In January I visited 29 new tenants, leaving cards with 65, and made second or subsequent visits to 21 new tenants. Of this 29, 17 had no complaints and are settling well into the town. The problems for which I am revisiting are unemployment 13, lonely or not settling 2, financial problems 11, unsatisfactory job 2. In addition to new tenant visits, I have made 9 initial calls, and 10 to tenants about rent arrears, transfers and general difficulties – these tenants have either requested that someone call or have been referred to me by AHO.
In February I visited 18 new tenants, leaving cards with 6, and made second or subsequent visits to 21 new tenants. Of this 18, 14 had no complaints and are settling well into the town. The problems for which I am revisiting are unemployment 7, lonely or not settling 4, financial problems 10, unsatisfactory job 2. In addition to new tenant visits, I have made 11 calls to tenants about rent arrears, transfers and general difficulties – these tenants have either requested that someone call or have been referred to me by AHO.
Problems and Complaints
1. There is a great deal of concern and anxiety among tenants over electricity bills. In many cases, money is not saved toward this bill at all – it is treated as the “great unknown”, and panic ensues when it arrives. In other cases, the bill is more that was expected and there is hardship to meet the extra cost. For most people, however, the main problem is the insecure feeling caused by a long-term, large, fluctuating bill. The cards provided by SSEB for calculating weekly costs are not widely used, partly because they are not understood, partly because of inconvenience, but mostly because people would not really believe them, or do NOT want to know about their bills, hoping that they will be small when they arrive. Since SSEB policy is now to disconnect supply for an unpaid bill, and not to accept weekly payments, and since SWD will not help clients with payment of electricity bills by a loan, the consequence of insufficient saving is too often the loss of supply, or large debt contracted to keep the supply. For reconnection, the consumer must pay the original bill, plus unit used between last reading and disconnection, plus reconnection fee, plus a deposit toward the next bill.
Since the problem of electricity paid in arrears for unlimited supply is causing so much distress, and since the re-education necessary to the tenants is not being undertaken by SSEB, would it be possible for LDC to consider collecting an electricity payment with the rent, or to approach SSEB to discuss other possible solutions to this problem – Installation of pre-payment meters, weekly collections of money, monthly rather than quarterly meter readings etc.
2. It has been brought to my notice that there are no litter bins in the streets. Since there is quite a litter problem in some areas, would it not be possible for some litter bins to be provided to help train children, and to remove the “no bins” excuse for litter.
3. The library is not open at the weekends. Could it the local authority be asked to reconsider its hours, or to investigate demand for weekend opening?
4. I have again received many complaints about dogs, bus services, telephone Kiosks, and distance to school from Ladywell tenants.
5. I think it worth noting that the tenants I have visited who are in houses with the “Heatovent“ storage heaters have not complained about them, and they have been described to me as “very good” and “great”.
6. Two tenants have asked why LDC do not sell regulation garden sheds in addition to issuing plans to those who wish to build them. Has this been considered?
7. I am told that there is some concern about rowdiness and vandalism in parts of Ladywell. Reports are mainly about young children (8 to 11 years) rather than teenage hoodlums. These children play in the streets and throw anything to hand – mud, stones, empty bottles. This problem could be solved to a great extent by the provision of a well-equipped play centre, with a play leader, and activities for indoor as well as outdoor equipment. Unless children are controlled at this age, it is likely that they will become vandals in a few years.
8. SWD I would like to report that a case which I did refer to SWD this month was not dealt with. The tenant had had her goods valued for a warrant sale before contacting anyone. I called, collected details, and attempted to persuade the Sheriff Officer to drop the sale for a weekly payment of the bill, having tried everything, I was completely unsuccessful. In order that the tenant should not think that she had not had the best possible help, I took her down to SWD where Bill Campbell again contacted the S.O. He was also unsuccessful in eliciting any helpful response from them and told the woman that she should call back on Monday to see if the SWD could help financially. I then discussed with the women what money she could possibly raise towards averting the sale, and left her, on the understanding that I would see her again to discover what SWD had done to help. When I did see the women again I discovered to my horror that SWD had referred the woman to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, which was not only of no help to the woman but very unfair on CAB. By borrowing, the woman was then able to avert the sale, but she had no help from SWD. Another tenant had called at SWD to discuss leaving her husband and SWD had recommended that she ask to see an LDC visitor. This woman’s problem is a complex marital one which it is not our job to deal with. Insofar as it was a problem of housing, I told her to see Mr Carse.
9. I have been discussing the problems of loneliness with quite a number of tenants. This problem is known as the New Town Blues and is widely recognised. Its avoidance lies in the development of a sense of community. And I feel this is difficult for Ladywell, which has no focus other than St Pauls which itself can act as a repellent to many. The Social Centre is not a focus, as most of the time there is nothing happening there, and many of the tenants do not even know of its existence. Has the possibility of more accommodation for community activities (especially in the absence of a school building) been considered, as this is a point brought up by many tenants? The St Pauls coffee morning has been a great help, but this is only a ‘focus’ for about two hours per day. The possibility of street welcoming and social committees has also been put to me. Is this feasible, the size of many Ladywell streets which are almost areas in themselves.