The pressure increased on Hamida Ali, the leader of Croydon Council, as the Town Hall’s pay-masters, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, issued a statement today in response to the notice issued by the Social Housing Regulator which said they “expect council leaders to take full responsibility” for maintaining decent living standards in council homes.
MHCLG didn’t say whether their forthright condemnation today also applied to past council leaders, and their deputies, such as Tony Newman and Alison Butler, who for six years was in charge of council housing.
Croydon Council’s fate is inextricably bound up with Whitehall officials for the foreseeable future. It is only two months ago that MHCLG rubber-stamped a financial recovery package for cash-strapped Croydon, agreeing a £120million rescue package for the bankrupt borough. Government-appointed officials now have to approve every financial decision being made at Fisher’s Folly.
And following today’s notice of standard breaches by the Social Housing Regulator – a quango overseen by MHCLG – there will be more inspectors checking on how Croydon fixes the scandalous condition of its council housing, as was exposed by ITV News reports from the mould-ridden, flooded flats in Regina Road.
A source at the MHCLG’s Marsham Street offices told Inside Croydon, “No tenant should have to endure such poor living conditions and poor service from their landlord. By law all landlords must ensure properties are fit for people to live in and all registered providers must meet standards set by the Regulator of Social Housing.”
The notice issued against Croydon Council today is not a common occurrence. The Social Housing Regulator issued just six such notices in 2018-2019, and 15 findings of breach and serious detriment in 2019-2020.
In an official statement issued in response to the Regulator’s notice, an MHCLG spokesperson said, “The breaches identified in this case are deeply shocking and the Regulator’s decision demonstrates a serious and unacceptable failure at Croydon Council.
“We expect council leaders to take full responsibility and put in place immediate steps to ensure tenants are properly supported and housing is of a safe and decent standard.”
And Chris Philp, the Tory MP for Croydon South, did not miss the opportunity to seek to score political points at the expense of the Labour-run council.
“This report lays bare Labour’s shameful neglect of council tenants in Croydon,” Philp said.
“They left vulnerable tenants living in squalor in damp and mould-infested flats and ignored residents’ desperate pleas for help.
“They bankrupted our town, left residents living in third world conditions and tried to concrete over every inch of green space they can find. The sooner we can remove this dreadful Labour regime from office the better.”
At the time of publication, there had been no public comment on the Social Housing Regulator’s notice from Croydon’s two Labour MPs, Steve Reed OBE, the shadow cabinet member for local government, nor Sarah Jones, who until a year ago had been her party’s housing shadow.
The MHCLG has been working for some time on a review of the housing health and safety rating system, as well as drafting a Charter for Social Housing Residents, “to protect and empower tenants”.
But it clearly isn’t a priority for the Conservative government, with the Ministry saying, “We will introduce legislation to introduce proactive consumer regulation as soon as Parliamentary time allows.”
Read more: ‘None of the tenants in Croydon trust anybody in the council’
Read more: Ali accused of cover-up over findings on council flats scandal
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
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