Speaking at last night's Full Council, Pimlico Councillor Jim Glen called on Labour-led Westminster Council to deal with the systematic failure to manage repairs to housing in Pimlico and across Westminster.
Cllr Glen explains
"May I start by thanking Housing Officers for their hard work they put in, in difficult circumstances every day of the week across the city, but especially for their work in my ward. An impossible task and they work hard to the benefit of residents and leaseholders across the council’s 22,000 residential properties.
"And I do believe that councillors across both parties share in a common goal of wanting the very best for our residents, particularly the most vulnerable. However, across the various estates in Pimlico, there are increasingly worrying events coming to light and there is a common theme. Leamington is plagued by aged plumbing. Residents experience catastrophic leaks, ruining their belongings, forcing them out of their homes.
"The delays and poor repairs following such disasters allied with a failure to adequately compensate residents within a reasonable timeframe, happen time and time again. There have been long-running cases across the whole estate from Forsyth to Stourhead, Charlwood and Parkinson, as well as the very sad case recently reported in the local press from Repton House, where the death of the house-bound elderly lady occurred in what the wider family described as squalor, over the Christmas period following a leak into their home.
"There have been council tenants sleeping on the floor or on the sofa for months as they cannot replace bedding ruined by leaks from outside their own flat. The council is currently failing in its duty of care to these people.
"These failures are not limited to Lillington with its defective plumbing. In Abbots Manor, a young family was left with black mould in their children's bedroom for over a year, and then when windows that did not close were finally replaced with double-glazed units, these did not fit to the point where you could see through the gaps around them, and they were left insecurely fixed.
"They were left like this with the scaffolding up for six months. Amazingly, scaffolding was taken down this morning, but the job is still not completely finished. There were several flats in Glastonbury House, which is a sheltered block for our most vulnerable elderly residents, who have been left without light for months instead of proper repairs. They were given a plug-in torch, which is hard to manage when you have a walker to get around.
"In Russell House, long-delayed major works have been delayed again. A protective crash deck was erected six months ago due to the bits of the building falling off. This is obviously a necessary precaution, but it leaves the flats below in permanent darkness and facilitates anti-social behaviour. The major works are not due to start for a year, meaning that residents will live in darkness for that year.
"There are windows nearly falling out all over the building due to minor repairs not being done properly.
"As we wait for the promised major works, there is a common theme here.
"The repair service at Westminster City Homes is failing.
"Labour have been in power now for nearly two years. There's a limit to how long you can hark back to the past and blame others.
"This is not national government's fault.
"It's not your predecessors’ fault.
"This is not the officers' fault.
"I think it was Mario Cuomo who said you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Before the last election, you promised to sort out the Housing and Repairs Service. Yet, in the last two years, my residents’ experience has become worse, not better, with senior officers leaving in droves. There have been three Estate Surveyors in Lillington in the last 18 months alone.
"I'm not saying that it was perfect under the previous administration. It certainly was not. We brought the whole Housing Service back in-house, recognising the failures of CityWest Homes, and were embarking on a programme of doubling the number of Estate Officers and implementing safe action plans and other improvements. Now we are delighted that you carried on with these reforms, but I implore you not to just set up another talking shop, residents' panel forum or discussion group, but to actually get on with it and make some concrete improvements.
"Working with us and listening to residents, there have already been many suggestions of ways to improve, from employing proper Clerks of Works to allowing residents to repair their own homes. These are not individual bits of casework; there is a systematic failure here. There's been a revolving door of officers who actually do the work on the ground, which must be a reflection of the impossible task they've been given to do.
"We would like to work with you to turn this around, as our residents deserve better."
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