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Former housing chief: ‘Residents are fed-up with appalling maintenance’

Man who helped award £200m repairs contract claims work on Highbury homes is being rushed

03 March, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

William McGarvie, former resident director of the now defunct Homes for Islington, outside some of the properties where repair work is being done

A FORMER housing chief who was instrumen­tal in awarding Islington’s controversial £200million repairs programme for council-owned street properties to a private consortium has hit out at the “appalling” quality of its maintenance work.

William McGarvie, former resident director of the now defunct Homes for Islington, says he is furious about the quality of the cyclical works that are being carried out by Partners for Improvement in Islington at properties in Highbury.

“It’s absolutely appalling,” said Mr McGarvie, a Partners tenant in Riversdale Road.

“The residents are totally fed-up. The works are not being done in the right order or according to the [paint] manufacturer’s specifications. The quality of the jobs is not of interest, they just want to get it done.”

Partners is a private sector consortium responsible for 6,440 leaseholder and council-owned street properties. Its 30-year contract, set up through a private finance initiative (PFI) vehicle, was agreed by Islington Council in 2003.

Rydon, the building firm tasked with carrying out the day-to-day repairs service in the contract, and it subcontractors are repairing and decorating the exteriors of properties.

Mr McGarvie said he has witnessed workmen painting in the rain on wet and unprepared surfaces, painting over mould and bird faeces, over rusty surfaces without any appropriate treatment, using interior filler on external surfaces, and filling timber frames on windows that need to have new timber scarfed in. The jobs are being rushed, he claimed.

Mr McGarvie said he has phoned up paint company Dulux to ask under what conditions the paint must be applied. He said he was told it can only be applied when outside temperatures have been 10 degrees or higher for at least 48 hours.

He added: “Dulux said that if Rydon had followed the instructions the works would not show any deterioration for five to seven years. But here the paint is already peeling off within two months.”

Mr McGarvie said that in his former job he managed to persuade Rydon to improve standards following bad publicity the first PFI contract received over the quality of maintenance work. But this time his complaints are falling on deaf ears, he said.

Brian Potter, chairman of the Islington Leaseholders Association, told the Tribune that some leaseholders have been sent bills of £20,000 for the works. Partners has pointed out that leaseholders cannot be charged more than £10,000 over a five-year period.

A Partners spokes­woman said the company had listened to Mr McGarvie’s concerns, and pointed out that the majority of properties in the area had not yet been signed off.

“Our senior surveyors visited with Mr McGarvie to review the issues that he had brought to our attention,” she said. “The majority of the properties in question currently have works in progress, and have not yet been signed off as complete.

“Our Cyclical Management Team, including the MD of our sub-contractor, viewed the properties and streets in question again last week. We will respond again to Mr McGarvie with detail of any actions we are taking by March 7, in accordance with our response times.”

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