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‘Housing repair delays are due to funding cuts’

Ex manager slams lack of staff training

12 August, 2021 — By Tom Foot

A RETIRED housing manager has warned that cuts to funding, staff and training are to blame after the council told her 93- year-old mum to wait three months to repair a leaking ceiling.

Shirley Neighbour – a retired housing manager at councils including Camden – said she was frustrated that she had to contact the press to push the Town Hall into action.

Her mother Florence, who is housebound and has dementia, has a major leak in her top-floor flat in Ludham, Gospel Oak.

Despite the water pouring in through a light fitting into her front room on Monday, the council said the earliest appointment would be October 29.

Shirley, who has had a full career in housing, said she believed the problems in the service were connected to “lack of funding, staffing and adequate training”, adding: “Staff turnaround is also very high. They don’t have the people in the repairs teams, they are admin people really, not technical people.

“They don’t have a grasp of what the properties are, and what they are like. What we used to do if we had new staff on a repairs team, we’d tell them how in Ludham you have these hatches in these blocks and those in those, etc. Now you could be talking to someone in Outer Mongolia, it’s not their fault. It’s tough to train someone when you’re short staffed.”

She added: “But that’s not my mum’s problem. My mum is living in property in disrepair and she has paid her rent religiously, but water was pouring through the ceiling light on Monday.

“I know life has changed. But emergencies are still emergencies. At least send someone round to investigate? We’re going to have loads of rain between now and the end of October.”

She said: “I’ve spent hours on the phone to – I’m an old fashioned person – I call it the members’ office. But no one will take it up. I’m a retired housing manager. I know how the system works. That’s what frustrates me, we have to contact the press.”

The New Journal reported earlier this year how the Town Hall had whittled down the criteria for works inside council homes.

Camden’s housing chief Councillor Meric Apak said: “We would like to apologise to this resident for the original appointment they were first given for a repair when they reported the leak to the council on Monday evening.

“Emergency cases affecting our most vulnerable residents must always be prioritised and, once the severity of the situation was correctly understood the following morning, a repair team was immediately instructed to attend the resident’s home to make sure that their home was safe and to carry out the required repairs.

“We are continuing to support the resident and the council has offered to repair the damage to their ceiling and home caused by the leak. Their roof has also been cleared and their block has been checked for additional repairs, which will be attended to.”


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