Thousands of council tenants will not be getting a new kitchen and bathroom as an ambiguous election pledge has gone down the plughole.
In the run up to the local elections last year, Southwark Labour made a pledge to “deliver a quality kitchen and bathroom for every council tenant” – understood by many to mean that all 37,000 council properties in the borough would get shiny new suites.
A year and a half later and some estates have begun to ask when the work will be carried out in their properties.
The News has discovered this week that around 13,000 homes will in fact not receive a new bathroom or kitchen at all.
Southwark Council says delivering a “quality” kitchen or bathroom means replacing any that fall below the government’s decent homes standards. This benchmark requires any kitchens which are more than 30-years-old or bathrooms more than 40-years-old to be replaced. The council has reduced this age limit to 20-year-old kitchens and 30-year-old bathrooms.
In February the council’s cabinet agreed a six year programme to replace those older kitchens and bathrooms in the borough by March 2021.
The council estimates that a total of 17,500 kitchens and 21,400 bathrooms will be replaced, with around 13,000 properties going untouched.
Opposition Lib Dem councillor for Housing, Ben Johnson, said the council had “misled tenants.” “Any resident who read Labour’s election leaflets will have believed that all council tenants were getting a new kitchen and bathroom. Now we see the council trying desperately to wriggle off the hook with its doublespeak and new criteria,” said the Liberal Democrat. “This promise was obviously not worth the paper it was written on. Thirteen thousand Southwark residents is a lot of people to let down.”
Cabinet member for housing Richard Livingstone said he was committed to providing the best quality council homes and improving housing standards in Southwark. “That is why we have introduced this guarantee of a quality kitchen and bathroom for all council tenants. I’m delighted that the replacement programme has now begun a year ahead of schedule, which will ensure tenants don’t face two rounds of disruption in their homes while we complete our Warm, Dry and Safe improvements over the coming year.”
All properties will be surveyed before works begin to confirm if they require a replacement, even if their facilities have not reached the age barrier. So far 112 new kitchens and 92 new bathrooms have been delivered.