I have been having a number of conversations with Brenda Osbourne (http://online.gateshead.gov.uk/Councillors/Councillor_info.aspx?CllrID=64) , our excellent councillor for Winlaton and High Spen, about the half hearted nature of the "Decent Homes" programme in Blaydon, which is due to be rolled out to Winlaton soon.
Government funding has been released to Councils/Almos/ in order to bring Council Housing up to decent standards. There is concern that in Blaydon and Winlaton, being at the end of the programme in Gateshead appear not to be receiving anything like the investment made in homes at the commencement of the programme several years ago.
Decent homes includes bathrooms, windows, kitchens, electrical wiring, and heating systems. Most of the properties in Gateshead were originally installed with back boilers many of which are now quite aged and inefficient but these will not be replaced with efficient combi boilers if spare parts can be located regardless of age. Insulation is also being carried out by Warm Zone. The windows are not to be replaced under 30 years as long as they are in a repairable condition. Many of these properties are in very exposed areas and the windows are extremely draughty which often results in huge fuel bills for some of our poorest citizens. We had reports that last winter several constituents in Barlow Village were obliged to pay approx £900 PER MONTH in order just to keep the chill off their homes. These properties are to be fitted with double glazed windows and have already been cavity wall and loft insulated but there is actually a cold breeze when a door is opened to the hallway.
It is apparent that many of the houses in the next phase with the same windows are not to receive double glazing or new boilers and that their heating bills are also high. It is simply unacceptable that the Labour government doesn't appear to be helping the most vulnerable and meeting their obligation to bring all housing stock up to the right standard. I suspect that this situation exists right across the region, not just in Blaydon. I will be raising this issue with our MEP, Fiona Hall, who leads on energy efficiency for the Lib Dems in the European Parliament. I will also be working with Brenda and other Lib Dem campaigners to campaign for improvements. I would value feedback from residents on this issue.