Housing chiefs ‘failed OAPs at every level’

Horsdonside in Wooler
Horsdonside in Wooler

A formal complaint about the way a housing association dealt pensioners a devastating blow over their homes has gone to the next stage.

In April, Berwick Borough Housing (BBH) announced that it wanted to close Horsdonside in Wooler, where 25 elderly people lived, because of a lack of funding for refurbishment.

Residents – the oldest of whom is 96 – then faced the daunting prospect of being re-homed away from Wooler because there is not enough alternative accommodation of the right type in the town.

Wooler Parish Council submitted a formal complaint to BBH, receiving a response in July, but has since rejected the explanation given by a manager.

It means that the matter has now escalated to the second stage of the complaints procedure and will be looked at by a managing director. If the parish is unhappy with that response, it will pass to an independent appeals panel, but ultimately could end up with the national Housing Ombudsman.

Parish chairman Alfreda Hindmarsh said: “When BBH took over the portfolio from the borough council, they pledged to refurbish all their properties.

“They even went to Horsdonside and told residents this would happen. No more was ever heard until they announced their closure plans in April, without warning, leaving over 20 elderly people in a terrible predicament. The BBH complaints procedure has five points and we say they have failed on all of them.

“I don’t think they will ever accept that this was a devastating blow to the people at Horsdonside who are not only losing their homes, but their community and their friends.”

County councillor Anthony Murray – who resigned from the BBH management board following the announcement – said: “This has been very badly handled.”

Dawn Keightley, Director of Operations, Four Housing Group, said: “We are aware that the formal complaint from Wooler Parish Council regarding the Horsdonside closure is now at stage two in the complaints process.

“As we are currently going through the formal procedure in dealing with the complaint, we do not feel it would be appropriate to comment at this stage

Wooler Parish Council - see page 33