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Gove sends letter to council over damp

Michael Gove has contacted a dozen councils and social housing providers in responses to housing failures, including damp.

One of the letters was to Westminster City Council, which is said to be responsible for a “severe maladministration” that saw a tenant left in a flat with damp for over two years.

Gove told Stuart Lowe, the chief executive of the council, that he was taking a “personal interest in how your organisation continues to deliver its responsibilities to its residents”.

Gove’s letter said: “I write following a finding of severe maladministration by the Housing Ombudsman. This was for your failure to address issues of damp and mould in one of your resident’s homes for over two years.

“You did this while knowing that there was also a four-month-old child living in the property. Despite a survey report finding significant signs of rising damp, you failed to offer a decant until four months later and even then, informed the tenant that a decant would only be considered after a further inspection.

“Eight months later you told the resident a decant was not an option, and then took a further five months to carry out another survey.

“You failed to produce evidence that you had considered the vulnerabilities of the residents, nor the impact to their health and wellbeing. Two years later some of the issues were still outstanding.

“It is unacceptable that your residents should wait for this length of time to have issues such as this addressed – especially with a young child involved. Residents should expect that when they report an issue, it will be acted upon swiftly and effectively, not months and not years later.”

Councils have been hit by government cuts since 2010, which some blame on these failures.

A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “Earlier this year we introduced a council-wide Housing Improvement Programme. This includes reviewing the repairs process and working with our contractors to significantly improve the service our residents receive.

“We would like to thank the ombudsman for their engagement with us and with our residents, who recently hosted an event for them to speak directly to residents about the valuable role they play.”