I think certain Camden Council staff need to look up the word ‘RESPECT’

respectFollowing is a copy of an email I have just sent to Mr Alam, Contracts Manager of Camden Council having received his letter dated 13th July commenting on the ‘progress of the communal flooring works to SEC’. As you will gather, I am absolutely furious!

Mr Alam,

I wrote to you on 27th June 2015 and then again on 7th July 2015 and have yet to receive a reply or answers to the questions myself and other leaseholders have. However, I come home tonight to a letter, from you, which has been put through my door today regarding the progress of the communal flooring works to SEC and an opportunity to ‘choose the colour of floor tiles on our estate’ with a choice of three drop in sessions, none of which are beyond 6.30pm! Very considerate, not, as I like many others work and don’t get home by then.

So it appears to me that the fact that the costs have gone from an approx £1419 per leaseholder to £4500+ is something I and other leaseholders just have to deal with?! How disrespectful is that? Councillor Revah and Terry Wiggett is this how we should be expected treated? Are we just expected to pay whatever figure Camden decide to pull out of their hat? Do Camden think we are all lottery winners? Yet again I repeat:

* This would mean we have bills of £3500-£4700 for cold water pipe replacement, £2000+ for decoration of porches and £4500+ for flooring (should this go ahead). When will final costs options be provided to leaseholders and will this be prior to the work, be it cleaning or tiles, being approved?

I am disgusted and very, very angry and will be putting a copy of this correspondence up on my blog.

With this huge rise in costs I ask, yet again:

* How does the bill per leaseholder go from approximately £1419 each (in Dec 2014) to £4500 (in June 2015)?* How many of the 47 who responded are leaseholders?

* Given the astronomical amount leaseholders have only just been informed they are going to expected to pay (yet again) for this work, can we request another survey be done before this work is agreed?

* Given that only 33.33% of the flats in SEC actually responded to the survey, is this a valid enough result for Camden to go ahead with the decision to tile our porches?

* Despite an email from Mr Amal stating that the caretakers fee would be reduced due to the fact that he couldn’t clean our porches for months, my Service Fee invoice did not reflect any form of refund – where is my refund?

As this is the third time I have asked these questions, I (and the other leaseholders I have talked to) would like a response by return.

Kind regards,

Miss Pier Reid
South End Close

Posted in camden leaseholders, camden leaseholders services, Camden update, Decoration of South End Close, Do you have a problem?, Important News | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

You can’t be serious?!

seriousSo the reason for my long absence from my SEC blog was, in honesty, my disappointment that we couldn’t get 10 people together to continue with the South End Close Tenants and Resident’s Association (SECRA). There are a few people living in SEC who, like myself, wanted it to continue, but without the additional support needed we couldn’t continue. Such a shame when there are funds available to us to make improvements where we live.

My reason for writing this post today is following a conversation I had with one of my neighbours this morning and notification from another who wrote on my blog regarding the works that took place by Camden/Apollo on restoring the cold water pipes.

I was very pleased to hear that leaseholders have been given a reduction in their bill for the waterworks and I hope that my continued correspondence with Camden helped towards this. I have yet to receive my bill, but am hoping it too is far better than the original received for £4700+

However I wasn’t pleased to hear from another neighbour that she had opened a letter regarding the planned tiling of the porch floors. I came home and had received the same letter. SERIOUSLY? Am I really expected to pay £4503.12 towards flooring, let alone flooring I don’t even want? You may wonder why I don’t want it? Personally I think it will spoil the lovely 1920’s built buildings we live in, the sample of a deep cleaned floor we had been shown (the first in the 27 years I have lived here) produced great results, and let’s get real – judging by the history of Camden’s previous contractors, the work will cause nothing but nightmares yet again for all of us!

The letter says that we have now carried out a full validation survey to the property and it has resulted in an increase in the estimated cost for these works. The revised cost for the contract to your block is now £146,768.21 (including contractor overheads). So that gives me, as a leaseholder, a bill of £4503.12! Get real!

In an email to me of 16th December 2014, from Shamsul Alam, Contracts Manager of Camden Council, regarding the proposed tiling of the porches he wrote the estimated cost of the proposed tile floor per staircase entrance is estimated to be just over £13k including prelims, contractors overhead and profits.

As part of my reply I wrote On another note, I did receive your correspondence with regards to suggested porcelain tiles in our porches at a cost of £13347 per porch.

If this option went ahead, I noted that you stated ‘I am hoping to purchase additional tiles’ – with a cost as high as this, I think additional tiles would be imperative should any get damaged in future. If stock was suddenly discontinued, we would just be left with damaged tiles or unmatching tiles completely defeating the object of laying them in the first place.

My estimate for 15 porches at £13347 each = £200205. With 141 flats and 43 leaseholders (as far as I am aware), each leaseholder will be looking at approximately £1419 each. Is this correct? Or do these figures not include management costs, etc on top?

So how does the bill per leaseholder go from approximately £1419 each (in Dec 2014) to £4500 (in June 2015)?

I also requested that a survey take place asking whether those living in SEC wanted porcelain tiles or the existing flooring to be deep cleaned. The survey took place with questionnaires having to be returned by 5th Jan 2015 (despite the date at the top of the survey stating 5th Jan 2014!)

A short time later we had the results put up on the noticeboards –

30 voted for new flooring

16 voted to deep clean

1 vote did not specify either of the two options

So a grand total of 47 out of 141 flats responded.

My questions now are:

* How many of the 47 who responded are leaseholders?

* Given the astronomical amount leaseholders have only just been informed they are going to expected to pay (yet again) for this work, can we request another survey be done before this work is agreed?

* Given that only 33.33% of the flats in SEC actually responded to the survey, is this a valid enough result for Camden to go ahead with the decision to tile our porches?

By the way, my email to Mr Alam (when I believed that I would be looking at approx. £1419 for tiling work) also included

This would mean we have bills of £3500-£4700 for cold water pipe replacement, £2000+ for decoration of porches and £1400+ for flooring (should this go ahead). When will final costs options be provided to leaseholders and will this be prior to the work, be it cleaning or tiles, being approved?

Please don’t forget the nightmares we had with the simple task of painting of walls in our porches. As a reminder, here is another section of the same email I wrote to Mr Alam

My given figure of 4/5 workers was provided by both the caretaker and the workers on the estate. I am pleased to hear there were more when you paid your visit. However please do not forget that as the workers also informed me, there are many times when they are pulled away from SEC and move to jobs elsewhere, hence them saying how fed up they were.

Will the delays caused by accessing properties in order to paint the doors cause an increase in our final bill? I one tenant telling me yesterday that she waited in for a whole  day for a decorator to paint her door and he didn’t turn up!

With regards to a reduction in the cost of care-taking, I don’t think this should be an ‘if the bill will be reduced’ as there is simply no question that this bill should be reduced. Our porch hasn’t been touched since August. I look forward to Sue’s response on this.

 I absolutely understand that there will inevitably be some disruption and inconvenience caused to residents with any work taking place, however this job has been badly managed. There is no excuse for starting a job and then leaving it unfinished for over two months leaving us to live in the conditions featured in my videos. It is disrespectful to both the tenants and leaseholders. No one is asking for compensation, but we are asking for those in charge to pay more attention to ensure that those you have chosen to employ do the job properly and efficiently. This has not been the case.

Unsurprisingly, despite an email from Mr Amal stating that the caretakers fee would be reduced due to the fact that he couldn’t clean our porches for months, my Service Fee invoice did not reflect any form of refund.

I end today’s blog with my last comments written in my email of 16th December to Mr Amal

In a current climate where the cost of living is increasing and salaries aren’t, it is no wonder so many of those who are leaseholders in SEC are currently selling their properties or renting them for small fortunes. I have lived in SEC for over 26 years and didn’t buy to rent, I brought to hopefully live here for many years to come. With a heavy heart, thanks to Camden’s horrendous charges for jobs that never fail to be badly managed and cause upset, I may join those in either renting my property for profit so that Camden’s bills are far less painful or will be putting my home on the market in the very near future.

Residents of SEC, I welcome any comments you may have.

Posted in Decoration of South End Close, Leaseholders bill for water works, Something of interest, South End Close | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The redecoration of communal areas in SEC

The work started in our porch on the 8th August 2014 as I discovered when I came home from work to a completely dust covered hallway where the ceilings had been sanded down.

The workers eventually came back and painted the walls in magnolia and then, at a later stage, the skirting was repainted in black. Obviously the colour choice was a majority vote and was exactly the same as the previous decor, but at least the hallway looked cleaner.

And then…nothing…

for weeks and weeks and weeks….

Yes, left with nothing but a plastic covered porch and porch door until… 24th November!!! Three months of leaving the flat everyday to the hallway featured in my attached videos with the once neatly laid plastic now ripped and torn. However, according to the notice placed on the noticeboard in our porch, work in our block was due to be completed w/c 27th October.

It was only on Monday morning, yes this week,  that workers reappeared and when I left in the morning they were painting the staircase banisters. This was followed by different workers appearing yesterday who were painting the metal grills. I asked them if they were going to be varnishing the wooden handrails too and was told that other workers would be taking care of that but they weren’t sure when. Thankfully the plastic floor-covering was also removed.

I have attached videos, which I took last week, showing what we have been left to live in since August which I think is unacceptable and I feel the people in charge, who may be unaware of our situation, should see this.

 

Also, here’s a few questions:

1) Why is it that, with very few workers on this job, they didn’t start and finish one porch before moving on to the next instead of leaving us living like this? When the work started there seemed to be loads of workers on site but this quickly diminished to 4 or 5. I have spoken to several of them who told me that they think the way the works have been run is, in their words, stupid and they are fed up as they keep getting taken away from SEC to do jobs elsewhere.

2) Will the care-taking bill for leaseholders be reduced as we haven’t had any cleaning done in our porch since August? Perhaps they can pay me for picking up several bits of rubbish left over the last few months?

3) Why was there no notification to residents that the work was delayed?

4) Presumably the planned final invoice will be reduced to reflect the inconvenience caused to us all? I can hear you all laughing out loud right now!

Please forward any comments you have.

Thank you.

 

Posted in Decoration of South End Close, Do you have a problem?, Something of interest, South End Close | Tagged | 4 Comments

Redecoration of SEC – when will it end????

Porch 1 Porch 2 Porch 3

I’ve written to Camden this morning and sent them these photos.

This is how our porch has looked for the last two weeks, since the walls were painted magnolia. The black skirting remains untouched.

I’m getting a fed up with stepping out of my front door to this mess as are a few other residents I’ve spoken to. Not loving the fact that we still have ‘swirls’ on the wall but there was nothing we could do about that as you know. But I’d just like them to get the job done and dusted now so we can all get back to living normally again.

I’ll let you know when I hear back from the council.

Posted in Decoration of South End Close, Do you have a problem?, Something of interest | Leave a comment

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An update on porches in SEC

In response to my request for a survey to be carried out with regards to lino being laid in the porches of SEC…

I was advised by Shamsul Alam of Camden Council that he was going to write to all residents to invite them to a drop-in session in September to look at samples of vinyl flooring. I replied informing him that, from experience, drop-in sessions don’t work as very few people actually attend them. I again urged him to do a survey, including the photographs below which give a good indication of the poor standard of work carried out in other estates.

I also requested better lines of communication from the contractors doing the work having been left with a dust covered porch for two weeks and no sign of any further work taking place ( miraculously our porch was cleaned immediately following my complaint) . Thankfully it appears that the request has been listened to as letters have been appearing on our notice board informing us of when the work will resume.

Following a further email to Shamsul requesting a reply to my request for a survey, he has now replied with the following;

“I will be arranging a specialist contractor to carry out a trial cleaning of the concrete area in one of the staircases once the walls are decorated to see what difference this will make.

I will be writing to all the residents of the estate within the next few giving them an opportunity to view the trial area and to see samples of the vinyl flooring and decide on their preferred options. My preference would be to write to all the residents enclosing a voting form which they can either drop through the letter box that will be within the estate or e-mail it to the RLO.”

WP_20140410_188WP_20140410_191

 

WP_20140410_185 (double click on this image to see how well laid this lino is…not!)

I have made my personal opinion known. I think the lino looks cheap and tacky. I also have concerns following reports from other estates where their lino looks a mess after a few months. I also believe it would be such a shame to turn our love 1920s built buildings into a carbon copy of other estates. I’m a leaseholder but I want to assure you that my opinions have nothing to do with trying to cut the cost of the bill I will inevitably be given by Camden. I simply care about where I live.

Again, I can only urge you to respond to this survey once you receive it. In the meantime, I’m adding a poll for those of you who read this blog.

 

 

Posted in Blogs, Decoration of South End Close, Important News, Polls, Something of interest, South End Close | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Update on staircases in SEC

Following several comments from residents in SEC, some of whom who don’t have access to the internet, regarding Camden’s plan to put Lino on our staircases I have requested that Camden send a survey to all residents before doing so.

I have also asked that the photographs which featured on my last blog, which were sent to me by the man in charge giving a clear indication of the standard of work we can expect, be printed on the survey for everyone to see.

I can only urge you to respond to this survey if, like myself and many others, you too would like to see an example of what a staircase would look like if Camden had them professionally cleaned, before the decision to go ahead with Lino is made.

On another note, our porch has been left covered in dust for a week now, ever since the ceilings were sanded down without dust sheets being laid. Are any of you living with the same mess in your porch? Not blaming the caretaker here at all.  It should have been cleaned by the contractors.

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Correspondence re Redecoration of SEC

For those who are interested, this is my correspondence with Shamsul Alam, Contracts manager for Camden Council who is in charge of the redecoration work in SEC.

I meant to put this up ages ago, so apologies to all for my delay.

sentSENT 21ST JULY

Dear Shamsul,

I hope you are well.

I am writing to you with regards to the redecoration of the communal areas of South End Close.

At the initial presentation by Dorothy Gardener of planned works we were told that the walls would be repainted, the grills cleaned and new flooring supplied to cover the stone staircases. We were shown photographs of smooth walls and various colour options. A letter was sent to leaseholders stating that the planned works would cost us each in excess of £2000 (I haven’t got the letter to hand so cannot give the exact amount).

Months later a chap called me (as head of the TRA) to inform me that Dorothy had now left and that he had taken over. I’m not sure whether this was you or not. The chap informed me that Camden no longer planned on putting floor covering down but were looking at ways to clean the stone staircase properly (for the first time in the 27 years I have lived there!) and were trying to figure out how to clean the metal grills. He also informed me that the walls would not be sanded down but would purely be painted over. Please see my blog to read my personal thoughts on this at www.southendclose.wordpress.com I really find it hard to believe that the ugly ‘swirl’ patterns will remain all over the walls because, as I was told by the chap, it is ‘too difficult to get the swirls off’. It was Camden’s workers who put the swirls up there in the first place, the last time the communal areas were decorated, and the only reason they did was that they were too lazy to do the job properly. So clearly, with many elements of the task stripped away, this should mean the final bill comes down from £2K+ for leaseholders?

When I was told this news I asked the chap to put it in writing so that I could inform all residents and to re-quote the bill to leaseholders. I also asked him to check with Camden’s billing dept if we were expected to pay this bill at the same time as the huge bill for the water works which took place or if this bill could be paid once that one was complete. I never received anything in writing and haven’t received any answers to my questions.

I would appreciate it if you could please respond in order for me to let everyone know, including the leaseholders.

Kind regards,

Miss Pier Reid

receivedRECEIVED 23RD JULY

Dear Ms Reid,

Thank you for your e-mail.

It was actually me that spoke to you some weeks ago regarding the Spring Clean works to South End Close.

I read through the notes made by Dorothy following the resident’s consultation meeting held last year and I understand 6 residents including you attended the meeting. The notes from the meeting suggest discussions were centred around the wall colour, feature wall and sample flooring were shown to those who attended the meeting. The consultation was at an early stage of the Spring Clean programme and at this stage no detailed specification had been drawn up. I understand you had suggested that existing concrete flooring would be sufficient if it was professionally machine cleaned with right chemicals. You had also suggested that if we are considering installing the new flooring then a sample staircase should be done first to give residents an opportunity to see what the flooring would be like and if it was suitable for South End Close.

There is no mention in the notes that that the existing wall surfaces will be plastered over to provide a smooth finish to the walls.

In April this year the leaseholders were consulted on the proposed Spring Clean works to the estate. The consultation costs did not allow for new flooring or for the walls to be skimmed over to a smooth finish and as far as I recall we have not received any observations from leaseholders requesting the existing walls to be plastered over and new flooring installed.

I have been investigating if it would be feasible to apply a plaster skim over the existing swirl pattern to provide a smooth finish to the walls. The walls in South End Close have been painted with anti-graffiti paint and it looks the swirl patterns were formed using the anti-graffiti paint system the last time the walls were decorated.  The anti-graffiti finish makes it very difficult to apply skimming plaster over the walls because there is a high risk that the plaster will not adhere to the wall. I have been in touch with the Technical Team at British Gypsum, one of the largest manufacturers of plastering material in the UK and their advice is as far as they are aware there are no products on the market at this time that would allow an wall which has also been treated with anti-graffiti paint to be skimmed over with plaster. If we wanted the walls to have a smooth finish then they would recommend that we mechanically plasterboards to the walls which can then be skim finished with finishing plaster.

Unfortunately it is not feasible to mechanically fix plasterboards to all walls to all 14 staircases within South End Close as this not only be a very costly exercise but it will also be technically challenging. It will reduce the width of the staircase, new skirting’s will need to be installed and it would be tricky to work around the around the existing services and pipes.

With regards to the flooring I have considered the option of installing new vinyl safety flooring instead of cleaning the existing concrete flooring. The costs of cleaning the existing flooring is approximately 1/5 the cost of installing new vinyl flooring and until we carry out a trial staircase we will not know how effective the cleaning would be and if it will make a real difference. Subject to further resident’s consultation, I would like to propose that we install new vinyl flooring to the staircase and the communal areas instead of cleaning the existing concrete floors and would welcome your comments on this.

I look forward to hearing from you with regards to my proposal for the floor. In the meantime if you have any queries please feel free to contact me.

Best wishes

Shamsul Alam
Contracts Manager

sentSENT 23RD JULY

Dear Shamsul,

Thank you for your response, although I am mildly irritated that I had to waste time trying to find out who you were and chase you for it.

You are correct in saying that there was no mention of the walls being plastered at the original presentation by Camden, but as we were being shown images of works which had taken place in other estates with beautiful smooth walls, I’m sure you can understand why we presumed we would get the same.

I will refer to my letter to see if new flooring was mentioned for  within the quote for leaseholders. Again they may not have been mention on plastering the walls within the quote, however with the huge expense of this job, I guess we took this as a given. However thanks to Camden’s last choice of decorators deciding that a ‘swirl pattern’ was their particular preference as it meant less work in covering cracks and holes, it looks like SEC is now stuck with the pattern for life! Well done to your decorators…not!

I personally dislike vinyl flooring in communal areas and would prefer Camden to at least try and clean one set of stairs before spending money on purchasing a load of vinyl flooring. I will put this question to those residents who subscribe to my blog and let you know their decision.

Could you also please advice on whether you have spoken to the billing dept as yet?

I would like to publish your email in my blog for everyone’s information. Is this acceptable to you?

Kind regards,

Pier Reid

receivedRECEIVED 23RD JULY

Dear Ms Reid,

I understand that if residents are shown pictures of work on other estates with walls then people can easily make the assumption that they will get a smooth finish walls. I understand the images that were shown at the meeting were assimilated as we had not started the spring clean works on any estates at the time of the consultation meeting. However, I will take your comments on board and try and ensure that we emphasize to the residents what we can and can’t do on future consultation events so everyone is clear. I even considered applying a special two part primer that we apply prior to coating over anti-graffiti paint finish to ensure the new paint adheres to the substrate. However since the primer is not designed to skimming over walls neither the manufacturers or the contractor will be carrying out he works will guarantee the new plaster will adhere to the wall and will come not off in few years’ time. I simply can’t afford to take the risk if it was a smaller area then it might be different but 14 staircases and entrances I simply can’t afford to get it wrong.

New vinyl flooring was not included in the leaseholders consultation estimates that were sent out earlier this year. However I did allow a provisional sum of £1000 per staircase to allow for the specialist cleaning. If we do decide to go with the new flooring then it’s most likely that we will have to issue an additional notice to the leaseholders for the flooring.

Few months ago I arranged for a specialist concrete restoration company to do a trail cleaning /polishing of an area of concrete step on a another estate in Camden. The contractor was very keen and assured me that they will be able to restore the concrete back to originality and they have had many success. They arrived on site with heavy machinery and used a combination of chemical cleaning followed by specialist diamonds grinders to polish the concrete, I stood and watch them doing it. However despite all their effort the area of the floor that was cleaned/polish although was smooth to touch visually it was difficult to notice any difference from the surrounding area. I am not sure if cleaning the floor will actually make a huge difference. The original flooring goes back to 1920’s when the building was built and as you can imagine there will be years of dirt/grease that has ingrained into the concrete.

I am sorry I have not been able to speak to the Collection Manager regarding the payment options for the Spring Clean works, I tried calling him few times but he was not available. I will write to him this afternoon and will let you know once I hear back from him.

With regards to publishing my previous e-mail in your blog that’s is fine by me.

Best wishes

Shamsul Alam
Contracts Manager

PLEASE NOTE LEASEHOLDERS: I have heard nothing since with regards to payment options for the Spring Clean works.

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Is this what you want your porch in SEC to look like?

This is what Camden Council are planning to put in our porches.

I asked Shamsul Alam, the man in charge at Camden Council, if they could try cleaning the original 1920s stone staircase we have in our porches before buying a job-lot of lino and was told that they had tried cleaning a staircase on another estate and didn’t have the desired results.

My personal opinion is that I would dearly love them to try  cleaning one staircase in SEC so that we can see for ourselves if they have a different result. I’ve lived in SEC for 27 years and have never seen anyone from the council attempt a deep-clean of the stairs.

WP_20140410_188WP_20140410_191

You may not agree with me, but I think the lino looks cheap, tacky and badly laid.  People on other estates have told me that their lino, within months of being laid, is coming away from the staircases, etc which is obviously a hazzard.

WP_20140410_185 (note how well laid this lino is…not!)

So residents of SEC, what do you think?

Posted in Blogs, Important News, Something of interest, South End Close | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Paint the whole world with a rainbow

Double rainbow, Hampstead London

I had to stop the car and take this photograph on my way home from work last night. Made me smile.

Belsize Village, London

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