The health risks which asbestos poses to residents are, of course, well known and very serious. A friend of mine recently lost her husband, much too young, to a disease which was almost certainly caused by the fact that he had worked with asbestos in the past. He was just one of the 20 tradespeople who the Health and Safety Executive estimate lose their lives every week to asbestos-related illnesses. The organisation ‘Asbestos Victim Support’ says that the potential health risks for Council housing tenants ‘cannot be underestimated. Especially for those who may have been living for many years in a Council property containing hidden asbestos’.
I am glad to see that the Council is tackling this issue to ensure the safety of residents living in homes owned by the Borough, and the tradespeople who undertake repairs.
We all fully appreciate the uncertainty which the current Covid-19 pandemic is causing to all our plans. What impact do you anticipate it having on the letting of this contract and the subsequent management and removal of asbestos?
As you know, like everybody else, we have a number of houses which were built at a time when asbestos was considered to be a perfectly acceptable building product but we do have an incumbent asbestos management contractor and they are able to manage the immediate service requirements during the Covid-19 outbreak, and for the period of the procurement for the new contract, which you will see if you hang around I will be presenting for approval tonight to the Executive.
We have researched the market and have identified an established framework provider to use for the procurement. The asbestos management framework has been awarded to a reputable contractor, and we do not anticipate that the Covid-19 outbreak will cause the procurement to be delayed or that it will impact the mobilisation of the new contract following an award. As I say I will be presenting that later on to the Executive for their approval.
Given the enormous risks of asbestos to health and the fact that many residents and tradespeople are not confident in recognising or safely handling asbestos what steps will the Council take to ensure that all residents living in Council owned properties containing asbestos, and all those involved in the repair and maintenance of those properties, have the full information that they need to keep themselves safe? Including the exact location of asbestos in these homes, the risks asbestos poses to health and the precautionary steps they need to take for their health and safety.
The new contract that we will be letting tonight, if it is approved by the Executive, will be a management contract and their job will be actually to go round and manage asbestos and eradicate it as quickly as possible in the Council homes we have got where it is in there.
I would say that the amount of asbestos in our homes, as we are delivering newer homes, of course they will not have it so hopefully it will be something that will get eradicated relatively quickly. We are putting aside £500k for the management of this contract.