Frank Field MP
Your MP for Birkenhead
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Children’s health being damaged by poor housing conditions in Birkenhead

26 March 2018
Dundonald Street

Birkenhead’s MP Frank Field is calling for an immediate extension by Wirral Council of its Selective Licensing scheme to tackle slum housing conditions.

In a submission to the Council, Frank notes that in parts of Birkenhead, some of the older terraced housing stock is let to tenants by private landlords, often via letting agents.

Speaking with residents and community workers in and around Dundonald Street alone, Frank discovered from various properties that there has been:

• a hole in a roof for two years, letting in water whenever there is rain;
• an infestation of rats and mice;
• thick black mould on walls despite the property being well ventilated;
• wood rot on the front and back doors, letting cold air into the property, with the tenant attempting to make do by stuffing paper into the largest gaps;
• furniture, including cupboards and radiators, hanging off the walls;
• boilers that were broken over Christmas, leaving tenants cold;
• a back door having to be wedged closed, because it has not been fixed;
• widespread damp; and
• piping that leaks water and sewage.

In addition, Frank outlines in his submission: ‘Several constituents have reported to me the impact of poor housing conditions on their health. Indeed, such conditions are widely known to trigger, or exacerbate, physical illnesses which include eczema. Respiratory health has been shown to be particularly affected in both adults and children.

‘In one recent case, a constituent and her five children had to sleep in one room because each of their other bedrooms was plastered with mould. The children’s breathing had suffered because of the mould. The property was described as ‘a death trap’ due to the hazardous state of the electrics, and neither the heating system nor the cooker had been fixed by the landlord.

‘A second constituent reported similarly that their children’s breathing began to suffer, after their calls and messages to the landlord about severe damp went unanswered for six months.

‘Just as poor conditions trigger a deterioration in tenants’ physical and mental health, they should trigger also an automatic consideration of Selective Licensing in that area as soon as they come to light.

‘It strikes me that in such cases, particularly when much of the rent is covered by housing benefit, landlords may well be running down the value of the capital base and trying to avoid investing any money in the asset. Tenants feel powerless in such situations to take action against the landlord.

‘Greater accountability must gradually become the norm in the relationship between private landlords and tenants across Wirral.’


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