Christmas Scrooge landlord leaves Holloway elderly out in the cold

ELDERLY people in sheltered housing will have to change their own light-bulbs and fix their own fridges after their housing association cancelled the minor repairs service to their bedsit flats.

Residents of Hawberry Lodge, in North Road, Holloway, are still being billed �38 a month by Circle Anglia for an “enhanced repairs service” provided since the centre opened in 2004.

The housing association says it has had to cut out free “additional services” because of the tough economic climate - but the decision has left it open to accusations of being a Christmas Scrooge.

Hawberry lodge resident Elaine Shapiro, 60, said: “We were not told about the change. Even our manager didn’t know about it.

“You’d ring up to say your light needed changing, and the electrician wouldn’t turn up. Then they’d say: ‘We’re not doing it any more’.”

The centre is home to 40 elderly people, many with age-related difficulties.

George Selby, 92, now relies on a floor lamp after his kitchen strip lighting broke, even though he is partially blind. “I can’t walk to the shop for an electrician,” he said. “And I have nobody else who can do it for me.”

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Salma Gourbin, 58, eventually called pest control to deal with the fleas plaguing her flat after management did not respond to her calls.

“No one came,” she said. “I was suffering, I had to sleep sitting up, I didn’t want to lie down because they were biting my body.”

She is still waiting for Circle Anglia to reimburse the �95 bill.

Other residents are struggling with broken ovens and showers and faulty fire alarms.

“One man took the batteries out of his alarm because he couldn’t stand the beeping, and he’s a smoker,” said Mrs Shapiro. “The fire brigade were so alarmed they said they’d change the batteries themselves.

“I know there are cuts, but there’s more beneficial ways than cutting repairs for people who can’t do them themselves. They’re hoping we just give up, but we won’t. We should stand up for our rights.”

Councillor Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, has written to the chief executive of Circle Anglia asking him to reconsider the decision.

He said: “This is a mean spirited decision by Circle Anglia to leave elderly pensioners in the dark at Christmas when a light bulb goes out. I am calling on Circle Anglia’s chief executive to stop being a Scrooge this Christmas and reinstate the repair service these old people need.”

A spokeswoman for Circle 33 said: “The rent and service charge at Hawberry Lodge covers – and always has covered – particular repairs and maintenance services in communal areas, as well as heating and hot water in each property.

“We have in the past provided additional services in residents’ homes at no extra charge to them, but in the current economic climate we cannot afford to keep doing this.

“We do understand residents’ disappointment about this, and will continue to support them by sign-posting them to organisations who can do this work for them.”