I am sure you will all agree that the tragic death of Awaab Ishak who died because of prolonged exposure to mould in his home must not be repeated again or anywhere else.
There has been a renewed focus nationally on what landlords are doing about damp and mould across the whole of the housing sector, in particular the social housing sector. As the Executive Member responsible for housing, I would like to set out the steps we have taken and are taking to reduce the risks of damp and mould to the tenants we provide homes to.
The council have created approximately 150 million capital investment programme to improve conditions in energy efficiency of the council’s housing stock and this will also help to tackle the root cause of some of the damp and mould issues.
The council have created a dedicated corporate officer team to review the way that the council manage reported damp and mould issues in the stock and this includes reviewing all policies, procedures and strengthening processes to ensure that all newly reported cases are effectively tracked and monitored through to completion.
The council have submitted a project of £4.3M with a grant bid for £1.9M to the social housing decarbonisation fund programme to address homes which are harder to retain heat and therefore prone to damp and mould issues this will improve more than 180 homes in the housing stock.
The council have provided a range of support available to help with the cost of living, in particular, help with energy bills and heating, and this information is available on the front page of the council website and was also published last month in the One Welwyn Hatfield magazine which, as you know, is distributed to every household in the borough.
The council have started a project to proactively review all of the communication materials that are made available to tenants regarding reported, damp, mould and condensation issues. We are also working with the Residents’ Panel to ensure that such materials are fit for purpose and of course it's important to understand that the council will be delivering these communications through a range of media channels.
The council have reviewed the staffing structure of the Property Maintenance and Climate Change directorate. Staff are aware of the importance of assessing and addressing damp, mould and condensation issues, and a new team of surveyors have been recruited to strengthen the service the council provide with tenants. A training plan is being developed for all frontline housing teams.
Working with the council’s new housing maintenance repairs provider, Morgan Sindall, we are working together to ensure that processes are aligned and that we record all of our damp and mould cases in a consistent way, in order to track and manage repeat cases.
Like many other councils and housing associations, we do have properties where our residents have reported damp, mould and condensation. The council also know that we will continue to have cases reported to us and we will work hard to combat this issue through the significant investment in our housing stock.
We have taken steps to review, learn and overhaul how we work, upgrade processes, improve our data collection and use of systems and to invest in our people and in their training. We also welcome input from members of all political parties, and today I've agreed with the Leader to extend the terms of reference of the recently formed Cross-Party Housing Maintenance Contract Mobilisation Board to include discussions on damp and mould properties.
I think this is a very important issue going forward, so I am pleased that this will be happening.