'I had to pay £360 just to leave my estate': Wakefield Council concern over 'scandalous' land maintenance charges

Wakefield Council's deputy leader has hit out at "scandalous" fees being charged by private companies who manage housing estates.

The charges are particularly common on newly built estates.
The charges are particularly common on newly built estates.

Jack Hemingway said families in some areas faced "exorbitant" bills for little return, and claimed he himself had had to pay £360 just for "permission" to move house.

Households have to pay land maintenance charges where their estate or block of flats is owned by privately, rather than by the local authority.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The charges are supposed to cover costs such as cleaning, repairing the roads and managing utilities and are increasingly common on newly built properties.

Deputy council leader Jack Hemingway he was one of many people to have been hit by "exorbitant" fees charged by private companies for managing an estate.

But complaints from leaseholds across the country are growing. Around a quarter of queries to the Leasehold Advisory Service are related to excessive fees, according to a MailOnline report on the issue last year.

Speaking on an online Q & A session this week, Councillor Hemingway said: "Both my current and former houses have been subject to land maintenance charges.

"I think it's an absolute scandal that developers can give these contracts to companies that provide relatively little work for exorbitant fees.

"You're talking about hundreds of pounds a year in maintenance as well as fees to even move house.

"I had to pay £360 for permission to leave the estate and sell my property."

Coun Hemingway (Lab, Stanley & Outwood East) said the local authority was looking into the issue generally and seeing if there was "anything we can do" to help.

He added: "I don't want to pre-judge the outcome of that, but perhaps the council could set itself up as a rival to some of these companies and offer a much better and affordable service to residents through taxation."

In response to one local man asking if he could get a council tax rebate because he was already subject to a land maintenance charge, Coun Hemingway said this wouldn't be possible, however.

He explained: "The council tax covers a whole range of services. Besides the wider road network, it's about collecting bins, children's services, investment in parks and schools.

"So I don't think it would be possible for a rebate in that very specific circumstance.

"But we are trying to find a solution because we know it's a real problem and it's hitting residents hard in the pocket."

Local Democracy Reporting Service