Thousands of council tenants in Birmingham 'may be at risk of serious harm'

Issues of asbestos have been found in council housing in Birmingham Credit: PA Images

Thousands of council tenants in Birmingham may be at risk of serious harm because of issues with asbestos, electrical safety and fire risk assessments, a watchdog has found.

Some 23,000 social homes owned by Birmingham City Council do not meet the Decent Homes Standard, the Regulator of Social Housing said.

A range of serious health and safety issues have been found across thousands of homes, the watchdog added.

They include almost 17,000 overdue asbestos surveys, around 15,500 late electrical safety inspections and more than 1,000 overdue fire risk assessments, mainly for low-rise housing blocks.

The failures "meant thousands of council tenants were at potential risk of serious harm", the RSH said.

The council's handling of tenants’ complaints also came in for criticism, with more than 1,000 responses found to be overdue.

The authority must take urgent action to address the failings, the RSH said.

Its investigation followed earlier external reviews that it said found the council’s engagement with tenants to be ineffective – and that it did not understand or value tenants' needs.

Kate Dodsworth, director of consumer regulation at RSH, said: "Birmingham City Council has failed thousands of tenants and it needs to act now to put things right.

"It is unacceptable that so many of its tenants are living in non-decent homes, and that thousands of health and safety surveys haven’t been completed.

"The council also needs to improve the way it handles its tenants’ complaints.

"We will continue to monitor the council’s progress while it fixes the problems we found through our investigation."

Birmingham City Council are sorry that the council has failed to deliver the quality of service that tenants expect Credit: ITV News Central

The council has apologised and said it is "determined to address these issues quickly and have already developed a robust action plan to monitor and track improvements in an efficient way".

In a joint statement, its chief executive, Deborah Cadman, and strategic director for city housing, Paul Langford, said: "We are very sorry that the council has failed to deliver the quality of service that tenants expect within their home and we understand that the statement issued by the Regulator of Social Housing may have made some tenants feel distressed or worried.

"We want to reassure all our tenants that acting quickly to improve the quality of service in these areas is our top priority. As part of our response to this challenge, in recent months we have put in place a new senior leadership team with the City Housing Directorate.

"The team have begun to act and put plans in place to address the areas of concern to improve services to our tenants."