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Residents' anger as cleaning charge gets go-ahead weeks before consultation ends
10:30am Thursday 6th February 2014 in News
CIVIC bosses in Southampton have given the go-ahead to a controversial new cleaning charge on residents – weeks before the consultation on the proposal has actually ended.
Now residents have called for a rethink after city council bosses approved the 91p a week cleaning charge on Tuesday, more than three weeks before consultation ends on February 28.
They have branded the consultation a “sham” after letters were only sent out informing them of the plans last week, days before the council’s Cabinet approved the charge.
The new levy, which amounts to £47.30 a year, will affect 7,000 properties in council flat blocks and sheltered housing and was drawn up by the council after complaints about the state of shared stairways and walkways.
But while some residents say they already pay for cleaning through other charges, they are also critical of the way the council has informed residents.
Plans for the charge first surfaced in the council’s 2013/14 budget last February, which stated that consultation would take place. A council spokesman said consultation was done through tenant participation groups.
But letters only went out to all of the affected residents in the week of January 27 to 31, with the charge set to be rubberstamped by the full council next week and implemented from April onwards.
Bill Gornall, a resident of Malin Close in Lordshill, said: “It looks like it’s cut and dried before we’ve even had a say on it. I think they should have a rethink and do away with it. The first we knew of it was the letter. It is unfair that they gave us no time to think and react.”
And Emma Clarke, a 25-year-old council block tenant from Thornhill, said: “No one even asked us for our opinion about this. The letter says there was a consultation, but I haven’t seen one.
“I feel angry about this. It is not fair we should pay for something we do not even want.”
Putting People First councillor Don Thomas described the consultation as a “sham”.
He added: “The contemptuous letter sent to residents clearly states ‘there will be a cleaning charge of 91p a week per property’ – it only gives an opportunity to comment on the change in service, it reads as though it’s a done deal.
“I have been inundated with worried residents expressing alarm and unease. These same people are telling me they are already paying for a management service.”
Labour council housing boss Warwick Payne said it was “not unusual” for consultation to take place after a decision had been made on the council’s housing and revenue account budget, adding that the decision would not be “set in stone”.
When asked why the consultation was taking place now, he said: “I had asked officers if this consultation could be done earlier, and was told that this was the earliest it could be done.
“But if the consultation comes back and it proves massively unpopular then it may not be done, but that would be contrary to what residents have told us.”
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