And I say again… aaaaahh! There’s nothing quite like getting a provisional bill for £11,700 from your local council for repair works to the council estate on which you live, to make you go…. aaaaaah!
It’s not simply the complete lack of warning with which this documentation appeared, nor the fact that in a single side of A4 the council politely but firmly explains that the cost of redecorating the stairwell, re-fencing (the fences are fine!) and maintaining the roof, split across the block, equals a bill of £11,700 per household minimum… it’s the fact that legally speaking, they’ve got us all by the nuts. Not only is the council my landlord, but there’s even a fiendish clause in their contract whereby, if I attempt to move out now, they still demand the cash from me for these works. Making moving out really, really dumb, if not borderline impossible until the works are completed. And more – MORE – every year I pay over £750 in a ‘service charge’ to my council to maintain the estate, and what do I get in return? A statement pointing out that £250 of my service charge is spent on ‘managing the service charge’.
However, if you still aren’t reeling enough from getting a bill that represents a huge sod-off burden on your life, sanity and happiness, the council charitably suggests that for a mere £200 now and an unspecified ‘legal fee’ later, you might get away with spreading your bill over a few years, instead of the 14 days you have to pay upon completion of works. They even attach a helpful ‘FAQ’ page of double-sided A4, within which you may be happy to find that the answer to Q.3 ‘The costs appear to be high, how do you justify the high costs?’ is this:
‘Contracts are awarded on a competitive basis, with tenders assessed by a panel on the basis of cost and quality. [My local] Council demands high quality of work and is duty bound to comply with Health & Safety requirements. Therefore a sufficient number of site managers and Resident Liaison Officers are required to achieve this, and there is a cost involved. There are off site costs which may not be visible on site but are attributable to the running of the project e.g. feasibility surveys, drawing up plans/specifications of works, planning costs, consultation etc.. On site costs may include, statuary welfare provisions (WCs, washrooms etc), office accommodation and equipment (telephone, fax, computers etc), management staff salaries, this includes the Resident Liaison Officers and Site Managers etc.’
Or to put it another way…
Cost of repairs – £500. Cost of installing toilets, buying a fax, talking about it lots and having middle-management walk around in a hard hat looking exasperated – £10,500.