Council staff ‘just don’t listen’ to elderly residents of freezing cold Bristol block of flats

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Gilton House in Brislington has been left without insulation for a second winter in a row

Staff at Bristol City Council “just don’t listen” to elderly residents of a freezing cold block of flats according to a local councillor. Gilton House in Brislington has been left without insulation for a second winter in a row after lengthy delays to replacing flammable cladding.

Several residents in the over-60s council flats, on the Bath Road, have reported being “badly affected” with mould and damp, since the cladding was removed. They are now urging the council to compensate them for massively increased heating costs.

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Some reportedly even stay with relatives overnight, due to the bitter cold. The councillor representing the local area told the mayor that liaison officers offer only a “lukewarm response” to the concerns of residents, during a member forum meeting on Tuesday, January 9.

Labour Councillor Katja Hornchen, representing Brislington East, said: “The residents have got hold of the liaison officers, I’ve gone through the members’ enquiry plan and spoke to housing. But we’ve had a lukewarm response, at best. It feels like they just don’t listen to the residents, from the stories I’ve been hearing.

“I have had people tell me of massive increases in energy bills, and of flats so cold that either they stay at their relatives at night and stay in bed all day as the storage heaters cannot cope with the lack of insulation. Some flats have even been really badly affected with mould, which was not there in previous years.”

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees replied: “Sometimes people respond to issues in different ways. They may not be effusive in their response, but they might be doing the hard yards behind the scenes. So I don’t want to make a judgement on officers at the moment.”

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The cladding was taken off the building as part of a replacement project which began in July 2022 and was supposed to be completed in July last year. But a series of council bungles means the building has been left without cladding, which provides insulation, for two winters.

Nigel Varley, one resident of Gilton House, warned the council could face legal action and claimed it was discriminating against the many elderly people who live there. Speaking during a full council meeting later that day, he urged council bosses to repay residents for their high heating bills.

Mr Varley said: “We old people are adversely affected by the cold. It’s freezing cold at the moment. The council has failed to take note of our protected characteristics, in terms of the Equalities Act, which is age.

“We are being discriminated against and having to pay out a large quantity in extra costs for heating. Either that or suffering from the cold. If the council wants to avoid legal action, we request that something be done to compensate us for the extra costs we’re having to pay through no fault of our own."

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