Bungling council officers threaten to confiscate doormats from Norwich tenants amid fire fears

When Norwich city council tenants received a letter ordering them to remove doormats from outside their front doors because of a fire risk they thought it was a case of health and safety rules gone mad.

But it turned out the letters had been sent by mistake – and the city council has apologised.

A strongly-worded letter delivered to flats on Dereham Road by Norwich City Council stated: 'Items have been left on land that belongs to the council and you do not have permission to keep them there.

'It is unacceptable for personal property to be kept in communal areas because they present a fire risk.'

But after being contacted by the Evening News the council said the letters were a mistake and apologised.

Carpet fitter Kevin Stubbings, whose doormat has been outside his home for over 20 years, said he was shocked when a council worker came to deliver the letter – on which had been written 'doormat' as the cause of the problem.

He said: 'The man just said, don't shoot me, I'm the messenger – I'm just following orders.'

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Mr Stubbings, 51, of Dereham Road, said: 'I can't see how that would set fire to anything. I couldn't understand it.'

The council's neighbourhood housing officers warned tenants they had seven days to get rid of their doormats otherwise they would be confiscated and destroyed, landing the owners of the offending mats with a bill.

Councillor Lucy Galvin, whose Wensum ward covers the Dereham Road flats, said: 'Of course communal areas in flats should be well kept, but there is a need for rules to be sensibly applied.

'Sending such a threatening letter about a doormat in a hall is a ludicrous waste of time and resources.'

The council owns almost 16,000 homes in the city, but it is not known how many tenants were told to put their doormats away.

A council spokeswoman said: 'We are going to be consulting our tenants about what they store in communal areas.

'In this instance, some people received letters in error which were intended for people who persistently had bulky items and rubbish in communal areas which could pose a risk.

'We have now apologised to them for this mistake and we will continue to consult Norwich Tenants' CityWide Board and tenant representatives about this issue.

'The letter was simply a result of human error and this is why we have offered our full apology.

'This isn't a case of the council misinterpreting advice – we are just following general fire safety regulations to keep areas free of combustible material and items that could cause an obstruction for residents fleeing a fire.'

Do you have a story for the Evening News? Contact reporter Tom Bristow on 01603 772313.