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A military housing contract faces being scrapped by ministers after families reported being forced to spend Christmas in mould-infested houses. Hundreds of armed forces say they have endured “outrageous” living conditions this winter in houses managed by the Defense Infrastructure Organization (DIO), from broken boilers to no running water. Alex Chalk, the defense procurement minister, said the government “might scrap” the £144million contract awarded by the Ministry of Defense to Pinnacle Group in 2021.
The minister, who has been in office since October, reportedly gave the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense instructions to conduct an internal investigation into the contract.
Armed forces personnel – some with sick children – have complained about long waits to get a reply from private housing manager Pinnacle, only to be told they could not get any help.
Heledd Kendrick, founder of the social enterprise Recruit For Spouses, told the Telegraph: “This is a step too far.
“When a military family is hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles away from friends and family, possibly with a serving member deployed or away over Christmas, the very least that should be provided is a number to call that can help with urgent housing issues.
The Ministry of Defense is considering scrapping contracts with Pinnacle after reports of mould
News of the deplorable living conditions sparked fierce criticism from Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood.
He tweeted: “A total disgrace to learn 100s of British troops & families are without heating & hot water – told instead to use Army sleeping bags to stay warm this winter. We call on them to step in during the strikes – but fail to provide basic standards in MOD run accommodation. Shocking.”
A Ministry of Defense spokesperson said: “Over the last two years, £350 million has been invested to improve service family accommodation, on top of maintenance costs, with more than 14,000 homes receiving some form of upgrade. A further £176 million will be invested in improvements to a further 20 percent of the homes most in need in the 2022/23 financial year.
“The Ministers of Defense and Defense Ministers have met with the CEOs of Pinnacle, Amey and VIVO to ensure swift progress is made to ensure that our staff and their families are fully provided with decent, livable housing. The Ministry of Defense and all suppliers are in constant contact over the Christmas period.”
READ MORE: Grinning Andrew leaves freezing crowd puzzled with Christmas tip
Alex Chalk said he ‘might scrap’ the £144million contract with the Pinnacle group
Ben Wallace tweeted that he had ‘ordered those responsible for lodging services to up their game’
Feel for you, I’m in SFA with WORKING heating and its baltic! One of my Lance Jacks has the same thing. 3 young kids and the insulation, windows, doors whatever are so bad that even after having heating on his house is freezing. My heart goes out to you. @PinnacleSF SORT IT!
— @baffledfrompembsmandalorian (@warthog101) December 11, 2022
“We’ve heard some horrific stories in recent weeks and young children’s lives have been put in danger due to weak leadership and planning and it’s just not good enough,” added Ms Kendrick.
Army families have faced an uphill battle to hear back from Pinnacle, which serves families living in 49,000 military properties across the country, with some only hearing back from the service provider on December 17, it has been reported.
Since April, families’ primary point of contact to raise issues with their housing has been the property management service, whose corporate filings show its highest-paid director made £320,000 in 2021, up from £291,000 the previous year.
A spokesperson for Pinnacle, who insisted the company’s role is to take calls from families and raise the repair job, told Express.co.uk: “The recent period of prolonged cold weather has resulted in a significant increase in calls to our National Service Centre. , and average call wait times have lengthened.
“We apologize to families for the inconvenience this is undoubtedly causing. We have already increased resourcing to meet the increased demand and are bringing in more staff to help drive down wait times”.
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Earlier this month, Mr Chalk sounded the alarm bells in the House of Commons amid suspicions the contractors were not complying with their obligations, leading him to call for a “rectification plan”.
At the time, the Defense Minister also noted that Pinnacle only had 14 people working in its call center – a number that has now been brought up to 60 under the government’s plan.
A defense source reportedly said: “The way Pinnacle was able to provide it so cheaply was clearly by not having enough staff on duty to man the telephones.” On December 17, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace tweeted that he had “ordered those responsible for lodging services to up their game.”
VIVO Defense Service and Amey, two sub-contractors, are responsible for all property care with hired regional craftsmen to handle the repairs.
A spokesperson for VIVO told Express.co.uk: “Every armed service family that we support has the right to expect a good level of service, and to know that their homes are warm, safe and well-maintained. This is incredibly important to us and we are determined to resolve the recent issues that some of the families have experienced.
“Whenever a service family contacts Pinnacle, who operate the National Service Centre, to report a damp or mold issue in their home we undertake a phone-based assessment with them to help us understand the issue. We then appoint an external professional damp and mold surveyor to visit their home to identify and recommend actions that we can take to solve the problem.”
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