Welcome to the World of Mears Group Plc

The company with a stranglehold over Council housing

The Eye of a Needle

Recently, I visited a friend of George and Diane in her Council flat in Brighton.  A young lady who suffers depression, having had 5 children taken from her in her life by social services, we talked with her and I asked if she would allow me to take some footage of her property.

She wasn't offended when I said that I wasn't very impressed by the Council if this was what they were offering as accommodation to Brightonians.

Thankfully, she is being moved soon to a new Council property, though she admitted she has not seen the place to which she will be moved.  As you can tell from the video below, the walls of the house are in a shocking state of disrepair and are in need of plastering and decorating.  Like a couple of Council houses I have seen, the Council and/or the Mears Group who are responsible for the upkeep of its property, don't provide carpet to its residents.

Bob Holt, CEO of Mears Group
According to this article, the Mears Group seem to be doing rather well financially.  Its CEO, Bob Holt, boasts of the company with responsibility for the maintenance of social housing in Brighton having been 'debt free' for over 13 years. It is a company which, according to Growth Business UK, has brought the 'Mears Group from sales of £12 million when it listed on AIM in 1996 to £305 million today'.

Great. Well, I'm all for people being successful, but if this company are really doing that well then why do they seem unable to maintain this Council property in Brighton to a barely minimal standard. This company must need no reminding that they are on the receiving end of a staggering average of £2,020,105 a year from Brighton and Hove City Council for their services (Source: Openly Local), which, looking at the video below of a friend's Council house, seems to be rather an excessive pecuniary reward, for a not very good job. Certainly, the resident living there was rather down about where she lived.

Over winter she had to live on friend's sofas in order to keep warm because, as you can see from the video, the grill over the door that came off after a daughter tried to break in, having lost her key or left it at home, never was put back on the hinges. The wood was so rotten that the door came right off and couldn't be put back on. So the Mears team just grilled up the back door, but not particularly well, since it allows air and light through. So in winter, the resident was freezing cold when it hit minus 6 degrees. She asked the Mears team to sort it out, of course, but it never was. To be honest, looking around at the place, it kind of felt like the whole house could fall down at any moment. I hope a lot of people read this, I really do and I hope the 'House of Mears' that seems to have an iron grip over the housing of the poor in Brighton falls down like the house of cards that it is. They have a reputation in Brighton, does the Mears clan. They are, by and large, crooks and thugs and they are all over the Council.

Not, that said, that it is only Brighton and Hove City Council that are in a cosy relationship with the Mears operations. Openly Local, the website that provides information on Council's spending and Council's suppliers makes it quite clear that the Mears Group provides exactly the same services for:

  • Birmingham City Council (Total spend: £1,502,739, Average monthly spend: £1,502,739)
  • London Borough of Bromley (Total spend: £169,749, Average monthly spend: £169,749)
  • Blackpool Council (Total spend: £674,791, Average monthly spend: £337,395)
  • Newcastle upon Tyne City Council (Total spend: £2,623,661, Average monthly spend: £437,276)
  • London Borough of Lambeth (Total spend: £471,040, Average monthly spend: £471,040)
  • Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (Total spend: £2,551,119, Average monthly spend: £283,457)
  • Cornwall Council (Total spend: £1,874,663, Average monthly spend: £468,665)
  • Leeds City Council (Total spend: £396,751, Average monthly spend: £396,751)
  • Peterborough City Council (Total spend: £53,291, Average monthly spend: £53,291)
  • London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (Total spend: £15,606, Average monthly spend: £15,606)
  • North East Lincolnshire Council (Total spend: £85,777, Average monthly spend: £28,592)
  • Dover District Council (Total spend: £338,107, Average monthly spend: £112,702)

It looks like Brighton and Hove City Council are the most generous in their spending on these boys. Ironically, after I'd visited this property, I went to get my hair cut at a barbers on the edge of town and the guy next door to me, also getting his hair cut, was a Mears worker. They wear t-shirts with the Mears logo on one side of the breast and the Brighton and Hove City Council logo on the other. In fact, Brighton and Hove City Council repairs team also have the Mears logo on them.

I guess you could say this is a mutually beneficial relationship. It is also Councillor Mary Mears of Mears and Sons who arranged for the destruction of the Open Market, for it to be renovated and for flats to built there on the site. I think most people accept that Councils are a little dodgy and that how they award contracts is probably on the dodgy side. I think what most people would find a little shocking is just what little effort some of those contractors put into the properties over which they have responsibility and the appalling living conditions of those who have to live there, those who have no choice where they live. I don't know. Maybe they maintain the Council's housing stock well and this is something of an abberation. Or maybe, it is a case of the resident being 'not worthy' of having her house repaired. I hope they get the place fixed up before the next poor soul has to live there, but I wouldn't bet on it...