Burnley's bleak rented homes plagued by 'black mould and rats'
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The council faces a “massive” task to improve conditions in rented homes, its housing boss has admitted, with councillors opening up about their experiences of properties covered in black mould and infested with rats.
Coun. John Harbour was speaking after two senior colleagues spoke of people living in “hell” and in “eye-watering” squalor.
He had previously revealed to the borough’s Full Council meeting this month that the Government has asked the authority for details of what action it was taking following last year’s inquest ruling that two-year-old Awaab Ishak’s December 2020 death in a Rochdale Boroughwide Housing home was caused by mould.
Coun. Harbour heard from veteran councillors Gordon Birtwistle and Charlie Briggs about the state of homes they had visited recently.
He told Wednesday’s meeting: “There is a massive problem here and we need to sort it out.”
Earlier, Burnley and Padiham Independent Coun. Briggs said: ”I went out with the housing licensing team last week in Gannow and it was eye-watering. On some of the building we had a look at the troughing is dropping down, one of the things that leads to damp.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Coun. Birtwistle: “I have been involved with some tenants of privately rented and social housing who are living in houses that I didn’t believe still existed. I was brought up in a two-up two-down slum in 1943.
“The only difference between that and some of the houses now is you don’t have to take the tin bath off the back wall to have a bath in front of the fire. At least they have a bath. Damp is rife. The black mould is rife. And the rat infestation is increasing.
“We have to do something. National Government provide the funds that we need to do this work. We haven’t got the money. If they don’t provide the money all I can tell the residents of this town is, ‘you will live in hell like this forever’.
“This is not good enough. It has to change. It upsets me to see children sleeping in damps wet beds in houses that I believe should have been long gone but unfortunately we still have them and the situation is going worse, not better.”
The council’s Labour finance boss Coun. Sue Graham said: “I wholly agree with what Coun. Birtwistle has said. I was involved in the Elevate programme. We were on with that and the Tory Government pulled the rug out from under our feet. It was taken away from us and that is why we have the housing conditions that Coun. Birtwistle has spoken about.”