Vulnerable council tenants charged for gardening

An Exmouth councillor has defended asking vulnerable council house tenants to start paying gardening fees.

Councillor Jill Elson, the district council’s cabinet member for housing, said to help the council keep a balanced budget the housing service were asking for up to 600 tenants across the district to pay �50 a year.

Previously the Individual Garden Maintenance scheme provided some elderly and disabled tenants with a free basic garden service enabling them to cope with maintaining their gardens.

The new service costs �1 a week and tenants will receive up to 10 visits from contractors a year.

A review panel sent out customer questionnaires and developed criteria for tenants to be included in the scheme as well as application and medical assessment forms and information booklets.

Cllr Jill Elson, cabinet member for communities, said: “We have to ensure we balance our housing budget and, after consulting with tenants, they thought a small charge was acceptable to upkeep their gardens. This money will be spent on maintaining the many homes we own.”

Graham Symington, East Devon District’s housing asset officer, said: “We needed to modernise the service and the new charge will go some way towards paying for the scheme’s running costs.

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“It is also estimated that the revised service will save the council’s housing and social inclusion service over �50,000 a year.

“Any savings will go towards providing other essential services, like our property maintenance programme.”

Council bosses say people who withdraw from the scheme will be provided with a list of voluntary organisations that operate in the area.

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