Thursday, 4 February 2010

Hovels for Haringey*

Regular readers of my blog will know that there’s nothing I like more than moaning about the shockingly bad service often given by Homes for Haringey. As a council flat resident, I have long battled with the powers that be to get even the simplest repair job done – and had to suffer a lot of ill-will and sometimes staggering levels of rudeness from staff.

What have I done about this? How does a Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 and a complaint to the Ombudsman sound? Check. Meetings with my local councillors? Check. Even, on two occasions, meetings with the Chief Exec of Homes for Haringey, Paul Bridge.

Mr. Bridge apologised about the ‘can’t do’ attitude (his words) of some of his staff, and promised things would be changing under his tenure. Have they changed? Judge for yourself:

As one of the Green Party candidates for Stroud Green ward, I have been taking up hundreds of pieces of casework for residents in the area. This has included reporting dumping, broken pavements, defective street lighting, and dog poo, as well as ordering up new refuse bins and recycling boxes.

As well as taking up things for private tenants and house owners, I have of course tried to take things up for Homes for Haringey residents. Some of the problems I have made Housing Managers aware of include:

- An elderly woman with scaffolding outside her house, which has been there since the Summer. No work is being carried out, and water is leaking through her ceiling.
- A resident in a council block is terrified of the mice that run amok in her abode. She cannot sleep and is having to stay with friends. Other residents complain but the Housing Manager says that unless EVERY resident in the large block complains, the interior of the flats cannot be treated. (I checked whether this is in fact the council’s rule, and it isn’t).
- A resident in a basement flat with condensation running down the walls and windows complains that the council told him there was nothing they could do to alleviate his problems.

Despite making the council aware of these issues, and asking that the housing managers responsible for this patch get in touch and at least try to sort out these (and many more) problems, I have had my emails ignored.

I did receive a terse ‘phone call telling me that they couldn’t tell me details of individual cases because of confidentiality issues. I explained that I didn’t want details – I wanted action. “Just let me know you will contact these people and try to help them,” I remonstrated. But to no avail.

Why do we have so many problems with Homes for Haringey? It is my opinion that it’s because it’s an ALMO (Arm’s Length Management Organisation). The clue’s in the name. They are not accountable and they are therefore unlikely to be putting residents’ concerns at the top of their list of priorities.

In Hillingdon, council residents are being balloted as to whether they want their ALMO to remain in charge of housing, or whether they’d like to see it brought in-house. That’s democracy in action. In Camden, 77% of residents voted NO to an ALMO when they were given the opportunity to do so. I’d like to see Haringey’s council residents have the same choice.

*I am indebted to a certain Stroud Green resident for the title of this piece.