It took Croydon Council five days after they were approached by ITV News with serious questions about the appalling conditions in council flats in South Norwood before they announced an “urgent inquiry”.
And in the council’s first response to the reports about the state of its properties – which were described as “the worst I have ever seen”, by the head of a homelessness charity – tenants who feel abandoned by the local authority say that claims that any “repairs” were conducted on the Regina Road block in February “are simply untrue”.
After the Croydon housing scandal had led the News At Ten on Monday night, the council published the following statement, “Croydon Council has launched an urgent inquiry into conditions caused by water leaks at a council high-rise block in the borough.
“Led by an independent external housing specialist, the inquiry will look at what has happened at the flats in Regina Road and how.”
Clearly, Croydon Council’s definition of “urgent” is at odds with most other people’s. Despite council leader Hamida Ali, in an interview with ITV News on Tuesday, repeatedly stating that the independent expert would be appointed “tomorrow”, no such appointment had been made by noon today.
Instead, the council’s less-than-urgent inquiry is for now being established by Sarah Hayward, in her first week of her new job as interim exec director of place.
Meanwhile, Patricia Hay-Justice, a councillor for Addiscombe West ward, is in her first full week as the cabinet member for housing. To her credit, Hay-Justice has been making daily visits to the Regina Road flats, meeting residents from the sodden wet block as they have been moved out into temporary accommodation so that repairs might be undertaken.
Hay-Justice is Croydon’s third cabinet member for housing in just six months, following the sacking of Alison Butler in October and Jane Avis’s resignation as a councillor last week. Avis’s resignation is understood to have no connection with the brewing scandal over the dreadful neglect of council properties.
When Hay-Justice conducted her site visit yesterday afternoon, she was accompanied by Hamida Ali. Although Ali is a councillor for the nearby Woodside ward, it is understood that this was her first visit in person to Regina Road. Sources confirm that yesterday, Ali was in communication with Fransoy Hewitt, the young mother featured in the television news report. Ali sent her an email.
Hewitt and her erstwhile neighbours remain suspicious of their landlords and angry that the council has attempted to mislead people with its public statements.
On Monday, the council issued a press statement which said, “We are very sorry that these residents have not had the proper level of care and the standards at these homes are not what we would want or expect for any of our tenants.” So far, so good.
But in the same press release, the council stated: “It appears that the situation which is being caused by a leak in a property above has deteriorated rapidly since our contractor carried out repairs in February. We have since moved these residents out while we carry out further investigations and repair their properties.”
One of the residents that have been in contact with Inside Croydon said, “That is simply not true. There were no repairs carried out in February.
“We’ve been reporting mould, damp and leaks in the flats across several floors for months, and nothing was done about that at all – not until they were shamed into action by national television.”
In its statement issued yesterday, the council said that it had referred itself to the Health and Safety Executive and the Regulator of Social Housing.
“The council will also be undertaking a review of conditions at all 16 of the borough’s similar high-rise housing blocks. The council will also be writing to all its tenants to update them on the inquiry and its progress,” the statement said.
And council leader Ali was quoted as saying, “I promise to our residents that we will do everything we can to make sure that this never happens again.”
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