St Giles Ward Labour Party is concerned to learn that residents in Marie Curie, Sceaux Gardens estate were given abrupt and short notice to vacate their properties due to fire safety issues.
The reaction of residents has been one of anger and frustration largely because the Council’s communication on this matter has been poor and mixed causing confusion amongst the residents.
The fire safety works have been proposed when it is less than 10 years ago that millions of pounds was spent on Marie Curie in the wake of the tragic fire at Lakanal in 2009, which adds to residents’ shock and incredulity.
Residents across the Sceaux Gardens estate have genuine anxiety and concerns that need to be urgently addressed concerning their safety, where they will be relocated, how they will be relocated, offering them direct offers instead of bidding for new homes, what will happen to their children continuing to attend their schools, and how residents needing essential healthcare will continue to receive their treatments, whether leaseholders will receive market value for their properties, and other issues.
We recognise that what is urgently required is for the Council to carry out an individually needs based assessment per household to inform the relocation process. In addition, the right of return for residents needs to be guaranteed at a secure rent.
This Ward calls upon the CLP GC to support this motion and send to the LCF and to write to the local MP and Leader of the Council to give their full support and effort to ensure residents’ questions are answered and their concerns addressed quickly.
Response from Cllr Kieron Williams
Thank you again for your email and for raising this with me on behalf of Camberwell and Peckham CLP and St Giles branch. I know this is a very difficult situation for people living in Marie Curie House, our priority is to fully support residents while also making sure their homes are safe.
The need for further fire safety works to Marie Curie House became known to the council after a resident called the fire service reporting the smell of smoke in their flat. The fire service attended but could not find the source of the smoke. However, the council’s fire safety team felt that a fuller investigation should be undertaken. This investigation involved looking in detail at the block to see if there were any ways smoke could travel between flats; including looking under floorboards and behind bath and kitchen units in a sample flat. Unfortunately this work did identify significant fire safety works that are needed.
In the short term we have made sure the block is safe here and now with an enhanced fire alarm system and with marshals on site 24 hours a day, so everyone can be evacuated safely should a fire occur in the block. These are measures that have been agreed as making the block safe with the London Fire Brigade. However, we now need to undertake the work required to bring the fire protection between flats up to the required standards. This will require substantial work within people’s homes so it is not possible to do this work without people moving out while it is completed. Once these works have been completed, the fire marshals will no longer be needed. All tenants and resident leaseholders will have the right to return to their flat once the work is completed, and the council is putting in place a package of support to ensure they are fully supported through this process.
Following the findings of the fire safety team that residents would have to move from Marie Curie whilst works are carried out to their homes, all the tenants were written to with a detailed information pack, with a number of frequently asked questions. Likewise, Leaseholders also received an information pack. Residents have also been visited and have been contacted by telephone on a weekly basis.
Not all residents have responded to the calls, but every week a high percentage of residents have been spoken to. For example last week 87 households were spoken to. To support this work two members of staff have been seconded to work with Marie Curie residents.
Every resident has been offered a meeting or phone call to discuss their housing needs including:
- Whether residents wanted to choose to move temporarily and move back to their home when the works are complete or move permanently to another property in Southwark.
- Who lives in the property and therefore what size homes residents would be entitled to.
- That tenants and resident leaseholders will be made a lump sum payment of £6,500.
- That tenants and leaseholders are also entitled to disturbance costs such as the reasonable costs related to adjustments to curtains and carpets and disconnection and connection of services such as phones, TV and the redirection of post.
- That a professional removal company will be directly paid for by the Council and they will also organise the disconnection of cookers, washing machines and dishwashers. These costs and services will be available for both the temporary and permanent move.
- Whether residents need help to do this to complete the application on line.
- Whether residents have access to the internet, to identify who will need additional support.
As a result of these conversations, 74 of the 85 tenants have registered for permanent rehousing, with very few asking for a move on a temporary basis. So far 10 have received offers of new homes and of those 3 have accepted a new home.
Every week residents have been sent a newsletter with the latest information, and details of how to contact the dedicated Council team 24/7. The TRA have been really helpful highlighting what issues they wanted covered in the newsletter and indeed have supplied further questions, which have been answered in the newsletter promptly. All the newsletters are published on the Council’s website.
In addition, a booklet on Moving Payments has been sent out to all residents.
In order that residents have the opportunity to speak to officers, face to face weekly surgeries have been operating in the TRA Hall at Marie Curie, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10 and 2pm.
Finally, I have also personally asked for an independently verified investigation into how we ended up in this situation, given the previous investment in making this block fire safe. This will be undertaken in a fully transparent way so residents can see how this happened and so the council can learn any lessons.
I hope this answers members questions.
As I said above I know this is a very difficult situation for residents, as an administration we will be ensuring that residents are fully supported through this process.
I know Cllr Steph Cryan as the Cabinet Member leading on this would also be very happy to meet with members to dicuss any other questions, concerns or suggestions.
Cllr Kieron Williams
Response from Harriet Harman MP
Thank you for your email regarding the recent motion passed by the Camberwell & Peckham CLP about the situation at Marie Curie House.
I deeply sympathise with all the residents of Marie Curie House who are required to move out of their homes due to problems that were in no way their fault. I have been engaging on this issue closely and I attended the initial meeting in May with Councillors, Council officers, the TRA and residents, at which the Council made clear that they would carry out an individual assessment for every resident. Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Cabinet Member for Housing has since confirmed to me that this remains the case and that the Council is conducting individual assessments. Stephanie has also informed me that two members of staff from the Council have been seconded to work with Marie Curie residents, and that Council officers have visited residents and contacted them by telephone on a weekly basis.
After the announcement that residents would have to move, the Council wrote to every tenant with a detailed information pack and offered every tenant a meeting or a phone call to discuss their housing needs. Following those conversations, 75 of the 85 tenants of Marie Curie have registered for permanent rehousing. Cezanne House (the new block that has just been built on the estate) is now fully built and residents of Marie Curie House will have priority for lettings.
Every week the Council sends residents a newsletter with the latest information and details of how to contact the dedicated Council team. All newsletters are published on the Council’s website and the TRA has been helpfully highlighting which issues they want covered in each newsletter. There is also a surgery on the estate every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10am and 2pm so that residents are able to have a one to one conversation with the Council team.
I continue to monitor the situation carefully and will work with the Council to ensure that the disruption is kept to a minimum, housing needs are met, compensation paid and that there is ongoing effective communication with residents during this difficult period. Thank you again for contacting me and sharing the CLP’s concerns.