Words & pics by Ed King
Following years of campaigning, Birmingham City Council (BCC) has finally admitted to charging residents of Standleys Tower for a sheltered housing scheme that ended over a decade ago – costing them hundreds of pounds a year for a service that no longer exists.
Amounting to over £460 on their annual rent for 2021/2, people living in Standleys Tower had been challenging the ‘Sheltered Housing Charge’ for more than ten years – with no clarification from BCC about the mistake.
Standleys Tower resident Derek Walton, 62, previously told Erdington Local: “I’ve been here 11 years now, and I’ve always had to pay the service charge. I first raised this about four or five years ago, but it was just like water under the bridge.
“But every year we’ve asked the same question because we’re being told ‘no you’re not being charged for it’.
“We don’t know what we’re being charged for until they send the breakdown in a letter that comes out once a year, just before April.”
In a recent U-turn, Birmingham City Council have now written to Standleys Tower residents finally admitting the charges were an “overpayment”, committing to removing them from their yearly bill and offering backdated reimbursements from April 2019 onward.
With the property company Zoopla listing 36 flats at Standleys Tower, this unwarranted charge could have amounted to well over £16000 last year alone.
The unfair levy was also raised by Erdington Ward councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore, with the Council Leader, Ian Ward, refusing to look at the most recent bill during a full Cabinet meeting on 15 March 2022.
When presented with a physical copy of the tenant’s bill by Cllr Alden, clearly stating a weekly £8.86 ‘Sheltered Housing Charge’, Cllr Ward replied if the “asserted” over charging were true the Council would “indeed look into it.”
Whilst relieved the service charges have finally been dropped, Standleys Tower residents are still seeking answers to further charges on their annual bill – including a yearly cost of over £590 for ‘Night Security’, which could have amounted to over £21000 in the billing period for 2021/22.
Tenants have told Erdington Local the only ‘Night Security’ they witness amounts to “a five minute visit” from a private firm, whilst all the internal cameras having been removed from the block around four years ago.
A young mother living in Standleys Tower explained: “We pay £11.44 a week for ‘Night Security’ despite the Council removing all the cameras in the block, and intercom calls coming straight to our flat after a certain time instead of going through concierge.
“It’s unacceptable that residents pay these charges.
“Either get a new cleaner for Standleys Tower or remove the charge, because we shouldn’t be paying for a cleaner who doesn’t do his job. Same goes for security.”
Erdington Local has approached Birmingham City Council for comment.