'Why were we kept in the dark?' - councillors question safety scandal

The leader of Norwich City Council says the government must make more money available or local counc

A councillor said she felt she had been kept in the dark about the safety checks. - Credit: EDP pics © 2007

City council chiefs have been criticised for not alerting councillors to housing safety issues despite knowing about them for months.

In the second of two meetings at Norwich City Council on Friday, its cabinet passed a series of recommendations to ensure council home safety check failures which put lives at risk do not reoccur

Letters were sent to 17,000 tenants and leaseholders in October to tell them crucial safety inspections of fire, water and electrics had not been done.

Liberal Democrat councillor Judith Lubbock criticised how long it took the cabinet to inform tenants and councillors about the issue, which the council started investigating in late May.

City councillor Judith Lubbock is questioning whether an avenue of trees in Eaton Park all had to be

City councillor Judith Lubbock. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"During that time, when money was being spent [on consultations], when things were being found out that were crucial, I feel very let down that I was kept in the dark," she said.

"Was it that you didn't trust ordinary members?"

Council executive Louise Rawsthorne said they alerted council leader Alan Waters and deputy leader Gail Harris after she requested a review into housing.

When it became clear there was an issue, they started performing safety checks and reported themselves to a regulator.

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Chief executive Stephen Evans added: "It took an amount of time to develop a clear picture of the situation.

"This started because an executive director [Ms Rawsthrone] asked the right questions.

"We went through the summer collecting information and working with the regulator.

"Due to the sensitive nature, we had to be really certain before we informed tenants."

The Green Party's Lucy Galvin questioned how the council could mend its reputation.

Green Party city councillor Lucy Galvin

Green Party city councillor Lucy Galvin - Credit: Contributed

Mr Waters said it was not a "static process" and they will rebuild through new governance structures and performance targets.

"All members of the council and the public can be assured and our tenants can be assured that they're with us on this journey," he said.

"They can scrutinise and we welcome that."

Ms Galvin asked if the council had started any legal action against the companies who should have carried out the checks or if any legal action was started against them by residents.

But the monitoring officer said the issue could not be debated in public.

Cabinet agreed to a series of recommendations, including releasing £2m over the next two years to pay for safety checks, more training for councillors on contract management and a report for the scrutiny committee in the early summer.

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