The saga of the crumbling Humphries House towerblock in Brownhills has been ongoing for years, and the state of the edifice was the subject of one of my first posts to this blog. I followed that post up last October in the article ‘Flatlining’, concerning further speculation about the fabric of the building and the intentions of owner Walsall Housing Group towards it. In the intervening period, little seems to have altered and the landlords remain tight-lipped, causing tenants concern and worry for both their future and that of the decaying complex in which they live.
These concerns were brought into sharp focus this weekend when the water pump that controls clean water supply to all 99 flats within Humphries House failed. This is a block, you’ll remember, that houses a number of elderly and frail residents, so one would assume that repairs to it would be a priority. This did not, however, appear to be the case. There is a report on the story over at the Express & Star, which paints a grim picture, but I’ve been sent a letter from a contact living in the block who has written to the paper, concerning what they see as some inaccuracies in the report. At the writer’s request, I reproduce the letter below:
I am a resident of Humphries House, Brownhills and I think you should be aware that there are a couple of inaccuracies regarding the story about the water pump problem on Saturday 24th July.
The water was off from just after 9am on the morning, I was told by a resident that the water was off and she had tried to report it to WHG’s out of hours service, which is based at Milton Keynes. The resident told me that the lady she spoke to was very abusive and did not seem to understand that the water pump was not working – it occassionally trips and needs resetting, similar to a fuse box.
I told the resident, who was upset at the manner in which her complaint was dealt with, that I would contact WHG and speak to them as well, which I did at 10.30am. I spoke to the same person who spoke to the resident and was able to get them to send out an engineer who could turn the pump on.
The water came back on for a short time and was then back off again within a couple of hours. The second time it went off, my mother contacted WHG’s out of hours service and was told that ‘a part needed to be ordered and could not be replaced until Monday morning and that bottled water was going to be delivered to each flat.’
By 5pm we still had not received any water. At approximately 5.15pm I went down stairs and spoke to another resident who said that the bottled water had been delivered. He told me that the man who delivered the water intended to deliver water to each floor (there are 17 floors and 99 flats), the delivery man placed water on both lifts and some in the foyer of the block. The delivery man was then verbally abused by another resident, so he just got back in his van and left, leaving the water unattended. The water was then taken away by various people, some of whom kept some for their neighbours, others just took what they wanted and left everyone else without water.
As soon as I found this out, I went home and told my mother, who in turn contacted Councillor Barbara Cassidy. Councillor Cassidy then contacted WHG’s out of hours service and someone from WHG and managed to get them to promise to send an engineer to fix the pump on the Saturday evening. I know that without Councillor Cassidy’s intervention we would not have had the pump fixed until today.
The engineer turned up at approximately 6.40pm, he did not even know there was a problem until 5.55pm.
The bowser was delivered as Lyndsey Hunt, from WHG, claimed but it was very small and not enough to cater for 99 flats. However, she is clearly mistaken when she says that every flat had bottled water. Our flat, nor any of those on my floor had them.
I have heard several residents say that the out of hours service they recieved was appalling. One resident even had the phone put down on her. It simply is not good enough.
There are a number of issues here that are quite worrying – I’m concerned as to how elderly people are expected to carry buckets from a bowser up multiple floors to obtain water for toilet flushing. I wonder just who might consider that a couple of bottles of water would be enough to last for washing and drinking, particularly in this warm weather, and the apparently lackadaisical attitude of the out of hours maintenance service to what is a major fault affecting a very large number of Walsall Housing Group tenants. I’m shocked that it appears to take the involvement of a councillor to raise an engineer to rectify a basic electrical control fault, and concerned about a maintenance service who were apparently comfortable to fob people off until the following Monday. Again, I find myself congratulating Barabara Cassidy on her perspicacity.
All of these regrettable and unacceptable circumstances should be viewed directly in the light of todays puff-piece in the local media, in which readers are expected to delight in the commencement of work on the new Walsall Housing Group headquarters, currently being built as part of the long-hyped ‘Gigaport’ development, designed to give the new Walsall Ring Road a purpose. We are invited by WHG Chairman Fred Bell to to marvel at the new £6.5 million high-tech office block, an invitation which must ring very hollow indeed for the neglected residents of Humphries House.
I bet the water system in the new offices will work flawlessly.