FRAIL pensioners at sheltered housing schemes have been left vulnerable to burglars after bungling council bosses fitted key safes outside their homes which can easily be opened.

Two elderly women were left terrified after electronic safes outside their homes on the Afflets Court complex in Basildon, were ripped off and smashed open and intruders entered their home in the middle of the night.

The Echo can reveal that: *Pensioners warned council bosses not to go ahead saying it would lead to burglaries

*The safes, which cost £45 each to install, were not police approved models, but residents were falsely assured by the council they were

*Residents with the safes on other complexes across the borough have not been informed of the safety concerns

*Essex Police issued a warning about the flimsy safes in February, but the council still fitted them from June

At a heated meeting about the future of the safes held for residents at Afflets Court on Friday, around 30 pensioners said they had now removed keys from the safes Some residents demanded a return to the master key system and slammed Karen Butler, sheltered housing manager, for previously assuring them the originals were police approved.

The council scrapped a master key system in June, which meant care, emergency and council staff could enter all properties in the event it was needed.

Instead properties at sheltered housing schemes across the borough had electronic safes fitted next to front doors.

In the event of an emergency staff knew the code to press to get the key out and unlock the front door.

Rod Kendell said: “I am appalled you have left so many vulnerable people open to abuse. part of the problem is the safes were not properly installed in the first place.”

He said his insurance firm had told him he would no longer be covered unless they were fitted by social services and that he found a guide to hacking the codes online.

Mrs Butler said the council now had police backed studier models which would be issued to residents free of charge.

Anyone wanting the council to keep their key inside the complex would have the choice, but this would only be for those living alone.

She said: “Sheltered housing is not a care home, it is about independent living and choice.

We want to look to the future not the past and will come and see you individually about what you want to do and work with you.

But there will be no return to the master suite (key) system.”

She also assured tenants checks had been made to ensure they were still insured.

A council spokesman said the authority was unaware there were internet guides to crack the codes and residents at other schemes had not been informed to avoid scaremongering.