Almost three months after the appalling conditions of flats in South Norwood were exposed, and the council has stuffed letters through the residents’ front doors to say that they are only now about to start doing something about it. Though not very much.
The council has variously tried to claim that only a handful of tenants were affected by the black mould, damp and water leaks that caused a national scandal when filmed by ITV News. Then the council implied the leak was just in one of the three blocks.
In fact, council tenants in all three of the run-down and poorly-maintained 1960s-built residential tower blocks have experienced similar issues over several years, as was made plain in a report by the independent consultants who found systemic failure and incompetence in the council’s housing department and with their repairs contractors.
Only a handful of Regina Road tenants have been moved into temporary or alternative accommodation by the council, while the majority of the 100-or-so households have been left to continue picking mushrooms off their walls, taking torches into their darkened bathrooms or unwittingly staging cockroach races along their skirting boards.
That Ark report was published more than a month ago. The council received the report a month before that (but they kept it out of the public gaze for four weeks on the premise that it might have had an influence on the outcome of local by-elections).
Among their key findings, Ark Consultancy said that there was “a poor operating culture with a lack of care and respect for tenants”, that there are senior managers at the council “who do not appear to know what is going on”, and “a lack of capacity and competence” in the council’s housing department.
Nine weeks later, and the council has told Regina Road residents that chartered building surveyors and structural engineers will be knocking on their doors come Monday to have a look and find out what all the fuss is about.
The council letter is signed by Patricia Hay-Justice, the councillor who inherited the Town Hall cabinet brief for homes (note: not for housing) from the disaster area that was Alison Butler.
The other signatory is Alison Knight. “Dr” Knight is the council’s new £800 per day “interim executive director for housing”, who was hired on a six-month deal with the intention of fixing the problems in the Regina Road tower blocks.
She has booked Woodstock-based Ridge and Partners to survey the tower blocks. “The surveyors will be identifiable by their high visibility clothing and ID badges,” Knight’s letter patronised the residents.
“Whilst the surveyors will focus on the overall condition of the block, they may also request access to your home so that they can see the visible areas of your property such as walls, ceilings and floors and services.”
The council promises to give residents “as much notice as possible”, and there is no obligation on tenants to allow access to their homes.
Residents remain underwhelmed by the council’s response, or lack of one.
“It’s just waffle, isn’t it?” one said.
“It gives the appearance of doing something, while actually doing nothing.
“The day-to-day experience of hundreds of residents has not changed since March. They are still living in appalling conditions. It doesn’t take a chartered surveyor to see that – and how long before the surveyors complete their reports and the council ponders what to do then?”
Read more: Investigation into housing scandal finds systemic failure and incompetence
Read more: Only 10% of council housing repair jobs ever get checked
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Drowning in promises …. again. It’s shameful, and will cost an unnecessary fortune that could better be spent on the repair work. Employ some local people perhaps?
Once upon a time, about 11 years ago, Croydon had its own Chartered Engineers inc Structures ones that could have looked at any structural problems at just a few hours notice. They would have been quite familiar with the construction of these blocks.
The cost of employing in-house experts would be probaly also be less than expensive external consultants.
The buildings need a survey to know what to fix and by when, The council or the Maintenance Company appears to have no one qualified to do this. So it has spent quite a lot of cash to hire this experience. However those poor Surveyors have a job in providing a report in any given Language that could be understandable or actionable by those receiving it.
Are the issues structural and/or not covered by the maintenance contract? Was the contract due diligence not adequate? have we been paying for something that could never be provided?
Strangely there is no communication as to the Surveyors remit –
Would it be reasonable to assume that there has been some consultation about what they are actually doing and the remit they have been given?
Are they there to give a view and report on repairing the blocks and a plan to do this within a reasonable time frame?. Are they there to determine if it is even worth making repairs and it would be better to demolish them? Has anyone looked at the capability of rehousing all the residents in suitable and local housing – I suspect this does not exist.
One thing is very clear – we the Residents and taxpayers of Croydon deserve a full independent and public enquiry now into Croydon Councils actions over the last decade and that should include Councillors actions and activities also -all of them.