The scandal surrounding Croydon’s council housing last night plumbed new depths, as ITV News – who first exposed the “appalling” conditions in flats in South Norwood – broadcast a report which strongly suggested that many social housing tenants are stigmatised because of their race.
Croydon Council’s leaders have so far been silent over these latest, serious allegations of racism within their housing department and repairs contractors.
The allegations were first aired in the original television investigation in March, when one of the tenants living in a flooded flat in Regina Road explained his experiences.
Then, with four buckets strategically placed around his small living room to catch the water dripping from his ceiling, Leroy McNally explained how he had contacted Croydon Council countless times, but got little response.
“I got a feeling, when I used to ring up before, I’d say ‘my name’s Leroy, Leroy McNally’, and I got a feeling that puts them on the off-foot because straight away they’re ‘Leroy – black person, we don’t want to deal with this person’. I got a feeling it’s something like that.
“Eventually I started saying, ‘My name is Mr McNally’ – I wouldn’t say Leroy – and I got a better response.”
An independent investigation commissioned by Croydon Council following the TV reports found that Regina Road tenants had indeed been stigmatised and treated with a lack of care and respect.
Last night, News At Ten’s latest report featured a whistleblower working in the housing department of an unspecified London council who maintained that racism and prejudice towards tenants is rife.
According to the broadcasters, “She came forward to ITV News because she was so concerned about the racist attitudes and language she witnesses on a daily basis.
“‘Helen’ [not her real name] says managers in her housing department make racially-motivated judgements about tenants, and are dismissive of their complaints, often blaming them for the problem. Staff would be prejudiced against a tenant based on their surname, she said.”
Last night’s News At Ten report also featured four of the victims from across the country of slum-like, squalid conditions in their homes who had taken part in previous broadcasts. They included Fransoy Hewitt, the young mum who was living in Regina Road and was at the centre of the original shocking report.
Hewitt and her young children were quickly rehoused after that first news broadcast. Before their plight was highlighted on television, Hewitt had been complaining to Croydon Council about the conditions for two years.
“They’ll just think you’re not fully educated and, if you’re not coming from a certain class, then you just feel like they can treat you any way, or just ignore you,” she said last night.
“As far as they’re concerned, you don’t have no backbone to get at them, and you don’t have the information or knowledge on social housing, or even the laws and stuff, to come at them with it.”
Another of the interviewees, Nicole Walters, offered a slightly different perspective.
“I don’t really think the race thing is the overall issue for me,” Walters said.
“I think it is a class issue. Although if you look at housing disrepair, yes, there are a high proportion of ethnic minorities that are that dealing with it, however, it’s an overall issue and the one thing we have in common is that we’re poor, we come from working-class backgrounds.”
In the programme, “Helen”, a senior housing manager at a London council, told her interviewer, “We had a large number of African residents and we had a big meeting with them because they weren’t happy. And then when they were finished, all the managers were sitting around saying, ‘what are they complaining about, they’ve just come from huts’.
“As soon as you hit the management level, you see racism spoken openly, whether it’s externally with the residents – they’ll make assumptions, they’ll make pre-judgments on people because of their race, their colour, their religion, their surname.
“And then internally, you get the same sort of treatment to people who are not white British. I remember one of them clearly saying ‘I’m not having some black plumber earning more than us managers’, because some of our operatives earned more than the managers.”
The problem is endemic, she says, with many of these racist comments made openly in meetings.
“‘These types’ is a really common term that gets used when talking about people in council properties, people that are black, Asian, Muslim people get a really hard time. Somalian people get the worst time,” said ITV News’s source.
Inside Croydon approached Hamida Ali, the leader of the council, for comment. Councillor Ali failed to respond by the time of publication.
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