Kitchen refit left gran a ‘prisoner’

Margaret Driscoll in her kitchen in her bungalow on Gressingham Drive in Hala.
Margaret Driscoll in her kitchen in her bungalow on Gressingham Drive in Hala.

An 80-year-old grandmother became a “prisoner in her own home” after a city council kitchen refurbishment took more than six weeks to complete.

Margaret Driscoll had to live out of boxes stacked in the small living room of her one-bedroom council bungalow while work was carried out on her kitchen.

And after contractors Forrest claimed they had finished the refit, Mrs Driscoll was left with plug sockets hanging off the walls, new floor tiles already coming unstuck and patches of bare plaster on the walls and ceiling.

The pensioner, who suffered a stroke last year, had been told the work would take just five days to finish. But she was left eating microwave meals in her living room, surrounded by her fridge freezer and other kitchen appliances, throughout Christmas and New Year.

Her daughter Patricia Tyson said the work was “an absolute shambles” and that council tenants should be given compensation for the inconvenience.

“Mum was initially told it would take a week, but that then changed to 12 days,” she said.

“After three weeks the kitchen was an absolute nightmare.

“There was no functioning kitchen and no washing machine; mum was living in the front room with everything around her.

“It’s been an absolute shambles and the workmanship has been appalling.”

One workman drilled holes in the wrong side of a cupboard door to fit a handle, while another drilled through a gas pipe while installing an electric fan.

Mrs Driscoll paid £200 to have a new kitchen floor fitted 18 months ago, but this was ripped as workmen dragged her fridge freezer into the living room.

“These are people’s homes they are messing with,” Mrs Tyson said. “I feel so sorry for my mum and the other residents.

“My mum was a virtual prisoner in her front room, it’s disgusting.

“The council has a duty of care to their residents and they weren’t looking after them.

“It’s absolutely appalling how they have been treated.”

The work was carried out by city council partner Forrest as part of a £292,000 maintenance programme to improve kitchens and bathrooms in 78 council-owned properties in Hala and Bowerham.

Mrs Driscoll, who has lived in the bungalow for 10 years, said: “It’s been a joke. I couldn’t go out because I didn’t know who was coming or when they were coming.

“I would be waiting in all day for people to turn up and sometimes no one would come until 4pm.

“They left a complete mess every day. I wish they had left the kitchen as it was.”

Mark Davies, head of environmental services at Lancaster City Council, said: “On behalf of the council, I would like to offer my sincere apologies to Mrs Driscoll and her family for the obvious inconvenience that has been caused by the length of time that the refurbishment of her kitchen has taken.

“The concerns raised are currently being investigated by both the council and its housing maintenance partner Forrest.

“In the meantime, Mrs Driscoll and her family can be assured that the council will make certain that the refurbishment work to her property is completed by Forrest to the specified standard.

“The council’s repairs and maintenance manager will be contacting Mrs Driscoll with a view to visiting the property to check there are no further specific issues that need to be resolved.”

A spokesman for Forrest said: “We are fully aware of the problem. We are investigating it and will put a procedure in place to resolve it and will report back to the council.”