Spot checks have exposed appalling conditions in council homes 10.13

Spot checks have exposed appalling conditions in council homes

Islington Tribune Letters: by Meg Howarth – Published: 8 November, 2013

• POOR maintenance of Islington’s housing stock isn’t, alas, uncommon or confined to the borough’s estates(Homes repair complaints ‘rising’, November 1).
A group of volunteer housing campaigners carrying out spot checks on randomly selected street properties has exposed some appalling conditions.
Their findings can be seen in a series of photographs at
uk. Having seen the photos, one neighbour wrote simply: “I’m speechless.” Housing managers and the council executive have yet to respond.
These properties, like most of the council’s street-properties – many in conservation areas or locally listed – are managed by Partners Islington.
This is the private organisation created under a private finance initiative (PFI) agreement to implement a £720m refurbishment and maintenance contract signed in 2003 by the then Lib Dem administration.
That’s a lot of money.
But that’s not all.
The contract runs until 2033. When interest rates rise, so too will the final bill.
In a 2012 interview with The Times, local resident and former Islington Council leader Margaret Hodge, now chair of the Public Accounts parliamentary select committee, described PFI as “appallingly poor value for money”.
A pity her Labour Party colleagues under Tony Blair’s administrations – she was a government minister throughout – didn’t think so. The use of PFI expanded exponentially under Labour, with Treasury boss Gordon Brown declaring: “The public sector is bad at management… only the private sector is efficient and can manage services well.”
Try telling that to the residents of council freehold homes. I’ve yet to meet a tenant or leaseholder who isn’t dissatisfied with refurbishment works or repairs.
I’ve met many, though, who don’t want Partners’ contractors inside their homes.
Islington’s housing-management PFI was the first in the country and it’s clearly time it was reviewed. Leaseholder charges (eventually capped following widespread complaints) were the subject of a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation. Time, perhaps, for Dispatches to examine the PFI contracts themselves, not only the cost, but the quality of works carried out under them?
If the situation across the borough turns out to be as bad as that exposed by Thomas Cooper and colleagues, termination must be considered.
If such appalling work as is being uncovered isn’t a breach of contract, it’s difficult to know what is.
Council leader Richard Watts has made housing one of his priorities.
He’s certainly got a heavy workload.
Ellington Street, N7

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