Controversial maintenance bill postponed in Northumberland

A controversial service-charge proposal, which caused uproar with residents, has been postponed until 2018/19 at the earliest.

Thursday, 5th May 2016, 11:48 am
Updated Thursday, 5th May 2016, 12:51 pm
Isos Housing logo.

The not-for-profit organisation wanted to start the measure as a ‘matter of fairness’, saying that, up until now, it has provided the service in the county for free, but the firm’s tenants in Tyneside, Wearside and County Durham have had to pay a grounds-maintenance bill. The organisation added that from April, its residents’ rent was being reduced by one per cent, in line with a recent Government announcement, but denied that the two were related.

The proposal would have affected around 4,500 people throughout Northumberland, with about 700 of those in areas such as Hadston, Amble and Widdrington, and would have seen tenants paying £1.58 per week.

The plan sparked fury among residents and Northumberland County Council criticised Isos for its lack of dialogue. Isos also claimed that anyone claiming housing benefit from the county council could claim for the service charge, but this was disputed by the authority.

At the time, Isos agreed to push back the date to give time to consult with residents and to speak to the county council and it stated that it would write to its tenants by September to advise them of its intentions. But today, Isos announced that it won't introduce the charge for another few years, at least.

An Isos spokesman said: "Our plans to introduce a service charge to pay for grounds maintenance in areas around Isos homes in Northumberland have now been postponed until 2018/19 at the earliest.

"Isos wrote to all its tenants across Northumberland in January this year, to seek their views on our planned service charge, which was originally scheduled to be introduced from the beginning of April.

"Isos planned to do this to ensure Northumberland residents were treated the same as our residents elsewhere in the North East, where a service charge is already in place.

"However, we have since received some negative feedback about the charge from our residents, and a few local councillors, and have subsequently met our partners at Northumberland County Council to start to explore ways in which we can work together on this issue."

County councillor Scott Dickinson, who is ward member for Druridge Bay, was involved in meetings with Isos after the social landlord announced its intention to introduce the charge. He described the postponement as 'good news for everyone' and said he was pleased that Isos has listened to people's views. He added: "The council wants to work more in partnership with Isos about environmental works."