‘They’re trying to shut us up’ - Stevenage leaseholders’ anger after forum ban

Two leaseholders at Lonsdale Court in Stevenage have been banned from public forums after speaking o

Two leaseholders at Lonsdale Court in Stevenage have been banned from public forums after speaking out - Credit: Archant

Two leaseholders who claim they are continually overcharged for services have been banned from attending public forums after speaking out.

Carlyle Charles has criticised the council over maintenance work leaseholders have been charged for.

Carlyle Charles has criticised the council over maintenance work leaseholders have been charged for. Here he shows the Comet a wall which has been badly finished - Credit: Archant

Carlyle Charles and Richard Aitkins, both leaseholders at Lonsdale Court in Stevenage, have received letters from Stevenage Borough Council saying they cannot attend public meetings where problems concerning council-owned buildings can be discussed.

The year-long ban coincides with the launch of a consultation over the possibility of reducing the number of meetings each year from four to two, and potentially charging leaseholders for meetings if they are moved from the offices of Stevenage Borough Council.

The Comet attended the last public forum held in November, where a number of leaseholders, including Mr Charles and Mr Aitkins, complained that they had been charged for maintenance jobs organised by the council which had not been carried out.

In a letter to Stevenage Borough Council seen by the Comet, Mr Aitkins said: “I see this as a clear attempt to silence complaints about the council’s services. The chairperson at the meeting did not give any warnings of unruly behaviour at the meeting, neither was I told that if any alleged bad behaviour did not improve I would be asked to leave. You cannot simply ban someone who has a different view from the council.”


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Mr Charles said: “They think they can shut us up by banning us. They’re trying to avoid culpability so they don’t have to answer questions about things that have happened that shouldn’t have.”

The council said the pair’s behaviour was “unacceptable” and that they “dominated the meeting with their own agenda and made unacceptable comments about members of staff”.

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During the forum it was explained how Mr Charles had challenged the council at a Leaseholders Valuation Tribunal (LVT) in August about the quality of workmanship and whether work charged for had been done.

The LVT found that almost half of the 39 maintenance job charges at Lonsdale Court questioned by Mr Charles – who is qualified brick layer – were either reduced or not payable, with a refund of £180 ordered to each of the 27 leaseholders.

In its findings, the LVT said: “The tribunal finds that Stevenage Borough Council’s methodology is directable responsible for the dispute in question. A reactive management system is generally not a satisfactory way of managing a building but, if operated, must be rigorously checked, lest the quality and specification of the works does not match the costs charged. In this case, the checking of only 10% of the work has resulted in sub-standard work.

“The effect of that is that contractors can get away with doing shoddy work, and only in a limited number of cases – 10% – will this ever be picked up.”

About the findings, Mr Charles added: “We’re talking about one building and 27 leaseholders – this could be happening all around Stevenage without people even realising it. The only reason I can examine the costs so closely is because of my background in building management, so other leaseholders may be unaware they are being overcharged.”

The council has not provided a comment on the LVT’s findings to the Comet.

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