CROYDON IN CRISIS: Council is accused of ‘bureaucratic bullshit’, as promises to meet distressed residents have still not been honoured.
By STEVEN DOWNES
Only now, four months after the scandal of its sub-standard housing in South Norwood was exposed on national television, has Croydon Council started a borough-wide consultation process among council tenants.
But they do have a new Facebook page, which is sure to make up for not answering phone calls from troubled tenants or ignoring complaints for four years. Not.
According to an announcement from the propaganda department in Fisher’s Folly yesterday, all residents of the council’s tower blocks “are being invited to share their housing experiences at dozens of doorstep visits that will collect feedback to help improve the service they receive”. Which is nice.
Though it doesn’t explain why daily calls and emails of complaint from Regina Road residents, and many other council properties around the borough, have been routinely ignored by council officials and their contractors, Axis, in some cases going back as far as 2016. And nor does it offer any guarantee that the council or Axis will ever act effectively on any “feedback” received.
“This looks like a window-dressing exercise straight off the desk of a bureaucrat,” one unimpressed Regina Road resident told Inside Croydon today.
“What we want is action, and action now, not some self-serving council survey that achieves sod all.
“Council housing officers, if there were enough of them and they were doing their job, would know all this stuff already. It would be part of their routine to call on council tenants and know what the issues are with every home, every week.
“What’s the use of a Facebook page for tenants who live in such bad conditions in council property that they don’t have internet access?
“This has the look of the council wanting to be seen to do something, without actually providing the resources to deliver anything meaningful – like vastly improved living conditions for the dozens of council tenants trapped in the Regina Road blocks, and doubtless for others enduring similar leaks, damp and mould in other poorly maintained council properties elsewhere in Croydon.”
The resident highlighted how Fransoy Hewitt, the young mother in a flat in Regina Road who was featured in the original ITV News report that shocked the nation in March, had records of calling the council, or Axis, and often both, every day from October 2020 until the day of the broadcast.
Residents also have records of emails being sent to council leader Hamida Ali in November 2020 which were ignored. In March, Councillor Ali said in a television interview that she would hold an urgent meeting with the council tenants in Regina Road.
Four months later, Councillor Ali has yet to hold her “urgent” meeting with the residents for whom she has claimed to show such concern.
Instead, the council says it will spend another three months while its housing officers conduct door-to-door visits “across the borough to listen to residents’ views, find out how they feel about where they live and look into any unresolved issues”.
Which pretty much amounts to an absolute admission that the council really doesn’t have any idea about the housing conditions of the vast majority of its own residents.
In the propoaganda department’s press release, they say, “All feedback received will feed into the borough’s housing improvement plan, which is addressing urgent and long-term priorities so council residents receive a better service and feel more involved.”
The council claims to have rehoused “several Regina Road households in urgent need”, while having spoken to more than “200 neighbours” (neighbours of whom? They don’t say), as well as “making better use of data to deliver faster repairs, recruiting to key posts and commissioning detailed surveys of all council high-rises to plan future upgrades”.
According to the council, “The visits are also a chance for residents to… get information about setting up a residents’ association…”. The council states this in the full knowledge that the Regina Road residents have already established a support group, and that council officials have so far failed to be able to organise a meeting with them. Or a piss-up in a brewery.
According to one South Norwood tenant, “The council continue to make all the right noises, saying things like ‘We’re keen to meet you’, but after four months, they have completely failed to have a meeting with the Regina Road residents.
“They won’t meet on our terms, and they keep pushing the dates back, issuing email after email without actually getting anything done.
“This is exactly the sort of bureaucratic bullshit that helped create the crisis in the flats in the first place.”
According to the council, “Any resident wanting to request that their block is visited as part of this programme should email: email@example.com.
“Posters will also go up on the estates and blocks where the visits are taking place to give residents advance notice. Officers will leave contact details if residents are not in when they visit.”
Read more: Housing scandal investigation finds systemic failure and incompetence
Read more: Only 10% of council housing repair jobs ever get checked
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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Handsome is, as handsome does.
Action, not words.
Do as you would be done by.
Treat others as you would wish/ want/ expect to be treated.
Quite a few old phrases could be helpfully included in a manual of Conduct for all Council managers at all levels, and Councillors too.
Possible even something a little more direct, along the lines of: ‘DO THE DAMN JOB YOU ARE BEING PAID TO DO’?