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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 June 2010

Gateshead tenants demand decent homes

A housing protest on the Seven Stars estate in Wrekenton, Gateshead, photo Elaine Brunskill

A housing protest on the Seven Stars estate in Wrekenton, Gateshead, photo Elaine Brunskill   (Click to enlarge)

For years the residents of the Seven Stars Estate in Wrekenton, Gateshead, have been promised by councillors and housing management that their homes would be updated by 2010 with new kitchens, bathrooms, fires and combi-boilers, alongside having houses re-painted and rewired. But none of this has materialised.

Elaine Brunskill, Newcastle Socialist Party

Elaine Reid described the appalling state of repairs: "My windows are rotten, mould forms on the windows. The curtains and blinds actually blow in the wind."

A housing protest on the Seven Stars estate in Wrekenton, Gateshead, photo Elaine Brunskill

A housing protest on the Seven Stars estate in Wrekenton, Gateshead, photo Elaine Brunskill   (Click to enlarge)

Elaine went on to tell me that the pointing on her house is like sand. She had requested a repair, but: "In January three years ago I came home from shopping to see the gable end moving. At first I couldn't believe my eyes. I called the fire brigade, within 15 to 20 minutes my house was cordoned off by the police and fire brigade. There were also officials from the council - I've never seen so many in my life. None of this would have happened if they'd done the repair in the first place."

Following this disaster Elaine got in touch with a local councillor who lives on the same estate to seek compensation from the council for damage to her house and garden. Elaine said: "She did nothing - no help at all. It actually made me wonder why she is a councillor if she didn't bother to help when I got in touch." In the end Elaine was offered 50. The cost to re-decorate and put her garden back was far in excess of this.

Alongside many other residents on the Seven Stars Estate Elaine is now angry about the state of kitchens and the other improvements promised. Residents were shown photos and a CD of the new kitchens they were to be getting. Elaine, who works in a shop on the estate, said: "Everyone on the estate was talking about about how good everything was going to be."

Elaine added that when the surveyor came out he didn't even have a pencil or paper with him: "I tried to explain the problems, the kitchen doors and drawers were hanging off and the bench tops were loose, but he wasn't interested. All he did was take a photo of the best part of the kitchen, then left.

"Since then I've been told all I'm getting are new doors and a lintel - that's all. All the promises of new kitchens, bathrooms etc have not materialised. Everyone feels let down and angry. We feel we have been penalised for looking after our properties."

At a recent residents association meeting councillors and management from Gateshead Housing Company (an arms length management organisation) came to explain what was going on. Elaine said: "There was standing room only at the meeting." However, still nothing is being done.

Recently the residents had a protest on the estate. Elaine said: "It was really lively. One of the women made a banner for her car, 'No Decent Homes - No Votes!' We were under the impression that our local councillors would step in and help - but they have been no help whatsoever."

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