‘Catalogue of horrors’ inside Islington PFI homes
Academic urges residents to take legal action over management of properties by private companies
06 December, 2019 — By Calum Fraser
Dr Stuart Hodkinson: ‘A major problem has been the failure of Islington Council to monitor the refurbishment, maintenance and repair work carried out by Partners and its sub-contractors, allowing them to effectively mark their own homework’
ISLINGTON Council has been told it should consider legal action against private firms managing thousands of homes due to the “shocking” conditions people are living in.
An academic, who has studied Islington’s Private Finance Initiaive (PFI) contracts, said residents have been plagued with a “catalogue of horrors” since a consortium of businesses, collectively known as Partners For Improvement (Partners), took on the management and repairs of more than 6,000 homes.
Dr Stuart Hodkinson, from the University of Leeds, said the council could have taken action already. “A major problem has been the failure of Islington Council to monitor the refurbishment, maintenance and repair work carried out by Partners and its sub-contractors, allowing them to effectively mark their own homework,” he said this week.
“Austerity has clearly not helped but Islington has never dedicated sufficient resources to contract monitoring, relying on the PFI companies’ word that work has been carried out to an acceptable standard, which in numerous cases it has not.”
The lecturer’s book – Safe as Houses: Safe as Houses: Private Greed, Political Negligence and Housing Policy after Grenfell – details horror story case studies where families have had to live with constant excrement seeping down the walls for months because of faulty sewage pipes that residents said contractors have failed to fix.
The terms of the agreements signed by Islington in 2003 and 2006, known as PFI1 and PFI2 respectively, mean the Town Hall has to pay the consortium annual sums as long as Partners hits performance targets.
But Dr Hodkinson said: “The council has been ignoring the evidence for the past 16 years.”
Partners is set to receive £44million this year, £44.9m in 2020-2021 and £45.9m in 2021-22 for its work, according to council documents.
PFIs were first used in the 1980s by the Conservative government and expanded by Tony Blair’s New Labour when they were applied to hospital, housing and school building contracts across the country.
Dr Hodkinson added: “Jeremy Corbyn has supported residents in his surgery and shifted the Labour Party’s position to bring PFIs back in-house.”
An Islington Council spokesman said: “The council holds Partners to account through the contract, closely scrutinising performance, and regularly audits areas that need particular attention or need to improve.”
“PFI2 ends in 2022 and the council is actively looking at options following that date, including whether this work will be brought back in-house, subject to consultation.”
A Partners spokesman said the company would not comment.