8 April 2009
I've often been accused of being more interested in management than politics.
But I see the good management of public services as a crucial political issue. The public can be left feeling exasperated and powerless in the face of an apparently incompetent and uncaring bureaucracy - like the residents I visited recently visited on a Southwark Council managed estate.
Two weeks ago I visited the Hawkstone estate and saw the interiors of flats and the communal areas. It was infuriating to see hardworking decent people doing battle with bleach and cloths against the black mould on their ceilings.
I also witnessed leaking roofs, five year old damp patches on plasterwork, holes in interior walls, bits of concrete falling off the exteriors, exposed asbestos-containing tiles.
And that's before we get to the back - surging drains forcing dirty water into kitchens, ill fitting and rotten window frames and peeling paintwork. It's heartbreaking to see families constantly redecorating damp rooms and a family of three unable to stay in their own home because repairs haven't been done since last summer.
Southwark Council is the largest social landlord in London and it may also be the worst. I have rarely seen an organisation fail to meet its basic responsibilities to tenants and leaseholders alike. This isn't about money. It's about a public organisation not talking sensibly to its tenants and not being clear and honest about its plans. Reasonable people are finally losing patience and hope.
Local government is littered with politicians who were voted out of office for their poor management by an electorate caring little about the ideology of the incumbent administration. My advice to Southwark Council's leadership - stop missing the point, forget about your glossy brochures and shiny new offices and start cleaning up the urine from your council block stairwells.
Efficient repairs, ongoing maintenance, competent refurbishments and a little respect for your constituents are the fundamental foundations on which electoral success is built.
The people of Southwark are largely much more interested in good management and it's time their council provided evidence of some. A video of Val's visit to the Hawkstone is available at www.valshawcross.com
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