Council ‘extremely sorry’ for months 93-year-old spent waiting for toilet and shower repair

Margaret Brown. Picture: Supplied by John Cook

Margaret Brown. Picture: Supplied by John Cook - Credit: Archant

A 93-year-old council tenant who spent several months waiting for her bathroom to be repaired has received an apology from Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.

Margaret Brown’s neighbour John Cook first raised the issues with the shower and toilet with the council back in August, but months down the line and after several visits from maintenance workers, John claims little action was taken.

In the course of this work, the shower was fixed and repaired but left to high up for Margaret to use properly and therefore she was unable to use this part of her bathroom for several months according to John.

He also claimed the toilet flush was fixed and this caused an issue where it was hard for the 93-year-old to use the handle so John had to go in everyday and flush the toilet for Margaret.

John became “incensed” as the council launched a call last week for its 127,000 residents to come up with a shared vision for the borough post COVID-19 and took to Facebook to air his grievances.

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He told the WHT last Wednesday: “We should judge society by how it treats its old people.”

The borough completed the work to the property last week and a spokesperson for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has said: “We are extremely sorry for the time it has taken to carry out the works to reposition Ms Brown’s shower.

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“While there have been some unexpected set-backs along the way, including repairs to the mains water tap by Affinity Water and Ms Brown having to self-isolate, these delays are not acceptable. We completely understand Mr Cook’s frustrations and are now scrutinising our processes and ways of working with our contractors, to identify where improvements need to be made.”

Speaking to the WHT before the work was carried out, John maintains this is “just not good enough”.

And in the original Facebook post on November 16 he explained: “So please meet my neighbour. She’s a 93-year-old lady, physically struggling, mentally pretty bloody good to be honest, enough to give me a sharp tongue at times, living alone and with no extended family locally. She’s desperately keen to stay independent and largely manages it. She’s quite incredible!

“She has been a council tenant for over 50 years. This old lady has not been allowed a proper wash for over four months. Imagine. If I tell you she didn’t have a toilet she could use for over three months of this year would you believe me? That one is finally now sorted but welcome to the world of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.

“In truth, and somehow finding a degree of fairness in this post, quite a few of the dozens of staff I have spoken to have been very nice; as helpful as they can be, empathic and in many cases embarrassed about this situation – some actually not believing what I am saying to them.

“They have little or no cohesion within their organisation and certainly if they work for the council’s contracted out housing service Mears, no clue whatsoever. Some have even got arsey with me.

“Unusually for me, I have got to the end of the road. I’m tired and drained on the issue and I don’t know what I should do now. I need to try and find the time to get it done privately I’m guessing but get this.

“I have been told by WHBC, in no uncertain terms, that I need their permission to do it, and they will ‘only’ give me that in writing if I get the ‘county council’s’ Adult Service to do an assessment and report it to them. To be fair HCC Adult Services have been great, and have already been round to see her for an initial assessment,

“But they now need to refer her to county council’s ‘housing team’ to come and do an assessment and, unsurprisingly, there’s a four to six-month waiting list.”

The council has previously told the WHT: “We complete around 23,000 repairs every year and closely monitor and scrutinise our performance. For the period April 2019 to April 2020, we carried out 97 per cent of these to the Chartered Institute for Housing’s ‘First Fix’ standard and recorded a satisfaction rate of 90 per cent.”

And the WHT did make a Freedom of Information Request after it has done stories where council tenants have complained about waiting months for repairs to be carried out.

This revealed the date between work issued and completed by the council has decreased in recent years and remains less than 15 working days.

In 2017, it was around 14 days on average between date issued and date completed, in 2018 this fell to around 13 and in 2019 it went up slightly to 14.

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