"We ought to be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves as landlords" - damning indictment of Thurrock Council over damp and mould from councillors at housing meeting

  Posted: 24.06.21 at 18:38 by The Editor

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THREE tower blocks in Blackshots could be pulled down after senior Thurrock Council officers conceded they were failing residents who are being affected by significant problems with damp and mould.

That news was one of the outcomes of this week’s meeting of the council’s housing overview and scrutiny committee when the council found itself under withering fire from several councils of its failings to maintain properties properly.

Blackshots councillor Joy Redsell was adamant that the three blocks in Blackshots are not fit for purpose and she damned the report for not telling the truth and said she did not believe much of what she was being told by officers, having seen things with her own eyes that she said left her ‘disgusted’.

She said: “We ought to be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves as landlords of these three blocks. I have no words. This has been ongoing and ongoing and we are told we do a three year survey of going round our properties, I don't believe that.”

She was responding to a report put to the meeting by officers about the state of council homes, in relation to damp and mould – which the council has significantly played down, and blamed the press including Thurrock Nub News for exaggerating the level of the problem.

Cllr Redsell said: “I don’t actually agree with some this that has been written, particularly about about ventilation. There is no ventilation in the Blackshots flats.

“We have got water running down the walls in those blocks.

“My fellow ward councillor Cllr Ben Maney and I have had many, many reports about this.

“In one case it took us18 months to get the woman out, she was walking through raw sewage in her flat.

“We have got a woman in there who has lost a baby and there is another young baby in there with water actually running down the wall.

“I have been in there, we have people in there where these is water running down the walls and nobody is doing anything about it.”

She was damning of council suggestions that its contractors Mears were doing a good job.

She said: “I don’t know how we say Mears has gone in there. They will paint over the mould, and then it will come back in the next few weeks. I’m not too happy.”

Officers had suggested one solution might be for residents to open windows more – which angered Cllr Redsell.

She said: “You say about opening windows. We all know young children will find a chair to get on to get out. We have had a woman killed, she threw herself out of a window. Nothing to do with damp and mould but it’s those sort of things we worry about - children will find a way to climb up to windows so I would imagine that parents are worried if they have to open the windows too wide.

“The three blocks in Blackshots just need to come down.

“I'm sorry. We say we are going to do work outside but that's a waste of money. We need to take those blocks down.

“We have the land, we have the place to make it better for people. We shouldn't really have high rise any more. We shouldn’t be putting people in high rise any more, it's just something that shouldn't happen.

“And I don’t think the advice we give is good. We seem to be blaming people but those flats were not made for dishwashers, washing machines and tumble driers. There is no drying room. Nothing at all. I don’t know where they are supposed to dry anything.

“We are just telling them not to use their appliances.”

The council’s corporate director for housing, Ian Wake, agreed there are significant problems with the flats in Blackshots and he said work was taking place to look at their possible replacement and consultation was planned with residents.

Cllr Mike Fletcher expressed his own disbelief about the report, saying: “I am wondering if within this report what research went into this.

“I echo what Cllr Redsell has said about the time of reporting to remedy, I don’t recognise the view of Mears going straight in and getting something down. I have noticed damp and mould as a problem issue had become much more of an issue over the last two or three years.

“And in a lot of cases I am being told by residents that initially they are told ‘it’s you, it’s what you are doing – it’s your fault.’

“I do recognise that you mentioned that you have said that the RLOs (resident liaison officers) are trained. I think the source of a lot of these unfortunate conversations isn’t the RLOs, it's desk-based staff and as a lot of situations I have had with the housing team, the higher up the housing chain one gets one gets up the more articulate and helpful people are.

“Sometimes the first responders need to understand the situation that people are ringing them are in and what constitutes a helpful or not very helpful answers.

“There may be an underlying issue not just with age or the underlying build but a lot of people are coming to you with damp issues.

“Part of the problem appears to be that we have a tendency to cram families into accommodation that is too small for them.

“And then, of course, the questions comes of having too much clothing or whatever inside the flat does become an issue because the flat is too small for the family in it.

“Sometimes we are conflating two issues, the actual mould problem and the fact that we have a lot of families that probably need to be in larger accommodation.”

The criticism of officers continued from committee chair Lyn Worrall who outlined her detailed concerns as she quizzed officers over the integrity of the report.

She received some answers but wanted more and said that the committee wanted to be given more details and answers to questions.

It was agreed that the committee wanted an update on the report back relatively quickly, with details of how officers would be addressing specific issues raised at the meeting. They said they wanted the issue to be brought back before them in November, including a workplan about how to tackle damp and mould and to get more details on what might happen to the tower blocks in Blackshots.

You can view the full debate via this link.

Housing portfolio holder's view.

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