community

Irwell Valley, ‘variable service charges’ and what you really need to know…

As some of you will be aware, Irwell Valley Housing Association are planning to implement an ‘Intention to vary your tenancy agreement and charge you a variable service charge’.

You’ll know this because they wrote to every tenant back in September, to ask your opinion and for feedback – but did you actually read the letter or just throw it in the bin?

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I’m asking because, according to Irwell Valley, they received only 139 replies out of a possible 2580. That is just 5% of residents.

They also received a petition with 102 signatures on it. That’s 102 residents out of 2580 that currently live in property owned by the housing association.

It’s these statistics that make me think that perhaps you didn’t read that letter after all, if you had there would have been far more response from the letter in September and loads more signatures on the petition. That’s why I’m writing up this blog, to point out a couple of ways in which these changes will potentially affect you when they come in to effect on the 1st of April next year.

Firstly, Irwell Valley did ‘note and listen’ to all your responses and held a panel session in order to ‘review them in full’ – there were two resident board members present but at the time of writing I’m not sure who they are.

Either way, there were no comments relating to the variation in the tenancy agreement and they have decided to go ahead anyway, from April next year.

So, why are they introducing the charge? It’s because during a recent review it was pointed out that residents in Sale and Haughton Green weren’t paying for services that were being charged for in other areas and, to ‘ensure fairness’ they decided that you can pay it too.

At the panel it was raised that residents had queried what happens to the power generated by the solar panels on the high rises, as well as any income from the masts also on the high rises. Irwell Valley explained that the energy from the solar panels is used within the building to reduce the amount of energy used in communal areas and this will be reflected in the service charge to residents, although it will be negligible really. The income from the masts is not reserved only for the buildings they’re attached to – Irwell Valley say that this money is ‘used alongside rental income to invest in homes and neighbourhoods’.
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Now for the really interesting stuff…

What exactly does ‘Variable Service Charge‘ mean anyway?  Each year Irwell Valley will assess how much they expect to spend on providing services, this means that the charge is estimated based on the previous year’s costs or estimated costs. At the end of the year you will receive a statement showing the actual costs and any over/under charges. The service charge will then be adjusted for the following year.

So, for the first year they will be working on estimates that could be quite reasonable. However, if there’s a spate of vandalism, houses being damaged, fencing being stolen or general stoopidity leading to damage, you can expect your service charge to go up and up and up…..

Interestingly, Irwell Valley say that the cost of the service charge could vary amongst similar properties – for example, looking at the blocks, ‘the number of repairs required to each block will change each year, e.g. one block could require 3 repairs to the door entry system in one year and another block could have no repairs, therefore the first block will have a higher service charge that year’.

In theory that could also mean various roads or sections of the estate could have differing charges – if you live in a patch that sees a lot of damage you could see a rise in your service charge. Hardly fair if it’s not you or yours causing the damage in the first place….

…which leads me to the next possible bone of contention.sale-west-sign

If you are in receipt of full housing benefit/universal credit the service charge will be covered by your benefits and you shouldn’t be required to pay any additional cost yourself. You do need to inform Universal Credit yourself as Irwell Valley won’t be doing so, but if you receive housing benefit you don’t even need to do that as they will inform them themselves.

However, if you are working full-time or not in receipt of the benefits above, you’ll be expected to pay it yourself on top of your rent.

I pity those that are out at work and not receiving benefits when they come home to find the kid up the road has damaged yet more property that will increase the Service Charge that their parents will be unaware of because they don’t pay it themselves…..

Maybe this is a clever ploy by Irwell Valley to get residents to stand up to the few that spoil it for the rest, after all, what better way to bring it to your attention and bring about a little community action than to hit you in the pocket.

If you feel you may have money problems paying your service charge you should contact the Irwell Valley Income Management Team as soon as possible on 0800 035 22 11 – they will be able to offer you confidential help, advice and support.

Once you get the letter in February 2017 with the full breakdown of charges, Irwell valley will be holding a number of surgeries to allow you to meet with an IV colleague on a one-to-one basis and discuss your individual circumstances.

To try n end on a positive note, here’s a list of all the services you can expect to receive from Irwell Valley – please let us know if they fail to meet any of them n don’t forget to take a pic and post it on SaleWestVoice 🙂

  1. Cleaning communal windows (blocks) – quarterly, in March, June, September and December
  2. Communal cleaning (blocks) – monthly and includes all ledges cleaned, nosing on stairs and bannister rails cleaned, sweep n mop all hard floors, dust, damp wipe of skirting, clean of internal fixtures n fittings, check on external door and light fittings for cobwebs and clean all internal door glazing.
  3. Communal Electricity (blocks) – you’re paying for it in your service charge so you can expect the communal area to be lit, warm and with a working lift.
  4. Lift Service Contract (blocks) – again, it’s included in the charge so you should expect to have a fully operational lift that’s maintained monthly.
  5. Repairs to Lift (blocks) – Irwell Valley have taken into consideration previous breakdowns etc so if there are more this year expect the charge to go up.
  6. Estate Maintenance (EVERYONE) – This cost is included in the service charge and is divided by the total number of properties on the estate. The service is provided by Greenfingers and Nurture and you can expect grass cut fortnightly throughout the growing season, kerb edges and fence lines kept neat n tidy, grass areas to be edged during the dormant season, weeds removed in shrub beds and on hard surfaces as well as all shrub and hedges to be pruned to a neat ‘hedge like’ appearance. Remember that fly-tipping issues and bin emptying will remain responsibility of Trafford Council.

 

Irwell Valley will also be charging a 15% management fee which is calculated by taking the cost of each service and multiplying it by 15% – this is ‘to ensure services are delivered to a high quality n provide value for money, the cost of working out the service charge and the cost of collecting said service charge. Funny times eh 🙂

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4 Cheeky Monkeys Family Centre gets a pre-launch makeover

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A BRAND new Family Centre, set to open in November, has had an amazing make-over, thanks to a youth team from the National Citizen Service.

4 Cheeky Monkeys, located at The Old Scout Hut, Dawlish Road in Sale West, is the brainchild of Jeneane Warhurst, 31 who lives nearby. It will offer a toddler group / play n’ stay as well as music sessions, messy sessions, story time and much more.

Disappointed at the lack of supportive, accessible amenities for families needing extra support within Sale West, Jeneane and her Mum, Lesley began the project to renovate, decorate and reopen the dilapidated building in 2012. Initially using all of their own combined savings, building work began in June of the same year and they made good progress.

Jeneane said: “I was already childminding and knew that there were local people who wanted these sessions available daily.”

“I also had a single dad approach me for advice on potty training and, after speaking to him, we plan to offer a session for dads to come along for support, advice and socialising – a place they can discuss the difficulties they face as single parents.”

It was a massive task, with rubbish piled high outside, windows boarded over and plumbing work needed as well as costly matters like architects and planning fees.

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By September their savings had run out and the team had to down tools in order to save and apply for some much needed funding. They set about filling in forms and getting advice on who to approach for support.

Early in 2013 Dan Shelston, Development Lead for Sale West at Trafford Housing Trust, nominated the project for Trafford Housing Trusts Give and Gain scheme. The team went down to the site to make preparations, with the work beginning again in May.

They plumbed the toilets in and began the electrical work, the centre really began to take shape. Trafford Housing Trust, along with local companies ensured that fences were painted and flowers were planted, the access toilet was fitted and a new kitchen installed.

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With the building work almost complete thoughts turned to how the centre would be decorated and, with a name like 4 Cheeky Monkeys, it was easy to decide on a theme. The question was how….

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Dan Shelston discussed 4 Cheeky Monkeys with his work colleague, Aine Graven who suggested that he introduce Jeanne to The National Citizen Service, a new government scheme encouraging young people to volunteer their time to help communities and their projects.

Running in the spring, summer and autumn, NCS is open to all 16 and 17 year-olds in England and Ireland. The scheme involves a short stay away from home and then taking part in a project to help their community.

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The team sent to help at 4 Cheeky Monkeys was made up of teenagers from across Trafford and they did a fantastic job.

Their first week was spent in Anglesey where the team took part in lots of activities such as raft building, canoeing and sea level traversing.

Week two saw the team stay in the halls of residence at Manchester Metropolitan University where they had to live independently, cooking and cleaning for themselves. They also spent time doing team activities and working together on projects like talent shows.

The third week was dedicated to painting a mural on the walls of 4 Cheeky Monkeys – the team first had to bid for funding in a Dragon’s Den style production and then, once successful, they set to work planning and painting the designs.

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Mary Timms, 16, attends Loreto Grammar School in Altrincham and was one of the volunteers that took part.

Mary said: “I decided to get involved because it seemed like a great, worthwhile way to spend my summer, as well as an opportunity to meet new people and learn new skills.”

“My favourite part of the week was towards the end when we could see the walls almost finished and how well it had turned out. It was great to see everyone’s designs come together.”

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The team were rewarded with a graduation ceremony at the end of the project as well as a certificate signed by the Prime Minister.

Mary said: “I feel I’ve gained a lot of confidence from the whole experience as I am usually quite shy around new people. During this project I have met so many amazing people and I feel that we have managed to make a difference.”

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There are still busy times ahead for the 4 Cheeky Monkeys team as they prepare to open later in the year.

Wates Builders have nominated the project as their next ‘give and gain’ day and will be spending a day at the centre next month – possibly flagging or installing a ramp….

It will be great to see this labour of love come together and open its doors to the community. Look out for updates as the date draws closer:)

Contact Jeanne , founder of 4 Cheeky Monkeys on 4cheekymonkeysltd@gmail.com or check out their Facebook page and Twitter.

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Sale West Credit Union…The smart way to save

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SAVING money can be difficult, especially when you are on a tight budget or have a young family. Sale West Credit Union offers help and support, as well as an affordable way to save and borrow money, for anyone living in the M33 area.

Management Board members and retired postmasters, Avtar and Gladys Diggwa both volunteer at Sale West Credit Union, Newbury Avenue, which has been established for almost 20 years.

The scheme works by offering a savings plan where money can be safely invested then, after 12 weeks, a loan can be taken out for twice the amount saved and paid back in low interest manageable payments.

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They currently have almost 800 members and are keen to offer their service to more. Avtar, 68 said: “We encourage both thrift and saving and are happy to offer advice to anyone finding their finances a struggle.

“There has been an increase in demand for our services recently and we are hoping to open more branches as well as offer a crisis fund for those in severe need, in a bid to combat the pay day lender.”

The Sale West branch is open twice a week, Monday between 9.30 – 11.30am and again on Thursday evenings, from 7 until 8.30pm. There is also a collection office in Sale Moor and, with both planning for longer opening hours, more volunteers and investors are being sought.

For more information on saving with the Credit Union, or to volunteer please contact Avtar on 07802876318 or avtar.diggwa@ntlworld.com

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CCTV in Sale West……The Facts

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After months of speculation surrounding the cctv on Sale West I am pleased to say that we finally have some facts and figures that will hopefully reassure the residents that they are indeed being “looked after” by fully operational cameras and dedicated council staff.

I arrived at Stretford police station this morning just before 10.30am to meet with Colin Wright and be allowed unprecedented access to the cctv office, on the understanding that I would pass on what I learnt to the residents…:)

The office is a hub of activity within Stretford police station on Talbot Road.The station itself is rather grand and deceptively spacious once inside…(think Tardis).

Equipped with loads of technology including multiple screens, projected images, police radio and much more Colin and his colleague were more than happy to show me ALL of the cameras on Sale West and beyond working and recording in real time and with crystal clear images.

Here are some facts:

1.  The cctv does not have video analytic capacity. This means there is no facial recognition or cross referencing of faces from camera to camera.

2.  There is no audio capacity enabled on the cameras…..they can’t talk to you and they can’t hear you either:)

3.  The images captured by the cctv are recorded and are kept for 28 days. During this time the recordings can be requested by the police in order to detect and prevent crime. I can bear witness to this as two local officers called in to collect some footage whilst I was there today.

4.  All of the cameras can pan, tilt and zoom in. I was shown many of the cameras in action and can clarify that Magnolia, Chepstow (Community Garden) and the Community centre area are all covered, as is the rest of the estate.

5.  The cameras can see as well at night as they can during the day…I saw footage of Thirsk at night and can clarify that is was pretty clear…;)

6.  The cctv is connected by both wire and wifi….wired at source and sending signal back to the station.

7.  Whilst Colin is not originally from Sale it is apparent that he is very familiar with the area and is on the ball for matching cameras to locations etc. Other staff are local and also have a vested interest in the safety of everyone on Sale West.:)

8.  The cctv is manned 24 hours a day 7 days a week, even at Christmas……these guys have that many cameras they are sure to have caught Santa doing the rounds to all our well behaved children many a time…..:)

9.  Irwell Valley originally helped with the installation cost of the cctv on Sale West, with the balance funded by the council. Irwell Valley staff do not monitor the cameras and have no access to them, it is all viewed in house by the council staff that have full control over the cameras, in the police station.

10. Colin and his colleagues are responsible for over 100 cameras around Trafford and so this means that they are not always focused on Sale West. However, if they are alerted to something either by the police, public or simply spotting something on screen they can react quickly.

11.  Whilst the off road biking has been picked up by the cameras it is often a fleeting glimpse as they head towards the more covert areas not covered, alleys, some car parks etc.

However…Colin did show me a log of mini moto related incidents that has been complied from sightings, public calls and police reports. It is a priority and will continue to be so, they just can’t see all the cameras all the time….

If you have any concerns about specific problems such as fly tipping, persistent dog fouling, off road bikers ripping up the pavements etc you can always report it, anonymously.

The cctv office can be contacted on 0161 912 1111

Calls are in confidence and will be acted upon.

General information regarding cctv in Trafford can be found on the council website.

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Thanks to Colin for allowing me access to the previously unseen world of cctv, and for answering my many questions, some more sensible than others:)

Picture credits:

CCTV cartoon from Google via Creative Commons

Camera photo with kind permission of lydia_shiningbrightly via Creative Commons

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