Referendum vote on tower block’s summer heating switch-off
Council flat tenants to have their say on four-month shutdown
31 July, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
The 19-storey Braithwaite House tower in Bunhill
A REFERENDUM on whether heating in a 19-storey tower block should remain off for months will be put to tenants after scores signed a petition.
The Town Hall’s housing chief, Cllr Diarmaid Ward, promised residents of Braithwaite House, Bunhill, that they will have a say on whether they want heating switched back on over summer months.
As the Tribune previously reported, tenants say they have been left cold in their homes as the centralised heating in the block is turned off between May 28 and September 15.
In a heated exchange at the council’s housing scrutiny committee last Thursday, Susie Luke, speaking on behalf of the residents, said: “I don’t know what country councillors live in that they think it is hot for four months of the year. Our heating is turned off and we are offered nothing except for fan heaters, which everybody knows eat away electricity.”
She added: “We have asked and asked and asked about how to change this but nobody gets back to us. We’ve been asking about this since April and nobody is interested in how your tenants are living now. The great unwashed in Braithwaite have been abandoned.”
Bunhill ward councillor Phil Graham told the meeting, held over videocall technology: “There have long been calls for a referendum about whether or not the summer shutdown should happen, with no response from council.
“This issue could have been dealt with some time ago. I can’t see how this is such an issue for officers to arrange.”
Ms Luke, who lives on the top floor of the block, told the Tribune that a in 2015 was not valid as there had only been 15 responses.
Cllr Ward said: “I want to offer my sincere apologies that this has taken so long to sort out. Ultimately I am the executive member for housing so ultimately the buck stops with me and this should not have taken so long. Going on from here I want to work with you guys to find a way forward.”
He added: “As a way forward I am going to commit right now to having that referendum, let’s go ahead and do it. I entirely understand the strength of feeling.
“Let’s just put this back to residents in a referendum and take it from there.”