Thursday, 8 August 2013

BBC London: H&F "squalor" for vulnerable

BBC London carried a shocking report into the conditions some of the most vulnerable tenants of Hammersmith & Fulhams dwindling stock of social housing are forced to endure last night. A blind woman and another with an autistic son described being eaten alive by bed bugs and having to deal with mice and other infestations. Reports from pest control experts were shown recommending immediate action but, the BBC reported, none of the major works had yet been done.

Andy Slaughter MP, as you might imagine, had some fairly apocalyptic language to use, accusing the Council of deliberately subjecting people to these sort of conditions in a Dame Shirley-like campaign to rid the borough of undesired people. I'm not sure anyone at Hammersmith Town Hall would really sit down and plan for people to suffer like this, but the evidence of the report certainly doesn't sound like a Council that particularly cares about these residents.

Frankly the Council, who didn't bother to put up a representative for the programme, came across as a negligent landlord. Which wouldnt be the first time they have been accused of that, as the fire risk that residents of the West Ken estate were exposed to last year illustrates. Ah yes, that's the West Ken estate the Council want to, er, sell to property developers...

1930 UPDATE - Hmmm. It seems that this BBC piece was more than a little one-sided and, if what I am told by the Council is true, pretty unprofessional. Here's some information which I am told was sent on time to BBC London, but which did not feature anywhere in their piece:
"In brief, a council housing officer visited Ms Vernon on 30 April 2013. The visit report made no mention of bed bugs, mice or damp and the condition of the property was described as “good”. The report also stated that Ms Vernon was still unpacking and that she was offered support but declined. The report was signed by Ms Vernon.

On the same day that bed bugs were reported pest control was dispatched immediately and arrived within a couple of hours to treat the problem. The pest control company has made several visits to the property since, including last Friday, and is telling us that they found no evidence of any surviving bugs in the rest of the block but fumigated again anyway.

We have provided Ms Vernon with a new bed and the pest control company is telling us that, if Ms Vernon suspects that she is still being bitten by bed bugs, the likely source is a collection of old boxes, magazines and books in her flat that need to be treated and, in some cases, replaced. We have advised Ms Vernon about this but, thus far, she has refused to let the pest control company take the necessary actions. We had one report of mice but the landlord (please note we are not the landlord as is leased from private sector) acted on this immediately and we have had no reports since. However if mice have returned we will, of-course, take action to sort these out too.”
The truth in these things is usually somewhere in between the two conflicting accounts but this account, particularly the refusal of the tenant to allow the pest control company in to the property, at the very least puts a different complexion on things. BBC London will need to explain why they preferred not to include any of this information in their piece, while the Council for all of my criticisms of them seem to have good reason to complain themselves.


  1. I also heard that article on BBC London too, perhaps a colourful bit of news colourfully presented in what otherwise would be a slow news month. Funny how in response the council has gone from producing a replacement bed to now effectively smearing as uncooperative in less that a week by your own quotation. What went wrong there is a question that could be asked but isn’t. Local councils employ ranks of officials and publicity staff defending their outlook against ordinary individuals who kick up a fuss.

    You quote long tracts of spiel from the local council but I think you could be in danger of having the wool pulled over your eyes because the only people you have spoken to are the Council themselves. I am glad that you think the truth is somewhere in the middle but from your position of very partial access you are in no position to actually judge. This is unfortunately not reflected in a more speculative tone. The BBC at least turned up and interviewed these tenants at the flats, all you have done is quote a publicity statement put out by one side of the case. Lets have the voice of the ordinary citizen rather than doing them over for blog post.

  2. you are of course quite right and I have since been in touch with Mrs Vernon. The blog is totally open for her to outline her own position with zero editing from me.

  3. Slightly off topic - I just wanted to gripe abouth the fact that bed bugs now seem to be endemic across London. When I was a lad (a sadly long time ago), they were unheard of.