Apology over St Albans flats controversy

PUBLISHED: 12:32 01 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010

AN apology has been made to the residents of a block of flats who were told by the council that they would have to pay an unexpected £11,000 each towards the cost of a new roof last year. The district council conceded that the consultation process leading

AN apology has been made to the residents of a block of flats who were told by the council that they would have to pay an unexpected £11,000 each towards the cost of a new roof last year.

The district council conceded that the consultation process leading to the agreement of a contract for the repairs of St Pauls Place, in Hatfield Road, St Albans, was flawed.

They made the admission at a meeting at the Fleetville community centre last week which was held to discuss the new consultation process.

It followed the decision by the 15 residents, who were angry about the lack of consultation and high costs, taking the matter to a Lease Valuation Tribunal (LVT) in May.

Speaking after the meeting, council leader Robert Donald said: "We apologised for the flawed consultation process which we know we didn't do correctly and we are starting again. The meeting was the beginning of that new consultation process."

He agreed that the bills came "out of the blue" for the residents and added: "I hope this time around we can get it right and work with them much more in partnership. We will listen to their views and concerns and take them on board just as we did at the meeting."

The council promised to cut their 15 per cent administrative costs by up to half and agreed to pay most of the residents' legal fees, as well as upholding the offer of a five-year interest free period to pay off the work.

Cllr Donald said he was confident that the cost of the work would come down because of the high competition among contractors in the current economic climate.

The council also told residents that a surveyor could suggest alternative specifications.

Resident Neil Jordan, aged 28, felt the meeting was positive but said: "The cost is almost certainly going to come down but whether it will come down to a reasonable level is still up in the air."

He continued: "The consultation looks like it's going to be done correctly, but it's just a shame that it's going to be the second attempt."

St Albans MP Anne Main was at the meeting and said: "The council had a very different tone, it was very contrite and the council are now prepared to work with the residents."

She heralded the issue as a David and Goliath-type victory for the leaseholders and said: "This is a block of flats that said no and dug its heels in the ground and said they would take the council to court."

Mrs Main added: "Well done to the council. This time they had to admit that they owed them money back and that they had done the consultation wrongly, which had left the residents out of the loop in a totally inexcusable way. But they are prepared to fix things and I can't ask for any more than that for my constituents.


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