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  • Alistair Strathern

“End the estate adoption misery” says Mid Bedfordshire MP

Updated: Feb 5

PRESS RELEASE FROM ALISTAIR STRATHERN MP

TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

“End the estate adoption misery” says Mid Bedfordshire MP

 

Alistair Strathern, Labour MP for Mid Bedfordshire, has today pushed ministers to take swift action for estates across Bedfordshire, that have been waiting years for their roads to be adopted by the council.


This comes as part of Mr Strathern’s ongoing campaign on estates management companies in new developments – who are charging residents hundreds of pounds in service charges whilst allowing potholes to form on roads, grass verges uncut and graffiti building up.


Speaking today in Parliament on the government’s flagship Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill , Mr Strathern urged ministers to bring in reforms from the government’s own watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). They concluded that government action is needed to address the issue of unadopted roads, along with stronger regulation of existing management of unadopted estates.


Commenting, Alistair Strathern MP said:

“It’s heart-breaking to see the stress that delays to estate adoption is causing families across Bedfordshire. Homeowners are despairing at the sky-high maintenance fees and the poor upkeep of the area around their new homes.”


“I know this is a real issue for residents here in Mid Bedfordshire. This is why I joined the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill committee, to scrutinise the government on their failings and to push for more radical change.


“The government’s bill fails to tackle the issue of estate adoption head on. I’ll be continuing to push the Government to take action, and end the estate adoption misery.”


The Competition and Markets Authority set out last year the range of issues this is currently causing homeowners right across the country, from poorly maintained public realm, to excessive and exploitative maintenance charges that often duplicate services typically covered within council tax.


EDITORS' NOTES:

Find out more about the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill here.

The CMA working paper can be found here.

Alistair Strathern MP has long raised the issues around estate adoption, see here, here and here.

Listen to Alistair Strathern MP’s intervention here. Full transcript of Alistair’s intervention below.


**

I rise briefly to add my weight to the shadow minister's comments there.


I share wholeheartedly the concerns expressed by my Bedfordshire neighbour on this issue, as I know he, like me, has received a lot of correspondence from constituents who find themselves in a variety of challenges, and quite exposed by a situation where

regulation simply hasn't kept place with best practice.


As the CMA outlined last year, we've gone from a situation where it was simply the norm that an estate were adopted by the local authority to one where that is far from the norm.


And indeed, in the last week alone, I have spoken to residents right across my constituency who have faced issues with incredibly high service charges as estate management companies look for that next frontier of rent seeking behaviour, often duplicating as set out fees that would normally be collected by council tax.


And again, actually sometimes even duplicating fees charged by other management companies on that same estate.


Because of the proliferation of fragmentation that the shadow minister set out, too. Alongside that, a real lack of quality of provision, because they have not got the same level of recourse or challenge that they would to a local authority to ensure that those services are delivered in an effective, timely and, transparent way.


And finally, real challenges around the sale of property, too, where the opaqueness of some of these arrangements, the fees arranged, and, frankly, the shoddy standard of the work that often results, means that they can face real challenges when looking to move on from their home. The CMA last year set out the real necessity of government action to drive this.


And I think they gave some really good reasons that both honourable members have set out that I won't duplicate about why it requires government action, rather than leaving it to the CMA or other actors in this space to take it forward.


I welcome a lot of the action on the regulatory side, to try and drive up some of the standards and to empower homeowners in this relationship, and to make sure that some of the power imbalances that currently persist and enable some of this exploitation to take place are corrected.


But fundamentally, as the CMA set out, those power imbalances and the inherent inequity of the situation between a management company and individual freeholders means that some of these challenges are likely to persist, absent removing at source. And that is getting to a position where an estate can finally, and with confidence, be adopted.


I very much share my Bedfordshire neighbour's desire to try and drive this as quickly as possible, though I do I'm afraid, share some of the shadow minister's concerns that on this occasion, his amendments seek to do it, but might do so in a way that remains, and continues to leave homeowners in a situation where their estates aren't well maintained, and actually potentially exacerbate some of the challenges of requiring homeowners to ensure these public areas are built to a common standard.


I'd urge both the minister and the shadow minister, if we aren't able to resolve this fully here, to go away and think about actions both through this Bill and through other legislation that could tackle this issue. It is one of the biggest emerging challenges facing new towns and new communities like those I'm seeing in Bedfordshire.


And it's really clear that we shouldn't be enabling these practices to continue.

Exactly the same logic that the minister set out last week, to crack down on some of these rent seeking behaviours in other areas that the Bill is seeking to do really good work on, applies here. And I urge both him and my own front bencher to continue their work and with renewed vigour to think about how we can make sure both this Bill and subsequent legislation finally tackles this issue once and for all.


ENDS


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