Rochdale council bosses are calling for a place on the board of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) following the sacking of its chief executive in the wake of the Awaab Ishak tragedy. Housing chief Coun Danny Meredith has written to the organisation saying he and council leader Neil Emmott want to help ‘deliver life-saving improvements’ and play a role in appointing an interim chief executive following the exit of Gareth Swarbrick.
The pair also urge the current board and directors to step down. Little Awaab died aged just two after prolonged exposure to mould at his home on the Freehold estate led to fatal breathing difficulties, an inquest found last week.
Following widespread criticism, RBH issued a statement admitting it had ‘got things badly wrong’ - but insisted the organisation was ‘caring’ and ‘abhors racism in any shape or form’. However, in a letter to Alison Tumilty, RBH board chair, Coun Meredith says councillors still have serious concerns about the way the mutual - which took over the authority’s social housing stock 10 years ago - is being run.
It reads: “The recent news reports of anonymous staff members who claim that the culture in RBH is rotten and racist causes Rochdale councillors to be extremely concerned that multiple RBH properties still have mould and damp two years after Awaab Ishak’s death.
“Immediate action is needed. Councillor Neil Emmott and I would like to assist RBH in the short term to deliver life-saving improvements to RBH.
"We want to sit on your board to resolve these concerns and play a role in recruiting the interim chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.” The letter also urges RBH to ‘reach out to the social housing regulator and the housing ombudsman’ to manage its ‘day-to-day’ operations.
Coun Meredith concludes by saying a ‘full refresh’ is required at RBH once the interim chief executive is in place. “Rochdale Borough Council wants the board and directors to resign as Rochdale council has concerns over numerous decisions the board has made,” he adds.
A spokesperson for RBH said: "The board has received the letter from Councillor Meredith and they will be responding directly to him." It comes after Rochdale council chiefs last week wrote to the housing secretary calling either for commissioners to oversee RBH or the local authority to be provided with the funding to take its stock back ‘in house’.
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