Councils step up raids on housing budgets

Councils step up raids on housing budgets

4 July 2016 7:30 am | By Keith Cooper ( Inside Housing)

Cash-strapped councils are increasingly drawing cash from their housing budgets to plug gaps in back-office costs, an exclusive Inside Housing investigation reveals.

This significant raid on their Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs) has been revealed by an analysis of financial figures from 100 council accounts.

HRA cash is derived from rents and service charges paid by tenants and is supposed to be ringfenced for investment in homes.

But town halls are able to use a loophole to use this cash to prop up general funds – by billing HRAs for ‘corporate and democratic core services’, back-office services such as finance and legal which are used by all council departments.

According to our analysis, the 100 councils’ cut the overall budget for these services by almost £90m between 2011/12 and 2014/15. But over the same period they hiked the HRAs’ contribution to this cost by £1.7m.

Just under a quarter of council landlords billed their HRAs for more than 15% of the cost of back-office services in 2014/15. The average contribution across all 100 authorities was 8%.

In extreme cases, councils billed their HRAs for close to half their ‘corporate and democratic core services’ costs.

Reading Council charged its HRA for 54% last year. Islington boosted its housing budget’s share from 38% of its total cost in 2011/12 to 44% in 2014/15. The average contribution in London boroughs was 7%.

While the Chartered Insitute of Housing and Local Government Association declined to comment on these findings, a public finance expert said they raised questions about the fairness of charges.

Ken Lee, chair of the housing panel at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said: “As social tenants tend to be the poorest and are a minority in society, is it right that they should be supporting the majority in the community?” he asked. “We should be looking at strengthening [the HRA] ringfence and bring it up to date.”

Checks on the patency of the ‘ringfence’ intended to legally protect housing resources, had been weakened since the abolition of the Audit Commission, Mr Lee added. “District auditors were keen on checking this kind of thing when the Audit Commission was around,” he said. “This role has now gone to private auditors.”

Islington said council housing represented 37% of total households in the borough. Reading declined to comment.

Land Registry Sell Off‏ – Petition

Fellow Leaseholders,

The government wants to privatise the Land Registry – a huge public database that records the sale of all houses and land in England and Wales. If private corporations get their hands on the Land Registry, they’ll have just one thing on their minds – profits.

A privatised Land Registry would mean a hike in prices for all of us, or a fall in standards because of cost-cutting measures. And experts have said the privatisation could cause corruption and abuse in the land and property market.

The government is hoping they can go full steam ahead on their plans – but if we can show overwhelming public opposition, they could take privatisation off the table entirely. Can you add your voice and stand up for the Land Registry, a profitable and transparent public service?

Just click this link to sign the petition now:

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/land-reg-petition-consshare

Regards Dr B.S Potter Chairman (ILA)

ILA Meet Wed 9th March 2016

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 9th March 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: TBA

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave a message here.

 If you wish to join or renew your membership here

ILA Meet Wed 10th Feb 2016

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 10th February 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: TBA

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave a message here.

 If you wish to join or renew your membership here

Partner’s answers to questions raised by ILA leaseholders meet Wed 13 Jan 2016

Partner’s answers to questions raised by Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA) and Leaseholders at the ILA leaseholders meeting held on Wed 13 Jan 2016.‏

Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA) has asked me to forward this attachment onto you all from Partners regarding the questions Dr Potter and leaseholders raised at the ILA meeting on Wednesday 13 January 2016 and Partners answers. Please click on the attachment.

Please view below the questions raised by Dr Potter to Partners at the meeting

· When does rolling 5 years Cap run from end of works, end of snagging or making good repairing problems created?

· If the Cap is set when costs were incurred does that mean from when the first cost or last cost in a particular set of major works was incurred?

· Can you confirm that partners no longer make good any damage – created by poor major works? E.g. damp, blown plaster, ruined decorations?

· Can partners conform when the” making good” policy changed, as Partner used to tell Lease holders that they would repair all the damage that arose as a consequence of Partner Major works?

· What guarantee are partner giving these days on the major works they do on Roofs, Windows, damp works. Decorating before partners can rebill Leaseholder for repairing the faults?

· Partners have previously said that they’ll fix problems while they hold the street properties contract & that their roofs should last 30 years?

· Does that mean e.g. that if the 16 year PFI2 contract is terminated in 2022 that any roofs being repaired now are only in effect guaranteed for 8 years?

· Why do Partners never give us a copy of invoices of their expenditure despite it being the law and despite repeated asking?

· Why do Partners repeatedly hand out new bills for repairs to major works that have been badly done in the recent past?

Regards…

Dr Potter

ILA meeting 13.1.16 Partners Response

Building contractor sacked after overcharging housing chiefs £300k

Leaseholders will be interested to know There has been a bit of a sea change in Brighton amongst the councillors and they recently refused the Housing Revenue Account budget for the next 3 years. There has also been another, yet another, scandal regarding overcharging and Mears . More here

Charge to leaseholders has nothing to do with the cost of the service -Tribune letter 01.16

Charge to leaseholders has nothing to do with the cost of the service we get

8 January, 2016

• ISLINGTON Council residential leaseholders are generally unaware that their service charge has not been calculated or apportioned according to the terms of their leases.

Council leases state that the service charge shall be apportioned by area, but the council has never properly measured the area of all its flats, so instead it decided to use what it calls bedroom weighting.

The High Court has decided that bedroom weighting is wrong, and that area should be used. The council is now claiming this High Court decision does not apply in most cases. I disagree.

The reality is that the service charge is just a pre-decided figure that the council wishes to recover from leaseholders, and has nothing to do with what the service provided actually costs.

For more information

ILA meet Wed 13 Jan 2016 with Partners

 Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

 Wednesday 13th January 2016

 In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speakers: The following Partners Islington representatives will be attending the ILA meeting

Shaun Holdcroft, Director of Resident Services, Hyde HA

Steve Blake, Director, Rydon Maintenance

Clifford Yeend, Divisional Manager, Rydon Maintenance

Tom Irvine, Service Improvement & Engagement Manager, Partners

Michelle O’Toole, Communications & Complaints Manager, Partners

We will attend the meeting between 7pm and 8pm, and will give a short verbal presentation on the services we provide to our leaseholders and areas we are currently working on. Following this, we will be pleased to take questions from the group.

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please leave a message here.

 If you wish to join or renew your membership here

ILA Crowdfunding bid to challenge hidden housing repair costs

Reposted from Islington Tribune

LETTERS: Crowdfunding bid to challenge hidden housing repair costs

Published: 27 November, 2015

• IT’S great to see the Tribune has started to report on Islington’s housing problems once again.

What was not reported in this article was that during the scrutiny committee meeting I asked Partners representatives how many surveyors it employed to service the properties it manages on behalf of the council; its answer was approximately 12. Since Islington Council employs another 60 surveyors to service the rest of its housing stock the total number of surveyors paid for by residents is more than 70, and according to the council, the majority of its surveyors are not even Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors qualified.

 Since leaseholders’ bills for cyclic work show that all contracts are inclusive of 11 per cent for “professional fees” to the council, surely we are entitled to expect that the council employs only fullyRICS-qualified staff?

If the council is using potentially unqualified staff (not chartered surveyors) to assess the condition of our homes, how do we know that the costs and quality of the work, for which we are grossly overcharged, actually represents true “value for money”?

The answer is simple. We need to be able to freely inspect the schedule of rates appertaining to the contracts which have been agreed between the council and its contractors. Since we pay the bill we should be able to see just what the council signs us up to.

Curiously, the council not only refuses to allow us to view this document, but has recently attended a court hearing in order to make certain it can reserve the right to restrict legislative compliance to a degree which suits its purpose – basically, to stop residents seeing the cost of their repairs.

In order to challenge this position those concerned need to be able to pursue their case without fear of financial pressures.

Therefore, we are currently examining the possibility of following a course of crowdfunding to finance a challenge. If you are prepared to assist financially please email us on Islington.Leaseholders@hotmail.co.uk.

Remember, if the council does not have to show how your money is spent, it’s you who will have to pay the hidden costs.

DR BS POTTER
Chairman, Islington Leaseholders Association

Leaseholders and Freeholders Open Day 2015 this wednesday 7th Oct

Wednesday 7 October 3pm – 7.30pm

Islington Assembly Hall, Upper Street, London, N1 2UD

Come along and talk to us about:

  • Your annual or major works service charges
  • Future works to your home
  • Subletting or selling

Meet:

  • ILA Directors on ILA Stall
  • LEASE – the independent leasehold advice service
  • Citizens advice bureau
  • Credit union
  • LBI Officers from various departments etc

ILA meet Wed 9th September

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

Wednesday 9th September 2015

In

Islington Town Hall

At

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speaker: Mr Paul Lightfoot, Group Leader Direct Works (includes scaffolding) 

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please log into http://www.ila.org.uk/faqs/contact-form.

If you wish to join or renew your membership please contact our website ww.ila.org.uk where you can obtain the appropriate membership forms.

please feel fee to pass this info on to other leaseholders in chat, email Facebook or twitter.