Overdue upgrade work causing strife for Northampton tenants

Residents of Melbourne House in St James have been among those to complain about the workmanship done to properties as part of the Decent Homes scheme. WbGJJkDgsgfX1nVwfODt
Residents of Melbourne House in St James have been among those to complain about the workmanship done to properties as part of the Decent Homes scheme. WbGJJkDgsgfX1nVwfODt

A Northampton social housing tenant has described the workmanship on his flat as a’27-day nightmare’ in one of a number of complaints made about the Decent Homes scheme contractor.

Tamworth based builder Lovell secured the tender to complete phase three of Northampton’s Decent Homes scheme renovations in March 2014 and has been carrying out a series of works across the town area since then.

The government scheme, launched in 2011, promised to bring the quality of local authority social housing up to a benchmark standard.

But recent works in the St James area have left some far from impressed.

Retired Cordwainer House resident Ian Whippey said he was originally told work to re-wire his flat, install a new bathroom and a new kitchen would take 10 working days.

But the contractors have so far taken 27 days, he claims, and he has not had any re-wiring work done and is still waiting for his kitchen re-fit.

“It has been a nightmare,” he said.

“I’m grateful for the new bathroom, but it just felt as if they didn’t care, as if I wasn’t the customer so I didn’t matter.”

Mr Whippey said workers have had to install his new bath twice, as a contractor walked over the first one with studded boots and cracked the enamel.

The 63-year-old, who is also chairman of The Doddridge Centre board, says he will have to repaint and re-tile the bathroom and is still clearing up dust a week after the work ended.

But his main issue, he said, was the fact that he had to spend so many days at home so workers could access his flat.

“There were at least 12 days where I waited in and no one turned up,” he added.

Northampton Partnership Homes, the management organisation that looks after the town’s social housing, says it has only received one complaint about the works carried out by Lovell in St James.

But county councillor Jill Hope (Lib Dem, Sixfields) says residents of Melbourne House, in Abbey Road, have also had to put up with the noise and disruption of the works carrying on longer than expected.

Secretary of the St James’ Residents Association, Graham Croucher said he had been approached by a number of people with complaints about Decent Homes work in the area.

He said: “It’s been shocking how long the works have taken in some cases.”

Lovell’s regional director David Gough said the firm had completed work at eight homes in Godkin House and had generally received ‘positive feedback’ for the works carried out.

“In two of these properties the work took longer than expected, in four properties the work was completed early and in two homes the work was completed on time.

“Our goal is always to work in a clean and tidy way.”

He added: “We have a resident liaison officer and project manager solely responsible for Melbourne House who are in daily contact with residents - this ensures that people living in the block always have someone they can speak to with any questions or concerns.

Mr Gough said the firm is willing to talk to residents with concerns and would encourage them to speak to the resident liaison officer.

On the subject of Mr Whippey’s bath, he said: “One resident did have a new bath replaced but the replacement was carried out on the same day – we would never leave a resident having a replacement bath without a working bath.

“We acknowledge that some security doors were left open in January when large items were being delivered but our site team immediately put measures in place to stop this.”

Northampton Partnership Homes has advised any residents with concerns to contact them on 0300 330 7003 or by email at customerfeedback@northamptonpartnershiphomes.org.uk