Maintenance charge has been postponed

Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.
Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.

The introduction of a controversial grounds-maintenance charge will be postponed following concerns from residents, but a row over whether it can be paid through housing benefit could continue to be a sticking point.

Isos Housing has announced that its contentious proposal to start a service charge in April will be delayed until a later date.

The social landlord had intended to hit all of its Northumberland tenants, including in areas such as Widdrington and Amble, with a weekly bill of £1.58 – equating to more than £80 a year.

The plan sparked fury among residents and Northumberland County Council criticised Isos for its lack of dialogue over the issue.

Isos has now agreed to push back the date to give time to consult residents. A spokesman said: “We received comments from residents and their representatives expressing some concerns about the proposed charge.

“Having listened to those concerns, we have postponed the introduction of this charge until a later date.

“It is important to listen to our residents’ views and we will revisit our implementation plans to consider if changes can be made. We have committed to writing to our residents again by September, to advise them of our intentions.”

Isos originally said that anyone claiming housing benefit from the authority could claim for the service charge. This was disputed by the council.

But Isos appears to be sticking to its guns. A spokesman added: “After taking legal advice, we can confirm that the service charge, as originally proposed, would be eligible to be considered for housing benefit.”

The county council claims that pressure from its cabinet members resulted in Isos’ rethink.

Coun Allan Hepple said: “I am pleased Isos has agreed to revisit this decision. We are planning to meet company representatives to discuss this and to make sure Isos fully involves its tenants in consideration of this issue.”

But it is still asking residents not to assume that the new charge will be eligible for housing benefit and wants the issue fully discussed.