A 90-YEAR-old man said Flintshire Council will “take away his freedom” if it removes his mobility scooter tomorrow.
William Austin, of Coppa View, Buckley, who cannot walk more than a few metres, is one of a group of vulnerable pensioners who says they will suffer under a council plan to ban any items left in communal parts of council housing.
In a letter sent out by Flintshire Council to all council-managed residential blocks with a shared entrance, it states all mobility scooters must be removed from communal stairwells and hallways by tomorrow – or they will be ‘disposed of’ by council staff.
The calls follow a fire safety assessment which identified the items as a fire threat.
Other demands made in the letter – signed off by Flintshire Council neighbourhood housing officer supervisory Emma Roberts – include the removal of flowers and pictures from the landings and stairwells.
Even doormats left in communal areas are deemed a fire hazard and will be removed tomorrow, says the letter seen by the Leader.
Angry residents at the Buckley complex have slammed the council’s lack of compassion and said common sense needs to prevail.
They said removing household goods from the hallways will strip their flats of the ‘homely feel’ and make it look like a “prison block”, while others said they were at a loss to know what to do with their ‘vital’ mobility vehicles.
Joseph Burley, 76, lives on the first floor and has kept his mobility scooter at the bottom of the stairwell for five years.
He suffers with a lung disease and said he struggles to walk even a short distance.
“I can’t get it upstairs,” he said.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do - there is no alternative.”
Mr Austin said he will be a “prisoner in his own home” if his mobility scooter is ‘disposed of’ tomorrow.
He said: “I can’t do anything without it – I can’t go anywhere.
“I can’t even walk across the road to the bus stop.
"I’m going to be a prisoner in my own home. I won’t be able to leave. They would be taking away my freedom.”
Clare Budden, Flintshire Council head of housing, said the removal of items which may potentially obstruct the evacuation route from the building is “necessary” to comply with fire regulations, adding the safety of residents is paramount and compliance with fire regulations is compulsory.
She said the council is considering all options to help affected residents, including providing alternative accommodation where this has been requested and installing an electric socket in another tenant's property so that their mobility scooter can be stored and charged inside the flat whilst a longer term solution is identified.
But some residents at Coppa View said there is nowhere else to leave the mobility scooters as their rooms offer no storage space and the corridors are too narrow.
They also face looking for alternative storage space for tables and chairs currently kept in communal areas, which are used for Christmas dinner and other social gatherings.
Buckley county councillor Arnold Woolley said: “Why was this done at such short notice?”
Cllr Woolley said residents were told they could put their mobility scooters in the hallways of their own individual property.
He said: “If we put one of these things into these little hallways, that would constitute a greater obstruction.
“There is a garage but they have been told they are not allowed to use it.”
Ms Budden added: “The council is considering all options to help affected residents, including providing alternative accommodation where this has been requested, and we are installing an electric socket in another tenant's property so that their mobility scooter can be stored and charged inside the flat while a longer term solution is identified.
“We are also looking into the provision of storage and charging facilities on site. For example, there is a garage which we may be able to convert on the site, or alternatively, we may be able to provide a custom made storage facility.”