Kingston Liberal Democrats have reiterated their commitment to holding an inquiry into whether council tenants have been paying too much in rent payments and water rates combined.
Their aim is to launch the inquiry later this year.
Here's the full story:
- Until recently, some councils used to collect water rates from council tenants along with the rent — Kingston was one of them.
- Last year, Kingston Council stopped collecting water rates from council tenants, with Thames Water taking over the collection of water and sewage charges.
- Kingston Council now only collects the rent and service charge.
- Since this change, some council tenants in Kingston are worried that the combination of rent payments to the Council and water rates to Thames Water are, together, higher than in the past.
- Some of these tenants raised this with Kingston Lib Dems, who have agreed to hold an inquiry into the matter, as promised in the recent local elections. Kingston Liberal Democrats expect this to start in the late autumn.
- This inquiry will be about today's water and rent bills, to make sure tenants are being treated fairly.
- There may also be a second inquiry into a separate but related issue relating to water charges paid by tenants in the past. Two years ago, Southwark Council — which also collected water rates — was taken to court by a tenant, who claimed the Council overcharged them for water for many years. Southwark lost, and had to pay back £21m to 41,000 tenants.
- Since then, a group of London councils, who disagree with the Southwark ruling and don't believe it applies to them, have been looking to get the law clarified, for both councils and tenants, through a new court case.
- Kingston Council had such a case, and started legal proceedings against a tenant earlier in 2018, before the recent council elections. The Kingston legal case is being paid for by the group of councils who disagree with the Southwark ruling.
- Kingston Liberal Democrats have learned the full details of this case since winning power in May.
- This latest case is needed, to clarify the situation for tenants — are they owed money, or not? Were they overcharged, or not?
- The Council cannot take action on this second issue until the current case has concluded. When the courts have ruled, Kingston Lib Dems will consider the decision and, if appropriate, hold a further inquiry into this historic aspect of water charges for council tenants, so they can explain any implications.
Kingston Council intends to announce the details of the first inquiry in the coming weeks.
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