Last night’s ITV News report about the squalid condition of Croydon Council flats in the tower block in Regina Road was appalling.
The report included some shocking evidence of the most awful living conditions which residents, including young children have been having to live in during lockdown. Despite regular calls and reports from distressed residents being made to the Council about a leak since 2019, and with a deteriorating situation being reported in December 2020, the footage showed the most appalling conditions. It is utterly unacceptable that families should be left to live in such distressing squalor in our Town.
Having raised this terrible situation as a matter of Urgent Business with the Leader of Croydon Council at last night’s Cabinet Meeting, I am pleased to hear that an investigation will be taking place. This needs to really get to the bottom of what went wrong and look at how widespread the issue of outstanding serious disrepairs is in Croydon.
Croydon has had three Cabinet Members responsible for Housing over the past 7 months and it is staggering that not one of them, Cllr Alison Butler, Cllr Jane Avis and now Cllr Patricia Hay-Justice seem to have been aware of either the problem or of the multitude of complaints which residents have been lodging. Whilst Cllr Hay-Justice could perhaps be forgiven as she has only been in post for a few days (although she had held the Deputy Housing role), for Cllr Jane Avis not to have dealt with this is particularly shocking as she was also a Ward Councillor for South Norwood – so this awful situation was literally on her doorstep!
The unusable mouldy rooms, the risk of electrocution, soaking wet floors and furnishings all caused by the long term ingress of water suggests negligence on the part of the landlord – Croydon’s Labour Council.
Whilst we all know about the parlous state of the Council’s finances and it would be easy to say that this Labour administration would rather splash out millions of pounds of tax-payers money buying a Hotel, or paying off a failed Chief Executive, than pay the disrepair bills, in fact paying for the repairs would not have been a problem.
The money used for repairing Council owned properties comes from the Housing Revenue Account which is funded from rent and service charges paid by tenants. The latest figures I have seen show a healthy balance and the HRA budget for repairs and improvements is set at £27m with a separate programme of responsive repairs resourced through revenue funding totalling an additional £12m. However, the Council has admitted that it underspent on maintenance works to the tune of £300,000 in 2020/21 whilst at the same time overspending £700,000 in the past two years on legal costs.
You have to wonder if the Council has got its priorities wrong. Surely the monies paid by tenants should have been used to effect the necessary repairs straightaway. A prompt response to the initial complaint about a leak could have averted so much misery – and cost a lot less. Clearly the Council’s complaints process is utterly unfit for purpose and the shameful state of the flats in Regina Road needs urgent attention. Effective action and a meaningful apology – residents deserve nothing less.
Finally I noted with great concern that last night Croydon’s Labour Cabinet approved the award of a £90,000 contract for On-Street Cycle Hangars – it’s unbelievable that this Labour Council would now rather pay for bicycles to have shelter than provide decent shelter for families.