South Tyne residents worst fears realised
A panicky South Shields resident was forced to call the Fire Brigade when water started pouring through her bedroom ceiling late last night. Miss EM who rents her home in Newcastle Road from South Tyneside council says she has been dreading rainy weather since March when she first noticed the wind had blown tiles off the roof.
”Water started pouring through my daughters bedroom ceiling and we expected it all to come crashing down at any moment. It was actually bed time but instead of being able to go to bed we had to move all of my young daughters nice things downstairs to safety and put buckets under the deluge of water that had started pouring in. Our big fear was that a big puddle must be forming from all that rain and it must be getting bigger and would get into the electrics and cause a fire or explosion so I just panicked and tried to find an emergency number to call the council.”
”I couldn’t get through and seeing the water pouring in and hearing torrential rain hammering against the windows made me panic, my nerves just couldn’t take it. I have to take meds for my heart and nerves. I couldn’t think what to do when I couldn’t find anyone to talk to at the council so I called my mam who panicked and imagined the worst. She told me to ring the Fire Brigade quick.”
”You read about people being injured by falling ceilings and electrical fires burning the house down so I called the Fire Brigade before any of that happened, I couldn’t think what to do and was beside myself with fear.”
‘’I reported the missing tiles back in March and that put my mind at rest at the time. I thought they would come and do something in a week or two but my Step Dad had already been without a kitchen for over a month because the council were doing something to the kitchen ceiling so I knew I would have to wait a while.’’ EM says.
‘’My dad didn’t even have a cooker while the council were working on his kitchen. He looks after his 90 year old dad and could only do sandwiches and heat expensive ready meals for the two of them in a Microwave oven because workmen had taken their cooker away when they took the ceiling down. The workmen didn’t come back or say anything for a long time but my Step dad is not one to make a fuss, he’s getting on himself but has worked hard all his life and is very proud and self sufficient. I kept telling him to hurry the council up for the sake of his 90 year old dad but he just said he didn’t want a fuss”.
”I should have hurried the council up about my roof but in my mind I thought if my Step Dad had to wait for council work to be done, what with him and his dad not being able to use their kitchen all that time, then I must be a lower priority. Water wasn’t coming in at that time and the weather was nice.’’
‘’When Autumn came I started to really worry, bad weather was just around the corner and although the council did eventually come back and finish my Step Dads Kitchen it had taken them over eight months from start to finish to do the job. That’s when I started to panic and I rang the council again’’ EM says. But the council claimed they had no record of the original complaint. ‘’I was furious, I did tell them in March and they were calling me a liar and making not knowing anything as their excuse for not doing anything”.
”I know I told my dad to hurry them up when they started his kitchen but he didn’t. He was made to wait over eight months and I thought I might have to wait that long since they now claimed to not know anything about it. Nobody knows why my dad had to wait eight months to get his kitchen back, once they start a job or you tell them repairs need doing wouldn’t you think they would just get on and do something. Why should we have to chase them up, why shouldn’t we just be able to trust them and assume they will actually do what they are supposed to do. It’s what they get paid to do, it’s their job isn’t it.’’
EM became increasingly fearful of the threat of bad weather and rang a councillor who promised he would look into the matter for her the very next day and get back to her but she heard nothing more from him.
EM says she started ringing the council regularly but they made excuse after excuse. ‘’I even withheld my rent for a few weeks to try and get them to do something but they just made threats and I felt totally powerless. It’s a horrible feeling when councils who should be helping just totally refuse to help and then threaten you. I know private landlords do it all the time and the law lets them get away with it but we pay so much in rent and council tax that you would think they would do something in return. What happens to all that money?’’.
Miss EM rang the council at 8.30am after a very restless night of worry. Em says ‘’I rang and told them the Fire Brigade had been and gave them the reference number I was given by them the previous night but they sounded very sarcastic and said they would have to come and get rid of a tree before they could put scaffolding up. I told them the tree had been removed weeks ago and they said oh! we didn’t know about that, but the tree was the excuse they had used ages ago and it was them who got rid of it about a month ago so I don’t know how they didn’t know about it. Anyway I think when they heard the Fire Brigade had had to come out and had told me the electrics should be urgently checked in case water had gone near the wires they soon changed their tune and said someone would be out within four hours’’.
Miss EM told me the scaffolding went up, electricians came out and two workmen set about fixing the roof before dinner time. One of the workmen told her they were attending more and more jobs where people had been waiting six, seven and even nine months and when he had asked them why it had taken so long they had told him they didn’t know. The workman told miss EM she would have to have her bedroom ceiling replaced as the water had soaked into the plaster, ”you can see it sagging” she told me. ‘‘I’m just grateful Someone has finally done something but why couldn’t they do it earlier before all this happened?’’. ‘‘I don’t know’’ she says.
The council have been asked why some people have to wait many months for repairs to their council houses but so far they have not answered that question. It seems Nobody knows anything.