Tenants left in ‘dangerous situations’ by council housing contractor

Hove Town Hall, the city council's headquarters
Hove Town Hall, the city council's headquarters

Poor communication between a housing contractor’s call centre staff and its repair crews was blamed for delays in dealing with emergency repairs.

The issue was raised at a Brighton and Hove City Council Housing Management Panel meeting.

Tenants’ representative Janet Gearing gave examples in recent months of how people had been left in dangerous situations.

She said that one family in Bexhill Road, Woodingdean, went without electricity for five days after a burst pipe caused their ceiling to fall down, damaging the wiring.

She told Mears general manager Eddie Wilson how it took five hours for  contractors to arrive.

Mr Wilson was aware it was a particularly difficult day with calls diverted from the call centre in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, to the out of hours office.

The escalation manager in Brighton and Hove dealt with 200 calls in six hours.

Mrs Gearing had her own issues waiting for someone to come out to repair her three-year-old door.

After she was told someone would come out within 24 hours she eventually had to call out-of hours for a temporary repair.

She said: “It is unacceptable. Why do I get treated differently because I am in a council house to someone in private accommodation?

“I have paid full rent for 30 years. Should I get treated differently to anyone else?”

The issue was with the call centre as Mrs Gearing described the workers as “lovely”.

Mr Wilson held his hands up after listening to the catalogue of problems.

He said: “There’s no excuse. This was a complete disaster and I do apologise.

“As a partnership we are proud of our customer satisfaction rate at 95 per cent.”

The maximum time for completing emergency repairs has changed from four hours to 24 hours.