tenants were living in such disgusting condition. Im sure that if these or others had missed paying their rent the Council would not think twice of advising them they were in breach of their tenancy agreement! Hang your head in “ SHAME” Croydon Council.
Not suprised at all we’re in unsuitable accommodation with a disabled 7 year old. Croydon council said the waiting list is 17 years long and only family’s overpopulated by 5 (meaning 5 people are sharing a bedroom) qualified for the list. We’ve just been left to Rot.
The housing situation in Croydon is broken. There is no money, no room for upgrading or investing in the existing housing properly and good quality. Just using plasters is over exhausted. Housing supply and demand is bust. How are the Council going to even manage those huge blocks outside their own head office and with all the staff cuts. Let’s hope any water leaks are sorted quickly, the bins and bin shoots are kept in order, electrics, sprinklers, lighting, security, lifts, main doors, windows, damage, breakages, vandalism, graffiti. Shall I go on! Were the expected running costs of those even looked into before building them. If not, a BIG oversight!
Totally agree croydon council have no money, that’s why their charging tenants nearly two hundred pounds a month in council tax to squander, while we have to pay for their mistakes.
The very political voices that are now bleating about this issue, are the same voices that have impeded and opposed the construction of the much needed mass social housing that could have addressed this issue. There is no point promising to re-house these residents if there are no homes for them to be moved to. And awarding them accommodation, simply means that equally deserving people in appallingly overcrowded housing will have to wait even longer to have sufficient space for a decent life.
If Jenrick and his fellow Conservative colleagues in government were truly interested, they would order the construction of hundreds of emergency decent homes, just like the government did after WW2. But they wont because despite their tearful expressions of concern, they are not prepared to impose sufficient numbers of social housing units upon their supporters.
Croydon is where it is today in terms of housing due solely to the intentions and actions of those who have consistently opposed the construction of new homes and used every means possible to block them.
We are all responsible for the situation in this block of flats and the housing crisis in Croydon.