Council tenants charges hike row
August 14, 2008
Haringey tenants oppose 7 new weekly service charges.
A statement from Haringey Defend Council Housing campaign, June 2008:
Homes for Haringey are consulting us on SEVEN new weekly service charges for the 16,700 council tenants and the 4,000 leaseholders. Only ten weeks ago we had rent and service charge increases that averaged 9.1%, and that exceeded ten per cent for 7,187 tenant households. The proposed new charges are for cleaning the outside of communal windows in blocks, cleaning the outside of all windows in flats, sweeping and litter picking on bank holidays, more weeding of planted areas, more weed spraying of paths, more sweeping and cleaning corridors and balconies, and sweeping and cleaning outside flat doors. A further possible charge is for upgrading existing TV aerials to receive digital television. That would make sixteen weekly service charges, in addition to the rent.
The existing service charges were ‘unpooled’ from the rent in 2003, and this year the 16,700 tenants were hit with a 51.4% increase in the service charge bill. It looks as if the Almo plans to do more of the same. Four of the seven new charges are for improvements in services that the Almo already provides; but they are committed to improving services on a ‘value for money’ basis, which means providing a better service at the same or a lower cost.
These cynical charges are money-spinners at our expense. We want the Almo to defer these increases, and to join us in pressing for a decent financial settlement for council housing.
We have written open letters to Mike Jones, chair of the Almo, and to Cllr John Bevan, Haringey’s new Executive Member for Housing. We hope they will take the heat off us, and start addressing the real problems alongside us instead. Amongst other actions… we will otherwise be complaining to the Tenant Services Authority, the industry regulator formerly known as Oftenant. We have a Stage 2 official complaint with Haringey against the April service charge increases. Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, has tabled a Parliamentary Question about the service charge increases affecting London council tenants, querying the government’s policy on the matter, and asking for a statement. The reply is expected shortly.