That Was The Week That Was – 22nd April 1988
By Myles Cook
HERE IS the latest in our series of features looking back at some of the news items to be found in the Thurrock Gazette archives from 25 years ago.
Widow Had No Fire Through Winter Months
Thurrock Council was found guilty of maladministration and causing injustice to an elderly widow by the Local Ombudsman after he was called in to investigate a complaint.
There had been a mix-up and subsequent delay in remedying dampness and heating problems in the widow’s bedroom facilitating a need for her to sleep on a sofa downstairs during the cold winter months.
The Purfleet resident, who was not named in the Ombudsman’s report, lived alone in a three-bedroomed house and her woes began in July 1986 when she reported mould in her bedroom to the council.
The council fitted a ventilator in the room following an inspection but to no effect. An inspector then ordered the renewal of the window close to the frame, the treatment of the walls and ceiling for fungi and the re-plastering and re-painting of the walls as a result of a second inspection.
The inspector also noticed the dangerous situation of a gas fire which stood on the carpet and not on a fireproof material.
The council’s senior gas engineer concurred with the inspector’s opinion following a visit to the property and he wrote to the gas board asking for them to inspect and disconnect the fire. The engineer also issued an order for a council contractor to supply a fireproof pad, re-connect the fire and test it.
The fire, the property of the widow, was duly removed a few days later and put in her shed. She assumed that the council were going to fit a replacement fire and seal up a draughty hole in the chimney.
By autumn, nothing had happened and she called the council who informed her that the gas board would be fitting a new fire, paid for by the DHSS; however, it emerged that the DHSS refused to pay for any sort of heater for the property.
In December, a councillor, whom the widow had contacted for help, arranged for the hole to be sealed. The following month, she contacted a solicitor following which contractors arrived to re-fit and test the original fire but found that months of storage in the shed had rendered it unusable due to deterioration.
The council finally agreed to replace the appliance as a “social response to the difficulties of an elderly tenant” with the gas board agreeing to install it.
However, it was not until April that the installation of the fire and the necessary work to the walls, ceiling and window were finally completed, leaving her without heating in her bedroom for eight months.
The Ombudsman accepted that the council was not responsible for the removal of the fire but that there were delays with dealing with the fire and the works needed to combat condensation in the property.
“I find the delays to be maladministration causing injustice to Mrs —-,” he stated. “However the council has now satisfactorily remedied the injustice by meeting the cost of a new fire and completing the works.”
MPs Call For End To Rent Restrictions
Thurrock MP Tim Janman and Billericay MP Teresa Gorman, who represented the east of the borough, called for the speedy repeal of the Rent Acts in response to Mother Teresa’s highlighting of the plight of the homeless, especially in the capital, during her visit to the UK. She also called on Mrs Thatcher and the
Government to act quickly to end the misery of thousands of people.
The two MPs blamed the Rent Acts for the shortage of affordable accommodation in the private sector. They signed an Early Day Motion asking the Prime Minister to bring forward legislation for their repeal “to allow private citizens to rent their property freely and to encourage the private sector to build affordable housing to be let.”
The Rent Acts were designed to protect tenants from Rachman-type landlords and granted a security of tenure and prevented exorbitant rents.
Tim Janman and Teresa Gorman both claimed that the Rent Acts interfered with the free market and deterred landlords from offering properties to let.
Teresa Gorman, former deputy housing chairman of Westminster Council, agreed that London’s homeless situation needed to be rectified quickly, adding: “But this can only be done by the repeal of the Rent Acts.
“The acts remove thousands of properties from the rental market, create artificially high prices and are the main cause of the bed and breakfast scandal.”
Jobs Row At DHSS
Civil Service unions claimed that thousands of people in Grays would find themselves worse off under the Government’s new ‘simplified’ social security system.
They also feared that up to 15 jobs at the DHSS offices in Crown House, Grays, could be lost through natural wastage caused by the changes.
Crown House found itself besieged by claimants confused by the change from Supplementary Benefit to Income Support in the previous week.
The National Union of Civil and Public Servants (NUCPS) and the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA) joined forces to denounce the changes.
Matthew Waters, NUCPS senior steward for Grays, said: “We want to provide an improved service to claimants but we cannot when the Government is determined to cut staff and is setting up a benefits system that will leave thousands of people in Thurrock worse off.
“We want to highlight the ending of single payments to people in need and the abolition of additional requirement payments for extra expenses such as dietary needs.
“Instead, claimants will only be able to apply for repayable loans from the ‘social fund’. There is no guarantee that claimants will even get a loan.
“They may be refused just because the local DHSS budget has run out, or because they are seen as being too poor to repay the loan.”
The two unions represented 70 per cent of Crown House staff and feared that the extra staff hired to help deal with the changes would be axed in the following months.
House Prices Soar
House prices continued to soar in the borough with figures released by the Leeds Permanent Building Society showing an annual increase rate of 18.3 per cent, three times the national average.
The average house price in Thurrock had reached £74,300, compared to the national average price of £49,896
Graham Jelley, the society’s Grays branch manager, said that prices could rise even higher during the coming months as couples tried to beat the Budget’s new restrictions.
“The chancellor’s decision to abolish multiple tax relief for joint borrowers from August could lead to further pressure on house prices during spring and early summer,” he said.
“This is likely to have a great effect in this area where the average new loan is now well over £50,000.”
Report Finds Too Few Staff
Members of the District Health Authority were warned of concerns of a shortage of pharmacists within the NHS provision in Thurrock.
The annual report of the Thurrock and Basildon Health Authority Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee stated: “The district’s poor recruitment of pharmacists continues to give cause for concern.
“But there is a sense of frustration at the inability to find a solution to this problem.
“Community pharmacists report that it is now difficult to recruit employee pharmacists to the Thurrock and Basildon district, mainly because of the high cost of living.
“This in turn leads to upward pressure on salaries to the detriment of the hospital service which is unable to compete.”
In Other News…
Detectives stepped up their hunt for a dangerous sex pervert dressed in drag who attempted to abduct two young schoolboys in a three day period.
Pupils got a chance to meet Thurrock’s Mayor and Mayoress, Cllr John Dunn and wife Mary, during their official visits to three local schools.
Members of Springhouse Co-operative Women’s Guild undertook a six-mile sponsored walk, despite the rain, to raise funds for Philip Ward and Barry Stafford from Stanford.
Ben Dodd, 12, of High Road in Fobbing became West Ham United FC’s mascot for the day.