Council's Lack of Transparency and Government Funding Denial Leave Tillicoultry Homeowners in Limbo. By Wilson Chowdhry

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London: In the quiet town of Tillicoultry, a crisis has been brewing beneath the surface, hidden from the casual observer's eye. A homeowner from, the first two owner-occupiers to be evacuated from their homes last September after the council 'discovered' the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in their properties, has emerged as vocal advocate for justice in the face of bureaucratic neglect.  Read more about the Tillicoultry RAAC Scandal (here).

Recounting their plight, the owner reveals a litany of grievances against the local council, documented meticulously through a trove of emails exchanged over months of frustration and despair.

The saga began innocuously enough, with a report of a roof leak in December 2022. Despite repeated pleas for assistance, it wasn't until May 2023 that the council begrudgingly addressed the issue, by which time the damage had escalated to mold and ongoing dripping. Come September, as the owner sought resolution, they were met with denial after denial.  The owner, remarked:

"We reported a roof leak in December 2022, which was not attended to until May 2023, and was still dripping and mouldy in September when we were evacuated from our homes."

"The council denied having any RAAC in dwellings in Sept 2023 I obtained an independent survey via a structural engineer who examined the roof the day we received the letter and he identified RAAC in my roof."

The acknowledgment of the presence of RAAC in their dwellings by the owner's structural engineer, served as a tipping point. Just seven days after the engineer's assessment, evacuation orders were issued, leaving the homeowners in disbelief and desperation.

Adding insult to injury, the council absolved itself of responsibility for the dilapidation caused by unrepaired roof leaks and denied any association with the properties since November 2022, contradicting their own website's claims. Despite being a majority co-owner, the council's refusal to acknowledge their role as factor for the building has exacerbated the homeowners' plight, leaving them without recourse to appoint another factor.

"The council denies being the factor for the building since November 2022, although their website stated they were as of November 2023. The council still has not formally informed us that they are no longer the factor, preventing us from appointing a new one."

Further revelations emerged through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests obtained by the owner, unearthing plans to demolish their street and allegations of deliberate neglect to depreciate property values ahead of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). Despite mounting evidence, the council remained steadfast in their denials, stonewalling residents at every turn.

Even access to their own homes was denied, under the pretext of safety concerns, despite reports from the council's own engineers affirming the opposite. The owner recounts the indignity of having his flat broken into without consent, locks changed, and access restricted without replacement keys. The onus fell on the homeowners to navigate the labyrinthine processes of Building Control and potentially the courts to regain entry.

"The council has denied us access to our own homes, claiming they are unsafe. However, the council's engineer's report and risk assessment state that we can access our homes. These documents took seven months to obtain through FOI requests, suggesting they were deliberately withheld."

"The council has stated they will not assist us in accessing our homes. They refuse to open the security shutters and, in my case, have broken into my flat without consent, changed the locks, and withheld the replacement keys. If we want access, we must arrange it at our own cost and go through Building Control and the courts to amend the Dangerous Building Notice. We cannot afford the legal costs."

"The council repeatedly fails to answer FOI requests. I believe there are four judgments against them from the Scottish Information Commissioner for delays, a couple for failing to supply the required information, and a few more that I am still waiting on."

The council's track record of failing to respond to FOI requests speaks volumes about its lack of transparency and accountability. Multiple judgments by the Scottish Information Commissioner, have been issued against them for delays and failures to provide mandated information. Furthermore, funding remains uncertain, as confirmed to the owner by Keith Brown MSP, who has stated on record that the Scottish Government will not provide any financial assistance to homeowners. The road ahead appears fraught with uncertainty and injustice.

Wilson Chowdhry from the UK RAAC Campaign Group has been trying to register a deputation with Clackmannanshire Council to address resident concerns directly with councillors and council officers. Unfortunately, in a disappointing email from Lee Robertson, Senior Manager of Legal & Governance, he was informed that residents have no right to representation at council meetings. Mr. Chowdhry has requested confirmation that no formal process for a deputation exists, as well as a copy of the council's constitution so he can verify this information himself.

Mr. Chowdhry remarked:

"This recent email sheds light on a concerning pattern of opacity and lack of public engagement from Clackmannanshire Council. 

"By stonewalling attempts at representation and failing to provide adequate communication with local residents, the council is undermining the principles of democracy. 

"The absence of written communication beyond a letter regarding condemned houses and the failure to share meeting minutes or follow-up letters further exacerbate this issue.

"Such practices not only disregard the rights of residents but also hinder transparency and accountability within the democratic process."

Local resident Frances Reid has stated that no letters are being received from Clackmannanshire Council, except for one regarding an inspection of her property. This inspection unexpectedly led to a rushed evacuation of her home with a 2 hour deadline the same day. Her confirmation reinforces the troubling lack of written communication and transparency from the local authority. The sole reliance on telephone communication, except for a single letter distributed during the urgent evacuation of homeowners, is inadequate and fails to provide residents with the necessary documentation to understand and engage with council decisions.

Furthermore, the absence of shared meeting minutes or follow-up letters after public meetings demonstrates a disregard for accountability and community involvement in decision-making processes. This pattern of communication deprivation only serves to deepen the concerns about the council's commitment to transparency and democratic principles.

Ms. Reid's observations add weight to the call for a public inquiry into the council's practices regarding RAAC-related issues. It is imperative that the Scottish Government intervenes to ensure that Clackmannanshire Council upholds its responsibilities to the community and operates in a manner that respects the rights of residents and fosters open dialogue.

Mr. Chowdhry is calling for a public inquiry by the Scottish Government into the council's handling of RAAC-related matters.  This is a warranted response to ensure that the concerns of the community are heard and addressed appropriately.

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