A council has committed itself to doing all in its power to stop so-called “fleecehold” in Milton Keynes – where residents receive two lots of bills for estate jobs like grass cutting.
The issue affects thousands of residents in MK, where developers have set up management companies, which then go on to charge for services that the borough, parish councils, and the Parks Trust also provide.
The setting up of management companies means developers can avoid having to transfer public amenity land. Such transfers to councils, or the Parks Trust, is usually accompanied by a payment from the developer to cover future costs of maintenance.
The service charges have to be paid by both leaseholders and freeholders on estates and can add hundreds of pounds to their annual costs.
Cllr Peter Geary (Cons) spoke in support of action being taken at Tuesday’s meeting of MK Council’s ruling Cabinet.
Cllr Geary said: “I don’t think it is an easy problem to deal with but we cannot have a situation where people are effectively being taxed twice for works to be done to their landscaping
“I hope that this council would at the least be able to guide developers to the fact that we do not like this system in Milton Keynes. We can’t legislate but I hope the cabinet member will be able to take this up with officers and try to find a solution for people both now and in the future.”
Cllr Martin Gowans, the Labour cabinet member for planning and transport, said: “This is a cross-party issue, we are all on the same page.
“The legislation does not allow us to prevent it, but we can find other ways for it to not happen.”
The Cabinet agreed to use “all powers at its disposal, to ensure that future public open space in new housing developments is transferred to either Milton Keynes Council, parish councils or the Parks Trust.”
And in areas being developed, where the council and/or Milton Keynes Development Partnership, have a direct ownership the public open space will not be transferred to management companies.
The land will be owned freehold by the council and they will put management arrangements be put in place with either the relevant parish council or The Parks Trust.
Parish councillor Allan Calverley, who is refusing to pay his £200 a year charge in Redhouse Park, said after the meeting that he is “disappointed” that the council had not resolved to help people currently paying management fees.
“It is disappointing but not unexpected,” he said. “But going forward on new developments I’m pleased that management companies are not going to happen.
“I would like them to consider how they can help us to make sure we are represented on management companies.”
He said he has so far failed to persuade his management company, where residents are seen as shareholders, to hold an extraordinary general meeting and exercise some control.