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‘My grandad won VC but I’m having to battle council over basic living standards’: Mum’s damp house nightmare

Katie Burton is living in a "nightmare" Kirriemuir council house. Pic: Gemma Day/DCT Media.
Katie Burton is living in a "nightmare" Kirriemuir council house. Pic: Gemma Day/DCT Media.

Her grandfather received the nation’s highest award for gallantry.

But nearly 80 years on from his heroism in the heat of Italian conflict, a Kirriemuir woman is locked in a battle with Angus Council over her damp-ridden home.

Katie Burton says she is “living in a nightmare” at the town’s Sidlaw Range.

And she fears her long-running fight will continue after the main contractor exited a multi-million-pound council house repairs deal just 10 months into the three-year programme.

It has left tenants in limbo over when a mountain of Covid-delayed jobs will be completed.

Damp council house ‘depressing’

Katie, 41, said: “I’ve been here six to seven years and it has been terrible.

“I have two children, aged two and 14, and my partner has asthma.

“I’ve tried everything with the council and contacted my MSP.

“But these problems are still here and it is mentally depressing for us as a family.”

Katie Burton
Katie Burton with her beloved dog, Izzy, which died recently.

Grandfather’s bravery

And she spoke of her sadness to be living in “embarrassment” in the town which honoured her hero grandfather.

She said: “My grandad, Richard Burton, was from England, but fell in love with my gran, Dorothy, who has passed away now.”

Burton was recognised with the Victoria Cross for his bravery as a then 21-year-old private in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.

While fighting on Italy’s Gustav Line in October 1944 he repeatedly took on enemy positions single-handedly.

He is buried in Kirrie cemetery having died in 1993 at the age of 70.

Remarkably, Kirriemuir has close links to three VCs and he is commemorated alongside Charles Melvin and Charles Lyell on a stone slab in the town.

Richard Burton's name is one of three on a stone slab honouring Kirrie VCs in the town's Cumberland Close.
Richard Burton’s name is one of three on a stone slab honouring Kirrie VCs in the town’s Cumberland Close. Pic: Kris Miller/DCT Media.

Katie said: “He always saw Kirriemuir and Scotland as his home and died when I was 13.

“I am very honoured to have him as my grandad and to have known him. Every war veteran is a hero to me.

“I just wish I could say I was as proud to be an Angus Council tenant.”

Catalogue of problems

“We have windows that let water in, our clothes smell of damp and our toilet is corroding,” said Katie.

“My son can’t leave his trainers on the floor of his bedroom because the damp is so bad.

Damp above a door at the council house
Katie Burton’s home is riddled with damp.

“And I’m too embarrassed to let him invite friends round because it is so bad.

“I just want to live in a house that is up to a decent standard.

“And I don’t think that is too much to hope for when you consider what my grandad and all the others like him went through.”

Paper is peeling off the walls in Katie's council house.
Paper is peeling off the walls of Katie Burton’s Kirriemuir home.

Angus Council is looking for a new council house repairs firm after Airdrie-based MPS pulled out of the contract to fix homes in the Forfar, Kirriemuir and Brechin areas.

It came less than a year into a three-year contract worth £10m to two firms taken on to look after thousands of Angus council houses.

MPS said the contract was “unsustainable”.

And it was dropped by the council as the main contractor for a multi-million-pound kitchen and bathroom replacement scheme after Covid delays hit the pace of the ambitious programme.

Meanwhile, another Kirrie tenant said she has also been hit by delays to damp issues blighting her house.

Dawn Elder, 63, said: “I have been dealing with this company since I moved into my house back in June 2021.

“My house has not been well maintained by the council.

“And waiting for answers or repairs to be finished off is like pulling teeth.

“It’s not good enough when dealing with older and vulnerable people.”

A council spokesperson said: “We don’t comment on individual cases, but are aware of these issues and are working with the households to resolve.”

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