Tenants left in cold as 15,000 callers jam hotline: VOTE

THOUSANDS of council tenants were left hot under the collar after jammed phone lines stopped them getting through to housing repair staff to complain about broken boilers and frozen pipes.

Elderly and disabled people were among those without heating for days in freezing temperatures and council housing firm 2010 Rotherham’s repairs hotline received more than 15,000 calls in two days last week.

Among those complaining were the family of 88-year-old Edna Harrison, of Kimberworth, who were left fearing for her health after waiting 30 hours for an incomplete repair which failed to get the central heating back on, although an electric heater was still working.

Her daughter Ruth Tootill said: “It’s very worrying with mum so old. It is life-endangering.”

The biggest problems were caused by frozen ventilation pipes on combination boilers which have replaced the old back boiler systems in recent times.

Frustrations boiled over as the 2010 Rotherham BT Connect hotline number became overloaded.

A disabled woman’s boiler gave up in the early hours of Friday, December 17 and she rang Connect at 8am to be told that it would be a 24-hour call out.

But repair workers from newly-appointed contractors Willmott Dixon eventually turned up 53 hours later—just as a neighbour fixed it for her.

The 42-year-old woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “When I could get through to anyone which, was either Connect or Rothercare, I was just told ‘They are coming out’ but they could give me no time of when that would be.

“Rotherham Borough Council’s website gives you a number to ring and when you do it tells you to ring the number you just have.

“I sent an email to both Willmott Dixon and to my local councillor, Shaun Wright, and have not received a response from either.

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“It is disgusting the way that both the vulnerable and the elderly are treated. They should hang their heads in shame, while sitting in their nice warm homes and offices.”

A spokeswoman from 2010 Rotherham admitted to a large increase in emergency repairs.

“The council’s repairs’ contractors have redirected all their repairs staff to help deal with this issue,” she said.

“An emergency repair is taking around 36 hours. Additional staff have been drafted into deal with the vast increase in telephone calls.

“We are advising tenants that only emergency boiler and other ‘life and limb’ emergencies will be dealt with. Other repairs will be rescheduled to be undertaken once the severe weather has passed.

“We are liaising closely with RotherCare to check on vulnerable elderly tenants, who will receive priority attention. Temporary heaters are being distributed where appropriate.

“Regular updates are being posted on the 2010 Rotherham website where we have issued online advice to customers on how to fix frozen pipes and how to prevent this from happening in the first instance.

“The council housing repairs telephone number, 01709 336009, is currently experiencing a longer than usual waiting times, due to the higher than normal volume of calls being received.”

For more information visit www.2010rotherham.org.