Housing repairs need to be sorted in time

(30 September, 2020)

Too many works are wrongly assumed to have been resolved satisfactorily when in actual fact someone has visited, looked at the problem, perhaps done some work, but it is far from fixed

8116The council's offices on Tooley Street

Although the council has made huge progress in bringing its housing stock up to standard, there are both estates with long-term problems – leaks, heating and hot water that need huge amounts of refurbishment to fix once and for all, and individual cases of poor conditions that are unnecessarily dragging on.

Although the vast majority of its homes are warm, clean, safe and dry – and new homes are being built with top architects and with energy efficient styles – there remain troubling communication issues between the council and tenants responding to urgent queries.  Hundreds of settled or in-motion legal cases over housing issues may be a drop in the ocean compared to the 55,000 properties Southwark Council manages, but it backs up problems identified by Tooley Street’s own bosses with its in-house repairs service.

The council’s own report said one quick win was making sure that a ‘completed job’ has definitely been done by always making sure this is the case with the tenant who is affected. Too many works are wrongly assumed to have been resolved satisfactorily when in actual fact someone has visited, looked at the problem, perhaps done some work, but it is far from fixed. Responding to this paper’s request for comment, the council advised tenants it was doing its best and warned them not to get dragged into costly legal action when things could be resolved without the need for expensive lawyers.

The council would do well to follow this advice itself – even a relatively small number of cases will cost its team time – and taxpayers – time and money.

 

Bypassing parliament erodes public trust

A new report from MPs details the legal framework for lockdown legislation, the impact on our collective human rights, and recommends how new laws should be scrutinised as we enter a second wave.

It is the clearest call yet for parliament to have more say over how and when restrictions are implemented. The report from Harriet Harman’s human rights committee also highlights the successive failure of Boris Johnson’s government to communicate changes on the fly – whether ‘advice’, ‘guidance’, or a legal requirement. Many people are unaware of exemptions currently permitted – whether for travel, not wearing a mask, or leaving their house during quarantine. This is just a small fraction of the issues examined in the report.

Whether you are for or against more lockdowns, few would argue that bypassing parliament in all but the most exceptional circumstances will only erode public trust further – in both the government and its advisers.

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