Residents of Meath and Marston Court say they are angry after being denied the opportunity to speak at an extraordinary council meeting in Ealing on Tuesday evening (December 19). The session, which was brought forward by the Liberal Democrats, looked to address the woeful conditions present in both estates and push the council to agree to an enquiry about how conditions were allowed to get so bad.
In the motion, which was passed with some amendments neutering the investigation, the council acknowledged the horrendous conditions that residents have been forced to live through but refused to admit that living in both housing areas had a negative impact on inhabitants’ mental health.
While putting forward the motion councillor Jon Ball reiterated that residents have to deal with disturbing crimes such as attempted rape, attempted murder, drugs, violence, open air sexual activity, pests including cockroaches, damp, mould, cramped conditions and lack of security. The councillor said that he had met one Syrian Meath Court resident who said it was “worse than [living in] Syria during the war”.
In front of a public gallery full of Meath and Marston Court residents, he added that Meath Court, in particular, was so bad that the security guard that the council employed was scared to do his job. The estate, according to the councillor, had also a brothel operating from the top floor.
In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) one resident shared clips of police raiding the floor and arresting an individual. Further details were shared, with the public gallery, made up almost exclusively of mums from the two estates, watching on.
The Conservative’s councillor Julian Gallant labelled the whole affair an “embarrassment” drawing nods from the crowd and asked why there hadn’t been a proper security plan put in place when the sites were opened.
Cllr Bassam Mahfouz, the cabinet member responsible for housing in the borough, also addressed the council to summarise the work he is doing to correct the situation.
He said: “We have already chosen to end the lease prematurely at Marston Court in Hanwell and make sure we didn’t renew the lease at Meath Court in Acton and we have also committed to moving the families at both sites to alternative, more appropriate accommodation.”
However, he proposed an amendment that removed from the motion the need for the council to give a specific timeline as to when people will move out. Cllr Mahfouz said that he wanted to get people out “before Christmas” and with 10 families already having been moved out.
But with no specific date for when everyone will be able to move out residents told Local Democracy Reporting Services they are concerned. Although around 10 residents from Meath and Marston Court attended the meeting they were refused the right to speak, something that infuriated some.
One Meath Court resident told LDRS: “I’m not happy that we weren’t allowed to speak, we have a right to say how we feel.”
“I have things to say but we were sitting there like lemons and had to listen to their crap and we’ve got a lot of things we want to address so it’s like we are being silenced, again.”
Another resident said that they came out of the meeting still uncertain about their future. “this is the thing we are still not sure where we are gonna go, when to pack, we are just sitting there waiting.”
They say they are being told different things by different council officers, with some saying they still may be staying up to another 8 months. Cllr Mahfouz also came out of the council meeting to speak to residents outside the chamber.
Residents grilled him about how the sites were run and concerns about management as well as how getting out of the estates might work. The councillor remained calm amongst a sea of concerned residents each with their own questions.
Responding to multiple questions Cllr Mahfouz told the crowd of mothers that his focus “was to get them out”. However, things boiled over when one resident said she felt he was ‘deflecting’ when it came to questions about the poor management of the sites which residents agree is why the estates are so “f***ed up”.
The manager in question is in charge of both sites meaning both Marston and Meath Court residents vented their anger about their treatment.
“Why is he still here?!” asked one infuriated mum. “I don’t trust none of you. I hear what you are saying and appreciate your help Bassam but it is not good enough because my child is having therapy right now because of where she lives.”
“I’m sorry but I am going to be on you. I’m going to be on you. I’m not gonna stop. We are fed up”
Cllr Mahfouz responded, reassuringly saying: “I think you are already on me but I’m still here standing, talking to you. You got me with you every step of the way, I’m taking it, you punch me up as much as you want I don’t mind. It’s fine. It’s what I’m for because ultimately I have given you that commitment, you heard me make that commitment inside [the council meeting], that’s what I’m here to do.”
It is a commitment that will be welcomed by some but with no set timeline on when the majority of people will be moved out and things like rent arrears currently preventing residents from receiving new housing offers many of those living at Meath and Marston still have no idea where they will be for Christmas.