EAST of Melksham residents are up in arms about an increase in the fee they pay a housing company for services in their area.
They say that the increase comes at a time when the cost of living is rising and, they feel, less services are being covered by the company.
Residents of two estates around the Forest & Sandridge school area, known as Clackers Brook Estate, pay an annual rentcharge to GreenSquare Estates for services such as grass cutting, maintenance of hedgerows, trees, the brook, emptying of public bins, and upkeep of footpaths.
The company has recently told residents that it is increasing the rentcharge by £20 from £136.49 to £156.49 for the year. When residents bought the houses on the estates, it was part of the contract that the maintenance charge be made to GreenSquare Estates and the company is able to raise the charge each year. When a house is sold, the new houseowners must take on the contract.
However, residents have now queried why the cost keeps rising each year when, they say, the services carried out by GreenSquare Estates decreases.
Local councillors have also shown their support for residents, describing the increase as ‘unacceptable’, especially at a time when the cost of living is increasing and ‘spiralling out of control’.
“This year, we have been hit with an above inflation rise that we are being forced to pay,” said one resident. “I have gone directly to GreenSquare to ask them to justify the increase and they provided none. I asked for further information and they sent me a basic schedule with no cost breakdown on how our money is spent. I have complained to GreenSquare about the service and price increases, but have been offered no solution.
“The price for the estate charge in 2015/2016 when Green Square provided more services because less of the area was adopted by the council was £100. We are now in 2022/2023 and the fee is £156.49 – over a 56% increase in 7 years. It will not be long until we are paying over £200 a year – this is, of course, in addition to our council tax.
“As residents we feel that we are being trapped by continuously, never-ending rising prices by GreenSquare and essentially being held to ransom, as if we refuse to pay for the poor service we are threatened with legal action.
“Many residents who are subject to Green Square’s ‘services’ have expressed concern and are very unhappy with the arrangements. We all pay our council tax on top of this fee and do not see the benefits of this added cost.”
Another resident said, “It’s disgusting. They give the CEO a raise and then we have to pay for it! The roads they used to look after were adopted in 2019 by Wiltshire Council. So they are doing less than they were, but are putting their prices up still. It’s just greed! Considering the cost of living is rising so high, how can they justify this?”
Town councillor, Louisa Lewis, who represents the East of Melksham ward said, “How can this be justified with the cost of living spiralling out of control and residents having to choose between food or heat? It is unacceptable of GreenSquare to give their CEO a 30% pay increase in 2019/2020 and expect the residents to fit the bill by increasing their estate rent. “It is astonishing that GreenSquare could even think that the residents can afford this increase.”
In a letter to the CEO of GreenSquare, Wiltshire councillor Mike Sankey, who represents Melksham East said, “Could I please ask you to review the increase with a view to withdrawing it? It is critical, especially in the current climate, that residents feel they are receiving value for money.”
To support residents, cllr Lewis has organised an residents’ meeting for those in the ‘East Ward’ on Tuesday 22nd March, 7pm, at Queensway Chapel. The cllr says she hopes as many residents as possible to attend to share their views.
In response to criticism from residents, Andrew Rossiter, head of estate services at GreenSquareAccord told Melksham News, “GreenSquare Estates, which is part of GreenSquareAccord, provide grounds maintenance to the Clackers Brook Estate in Melksham in line with the contract agreed with the consortium of developers in 2014. To ensure transparency, the rent charge schedule and increases are detailed in each home ownership document. Reviews of the rent charge are essential in order to ensure there is enough money to cover the works required on site.
“For example, in this financial year alone, over £32,000 has been spent on responsive repairs to the public open space on site. This includes repairs to play areas, knee rail repairs, fly tip removal, responsive tree works, responsive drainage works, vandalism repairs and other nonstandard works. This does not include regular and routine costs for grass cutting, play area inspection and hedge cutting.
“We have never been responsible for, or maintained, any areas relating to roads on the estate. These have been maintained by Brookbanks, on behalf of the consortium of developers, until such a time as they are adopted by Wiltshire Council.”