CLLR Stuchbury: "Management charges amounts to double taxation of our residents'

Lace Hill estate residents have been hit by management charges
Lace Hill estate residents have been hit by management charges

Many residents of Lace Hill have been left flabbergasted by additional service charges on top of Council Tax bills for the upkeep of green spaces.

Residents are being charged up to £181 per year for the services, which include ground maintenance, hedgerow protection and for playground facilities amongst other charges.

Cllr Robin Stuchbury said: “It’s near enough double tax on my constituents, and if Buckingham Town Council hadn’t taken on the community centre and playing fields in the area the bills would have been even higher!

“Leaving the residents paying double tax in Lace Hill is clearly wrong.

“And going forward will leave a divided community of those who have management charges and those who

don’t.

“I tabled a motion with AVDC to try and get them to address these issues, but it was voted down.

“With the massive amount of housing to come, more and more people are going to have to pay these management charges along with their council tax unless AVDC changes their policy on such matters.

A 2016 report from Direct Line for business revealed

The typical fee of £2,777 is for new build homes while those for older properties is £1,863.

The research found that 33 per cent of management companies have increased their fees in the past two years.

Nick Breton, head of Direct Line for Business, said: ‘Service charges are often a hidden cost, which should be factored in when considering the affordability of a property.’ He added: ‘In some cases service charges are uncapped and can escalate rapidly.’

Town Cllr Jon Harvey said: “I don’t think it’s very fair at all that people are not given an option regarding these charges. I’m sure they are aware that they will have to pay these charges when they move in - but if these kinds of properties are the only affordable ones then they don’t really have a choice.

"Ultimately wheras the Town or Parish council usually provides the service, you can vote them out if they are not going their job correctly. With public management companies that are run from an office in London - there is absolutely no accountability or transparency. They can put the fees up as and when they choose.

“I’ve looked at the figures these companies are charging and it’s a lot more expensive than it would cost the local council to do these. So, someone somwhere must be making a mint. The residents should be given the option to invest in a co-operative company that looks after the green spaces, with them as shareholders. Not so an anonymous company can skim the profits off the top and invest them in the Cayman Islands!

"The council are still taking a full whack of council tax while they outsource the expense of upkeep to these companies - it’s absolutely not fair. People in Page Hill get their grass cut by the council - why should Lace Hill be any different?

A statement from AVDC said: Cllr Carole Paternoster, Cabinet Member for Growth Strategy said: Maintenance charges for the running of estates come from private management companies, not AVDC. Open spaces on some new estates contain equipment such as sustainable drainage systems which are expensive to maintain. The local parish council are often approached by developers to take on this maintenance so the costs are managed locally.

“This avoids council tax payers from one side of the district paying for open spaces on the other.

Householders should be made aware of any charges by their solicitor before they move into their property. If an issue arises with the amount being requested then residents need to discuss this with the management company in question.”

Charmonix Homes, who run the Lace Hill estate refused to comment, saying that they cannot disclose financial information about their estates.

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*The Buckingham Advertiser would like to apologise for the initial report which said residents would be charged £181 PER MONTH. The correct figure is £181 per year - We attempted to get in touch with Charmonix homes who refused to disclose information about the estate and where therefore unable to verify the figures before we went to print.