Hull council tenants' anger at delayed action on dangerous brickwork
FURIOUS tenants say council officials dragged their heels for months after being alerted to dangerous brickwork.
Concerns over a programme to install 900 new front doors in low-rise flats across Hull were first raised by former nurse Rob Uscroft in February.
He contacted the city council after contractors replaced wooden doors and their frames from his block of flats.
"The new door frame was considerably thinner than the old one," said Mr Uscroft, of Reeth Walk, west Hull.
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"What surprised me at the time was that nothing was done to support the existing course of brickwork above the door because the new frame was much thinner.
"Whereas the old frame had supported the bricks, the new one clearly didn't. Sure enough, bricks started popping out at three of the five flats in our block within days of the doors being fitted."
As a member of the council's Tenants Forum and a volunteer member of the forum's housing standards committee, Mr Uscroft also realised the wider implications of what had happened in his block.
"A falling brick can cause serious injury, yet here was an ongoing programme of work involving hundreds of properties where old exposed brickwork was being left unsupported," he said.
"Most of the buildings involved are more than 50 years old.
"Cement between bricks is not a glue. It is not designed to hold bricks in suspension."
A flurry of subsequent calls to the council failed to illicit a response.
"When a council housing surveyor later visited the block of flats about a separate issue I showed him the problem, he took photographs of the unsupported brickwork and said he would pass it on to the project manager," said Mr Uscroft.
"Again there was no response and it remained in a dangerous state."
Through his links with the forum, Mr Uscroft finally managed to speak to a senior housing manager in May.
After another survey, the council agreed to install supporting steel lintels.
Mr Uscroft said: "If this has happened all over Hull, it makes me wonder why I was ignored initially and how much it has actually cost to send two teams out twice to do what should have been a straightforward job."
His neighbour, Ann Montgomery, said: "There is a real communication issue here that the council needs to address.
"The current system obviously doesn't allow concerns like this from tenants to get through to the right people."
A council spokesman claimed the situation at the Reeth Walk flats was "an isolated problem".
She said: "There has been a problem with a brick being dislodged in one instance, which was resolved in July.
"Of the 900 doors that have been fitted as part of the ongoing programme there has not been any other problems.
"However, as a precaution, we are inserting a lintel above the doors of a number of properties identified as being similar to the property where there was a problem.
"When the installation of lintels is undertaken, it is done in such a way to cause minimum impact to our customers and their homes.
"The teams continue to monitor these safety requirements as part of the works."