The Ramblings of My Brain

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2013 / 2014 / 2015 – My one long year of L&Q hell

And the repeated need to use the word ‘subsequently’

L&Q – creating places where people no longer want to live

About 9:30pm on Xmas Eve 2013 I walked into my living room to have a phone conversation with a friend prior to wrapping some presents. I had not been in the living room for a few days as I’d been busy getting ready for Christmas. My neighbours had reported water damage in their living room but I had believed I hadn’t been affected.

As I took off my flip-flops to sit down and chat to Vincent on the phone, I noticed the carpet was wet underfoot. I soon realised that about 1/3 of the carpet was soaking wet. Cardboard boxes I had against the outside wall had collapsed having soaked up the water that was all over the carpet. I was distraught. It was too late to get any help, given it was so late on Xmas Eve. I ended up single handedly moving all my furniture around to avoid the wall where the water was congregating. The most distressing thing at that point was that I had no way of knowing where the water was coming in, nor how much more was likely to appear. It later transpired that the water was coming in thru the external wall and seeping into the carpet and into the room.

It took me about 3-4 hours to move all the furniture and boxes and music equipment and instruments as far away as possible from the wet carpet end of the room. I had no idea whether even that was going to be safe for them. I had to remove several cardboard boxes which had soaked up water and collapsed under their own weight. A futon floor cushion was so sodden that it took about 1-2 weeks to dry out, subsequently sat permanently outside my front door, draped over a large wooden chair in an effort to allow it to air. The cushion ended up being permanently water stained where the rain water and salts had dried out. The outer cover was damaged by the wet cushion inside bleeding dye.

The only safe place to put paperwork and boxes containing valuable and fragile files and computer data was on top of the futon sofa in an effort to keep it off the floor as I didn’t know how much more water was likely come in, or where or when. The futon sofa is made of wood and has legs which sit some 6-8 inches off the floor so I figured that was the only sure-fire safe spot for the most valuable and fragile items.

L&Q Surveyor, James Lisle had already been tasked with coming out to visit my neighbours Mary and Mick Lait to inspect the damage on Christmas Eve. He didn’t show up. I then emailed his line manager, Nick Tighe on Xmas Eve who subsequently tasked James to visit. Once again he didn’t. I then spoke to James on the day before New Year’s Eve and instead of making a plan to visit to inspect, he put it onto the newest member of the Surveyor team, Jack Plummer. Jack wasn’t able to attend until 2nd Jan. I subsequently made a complaint to a Nick Tighe about James Lisle’s appallingly unprofessional behaviour. Nick apologised and asked me to leave the matter with him as opposed to taking out a formal complaint, he promised me James would apologise to me. I’m still waiting over a year later.

Christmas Day was subsequently ruined. I was tired, stressed, and anxious. I can’t have been any kind of company for my parents and left relatively early due to the stress of not knowing what I was going to find when I arrived home.

On Christmas Day evening, I borrowed a carpet cleaner from my parents in an effort to soak up some of the water from the carpet and spent the next day or so vacuuming up water. The smell was like old cabbages when I got home.

I had peeled the carpet back from the wall in order to let it dry and air. Over the next weeks, every time it rained I would jump up to make sure no water was coming in. It often was. In fact several times over the next few weeks to a month, the water would come in so much that the only way I could stop it overnight was to roll up towels into long sausages and put them by the wall to soak it up. Every morning I would then have to boil wash the towels and tumble dry them. It got so bad that in the middle of the night I would jump up and run into the living room every time I thought I could hear rain to check the water wasn’t coming in.

Later in January, Jack Plummer arranged for a dehumidifier to be delivered which I left on pretty much 24hrs a day for a few weeks in order to help dry out the room, constantly emptying the water tray every few hours in order to dry the room. Jack made sure I was compensated for Gas and Electricity as I was also turning the heat up and leaving the balcony door and windows open to air the room following the awful smell on Christmas Day.

Mould was spreading on the wall paper. I was worried that the spores might get onto my carpet, my futon and my books and paperwork. Jack Plummer offered to have a contractor come to strip the wallpaper. This didn’t happen until 7th Feb.

The contractor found the walls to be really wet underneath along with various spots in the ceiling where water had presumably seeped thru from upstairs’ floor. I assumed that once the walls were dry, my living room would be back to normal within a month or so and that they would come to re paper the walls. As of 12th January 2015, I am still waiting. Provisionally this is set to go ahead on 26th January 2015.

It was my friend’s 65th birthday on 1st Feb 2014 and we had previously planned for him to stay at my flat so we could go out to see a play to celebrate. There is no way it would have been possible for him to stay at mine given the damp, the mould and the lack of space. We had to make alternative arrangements. Similarly he was supposed to stay with me on New Year’s Eve. Obviously that was not possible and he had to make alternative arrangements.

I have been living without proper access to my living room since Xmas Eve 2013. Eventually the room had dried out enough for me to allow my friend to stay on 20th June 2014. It was then that I was able to move the boxes, files and paperwork that had been sitting on the sofa for safety away from the water and wet carpet. As such the futon mattress has been squashed from the constant weight over those months while I waited for the rain to stop, the room to dry out and L&Q to step up to the mark and do the necessary repairs to remedy the situation.

I still wasn’t able to properly use the living room and still can’t. The walls and wallpaper are still awaiting repair. I’m still waiting on redecoration and compensation.

The external waterproofing work didn’t start until end of August 2014. It is still ongoing although they finished waterproofing our side of the building some 6 weeks or so later.

My neighbour, Mick Lait has subsequently had a massive stroke following several months of trying to get L&Q to step up to the plate and actually DO something. After Jack Plummer had handed over his and Martin Arnold’s reports, the whole situation went into limbo. Mick Lait was never able to find anyone inside L&Q who either knew about the situation, or was able to pass him onto somebody who did. Various members of staff promised they would call back with further information and never did. In the months and weeks leading up to his stroke, he spent HOURS on the phone trying to get a considered response. In the weeks before his stroke, he was getting angrier and angrier at the way L&Q were treating us and avoiding taking care of their responsibilities to us and their building. As of writing this, Mick is now left without the use of his right hand and still unable to talk. He used to be our Estate Champion and sat on the steering group that oversaw the stock transfer of Lewisham Park to L&Q. Given the appalling treatment we’ve all had this year, he subsequently told me he wished they’d all elected to go with Hyde Housing instead of L&Q.

Subsequently I have been living in hell since Xmas Eve 2013. The stress of living in a one bedroom flat with no proper access to a living room is immense. I spent most of this past year living in the bedroom. We expected that the internal refurb would be completed before Mick came out of hospital and another tenant had had her baby. I said I was happy for them to be prioritised. This hasn’t however happened. I have no idea why this is the case. I suspect this is due to underestimating the time needed to complete a tendering and contract process.

Given the hell I’ve been living with for the past year, I expect some compensation for not being able to use my living room for such an indecently (and unreasonably) long time. This is in keeping with L&Q’s promises in their offer document.

I am also seeking compensation for a replacement futon mattress, the futon floor cushion and a set of 6 bath towels.


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Originally submitted to MU London Region for consideration as a motion for the 2015 MU Delegates Conference (declined)

Conference calls on the EC to instigate basic training for potential delegates to the MU Conference.

This training would equip members with an understanding of how the Delegates Conference works. It would explain how to write a motion for conference and give members an opportunity to come up with ideas which could be later fed into conference itself. It would also explain the basics of what is expected of delegates and how to deliver a speech in support of a motion.

It would be hoped that this program would help to increase membership participation in Union business and Union activism in general as well as facilitate new and fresh ideas for debate.

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Originally submitted to MU London Region for consideration as a motion for the 2015 MU Delegates Conference (declined)

Conference calls on the EC to instigate a program of basic training sessions for potential and new committee members, and a similar program for potential and new committee chairs.

These sessions would equip members with the basic skills necessary to fulfil these important roles inside the MU. Topics might include an understanding of the MU Rules, committee procedures, basic Equality training etc.

In addition, Conference recommends a mentoring scheme to ensure that new committee members and chairs are paired with existing, experienced members to help guide them thru their initial period in the role.

It would be hoped that these sessions would help to increase membership participation in Union business and Union activism in general.

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Originally submitted to MU London Region for consideration as a motion for the 2015 MU Delegates Conference (declined)

Currently (with the exception of the guidelines in the case of the General Secretary in MU Rule VIII.9) there is no clear grievance process for complaints against MU Officials or other members of staff. Rule XVIII only deals with disciplinary procedures against members. This seems unfair and out of step with modern practice.

Conference calls on the EC to instigate a fair, clear, and transparent grievance and complaints process in line with the existing disciplinary process against members (and any such existing office complaints process as may be in place). Ideally this should form one cohesive grievance and complaints procedure applying to all members, officials and staff equally. This should be in line with comparable TUC grievance processes. To set this up might, if necessary, require a rule change.

To be fair, any such grievance and complaints procedure would also require a clear outline of officials’ responsibilities. Grievances and complaints should be fairly, even-handedly, and transparently adjudicated by a central body.

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Originally submitted to MU London Region for consideration as a motion for the 2015 MU Delegates Conference (declined)

Conference calls on the EC to instigate a system of induction days for new members. These would be periodic, regional based events which would welcome new members into the Union.

The day would provide new members with the opportunity to meet and greet regional members of staff and aim to furnish them with an understanding of how the MU works and its structure. It would explain both the benefits of membership and members’ responsibilities. It is hoped these sessions might also encourage new members to become active in the Union.

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Originally submitted to MU London Region for consideration as a motion for the 2015 MU Delegates Conference (declined)

We have much to be proud of at the MU. Throughout our history, our members have often been at the vanguard of public opinion and the fight the good fight fight. As well as being leading lights in the creative arts, we have literally shaped the social and political culture of the whole world.

Time and time again we have been at the forefront of positive social change; from banging the drum in the fight against Apartheid to the struggle for LGBT rights, from the fight to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS to the push for equal rights for women, from the ongoing fight against racism to increasing visibility of the disabled, our members have done it all and led the march towards a positive new future.

For a relatively small Union we have historically punched well above our weight. Let’s find a way to share that better with the outside world; let’s bang the drum louder and share our positive stories more loudly and more proudly.

We never shy away from dealing with the media when standing up for members’ rights, let’s also tell them about all the other positive work we do. Let’s reach out and inspire a whole new generation of musicians to join us. In doing so, let’s also inspire our existing members to stand up and be counted.

Conference calls on the EC to ensure the MU interacts more proactively with the mainstream media about its ongoing activities and has the necessary resources to do so.

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Originally submitted to MU London Region for consideration as a motion for the 2015 MU Delegates Conference (declined)

The MU has already adopted the TUC’s recommended Union Equality Objects into our rules (MU Rule I.2h(i, ii) & 2i). These rules include the requirement for the promotion of Equality through Union organisation and structures, education and training etc.

It would therefore seem pertinent that we encourage everyone carrying out MU business to avail themselves of basic Equalities training so we are all able to carry out our duties in pursuit of those requirements.

Equally it seems sensible that everyone involved in the Union is given up to date information as to the legal requirements concerning Equality Law and ongoing recommendations of Equalities best practice as delivered from time to time by the TUC. Not least because of the need to represent all members equally, educate the wider membership on matters of Equality, and negotiate on members’ working conditions with Employers who should themselves be following Equality Law and workplace best practice.

Conference requests that the EC looks into accessing basic Equalities training for everyone involved in carrying out MU business (with a view to encouraging them to avail themselves of that training). This might take the form of existing provision (much of which is free to affiliated Union members) by the TUC, GFTU etc which is often modular and follows a blended approach of online and class-based provision and can be tailored to different Unions’ requirements.