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Sudbury sheltered housing tenant shocked by year-on-year increase in service charges

Rising costs for sheltered housing residents in Babergh have been met with shock, with one affected resident accusing the district council of a lack of contrition over the changes.

Documents seen by SuffolkNews showed costs incurred by residents of sheltered accommodation in the district have increased by an average of 19 per cent for the new 2024/25 financial year.

For some, the year-on-year increase – covering rent and service charges – is as much as 26 per cent. This includes Playford Court, in Sudbury, which primarily houses pensioners aged 70 and over.

Sheltered housing tenants are facing rising charges. Picture: iStock
Sheltered housing tenants are facing rising charges. Picture: iStock

Resident Jeff Harris said the changes had come as a huge shock for the tenants, many of whom he stated were ‘already behind enormously in our spending power’ after last year’s pension increase of just 2.5 per cent.

But Babergh District Council insisted the costs had been ‘legitimately incurred’, citing the wider economic pressures that had driven up the costs of delivering sheltered housing services.

At Playford Court the rise in rents, from £85.18 to £91.74 a week, is in line with the 7.7 per cent cap in the Government’s Rent Setting policy.

However, the service costs, which are not subject to a cap, had risen considerably more.

Along with a rise in bills for heating, water and communal area maintenance, this also includes weekly accommodation charges, which have increased from £30.39 to £48.02 – a rise of 58 per cent.

Mr Harris said he had sought a full breakdown from Babergh District Council and he did not feel there had been a satisfactory explanation for why there had been such significant increases.

He said: “Our biggest worry as residents is, will this happen again next year?

“The charges didn’t go up much last year or two years ago, so I wonder if they have under-budgeted for so long and now it’s all added up. To me, it’s just bad budgeting.

“I was absolutely shocked when the letter came in the post. There has been no contrition or interest from the council in how it will affect us. It makes a dramatic difference to a lot of people.”

Further documentation indicated that, as there were 53 Mondays within the 2024/25 financial year, tenants would make 53 weekly rental payments over the 12-month period.

Mr Harris branded this situation ‘a double whammy’because, in addition to the increased fees, they were being charged for more weeks than there were in a year.

A letter sent by Babergh District Council in response to Mr Harris’ concerns – seen by SuffolkNews – revealed the management cost for sheltered accommodation across the district was £198,030.

Paul Heaney, the council’s rent and service charges manager, said the differences between individual sheltered housing schemes was why some had experienced bigger increases in fees than others.

“In setting the service charge budget for this year I have worked closely with my colleagues in finance,” his letter said.

“We have assured ourselves that the costs we are recovering have been legitimately incurred to provide services and are fully compliant with the legislative and regulatory norms.

“Council services are not immune to wider economic circumstances, so this has also driven up our costs in all areas.

“To make sure the sheltered housing service remains viable in the long term, it is essential we fully recover our service charges.

“Support has been made available by the Government in the form of the cost-of-living payment, but we are also encouraging our tenants to use our own support services, such as the Household Support Fund.”