Douglas Borough Council’s housing and property advisory committee lead member Councillor Carol Malarkey has expressed her disappointment that two Douglas North MHKs have indirectly levelled criticism at the Council in relation to damp in its Willaston estate properties.
Councillor Malarkey was responding to comments reported in the press by Bill Henderson and John Houghton relating to the estate’s ‘serious and deteriorating situation’ and their call to Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw to reduce Willaston tenants’ rents.
‘Mr Henderson and Mr Houghton are understandably exercised about the situation at Willaston but their approach to seeking a remedy was, I believe, misjudged, considering the Council has been in communication with them on the matter. A more measured approach would have been for them to request that the Minister contact the Council, rather than for the Council to learn of their concerns via the media.
‘The Council has been well aware for over 12 months that there was a damp problem in a growing number of properties in Willaston. It has since been working with the Department of Social Care and implemented a pilot scheme on six of the worst affected houses to identify how best to reach a permanent solution.
‘These are old properties, some of which have been built more than 60 years ago. With the limited funds from its rental income the Council is permitted by the Department of Social Care under the current deficiency arrangements to allocate to housing maintenance it has been making every effort to keep the houses in an acceptable condition, although clearly the current situation is far from acceptable.
‘The damp problems have, in the main, been caused after cavity wall insulation was installed by infilling insulation into the cavity walls of these old houses. This was not the Council’s preferred option, but it was the only one the then Department of Local Government and the Environment was willing to fund under a framework agreement. The Council expressed its reservations but was given reassurances so acquiesced.’
Results from the pilot scheme are expected in July, after which the Council will work to remedy the problem as a matter of urgency, said Councillor Malarkey.
She continued: ‘I would remind Mr Henderson and Mr Houghton that these Willaston houses are owned by the Council. I refer them to the Housing Act 1955 that provides that the responsibility for the management of the Douglas Borough Council housing stock is vested in Douglas Borough Council. And, with reference to their call for a reduction in rent, the Housing Act 1955 provides for Douglas Borough Council to make rent rebates, albeit with the Department’s approval ‘as circumstances may require’.
‘In the meantime I would urge the two gentlemen to contact me so that, if I may borrow a phrase Mr Robertshaw employed in his Manx Radio interview on January 28th this year, we can arrive at “an aggregate view on where we should be going” and can work together to allay the concerns of their constituents, our tenants.’