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Council House Britain: new access-all-areas, six-part series going inside Southwark Council

30 July 2020

Across the UK the need for decent homes has never been so high, while cash-strapped councils struggle to meet extraordinary demands. Channel 4 is going inside one of the country’s biggest public landlords, Southwark Council, to tell the story of housing in the 21st Century.

Council House Britain, produced by The Garden Productions (24 Hours in A&E), will access all areas to meet the people working to keep the operation running- 55,000 properties, each with their own issue.

There’s a chance to meet the tenants who have made their home in the shadow of the Shard and flanked by London’s luxury flats. With nearly 40 per cent of Southwark’s population living in properties managed by the council, there is never a dull moment coping with all that life can throw at you: from hoarders and shut-ins, dealing with invading pests and those never-ending leaks, to the heart-breaking stories of families on the edge and fighting eviction.

As one of the councils hit hardest by government cuts Southwark is also a story of challenge against the odds and making the hardest choices imaginable. With 10,000 people on the waiting list for housing and only five new homes available each week the responsibility felt by council decision-makers is huge.

Among the characters is housing officer Charmaine. Looking after 650 tenants, she is a lifeline to residents, a shoulder to cry on and a voice of reason. She’s well known for a good natter and her tenacious determination to help, “I’m one singular person who tries to help everybody as best I can, we get a bit frustrated with some of the challenges, but my priority are my residents, and if they need something, I do try my level best to get it resolved.”

Not for faint-hearted, pest officers Andy and Wayne grapple with everything from mice and bed bugs to exotic spiders and snakes. Self-confessed animal lovers, they do a thorough job humanely, quickly and efficiently. As bugs can often be a symptom of much bigger problems such depression and deprivation, they also find themselves as friends turned therapists to residents. As Andy explains, “I love my work - people are always pleased to see me. I do thrive on job satisfaction.”

Council House Britain follows the stories that speak to a universal need- a place to call home.

Fozia Khan and Madonna Benjamin, Commissioning Editors said: “Council House Britain offers a timely and eye-opening insight into what’s involved in managing one of the biggest and busiest boroughs in the country.  With access to both council workers and their tenants, the series is bursting with characters and their stories. It provides a warm, uplifting and at times jaw-dropping glimpse into what it takes to find and keep a place to call home.”

Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council, said: “It’s incredibly exciting that after two years of scoping and filming, we are about to share this documentary with the world. Council officers are often the unsung heroes of the public sector, but just as COVID-19 has revealed the important work our rubbish collectors and social care workers do, Council House Britain will show the country how passionate and committed our housing teams are. I’m grateful to The Garden and Channel 4 for shining a light on the challenges councils and residents are facing after years of austerity and celebrating the many wonderful and unique people who call Southwark home. Welcome to Southwark – we hope you enjoy your visit.”

John Hay, Chief Creative Officer at The Garden said: “As the saying goes: there are as many stories as there are people, and the huge variety of stories behind Southwark’s front doors made this series a pleasure to make.  We were moved, impressed, surprised, fascinated, made to laugh and brought to tears, and learned more about pest control than we ever thought possible.  Many thanks to Channel 4, Southwark Council and the people of the borough for letting us share their lives.” ‚Äč

Page last updated: 30 July 2020