Failing to meet a moral obligation

For more years than a fair few tenants can remember, they’ve been trying to get Thurrock Council to sort out issues with damp and mould in their homes. A few councillors along with Thurrock Nub News have been slogging away in a bid to get the council to resolve these issues: Mould and damp issue isn’t going away as more and more tenants come forward and wider media starts to dig! It’s not just the local media that have picked up on this, the Metro has also run a story on it as well: ‘They don’t care’: The families stuck in mould-infested council homes for years.

For any local authority, a core responsibility that they have to meet is ensuring that all the properties they rent out to tenants are fit for human habitation. This shouldn’t just be a box ticking exercise – it has to be a moral obligation. Thurrock Council – and countless other local authorities up and down the country – are failing their tenants by not dealing with issues such as damp and mould. By not dealing with these problems, the council are knowingly exposing their tenants to serious health risks.

The maintenance of Thurrock Council properties has, unsurprisingly, been outsourced. Mears are one of the main contractors. Outsourcing means that responsibility for ensuring quality is at an arms length from the council. So long as the relevant boxes have been ticked, the council are happy to pass the responsibility onto someone else.

A key priority for councils in outsourcing work to outside contractors is achieving ‘value for money’. Not wishing to appear cynical but all too often, that translates as getting the job done as cheaply as possible without the volume of complaints about the service building up to an unacceptable level for the council to deal with. Well, it looks as though in this instance, Thurrock Council have failed in their basic responsibility of oversight, not just of the performance of the contractors but also with the terms and conditions of the contract. The complaints are building up as is the adverse publicity for a council in trouble on many fronts.

What really sticks in people’s throats is this is taking place at the same time as Thurrock Council are pushing through their vanity project of a £10million extension to their offices in New Road, Grays. It seems that so long as the public face of the council appears to be slick and swish, they think they can get away with screwing their tenants over when it comes to the basics such as ensuring the properties they rent out are fit to live in. People aren’t mugs. They can see what’s going on and there’s only so much they can take before something gives…

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