Commercialisation, Covid-19, HA Service Charges, Service Charges, Service Cuts, Tenant & Resident Democracy, Uncategorized

THCH: Drop the Service Charge Hike Now!

Tenants and residents of Tower Hamlets Community Housing (THCH) have begun a campaign to fight back against appalling service charge rises amounting to 100% on the previous year in some cases. No valid reason has been provided by the landlord as to why such a hike is being threatened.

The most recent shock relating to service charges comes on the back of previous complaints to SHAC about already suspiciously high charges which exceed what might be considered reasonable both for individual and communal services.

Please stand with Justice for THCH Residents next week and show the landlord that the planned sharp service charge increases must be dropped. Socially distanced Demo at THCH Head Office, 2pm, Wednesday 7th April 285 Commercial Road, Stepney, London E1 2PS.

Protestors from the local community have highlighted that existing levels of poverty in the borough can only be intensified if such charges go unchallenged. The Trust for London describes the area’s deprivation levels in stark terms:

[Tower Hamlet’s] child poverty rate is the highest of all the London boroughs, with 57% of children judged to be living in households in poverty, compared to 38% in the typical London borough. While the unemployment rate in the borough fell by 3.8 percentage points between 2014/2017 and 2017/2020 – the fastest of any London borough, it is still higher than average at 6%.”

Trust for London

Already Hard Hit Communities

The population of Tower Hamlets is highly diverse ethnically, including being home to the largest Bangladeshi community in the country. It has been well reported that non-white groups have suffered higher Covid-19 death rates than white communities, although the reasons for this are not fully understood. The Office for National Statistics reports that:

“We can see death rates for most ethnic minorities are higher compared to White ethnic groups. After accounting for where people live and social and economic factors (including people’s jobs, education and housing conditions), the gap lessens but is still significant.”

Against this backdrop, and a community grieving those who were lost to Covid-19, the service charge increase has sparked widespread anger. Organisation opposing the hike has already begun. A petition has been launched, as well as a letter writing campaign targeting the landlord, the MP, mayor, and local councillors.

Objectors are signalling their opposition with a clear message to the THCH executive. More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page ‘Justice for THCH Residents (www.facebook.com/justicethch).

The Landlord’s Vast Reserves

The 2021 service charges appear even less justified in the face of healthy surpluses and reserves, and high pay levels for the executives. THCH has around 3,000 homes in the borough, two thirds of which are rented and one third are leasehold, concentrated in the western side of Tower Hamlets. The landlord’s 2019/20 annual accounts report reserves of over £106 million, and the Chief Executive Officer is paid a handsome basic salary of £140,000 per year, having received a £10,000 pay increase since 2019.

Tenants and Residents Meeting

SHAC is supporting the Justice for THCH Residents group campaigning against the service charge increases. Please email shac.action@gmail.com if you are a tenant or resident and want to get involved.

Sources:

24 March 2021

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