Sudbury council housing tenant frustrated by water pressure problems as Babergh District Council pledges funds to accelerate repairs
A council housing tenant has described having to boil a kettle and fill a bucket because his home has no hot water, as the authority announced new investment to clear a backlog of repairs.
Babergh District Council’s cabinet agreed on Tuesday to release £943,000 from its reserves in an effort to accelerate progress on a series of maintenance issues in its council housing stock.
The authority explained that this repair backlog had mounted during the Covid-19 pandemic, and insisted it is determined to address them urgently.
Sudbury resident Brendan Wren is one of the affected council housing tenants, having experienced water pressure problems at his property for the past two years.
Mr Wren claimed that, despite repeated calls to the council for support, he has only received temporary fixes, rather than addressing the root cause, which he says is a leak in the line serving his home in Manor Road.
He said the only action taken – on the occasions when his report was acted upon – was for someone to turn up and manually increase the boiler pressure, which meant the problem returned in a matter of days.
“I’m at a loss,” Mr Wren told SuffolkNews. “I have a skin condition that means I’m supposed to have two showers a day, but I’m having to fill up a mop bucket with a kettle to get hot water.
“I think there have been about 30 call-outs to deal with the water pressure here. It started a couple of years ago, and it’s getting worse.
“The council puts timelines in place, but it keeps sending someone just to pump up the pressure in the boiler.
“As soon as they leave and it drains out, it doesn’t go up again.
“They say, if nothing happens, to call the emergency out-of-hours helpline, but I’ve done that, and all they do is log it, so it’s not much use.
“It feels like there is one excuse after another, and I just don’t know what to do.”
In response, a Babergh District Council spokesman said: “We are sorry that Mr Wren has had this experience. It is unacceptable for any of our tenants to be left having to boil a kettle for hot water.
“Engineers will be out to investigate as quickly as possible so that we can establish where responsibility lies and get the issue resolved once and for all.
“We can then look into why our systems didn’t flag this as an ongoing issue sooner.”
Last year, Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils both referred themselves to the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), after identifying more than 2,000 out-dated safety compliance checks across their stock of properties.
The RSH then issued regulatory notices – given when potential harm is caused to tenants due to a breach of a consumer standard – at the end of January.
However, it did not take statutory action against either council, after they each produced an urgent programme of work to rectify the problems.
The councils have now stated that overdue gas and electrical safety inspections in their properties are largely up to date.
The referral to the RSH was prior to the local elections in May, which saw a new administration formed at Babergh District Council, comprising a coalition of Greens, Liberal Democrats and independents.
Jessie Carter, the new Green cabinet member for housing, told the Free Press that years of under-funding from central government had led to the issues they inherited.
At Tuesday’s Babergh cabinet meeting, it was heard that outstanding repairs had already been reduced by a third in recent months.
A report to the cabinet also outlined ongoing improvements to the council’s housing service, including overhauling processes and obtaining regular feedback from tenants.
“We want to address these problems urgently,” said Cllr Carter, who also represents Sudbury.
“We must prioritise the needs and concerns of tenants – it is our responsibility to provide high-quality, safe and secure housing for them.
“I am committed to supporting and working with our housing team to ensure that’s precisely what we do.
“The housing team has done a lot of really good work in getting the compliance testing back on track. There are still other issues we must tackle, particularly around repairs.
“We also need to ensure our complaints system is robust, and that there are regular checks on our housing so work can be prioritised.”