Report to KPE TA meeting on Service Charges
For the past couple of years some of us have been taking part in the Gateway Project, scrutinising the invoices which form the basis of the service charges we all pay and using our local knowledge and common sense to question them. We have worked closely with Hyde’s Home Ownership Team (formerly Leasehold), who have been happy to provide us with whatever information and explanations we have asked for.
Most recently we’ve looked at the invoices for April to September 2013 (first six months of the 2013/14 financial year) and the estimates for 2014/15 which we received with our most recent bills.
- Cleaning and Grounds Maintenance – these are the biggest charges; the work is contracted to Innovations. We have been unhappy with the lack of detail in their invoices and have repeatedly asked for more information.
- CCTV – following our objections to the effectiveness and costs (and the way the costs are apportioned) of the CCTV service, this is currently being reviewed.
- Communal Electricity – it has proved impossible to make sense of the charges for this and we are worried that there has been some serious undercharging taking place (if so, our view is that residents should not have to pay for past mistakes). I recently attended a meeting with the Head of the Home Ownership Team and Utilyx (Hyde’s energy consultants) and there is a proposal being considered to (a) employ an electrician to check which meter is supplying where; and (b) install smart meters across KPE as a pilot scheme. I strongly support both these proposals.
- Controlled Door Entry – the charges for repairs fluctuate wildly between blocks and different years’ invoices. Property Services have been asked to do a conditions survey.
- TV aerials – the phantom KPE TV aerials still have a tendency to pop up on bills. Anyone who has been charged and has not claimed it back can still do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 0800 359 3576.
The work we’ve done on service charges contributed to a 16% reduction in charges from the 2011/12 to 2012/13 actuals. However, this doesn’t feed through into the amount we pay straightway as what we are charged is based on estimates (which in turn are based on past actuals and the RPI) so some people may have experienced a reduction last year and then an increase this. Once I get the electricity charges sorted, I want to explore the methodology behind this further to see if there’s any scope for change.
Thanks to everyone who’s helped look at the invoices and to Eric for asking even more questions than I can think to ask!
16 April 2014