It is time for Southwark Labour to follow the lead of Hammersmith and Fulham Council by apologising to its tenants for mould and damp.
The Housing Ombudsman’s October 2021 report into mould and damp found that Southwark Council had the fifth-worst mismanagement rate of 142 landlords.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council topped that list, with both authorities holding similarly unfavourable rankings when it came to handling complaints related to mould or damp.
Southwark Labour council leader Kieron Williams, in a November response to a Liberal Democrat question, accepted there were mould and damp issues in the authority’s housing.
Liberal Democrat pressure forced him to later also express regret for serious incidents, such as an exploding radiator, in Southwark’s homes.
However, I believe he should go even further by following the actions of his Labour colleagues in Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
Earlier this month, a cabinet member for the south-west London authority rightfully apologised to its residents for the mould and damp issues detailed in the Housing Ombudsman’s report.
Southwark Labour need to follow suit.
This is especially the case in a year where tenants, already suffering from government-created cost-of-living pressures, are now running into rent hikes of 4.1 per cent at the hands of the Labour council.
As discussed in a prior column, these residents have had numerous other problems in Southwark housing.
In a survey of council tenants, of 800 respondents, the vast majority said they experienced district heating outages.
Newspapers, additionally, have reported on the frequent instances in which heating has failed in estates and left its residents in the winter cold.
These same tenants would face sluggish council customer service, with calls or emails going unanswered and pleas for repairs left ignored
Previously reported statistics showed that the authority’s contact centres have repeatedly missed their own targets to answer calls speedily in the last five years.
The delivery of the council’s basic services is clearly not good enough.
Southwark Labour’s cabinet have now approved a raise in tenants’ rent in a year of extraordinary inflationary pressure and in spite of this multitude of issues.
If it feels such a rent rise is necessary, it should at least have the courage to formally apologise to its tenants specifically for mould and damp problems.