Builder Director walks off with £75 million: but houses are fire hazards

As the 2019 election progressed, the various parties promised much. Let us examine just one aspect of those promises; namely Housing.

Labour promised to build, over the next decade, a million new homes in a Social Housing Campaign.

Lib-Dems promised 100,000 homes for Social Rent each year, for a total of Half-a-Million over the Election period. Actually, as the LIB-Dems stood absolutely no chance of gaining power, they may as well have promised equality with Labour, because that’s all the promises were worth: Hot air!

The Tories didn’t promise anything, excepting a White Paper, and a move towards cancelling the ability of landlords to kick tenants out without a long notice period.

The problem with politicians and their promises, especially with building and buying homes; is that none of the whole lot in the last or indeed the present Parliament has ever held a job which results in someone actually living in a house which they have had a physical hand in building. They may have learned about the law regarding buildings, and the many pitfalls therein, but unless a man has had to figure out which bit goes where, how bricks are laid, how concrete is mixed, delivered and set in place, how toilets, sinks, plumbing and central heating actually works, he isn’t worth a bucket of spit on a building site.


I was trained as an Engineer, and have been involved in engineering processes throughout that same life. One of the first things which was drilled into me, was the simple truth that no-one can be trusted to do a job correctly without supervision. What is perhaps, more important than that truth, was the second truth, that the supervisors themselves must have been trained on those same jobs which they are inspecting and supervising. To put things fairly simply, the one-hundred-and-one parts of a house come together with skilled men, working under close and constant supervision, to provide a product which used: I repeat ‘USED’, to be a byword of competence in Great Britain. The presence of a snagging list was literally unheard of on most large building sites where thousands of houses were built by British working men, proud of their knowledge, skill and attitude towards a day’s work.


Consider the delivered product of a large builder such as Persimmon Homes. In years gone by, headlines such as Persimmon Homes from Hell would be literally unheard of, but incredibly, similar .headlines appear with alarming regularity. At a housing project site in Cornwall, the headlines told homeowners that the properties they had bought were to be inspected because  Cavity Fire Barriers, standard products for wood-framed homes, were thought NOT to have been installed, and all the homes were to be inspected and brought up to standard.


An ‘Independent Review’ commissioned by Persimmon, found that the lack of Cavity Fire Barriers was endemic across all Persimmon building sites. The Review stated “Persimmon has a nationwide problem of missing and/or incorrectly installed cavity barriers in its timber-frame properties”, the review said. The report added that while the firm had reacted quickly when this problem had been identified, it had only inspected the eaves of properties, and not assessed whether the same problem was occurring in party walls and around windows and doors.


This is the same Persimmon which was verbally slammed for initially proposing a £110 million bonus to its CEO, a bloke called Fairburn, and still paid him £75 million in the full knowledge that he presided over this regulatory and safety shambles.


To come closer to home, a close relative bought a house, and the main faults which rose were shoddy work on basic plumbing connections and works. But what was worse was the simple fact that nothing was accessible for repair. A cistern repair meant the entire back wall of a staircase had to be cut open to gain access. This operation wasn’t done once, but twice, both upstairs and down. Outside water pipes remained unprotected until the owner complained to the Company director. The list went on and on. But the laughable things, (well, not laughable to the new owners maybe) were the advertising booklets which spoke of ‘Luxury in every respect’. Nothing complained of was ever approached until the head office was involved; and even then reluctantly.


And this is the so-called workforce which was going to build a million houses in ten years, if you believed Labour’s promises. Perhaps the Tories were at least being honest, in that they knew the category of the present British working man, and decided to stay ‘Schtum’! Myself, I am glad my working days are over, because I have seen the modern product offered, and disliked it intensely!