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Sheffield Council's social housing negligence shows contempt for tenants

By failing to carry out more than 800 gas safety checks, the Council has seriously failed multiply marginalised and working class people.

Park Hill South Street
Benjamin Elliott (Unsplash)

Sheffield City Council have been given a regulatory notice by the Regulator of Social Housing. In a decision published on 25 January, the regulator found that:

a) Sheffield City Council (the Council) has breached the Home Standard; and

b) As a consequence of this breach, there was the potential for serious detriment to the Council’s tenants.

The regulator explained that the Council referred themselves at the end of 2022 in relation to failing to meet health and safety standards. More specifically, the Council said that more than 800 gas safety checks were required. In turn, the regulator discovered that this meant hundreds of households haven’t had the gas safety checks required by law, with some checks overdue by years.

Janet Sharpe, Director of Housing for Housing and Neighbourhood Services, said in a statement to the press: "Since October 2022, we have put in place a robust programme to reduce the number of outstanding gas inspections which includes a new fast track process for dealing with times when it is difficult, or is taking a long time, to gain access to some properties.

"This has improved our compliance from 87% in October 2022 to 98% compliance in January 2023. We are working as quickly as we can on this work and want to reassure residents that our aim will always be to make sure that everyone is as safe as possible in their homes."

Dangerous failings

The problem should never have escalated to the scale that it did. This is a catastrophic failing from Sheffield City Council, and one organisation acutely aware of the impact of failings like this are community union ACORN.

Seb Odell, chair of ACORN Sheffield, told Now Then: "It's not acceptable that people are living in unsafe homes like this. We know from the experience of our members that a lack of safety checks leads to gas leaks in people's homes, threatening their lives."

ACORN explain on their website that we live in a system in which:

"Humans live and work collectively, but under which the things we produce, consume, and even the places we live are controlled by the needs of private profiteers. The vast majority of people, the working class, are denied the ability to make decisions about our own lives as we are denied the right to use the resources necessary for a dignified existence as we see fit."

Sheffield City Council being served with a regulatory notice speaks to what a terrible job they’ve been doing. Hundreds of households in Sheffield have been living without adequate safety checks as a result.

ACORN also point out: "We know from experience that women, migrants, ethnic minorities, disabled people, and LGBT+ communities in our class experience this particularly sharply and in unique ways."

Councils have a duty to provide safe housing of good quality – but they’re falling far short of this basic metric. By failing to provide adequate housing the Council has once again demonstrated the contempt they hold for multiply marginalised and working class people.

As Odell told us: "Sheffield tenants rightly expect better from their council. If you're living with housing problems and want to fight back, get in touch with ACORN!"

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