Daily Mail

Why is housing boss still in £185,000 job?

After case of the two-year-old killed by mould in flat, critics ask...

- By James Tozer and Tom Witherow

CALLS were mounting last night for the resignatio­n of the £185,000-a-year boss of the housing associatio­n which left a toddler to die in a mould-infested flat.

Gareth Swarbrick, whose failure to quit over two-year- old Awaab Ishak’s avoidable death ‘beggars belief’, according to Housing Secretary Michael Gove, is clinging to his post as pressure intensifie­s.

The 55-year-old chief executive of Rochdale Boroughwid­e Housing (RBH) – whose pay package has increased by more than a quarter in the past three years – has yet to apologise for the ‘degrading’ conditions Awaab’s family were living in.

After a coroner said the tragedy in one of the richest nations on earth should be a ‘defining moment’ for the housing sector, Mr Gove yesterday accused Mr Swarbrick’s organisati­on of a ‘terrible derelictio­n of duty’.

The Housing Secretary told Parliament that the housing associatio­n’s failures were ‘rooted in prejudice’ and Awaab and his family ‘deserved better’.

One MP suggested the landlord could even be prosecuted for corporate manslaught­er.

Tenants’ groups called for Mr Swarbrick to be sacked, branding his pay package a ‘disgusting’ reward for failure.

The damning comments came as the Housing Ombudsman for England launched an investigat­ion into whether there had been a ‘wider failure’ at RBH.

From as early as 2017, Awaab’s parents repeatedly begged officials at RBH for help with the appalling mould problem spreading across the walls and ceilings of their flat in the Greater Manchester town. But through a mixture of bureaucrac­y and communicat­ion breakdown, and ‘ cultural assumption­s’ about the family, who were asylum seekers from Sudan, nothing was done.

The youngster suffered increasing­ly severe coughing fits, and on December 21, 2020 he went into cardiac arrest and died while being transferre­d to Royal Oldham Hospital. Fungus was found in his blood and lungs.

Mr Swarbrick’s annual pay package, including pension contributi­ons, has swollen from £144,000 the year before Awaab’s death to £185,000. The beleaguere­d executive, whose salary has enabled him to privately educate at least two of his four children, lives in a modest £270,000 semi-detached home on the outskirts of Bolton, and drives a luxury SUV.

The Housing Ombudsman for England, Richard Blakeway, said he would use new powers to interview staff at RBH directly as part of an urgent investigat­ion.

In a letter to Mr Swarbrick published online, he said his team was examining three complaints about damp and mould and would look at whether they were ‘indicative of wider failure within the landlord’.

RBH currently has 108 ‘live’ complaints about damp and mould from tenants. The housing associatio­n said the figure was down from 600 in 2019.

Greater Manchester Tenants Union said: ‘The rot starts at the top – Mr Swarbrick must go.’

Mr Gove said bosses at RBH who ‘earn well in excess’ of the Prime Minister must ‘take the consequenc­es’ of their record.

Awaab’s parents, Faisal Abdullah and Aisha Amin, are planning legal action over their son’s death. RBH was approached for comment.

‘A terrible derelictio­n of duty’

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 ?? ?? Tragic death: Awaab Ishak. Centre: Housing boss Gareth Swarbrick and his home in Bolton
Tragic death: Awaab Ishak. Centre: Housing boss Gareth Swarbrick and his home in Bolton

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