Stoke-on-Trent City Council issues safety warning ahead of tenant DIY plan
TENANTS will be warned not to carry out certain repairs to their homes amid claims they will be liable for any damage.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council yesterday chose to press ahead with its new DIY policy, which aims to save £2 million from the cost of carrying out minor repairs.
Councillor Dave Conway, leader of the opposition City Independents, 'called in' the plans after they were approved by the cabinet.
He claims the council's request for tenants to carry out repairs like unblocking sinks, fixing security lights and bleeding radiators could lead to tenants putting themselves in danger or causing costly lasting damage.
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A DVD advising on how to carry out simple repairs will be handed to the council's 19,000 tenants.
Mr Conway also insists the council may be side-stepping its legal duties as a landlord.
He said: "We're not glaziers, electricians or plumbers. We pay the council to carry out its obligations as a landlord.
"It's in the tenancy agreements, but now it seems the council is saying we'll save money at your expense – and that expense is somebody leaning out of the window to fix a security light or getting electrocuted. If I get a job wrong and bring the ceiling down, will I be responsible for the quality of the work? The law states yes."
Officers at a meeting of the adult services scrutiny committee yesterday insisted the policy would stay on the right side of the law, and tenants were simply being asked to apply commonsense.
Tony Oakman, director for adult and neighbourhood services, said: "We're not asking tenants to do fundamental things that you would expect us to do. What this is about is asking people to, where it's safe and where they feel comfortable, to make judgements about what they can take control of.
"We wouldn't want to do anything to put people at risk.
"We're not abdicating our responsibility. We'll continue to offer a high-quality service for those who need it and in some exceptional cases if somebody has a need we'll look at it more sensitively."
Val Bourne, assistant director of housing services, added: "Certain jobs like unblocking sinks could be completed by tenants, with direction from the DVD, in six minutes instead of waiting for a van to come out to them."
After the meeting, Mr Conway said he would continue to pursue the council over an apparent lack of risk assessments to identify potential health and safety dangers.
The council admitted the policy would need to provide clarity on the type of jobs tenants would be asked to carry out and said it would show discretion for the vulnerable.
The committee refused a proposal by independent councillors to withhold support for the policy pending assurances about its legality and additional clarity.
Instead members backed the original policy and accepted assurances concerns will be addressed and then reported back to the committee.