Black’s Blog – Housing officer Ian Storrar

Jimmy Black
Jimmy Black

Cllr Jimmy Black reflects on the death of a housing officer

Dundee may be unusual in that councillors speak to relatively junior officers frequently. That’s helpful; if you need the real story on some anti social behaviour, or an abandoned flat, or a drug dealer, it’s much easier to go to the Housing Officer for a private chat.

But you have to pick the right Housing Officer. Ian Storrar was one of the right Housing Officers. He knew his patch, knew where the problems were and had a very direct approach to solving them. I thought he was great.

Like many helpful people, I think he took on a lot, but then if you want a job done, ask a busy person. Ian, who died last week at the tragically young age of 53, saw council housing the same way as I do. Something to be valued, something tenants had a duty to look after. He would not stand for tenants trashing his flats and he was never slow to say so.

At the same time, he understood that helping people was part of our business. When he was clearing out multis which were due to be demolished, much of the abandoned furniture found its way to families who had none.

Officers are sometimes nervous about contradicting a councillor. Not Ian. Once I suggested a tenant should be allowed to keep a satellite dish he had lashed to a chair on his balcony, pointing at Poland. Ian was resolute and direct in his refusal. I didn’t mind. I was delighted to see a housing officer who really seemed to care.

Housing management is the less glamorous side of this profession, but for me it’s by far the most important. It’s not just a job, it’s a calling; it’s too important to do badly. Ian could be unorthodox, but he had the right attitude, and that’s more than half the battle. We have many excellent officers in Dundee’s Housing Department, but we’ll certainly miss Ian.

Cllr Jimmy Black is a former Housing Convener for Dundee City Council, and writes here in a personal capacity.

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