At a meeting with South Kesteven Chief Executive Paul Thomas SKDC on 9 December, Labour Group of Councillors Charmaine Morgan, Louise Clack and Lee Steptoe discussed a number of issues, including Riverside, Grantham.
Looking at Riverside H, and plight of some residents still without heating or hot running water for up to three years, concern was raised that despite an offer of support to meet bills some residents were also receiving high energy bills from their suppliers as the cost of temporary heating arrangements exceeded what would normally be charged.
A further concern was the timing of the compensatory payment. Cllr Morgan said payment should be made urgently and ideally before Christmas.
The presence of asbestos was discussed. The group were advised there is little risk because the asbestos is contained in cupboards and safe unless disturbed. However on further questioning it was agreed a full examination of the site should take place and all areas with asbestos clearly labelled to avoid residents accidentally disturbing it. It was also proposed that the residents are made aware of the ability to claim should they be subsequently ill.
Some residents advised that, despite promises, a number of premises still had no hot flowing water. This was due to some residents rejecting the offer of a temporary solution early on, and, technical issues, in particular a shortage of a specific valve, had affected other residents.
It was agreed all residents without flowing water should be contacted by SKDC to identify if they still wished to manage without flowing water. As Cllr Morgan said: Someone may have rejected an offer of help thinking the situation would not last long but they will have had to manage for months.
The Labour group called for a thorough examination of what has gone wrong at the site and said any enquiry should examine who was responsible for failing to install a new system earlier once it became clear the old heating system was past its expected lifespan. The cost of failure should also be factored in.
Cllr Morgan said such issues do not only affect Riverside residents. A more proactive and consistent policy is needed across SKDC so equipment is replaced and there is less reliance on things being constantly patched up.
She said a risk assessment should be done looking at the impact of an issue, the number of people affected by it and vulnerability of those affected. Given the situation at Riverside the site should have been automatically been assessed as high priority.
She said: “The replacement of kitchens has proven to be equally subject to the views of one or two officers with a lack of consistency. Cllr Clack stated that, as a guide, the council could plan to replace equipment as its manufacturer’s warranty expires. “
The Chief Executive agreed to look at this issue.
The group also called for a fairer distribution of funding and resources for Grantham residents. Cllr Morgan said ‘It feels like villages are getting higher priority because village councils can demand action and have access to funds and a voice in how their funds are spent which Grantham residents do not.
In Grantham the decision on where to spend funds is made with minimal consultation with local councillors. Cllr Steptoe and Cllr Clack said the Earlesfield estate has been neglected far too long and they intend to fight for their residents.
Cllr Morgan said other areas are also being neglected including the area near the Railway Station and London Road and parts of the Harrowby Estate.
Though many issues discussed, including the state of the roads and poverty among school children are outside the remit of SKDC, a solution to get more funding and resources for Grantham residents is required.
Cllr Morgan asked the Chief Executive to confirm the process needed for Grantham residents to call for a town council, which he agreed to provide.