Gareth Swarbrick sacked by RBH board in u-turn after previously backing the chief exec to stay in position

Date published: 20 November 2022

Gareth Swarbrick has been sacked by the board of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, in a u-turn by the board which had previously backed him to stay in position.

The former chief executive was removed from his £185k a year post on Saturday (19 November) with immediate effect, only days after the board said it had "full confidence" in his leadership after the tragic – and preventable – death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak.

Awaab died in December 2020 as a result of a severe respiratory condition due to prolonged exposure to mould in his home, which was managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.

A statement from the Representative Body chair and vice chair, and the board of RBH reads: “The board has taken the decision to remove Gareth Swarbrick from his post as chief executive of RBH with immediate effect.

“We will now work to appoint an external interim chief executive.

“Our original instincts were for Gareth to stay on to see the organisation through this difficult period and to make the necessary changes, but we all recognise that this is no longer tenable.

“The coroner noted that RBH had made changes as a result of the tragic death of Awaab. Under new leadership RBH will continue to embed these changes and to continue to drive further improvements to our homes and to our communications with tenants.

“We are committed to sharing what we have learnt about the impact to health of damp, condensation and mould with the social housing sector, and to supporting sector wide changes. We will work with other agencies local and national and with central government in implementing the wider changes recommended to them by the coroner.

“As an organisation we are deeply sorry for the death of Awaab and devastated that it happened in one of our homes. We must ensure this can never happen again. His death needs to be a wake-up call for everyone in housing, social care and health.

“We support the coroner and Housing Ombudsman’s call for the government’s Decent Homes Standard to be strengthened to include damp and mould.

“There will be no further statement at this time.”

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