You may have seen the images in the news this week of appalling conditions in two flats in a council block in South Norwood that had been caused by a water leak. Like many of you, I was shocked and appalled that our tenants had been living in such horrific circumstances and that we, as a council, had failed to do anything about it for many months.
There is absolutely no excuse for the situation we put those residents in, and, for that, I am truly sorry. What is clear is that it must never happen again in our borough and to make sure that it doesn’t I have launched an independent investigation to look at what happened and to understand how it was allowed to happen. We expect this to report back to us in under two weeks so that we can take whatever action is necessary.
When I first heard about what had happened at Regina Road my priority was to make sure those tenants were moved straightaway. We are now in the process of moving our residents into more permanent accommodation and replacing their furniture and other household items as quickly as we can. I hope they will feel safe and happy when they move into their new homes. Earlier this week I saw one of the flats for myself and spoke to residents who have been most affected to offer my sincere apologies.
Throughout this week council officers have been at Regina Road to check in on other tenants and to make sure that they are not dealing with similar issues. We have also conducted a full inspection of the building which was found to be safe, we have located the water leak and fixed it, and repairs are now beginning.
As soon as is practicably possible officers will organise inspections at all our high-rise council blocks and we will be speaking to residents to understand their experiences, so that we can make sure the services we are providing are fit for purpose.
While the actions we have started this week, and are planning for the future, cannot take away from what the tenants at Regina Road have experienced, I hope they demonstrate how seriously we are taking this situation and our determination to make things better, and I would urge any tenant experiencing problems to please get in touch. You can contact our repairs service 24 hours a day via MyAccount or by calling 020 8726 6101, or get in touch with your tenancy officer.
This will not be an overnight fix and there is a lot of work to do but I am committed to making sure that all our tenants are treated with dignity and respect and that they are receiving the excellent housing services they need and deserve. When residents speak they must be heard.
Earlier this week we marked the anniversary of the first lockdown with a Day of Reflection, remembering all those who have lost their lives, showing support for those who have experienced bereavement, and looking back on our journey over the last year. It was incredibly moving to hear people’s reflections from the last 12 months, in particular the poem from local nurse Chloe Kerwood. I hope that you, like me, have been able to draw some comfort from these reminders of how Croydon has come together at such a challenging time.
This very sad milestone has coincided with another – after this weekend we will enter the next phase of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. From Monday, the stay at home order will be lifted and we will be permitted to meet in groups of up to six or two households, outside or in private gardens. I know many of you will be looking forward to seeing family and friends again after months apart, which for many have been the most difficult of the pandemic. While the stay at home order is lifted, we are still asked to be careful about where we go and who we see, which means we must:
• Continue to work at home where possible
• Minimise our journeys – stay local and stay safe.
• Always follow the NHS social distancing guidance – hands, face, space – to protect yourselves and others.
• If you have Covid-19 symptoms, self-isolate and book a free NHS test straight away.
I know how many people have enjoyed Croydon’s beautiful parks and open spaces throughout lockdown. These continue to be busier than normal and we all have a role to play in ensuring everyone can visit them safely. If you are visiting them with family and friends after the rules change on Monday, please always enjoy them responsibly – give others space and if the bin is full, always take your litter home.
While the incidence rate in our borough thankfully continues to fall, this is down to your hard work in recent months and it is vital that we all continue to take care so that we can keep moving forward. It is fantastic that in Croydon, more than 113,000 residents have now received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. If you are over 50 and haven’t yet received yours, contact the NHS to make your appointment as soon as possible. With this very encouraging progress, we can hopefully look forward to the next step on the roadmap to recovery – the reopening of more businesses on 12 April. We are already preparing to support our shops and high streets through this next important phase and ensure that you can do the same, as safely as possible.
Have a good weekend, and stay safe,
Councillor Hamida Ali, leader of the council