As many of you will know, we have been closely scrutinising the invoices for service charges for three years now. This is known as the Gateway Project. Our aims have always been quite simple: to ensure residents actually receive the services we are paying for; and that we get value for money.
On 30 March Marilyn and I met with senior Hyde officers – David Morrissey (Director of Core Operations), Nazia Khaliq (Head of Home Ownership) and Scott Lawrence (Service Charge Manager) – to discuss this year’s bills (the 2015/16 estimates). In contrast to previous meetings we have had with Hyde officers, we found this meeting extremely frustrating and do not feel that we can report anything positive.
We started off by pointing out that we were repeatedly raising the same issues and that they never seemed to get resolved. We came out of the meeting feeling the same way!
So little progress is being made (indeed, some issues seem to be going backwards) that we have to question whether Hyde has any interest in giving a direct answer to our questions or in solving the problems we raise. We are aware that Hyde residents in other areas are having similar problems and receiving even less in the way of a response – at least we got a meeting! – but that is no consolation. There is just no excuse for not charging residents the right amount for the services they receive, nor for being unable to explain what the charge is for.
This year’s massive increases (up to 99% in some cases) when inflation is 0%.
The main cause of the increases is that Hyde has added three additional charges to our bills – electrical maintenance, fire safety and legionella testing. We were told that Hyde carried out this work on an ad hoc basis in the past but, as a consequence of the centralisation of Property Services, was now going to do it in a programmed way. We pointed out that only two blocks on KPE had lifts (the main reason for the electrical maintenance and fire safety charges) and that, while risk assessment was essential, regular legionella testing was unlikely to be needed on KPE where the water tanks are covered and that, in any event, the charges being levied were exorbitant. We await further information and we will continue to pursue this.
Those of you who regularly come to meetings will know I have been pursuing these charges for many years now. They are still totally erratic and irrational. We were promised a pilot scheme of Smart Meters a year ago, which has not materialised. As a result of the meeting, this is back on the agenda but we don’t know when or how much it will cost. Our demand that residents must not pay for Hyde’s inability to manage its electricity contracts and ensure accurate bills was shrugged off. We will continue to pursue this.
Despite the fact that Hyde has been reviewing this locally as a direct result of our raising its ineffectiveness and disproportionate charges to this Estate with David Morrissey when we first got involved in the Gateway project (and previous to that with HSH management when CCTV was first installed on KPE), neither he nor the other senior officers at Hyde head office had been notified of the results of the Campbell Tickell review and its findings that the current system is not fit for purpose and cannot demonstrate value for money. We will continue to pursue this.
Controlled Door Entry
We repeated our request for a condition survey to see why there are such wide variations in repair costs between blocks and to assess, from a professional perspective, if the system is withstanding the significant wear and tear it receives and how much longer can it be expected to do so. We will continue to pursue this.
Cleaning and Ground Maintenance
We expressed our concern that the current contractors may be awarded the new contract. Our concerns were noted…. We will continue to pursue this.
(TA officers subsequently met with a senior contract manager from Head Office and explained in detail our concerns about cleaning and grounds maintenance performance and about management of the contract.)
It is important that you formally complain to Hyde if you are not happy with the increase in your service charges – they may do little about our complaints, but numbers matter. If nobody complains, then they will seize on that!
We can also complain to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal https://www.gov.uk/housing-tribunals/overview. I haven’t gone into this in detail yet but intend to shortly. Both tenants and leaseholders can apply.
Joan Twelves 29 April 2015