The difference between the realities of life for council tenants in Croydon and the public statements from the Labour-controlled council demonstrate that the lessons of the Regina Road housing scandal have not been learned by those in power. By STEVEN DOWNES
The complete disconnect between the “slumlords” of Croydon Council and the dozens of tenants forced to endure atrocious conditions in their council-owned homes was highlighted by last night’s cabinet meeting at the Town Hall, and the snivelling, self-satisfied press release issued this morning from the propaganda bunker in Fisher’s Folly.
One year on from the council being exposed as slum landlords in shocking ITV News footage from the damp and mouldy flats in Regina Road, more than 50 residents, including many from the South Norwood homes now nationally notorious as “the worst in Britain”, turned up to protest.
Not a single Labour councillor or election candidate joined them in their demo. The borough’s two Labour MPs, Sarah Jones and Steve Reed, were conspicuous by their absence.
Unusually, in her busy and highly visible campaign, Val Shawcross, the Labour mayoral candidate, was nowhere to be seen, either.
But the Labour-controlled authority – led by Shawcross’s party colleagues – is going ahead and raising council rents by 4.1per cent, in the middle of a cost of living crisis and while also taking away Council Tax Support from 20,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households.
Despite the condemnation and ridicule of the television news bulletins, the criticism from national charities and utterly damning reports from independent consultants, who found “systemic failures and incompetence”, this morning the council issued a self-serving press release which sought to completely misrepresent the Housing Improvement Board’s views that the council was still letting down its tenants, many of whom are still living in unhealthy conditions.
The board, established by the council as part of the response to the Regina Road scandal, has an independent chair and includes residents and housing experts as members.
“Far more could and should have been done in the year since the ITV News pieces to address the unacceptable conditions in which some tenants have been living in Regina Road and elsewhere, both to take the first steps to improve the service, and to produce a strong plan to bring the service up to a good standard over the next few years.”
They also said there was an “inexplicable and inexcusable failure to follow due process” over the by 4.1per cent hike in council rents.
The council’s own housing improvement plan – which they’ve taken 12 months to pull together – “needs considerable further work if it is to command our confidence”, the tenants’ panel said.
And they state that council tenants still “do not feel respected or taken seriously, and we have heard about some examples of shocking rudeness and inhumanity”.
As if to prove those points, today’s council press release offered boasts about the work that they have been done (lots of “knocking on doors”), and lauding their flawed and very late improvement plan.
They even made the duplicitous claim that the Housing Improvement Board’s “report to cabinet on Monday acknowledged the council’s determination to improve the experience of council tenants and noted its large scale engagement exercise to reach out and listen to them”.
It was an admission by the council hierarchy that they have no real intention to change.
It is hardly any wonder that council tenants are increasingly angry with the council and Axis, their useless repairs contractors.
The protesters on the steps of the Town Hall maintain that the council rent increase is a “disgusting”, “punishing” and “cold-blooded” decision “while they are forced to live in sub-standard, mould-ridden accommodation”.
Jane Nicholl, one of the protest organisers, told Inside Croydon, “None of the cowardly curs from the council came to speak with us, instead choosing to sneak in to the Town Hall meeting via the back gate – Traitors’ Gate. Too pathetic to meet their tenants.”
Nichol, a blue-rinsed grandmother from South Norwood, was particularly disappointed in the borough’s Labour councillors. “They obviously couldn’t be arsed to break away from their grinning, rosette-wearing canvassing and speaking of such high priority issues as cleaning up graffiti.
“By their deafening silence on the matter of the 4.1per cent rent increase, we take it they approve of this Draconian punishment to council tenants.
“Shame on you, Labour,” Nichol said. “We won’t forget this. You have sold your souls to the party whip.”
Read more: One year on from housing shame: ‘not enough has been done’
Read more: Investigation finds systemic failure and incompetence in council
Read more: ‘None of the tenants in Croydon trust anybody in the council’
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
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