Tenants’ worries over WDH ‘communal lighting charge’ raised in parliament
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Wakefield MP Simon Lightwood called for answers at Westminster over financial pressures being put on vulnerable residents by the social housing provider.
Mr Lightwood was contacted by worried constituents living at flats on Tyrrell Court, Flanshaw, after they were told they must pay a £125 annual charge for lighting in communal areas.
WDH has said it is not “sustainable” for them to cover the cost due to rising energy prices.
Tyrrell Court residents Jackie and Susan Linton said they were informed of the new charge in March this year.
Mr Linton said: “It came completely out of the blue with no warning or consultation.
“We are already having to cope with increases in council tax and rent as well as the price of just about everything else going up.
“The majority of the people on this street are pensioners. This just adds to the stress. There must be plenty of others across the district who are now in this situation.”
Mrs Linton said: “It’s only two years since cleaning charges were put on us and there was nothing we could do about it.
“Now we are having to pay for this too. It leaves you worrying what the next charge is going to be.”
Mr Lightwood has twice raised the matter in the House of Commons in the past week.
During questions to leader of the house Penny Mordaunt, Mr Lightwood said: “Residents in Tyrrell Court in Wakefield got a shock this year when their social landlord, Wakefield District Housing, added a new service charge for communal energy, for things like lighting.
“Some have been tenants over 20 years and have never had to pay that before.
“That is £125 on top of recent rent increases.“Many residents are elderly, on fixed incomes and will struggle to find this extra money.
“According to Shelter, this is not a unique case.”
Mr Lightwood asked if a statement could be provided “on any steps the government can take in situations like this”.In reply, Ms Mordaunt said other MPs had also raised “similar issues” and she had written to the department
for energy security and net zero to “raise concerns”.In a question to Michael Gove, secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, Mr Lightwood asked: “Is the Secretary of State as concerned as I am that
landlords are introducing these charges when people can afford them least?”In response, Mr Gove said: “It does indeed sound a concerning case and we will follow up.”
Afterwards, Mr Lightwood said: “I’m really concerned that WDH has chosen to introduce this fee, during a cost-of-living crisis, when tenants’ rents have already been increased.
“Several of the residents who have spoken with me have been WDH tenants for decades and have never been expected to pay these charges before.
“I’m concerned that there is no recourse for tenants who are forced to pay these costs, so I am glad that the Secretary of State has agreed to follow this up.”
WDH is one of the UK’s largest social housing providers, with over 32,000 homes across the Wakefield district and a wider operating area across the north of England.
Martyn Shaw, deputy chief executive at WDH, said: “We know that residents are worried about their bills increasing and we are offering support to customers who are struggling the most.
“These charges apply to customers who have access to communal spaces which need to be lit and kept safe and secure.
“Whilst in previous years we have been able to cover these costs, unfortunately, like other housing providers across the country, increased energy costs mean this isn’t sustainable any more, and neither is it fair to pass these costs on to other customers who don’t use these services.
“If any of our customers are worried about paying their bills, they should get in touch and we can support them individually.”