Concerned residents are ‘shocked and up in arms’ after discovering that their social landlord wants to introduce a service charge for grounds maintenance, which could cost each person more than £80 a year.
Isos Housing is behind the plans, aimed at all of its Northumberland tenants and proposed to start from April this year. The not-for-profit organisation wants to introduce the measure as a ‘matter of fairness’. 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 proposal will affect around 4,500 people throughout Northumberland, with about 700 of those in areas such as Hadston, Amble and Widdrington.
It will cost each resident £1.58 per week, although Isos says that anyone claiming housing benefit from Northumberland County Council can also claim for this service charge.
The organisation adds that from April, its residents’ rent will be reduced by one per cent, in line with a recent Government announcement, but has denied that the two are related.
But some Isos residents are not impressed, believing it discriminates against the organisation’s tenants, especially in areas where non-Isos residents will benefit from the work without having to pay. Some say that they will not be able to afford the charge. Coun Scott Dickinson admitted there was concern in his Druridge Bay ward.
He said: “In some cases, this charge not only recoups the ‘loss’ imposed on Isos by the Government, but also increases it by one per cent. By advising their tenants that the council will increase its housing benefit allowances to cover a surcharge is nonsensical.”
An Isos spokesman said: “We have a duty to maintain the grassed areas, shrubs and trees on the Northumberland streets where our residents live. This proposal means that we will be treating Isos residents in different areas the same and tenants who benefit from the grounds-maintenance service will contribute to the cost of providing it.
“We are not able to charge owner-occupiers who live on streets where our contractors look after the grounds maintenance.
“While the charge will come at the same time as a one per cent rent cut, the two are not related. We decided to introduce it before the Government announced rent cuts for housing association properties. Residents’ charges reflect the costs we incur for the services we provide.”