A doorknocking session on Brentwood Road recently revealed that some council flats have severe damp problems, which have been reported numerous times but not sorted out. Councillor Jeane Lepper had also appealed to Mears for reasonable solutions (ie not just a dehumidifier!) with no success. So I took a deputation to Thursday’s Full Council meeting, drew attention to some of the issues (with photographic evidence), and asked that the problems be looked into. In particular, I was hoping that the damp issue might be investigated as a whole rather than each resident’s problem considered in isolation. If there is a damp problem in a flat it may well affect several of the flats in the same building and would most efficiently be treated collectively.
Councillor Bill Randall, responsible for housing, responded that the issue in the particular flat I was talking about would be sorted out by the end of the month, and that in a neighbouring flat by mid August. In fact, the visit to the first flat happened on July 10th. I sent the detail of my documentation and photograph in to the council on July 8th. Whether this is a coincidence or not, I’m glad the issues are being looked into, and will keep in touch with the residents concerned to make sure things are sorted out.
While I realise that political grandstanding is a key part of the proceedings at Full Council meetings, I was rather taken aback by Councillor Randall’s robust attack on Labour’s housing policy in his response to me. I hadn’t framed the deputation in a party political way at all. Failures of service at an individual level could happen under any administration and I wasn’t making a point about the current Green-led administration as a whole. Councillor Randall’s criticisms all dated back to Labour’s time in administration in the city, ie before 2007. Next time someone says to me that Labour “shouldn’t be negative about the Greens” I will remember Councillor Randall’s somewhat disproportionate response to me!
The deputation also mentioned the importance of tenants’ associations. A few of us at the Hollingdean Development Trust have realised that with no active tenants’ association on the estate, keeping abreast of maintenance issues will continue to be a problem. It also means that housing development grant funding is not being applied for. This is something we have highlighted in our most recent letter to residents, and I’m also involved in an initiative with the trust’s community worker and housing officer at the council to doorknock to try to identify a few people who would be willing to step forward.