‘Critical maintenance’ requests in Ealing retirement housing being ‘ignored’

Image above: Cllr Andrew Steed (left) and resident Bill Allison (right) outside Garden Court

Ealing Council has been accused of ignoring essential maintenance requests needed in Garden Court, a council-owned retirement complex on Rothschild Road.

Issues range from residents being unable to access the building via the main entrance due to a broken fob reader, to water damage and dampness, to the broken Warden Call system – prompting safety concerns for over half of the building’s residents.

Garden Court was last revamped in the 1980s and is otherwise considered by residents to be “probably the best [council housing] scheme in Ealing”. Requests for repairs in previous years have been promptly met, but since the reorganisation of the borough’s council housing management into ‘hubs’ a few years ago, long waits for essential repairs have become commonplace.

The Council’s housing hubs are local housing offices. Each tenant is assigned a named neighbourhood housing officer based at the hub, who acts as their single point of contact for any rent or tenancy issues.

Garden Court houses 35 residents, and can hold 41. One resident, Bill Allison, has been pressing the Council to resolve the maintenance issues. Until recently he has received little in the way of a response, and no timeline has been established yet for the repairs. Tired of waiting, Bill reached out to one of Southfield ward’s councillors, Cllr Andrew Steed, hoping his intervention would speed up the repairs process. The Chiswick Calendar’s reporter Matt Smith visited Garden Court with Cllr Steed, to see what problems residents were experiencing.

Images above: a Warden Call point, chewed wires above a ceiling in Garden Court

Warden Call system not functioning in 19 rooms

One of the more concerning outstanding repair jobs is the broken Warden Call system, which hasn’t been functioning in rooms 1-19 since 2021. Warden Call systems are networks of support in sheltered accommodation and retirement homes. They usually exist in the form of a red cord which reaches the floor in every room. Pulling the cord triggers an alarm, alerting a control room that a resident is experiencing an emergency, medical or otherwise.

Rooms 1-19 have been without this emergency lifeline since September, nearly six months. So far, residents have luckily not needed to use the warden call system and everyone still has access to their mobile dispersal units. But this is less than optimal because if a resident is experiencing an emergency they have to seek out their dispersal unit to trigger the alarm, which could be in the room furthest from where they are.

In an email to the Peter Mason, the Leader of Ealing Council, Bill Allison asked:

“Will it take somebody to die through not being able to call for help, before that is repaired? Yes some residents were given temporary mobile units, but they only invite accidents, and in an emergency would for some residents be useless. This system has been unusable for around six months, so luck has been on the Council’s side so far”. Bill says he didn’t get a response from Cllr Mason.

While the Warden Call system does have residents concerned, other issues they notice daily are the ones they seem to be most annoyed about.

Images above: Garden Court’s automatic key-fob operated door, the entrance to the communal room which requires manual operation

Main entrance door broken and constant ringing sound

The main entrance, an automatic door operated by a key fob, is broken meaning residents have to use the side entrance through the communal hall. While only a minor diversion, the communal hall’s door is not automatic and requires wheelchair or mobility scooter users to open the door manually after tapping their key fob.

The door has been broken for three months after squirrels chewed through wires above the ceiling. The Council said repairs could only be carried out once the squirrels had moved along, so new wires wouldn’t be chewed up again, which Bill said ‘could take years, if ever’. Other electrical problems have been caused by squirrels, including a constant high pitched ringing sound in the communal room.

Bill said the door needed to be urgently repaired, as residents with mobility issues are “suffering unnecessarily”.

Tara Mulcahy, a mobility scooter user, explained how she had to lean out of her scooter or even attempt to stand up to open the heavy door to the communal room. She is worried one day she may lose balance and fall and injure herself, a concern shared by other residents with mobility issues.

Images above: water damage in the communal room’s roof, Cllr Andrew Steed (left) Bill Allison (centre) and Tara Mulcahy (right) sit near buckets of water beneath the leak

Water-damage due to leak & communal roof leaking for three years

After a cold water pipe burst inside one of the flats and leaked “at almost full force” for five months, residents living in the two neighbouring flats started to experience dampness which affected their walls. The communal corridor is now warped and distorted in some areas and is very creaky, with an unmistakable damp smell.

A surveyor has yet to be sent out to assess the damage cause by the leak, to date nobody has turned up.

“There could be enormous damage below flat seven, it could be severely dangerous, but the management at Acton Hub don’t bother” said Bill.

The communal room is damaged by water too, but this is from a botched repair job carried out over three years ago. Every time it rains buckets are placed where the leak pours through. This leak has been reported numerous times and roofers have visited and confirmed that there is a big job needed to fix it. The damage gradually worsens each time it rains.

Bill added:

Surely all the water ingestion during the intervening years has rotted the roof interior and caused much more damage, greatly increasing the cost of what should have been an easy cost effective repair three years ago. All we get now is that a surveyor needs to look at it… that surveyor never turns up, so, after all this time we still cannot use our whole common room.”

Image above: Ealing Council headquarters

Residents await a ‘substantive response’ from Ealing Council

Responding to resident’s and Cllr Steed’s email requests for a speeding up of repairs after visiting Garden Court, Ealing’s Director of Safer Communities, Mark Wiltshire, said it went without saying that “no compromise” should be had in relation to residents’ safety.

The director said he had asked colleagues to convene a meeting in order to provide a “substantive response” to the repair requests. He added he could not review the case personally as he has “a number or commitments” but said he would will “keep an eye on progress”.

Cllr Andrew Steed told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Most of these issues have been outstanding for some months. The extent to which Ealing Council has ignored basic safety requirements is shocking. I have asked for explanations and a schedule detailing when residents can expect the necessary repairs to take place”.

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