There were chaotic scenes outside the block of council flats on Regina Road this afternoon as tenants were being hurriedly evacuated from the building by Croydon Council staff.
Some of those being moved complained of heavy-handed tactics, as they clutched official warning letters compelling them to move out of their poorly maintained homes at virtually no-notice.
One community activist said, “Some of the tenants are in total panic. The letters they have been given use the language of a bailiffs’ letter – it is as if they are being evicted.
“None of the tenants have done any wrong. They are the victims in all this, living in appalling conditions, but now that the council has been shamed into finally doing something about it, it is – being Croydon Council – being handled very badly.”
Less than 24 hours earlier, the South Norwood building had earned national notoriety as the worst in Britain following an investigation by television news journalists had exposed the damp, mould and lack of repair in several properties.
The tenants featured in last night’s News At Ten reports had already been moved to temporary accommodation over the weekend – the council only reacting after months of delays after they had been contacted for an interview by the broadcasters. Today, following strong criticism from across the country, the council was seeking to remove other tenants from the 11-storey building in order that repairs might finally get underway.
Council officials and even a couple of Labour councillors, who residents claim they had never seen before, were on hand, among them Clive Fraser and Patsy Cummings, Labour’s candidate for Croydon and Sutton in the London Assembly elections in May.
The community worker told Inside Croydon, “When I arrived, it seemed like every person who works in the housing department was in the block. And every one of them had a different and usually conflicting account of what is going on – one said that the leak was coming from one tenant’s flat, another said it wasn’t. One said that the tenant needs to move out, another saying that they don’t.
“It’s chaos and the council is seriously panicking.”
Some tenants were taken off to the council’s housing offices to sign forms agreeing to being placed in B&B accommodation for two or three nights. They were not allowed to pack or take their possessions, nor were they allowed to visit the accommodation they had been assigned.
The notice letter, from the council’s head of tenancy and caretaking, Sharon Murphy, was headed with “Warning of forced entry – serious leak” in bold capitals.
“Do not ignore this letter,” it stated ominously, also in big, black letters at the end.
Written in officialese and quoting clauses from the tenancy agreement, the letter states: “Our repairs operative will be attending today after 12pm. You are required to give access to them to carry out the necessary repairs. Failure to do so will result in forced entry taking place to gain access.
“If this becomes necessary, you will be recharged for lock changes and all associated costs incurred.”
ITV News was on site this afternoon, too, and has now – nearly a week after they first requested an interview – been told that Hamida Ali, the leader of the council, will answer questions on camera.
Anyone not already familiar with Councillor Ali’s style of (not) coping with incisive questioning might want to listen to her appearance on BBC Radio London’s Vanessa Feltz programme from last year, shortly after she had taken over the top job at the bankrupt borough:
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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I really feel for the residents in this situation. Thanks to the previous and current council leadership Croydon cant even have any humanity towards its residents. Where are the two MPs?
Remind me, isn’t there an empty hotel near East Croydon station they could put everyone up in?
This is a circus in a dysfunctional council that keeps Council tenants in temporary accommodation for years and, sometimes, is not even aware that tenants are housed in Croydon by, for example, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that has a Croydon portfolio. Croydon provides schools and benefits for them, thus subsidising a far richer Borough.
MPs may write to the council and then send on a totally unsatisfactory reply to their constituents. No positive outcome in most cases. What counts is the number of cases they can publish on their websites.
I have collected, over the last few years, many folders with lots of pictures of disgusting places where people are forced to live.
At the moment, I am chasing decanting money for somebody who was forced to move the day before the first lockdown and was dumped in a much smaller, minimum standard flat. Her furniture did not fit and she had to get rid of most of it. The lady and her son are sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The boiler and the shower have never worked. Then I am trying to get a temporary tenancy upgraded to a secure tenancy after 8 years. I have been receiving contradictory advice on how to proceed from Croydon Council staff. I could go on.
Amazing how quickly Croydon Labour can act when a TV film crew get busy, just weeks before a few elections.
As for Croydon Tories, if you think they’d treat council tenants any better, remind yourself what happened when one of their number was the government minister in charge of the housing and ignored fire safety warnings. Over 70 people burned to death in the Tory borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Thousands of people still live in tower blocks with inflammable material stuck on the outside. People who bought into the Tory idea of a property-owning democracy are saddled with debt.
Quick let’s cover this up quickly before we get found out again we will be a laughing stock, it seems this game of cutting costs and spending else where at the cost of human suffering is a on going rule of thumb
Where are all the flats from the council company brick and brick built
Have they sold any? No so why are they still empty? And the council paying for B&B and hotel
While brick and brick flats are staying empty
This is a form of discrimination because they are homeless and live in temporary accommodation. All councils are the same they ignore complaints hoping you will go away and leave families in despair and with no sense of security.