Housing upgrades to be delayed after safety scandal

Normandie Tower, Norwich. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Boiler and window repairs in Norwich council houses will be delayed due to safety scandal - Credit: Archant

Boiler and window upgrades in Norwich council flats will be delayed because the cash to pay for it will have to be used for missed safety works.

Earlier this year Norwich City Council admitted that it had failed to ensure crucial water and electric safety checks on its properties were carried out, potentially putting lives at risk. 

On Friday, November 12, the council voted to move £2m from the housing revenue account (HRA) to pay for any infrastructure work that arises from inspections now being carried out.

A spokesperson for the council acknowledged that other council house upgrades will not be carried out as a result. 

She added: “The safety of our residents is our priority so returning the council to full compliance is our main focus.

“If this means that some work needs to be reprogrammed or paused in the short term, we will keep any residents affected by this updated.”

The council is not yet able to say which specific places will be affected or for how long.

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Of the £2m, £1.4m will come from boiler upgrades and £600,000 from windows upgrades. 

Green Party councillor, Lucy Galvin, said the council needs to be clear and transparent about the impact of missed safety checks.

She said: “This transparency needs to include looking at what went wrong as well as being fully open about the knock-on effects and when the council can catch up with these delays.

"The Labour administration must commit to a clear timetable on when the postponed work will actually be carried out.” 

Ms Galvin added that there needed to be a “rigorous and forensic examination” of what went wrong, with £2m of public money being spent on something that did not need to happen.

Alan Waters, the Labour leader of the city council, said there was no need for an investigation because the administration already knew what the issues were. 

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council.

Alan Waters, leader of Norwich City Council. Pic: Jeff Taylor. - Credit: Jeff Taylor

Mr Waters added that while the council was taking £2m from HRA accounts there would also be funding coming from safety inspection works which had been paid for, but not carried out.

“Tenants and everyone on the council will be able to see that work is being carried out on a quarterly basis. 

“It will be a regular item and we will be open and transparent to get to 100pc compliance.” 

How did we get here? 

When Louise Rawsthorne took over the role of executive director of community services at Norwich City Council in April, she ordered a review into council housing.

The review found the Labour-run council had paid contractors, including Norfolk County Council-owned Norse and Gasway, to carry out the checks but failed to make sure they were done. 

When an issue was noticed, Ms Rawsthorne alerted Mr Waters and deputy leader Gail Harris.

At the same time, the council reported itself to a regulator while further investigations were carried out.

In October, the council finally revealed their findings to the public and other councillors.

By the end of October, Lee Robson, head of housing and community safety, was no longer working at the council. A spokesperson refused to say if he had been sacked. 

On November 12, the Labour administration agreed to release £2m to cover the costs of works.

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