Issue - meetings
Service Charges/Assisted Gardening Service
Meeting: 26/11/2014 - Housing OSC - Expired 07/05/15 (Item 41)
41 Service Charges/Assisted Gardening Service PDF 56 KB
(a) That the agreed plan for the phased implementation of service charges for existing tenants from 2016 following detailed consultation, be noted;
(b) That full implementation of service charges will take effect for new tenants from April 2015 be noted; and
(c) That the proposals in the report to re-introduce charging for the assisted garden service in 2016, following detailed customer consultation, be supported, on the basis that there should only be two charges for grass cutting and one for hedges, and that payments can be made weekly.
The Chief Officer (Community & Enterprise) presented the report detailing options for the Council to separate services from base rents and to introduce service charging to individual tenants, as required by the Welsh Government (WG).
Proposals to introduce service charging had been agreed as part of the rent policy for Council housing, approved by Cabinet in September 2014. Whilst a full range of chargeable services had been set out by WG, the Council had taken a view that additional charges should not be applied for services that were essential to living in particular accommodation. It was proposed that charges would be made for communal services such as cleaning as well as individual services for grass and hedge cutting. A review of quality/provision of services was planned, together with a full consultation process prior to the introduction of charging on a phased approach over three years starting in 2016, with new tenants due to incur the charges from April 2015 having received notification of this at the tenancy offer stage.
Explanation was provided on the outcome of changes to the assisted gardening service in April 2014, which had prompted a review. The new approach was more simplified: two different charges for small or medium/large gardens and a single charge for hedge cutting. Charges would be payable weekly/monthly with rent payments and discounts would be applied for older or disabled tenants who were unable to carry out the service themselves.
In relation to the options for the service charging policy, Councillor Peter Curtis commented on the need for fair charging on the use of shared services by those in sheltered accommodation. He stressed the importance of meaningful consultation with involvement of Members, and raised concerns about the effect of charges on tenants and the potential challenge for tenants who were living off a pension or disability benefit.
Councillor Rosetta Dolphin raised concerns about the cost of grass cutting, the additional percentage of charges on top of base rent and possible discrepancies in the levels of rent paid for flats and houses. Whilst noting that 67% of Flintshire’s tenants were currently in receipt of full or partial housing benefit, she pointed out that the remaining tenants may be just above the threshold and therefore unable to afford this additional cost if they required the services.
The Cabinet Member for Housing pointed out that the proposals demonstrated fairness in ensuring that tenants were not paying for services that they did not require.
The Chief Officer acknowledged the concerns raised but pointed out that the proposals reflected the minimum requirements to comply with the WG mandate and that extensive work had been carried out to consider the fairness of options, taking into account the different needs of individuals. Those in receipt of full housing benefit would be exempt from the charges (apart from the individual gardening service which was not eligible) and those in receipt of partial housing benefit would receive a proportionate discount. In terms of base rent on properties, the Council had followed the ... view the full minutes text for item 41