anomie 1 | 16.03.2005 12:39 | Sheffield
privatisation) programme gets into gear, this
A SEVENTY-year-old man died weeks after workmen turned his Sheffield council house into a "building site" and left him in "freezing conditions",
From the Star
Tenant dies after house turned into a building site
A SEVENTY-year-old man died weeks after workmen turned his Sheffield council house into a "building site" and left him in "freezing conditions", his grieving family claim.
Pensioner Bill Kirk died of pneumonia four weeks after a private contractor employed by Sheffield Homes was brought in to modernise his council house.
Now his daughter has called on Sheffield Council to review the way its properties are modernised following the death of her father.
Daughter Julie Metham, aged 47, claims Bill, who only had one lung, was left in "freezing conditions" on a "building site".
Sheffield Council says vulnerable residents are given the choice of moving into alternative accommodation while the work is done.
But Bill's wife Marjorie Kirk is adamant they were never given the option of moving out of the house on East Bank Road in Arbourthorne.
Marjorie, 70, said: "If they had offered us the chance to move out we would have - my husband was a sick man."
During the four weeks before Bill's death, Marjorie and Julie say the gas and electricity were left off for stretches of up to four hours at a time.
They claim no dust sheets were given to them and that the elderly couple were forced to buy dust masks from a hardware store.
A drain was left open outside, walls knocked down and a hole was left in the kitchen floor.
They also claim doors were left off for days and Bill had to place bed sheets across the door frames to keep out the dust.
Bill, who had breathing problems and an irregular heart beat, was in reasonably good health prior to the work beginning, according to Julie.
But he soon fell ill with a cold which quickly developed into a chest infection. He later died in hospital.
Another resident on the Arbourthorne estate whose house is undergoing major modernisation to the kitchen and bathroom has also complained about the work.
Amanda Robinson, 32, of Myrtle Road, Arbourthorne, who has a nine-year-old son with autism, described the building work as "a nightmare".
She also said she was not offered the option of moving out.
But Steve Jenkinson, director of investment for Sheffield Homes, said tenants were told in detail how extensive the work would be prior to the start date.
He said tenants could ask for a break, or delay the work being done if they were suffering from ill health, adding: "We were deeply sorry to hear of Mr Kirk's death and our sympathies are with his family.
"We are doing a huge amount of work to hundreds of properties across Sheffield as part of the Government's Decent Homes Programme.
"Our contractors visit every property before work is due to take place to explain to tenants exactly what will happen, what disruption there will be, and what choices they have.
"If tenants have any special needs they can raise them at this time, and we will do our best to respond. We do complete as much work as possible in one phase. Tenants have told us they prefer this 'one-hit' approach as it gets everything over and done with, rather than workers returning on several separate occasions.
"Every night the contractors make sure tenants whose properties are being improved have running water, a toilet, cooking and washing facilities, and electricity, no matter how extensive the work being done is.
"We accept this massive improvement programme causes disruption to tenants, and do our best to minimise this."
Coun Chris Weldon, cabinet member for housing, added: "We have only one opportunity with this type of work and we want to make sure the job is done properly and everybody's happy with what is taking place.
"If there are examples of people not being happy with the work, I'd like to hear about them and will definitely investigate them.
"But the people we are working with to deliver decent homes have bent over backwards to help us and I would be very surprised if there were a lot of complaints. Perhaps the ones here are the exception rather than the rule."
Have you experienced similar problems with council house repairs?
Write to Newsdesk, The Star, York Street, Sheffield S1 1PU. Tel: 0114 2767676
15 March 2005