On Thursday morning (14th June) at 6am a resident in Blackdown tower block reported the loss of their water supply, and then at 12 noon the lifts failed due to flooding on the ground and third floors. This quickly turned into a major incident affecting all the residents of the block. Some staff and water contractors arrived at 4pm but it is not clear what action was planned to repair the facilities or to provide help for the residents of the block.

Cllr Anne Jones, Deputy Leader of the Labour Group on Southend Council, was quick to appreciate the seriousness of this matter: “I saw an announcement by the Balmoral centre on social media at 4:45pm, and that they had agreed to stay open until 10:30pm in order to provide help and toilet facilities. I alerted Cllr Margaret Borton who immediately went to the flats, and she later phoned me to say there were no staff there and no information updating residents about what was happening. I joined Margaret at 6pm and we knocked on every door. We found that the residents were very angry and frustrated and some had been engaged in heated exchanges by phone and email to try to find out what was going on.

“Some staff returned at 8:30pm and it appeared that one of the problems was the contractors couldn’t gain access because they didn’t have the appropriate keys. It is a poor response that South Essex Homes did not ensure that all residents are safe, secure and informed at the earliest opportunity. To help ease the situation the Balmoral Centre stayed open all night and all councillors were contacted by SEH – yes, all councillors, the same can not be said for all residents. Shameful.”


By Friday morning some extra help was provided by Sharon Houlden of Southend Council’s Adult Social Care services, however South Essex Homes had not found a solution for this crisis. There is talk of a temporary water supply being provided, but residents are not happy and it has been suggested that they will have to make their own arrangements to deal with this crisis until it is resolved.

Labour Cllr Margaret Borton said: “Nobody should be in any doubt what a serious issue it is to lose not only your water supply but also the lifts that allow you to get to and from your home. With Cllr Jones and members of the residents association we knocked on every door to make sure that people had enough bottled water. We also helped to carry up prams, shopping, and supported old people, some of whom have carers and nursing care. It is inspiring to see how the residents all pulled together to help each other.”

With the failures of vital services in the Grenfell disaster being all too fresh in our minds, it must be a serious question whether we are adequately prepared to deal with any major incidents involving tower blocks in Southend?

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