INFORMATION and UPDATE
Update on Surgery
5th August 2014
A big thank you to all the residents who attended the first of our two surgeries yesterday evening.
The turn-out was excellent and the feedback we received very positive. It was so encouraging to know that we have the support of so many of you. It was also an opportunity for the Action Group to meet fellow residents, to hear their individual stories and reinforce the message that they are not alone.
For those who were not able to attend yesterday don't forget that we have another surgery on Wednesday, 13 August between 6:30 - 8:30 at the Con Club in Gowerton.
Please can we urge all those affected residents / leaseholders who did not attend yesterday to attend this second surgery with their £20 contribution and a copy of their lease.
For those who wish to contribute to the action fund but are unable to attend either surgery, please contact the Action Group and we will arrange for your contribution to be collected.
The Action Group will not be able to represent those leaseholders who do not contribute and they will then have to make their own arrangements for obtaining legal advice, which are likely to be both involved and costly.
The underlying message must be that as a group we are much stronger together and that the chances for a successful outcome for all are best served by remaining united.
Elba Action Group
29 th July 2014
Elba Ground Rent Action Group
Dear Fellow Elba Leaseholder,
We are writing to you with a brief update on the campaign against the ground rent increases proposed by the City & County of Swansea.
As you will recall the scale of the proposed increases only became apparent in early June when we all received letters from the Council. That was a little over a month and a half ago, and in that time the Action Group has already been very active.
To date we have done the following:
We helped to deliver a petition to the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff calling for a review of the leasehold system in Wales.
We raised awareness across the country through radio pieces with The Wave/Swansea Sound and BBC Radio and written articles in the South Wales Evening Post.
We brought the plight of the Elba residents to the attention of Welsh Assembly Members gaining their support on the issue.
We met with a delegation from the Council to discuss how to progress the dispute in a timely fashion and one which would maximize the chances for a negotiated solution.
We met with a chartered surveyor with extensive experience in dealing with similar ground rent issues to obtain initial advice regarding this dispute.
We explained in our previous update that the Council continues to express their commitment to exploring the possibility of a negotiated compromise. However, they are unable to commence negotiations until their position has been agreed at Cabinet level in August.
The Action Group believes that we need to take advantage of this time to obtain formal advice from a chartered surveyor and barrister.
The advice received from these experts will give us vital information on the strengths and weaknesses of both our case and that of the Council. This will enable us to conduct negotiations on a fully informed basis.
It should be remembered that the Council has its own legal department and we therefore need to ensure that we are at least on an equal footing.
The chartered surveyor that we have contacted is Mr Edward Rutledge of Lawrence & Wightman in Birmingham. Mr Rutledge has previously successfully dealt with similar cases, including one for a group of over 700 leaseholders in Redditch.
The barrister recommended by Mr Rutledge is Mr Douglas Readings an experienced leasehold enfranchisement counsel with whom he worked on the Redditch case. Mr Readings is also based in Birmingham.
Instructing the above gentlemen can only improve our position when negotiating with the Council, as we will then have the benefit of sound advice and information.
The Action Group believes that, if we are to achieve the best ’deal’ for residents, it is imperative that we take expert advice.
Mr Rutledge has already visited the estate to view some representative plots and discuss the case with members of the Action Group. To date he has done so for free but he and the barrister, Mr Readings, will need to charge fees if we formally instruct them.
Accordingly, the Action Group are asking all affected leaseholders on the estate to contribute £20 per household to create a ‘fighting fund’ to cover the initial advice from Mr Rutledge and Mr Readings.
The information that we have is that 235 properties are subject to the rent review whilst a further 54 properties have a fixed £250 ground rent.
Whilst the benefit of joint action will be self-evident to those leaseholders subject to the rent review, there is also merit in fixed leaseholders being involved in the dispute, since they too could benefit from any revised terms agreed with the Council.
The strength in numbers argument is particularly strong when it comes to legal costs, as individual contributions can be kept to modest levels whilst still allowing all residents to benefit from the best advice possible.
All contributions will be held in a bank account specifically opened for this purpose and safeguarded by the need for two designated signatories to sign any cheques drawn on the account.
Legal action can be costly and if an amicable compromise cannot be achieved through negotiations, further contributions would be required. However, the Action Group is confident that, spread amongst all affected leaseholders, individual contributions can be kept to a reasonable and affordable level.
We anticipate that affected leaseholders will want to discuss this proposal and the campaign generally in more detail with members of the Action Group.
For this reason we have arranged Drop In Surgeries where you can meet the members of the Action Group in person anytime between 6.30 - 8.30 pm on Tuesday the 5th August and again on Wednesday 13th August in the upstairs function room at the Con’ Club in Gowerton (57 Sterry Rd, Gowerton, Swansea SA4 3BN).
If you are able to attend either surgery please bring with you your contribution, cheque or cash, for £20, cheques made payable to “Elba Action Group”.
If you are unable to attend please could you give your contribution to someone who is attending.
Receipts will be provided for all payments received. Please remember to include your Name and Address with your payment.
As part of his investigations, Mr Rutledge has asked that we collect details of the original purchase prices paid for the plots on the estate. This can be found within the original lease for each property. To that end we would be grateful if leaseholders could provide us with a photocopy of the first two pages of their individual leases which we can then forward to Mr Rutledge. Please bring this with you if you are attending one of the above surgeries or again pass it to someone else who is attending if not.
Once we have taken expert advice we will need to arrange a further closed meeting for affected
leaseholders so that we can discuss and agree a negotiating position. Further meetings may be required to discuss and agree a response to subsequent proposals made by the Council during the course of the forthcoming negotiations.
The most important message to convey is that we are all in this together and need to present a united front to maximise our chances of the best outcome. We would therefore urge all affected leaseholders to contribute to the initial ‘fighting fund’.
We will not be able to negotiate on behalf of those who do not contribute and the campaign will then be weakened for everyone.
Elba Action Group
Update - 17th July 2014
Letter from City and County of Swansea
"Some residents may have received a letter from the City & County of Swansea today setting out in more detail how their revised ground rent figure has been calculated.
The penultimate paragraph suggests that residents who do not agree with the Council's valuation should put their reasons in writing and that such reasons must be "valid reasons" having regard to the provisions of Schedule 4 of the lease.
The Action Group's understanding is that residents do not need to take any immediate action in response to the Council's request for reasons. Certainly, no deadline for such a response was included within the letter(s) which the Action Group have received/seen.
Any formal response setting out "valid reasons" for objecting to the revised valuations would need to be made following appropriate, expert legal advice which the Action Group is in the process of commissioning.
We would suggest that residents defer responding to the letter at this time and pending the outcome of the forthcoming negotiations with the City & County of Swansea.
If the position changes in that respect we will of course update residents accordingly."
Elba Ground Rent Campaign
Update - 14th July 2014
Today, a small delegation from the Action Group met with representatives of the City & County of Swansea to discuss the way forward in the dispute arising from the proposed ground rent review for properties on the Elba estate.
Present from the Action Group were Nick Llewelyn (Chair), Sue Poole, James Gwyther and Richard Edwards.
Present from the City & County of Swansea were Christine Richards (Deputy Leader), Rob Stewart (Cabinet Member for Finance & Resources) and David Turner (Officer - Strategic Estates Department).
Also present as an observer was Councillor Sue Jones in her capacity as local councillor for the Gowerton ward.
The meeting was extremely constructive and allowed the delegation from the Action Group to highlight the key issues for residents on the estate. This non-exhaustive list was presented as follows:-
The amount of the revised annual ground rent from 1st April 2014 onwards.
The ability for those leaseholders so inclined, to purchase their freehold at a reasonable and fair amount.
How to deal with future ground rent reviews such that this problem does not reoccur in a further 25 years’ time.
The availability of any subsequent agreed varied terms to all leaseholders, including those whose ground rent has been fixed.
5. The option to extend the term of a lease for those who wish to do so.
The representatives from the City & County of Swansea acknowledged these issues and recognised that they were likely to form the basis for the subsequent negotiations to explore the possibility of an amicable resolution to the dispute.
The delegation from the Action Group also emphasised the anxiety and distress which the revised ground rent figures had caused affected residents and the importance of seeking a prompt resolution to the dispute.
The representatives from the City & County of Swansea acknowledged these points too and confirmed that they would be drawing up a report for presentation to Cabinet at the next Cabinet meeting on the 9th August 2014. Unfortunately, it would not be possible for the matter to be considered any earlier by Cabinet as they were constrained by the existing schedule.
At the Cabinet meeting on the 9th August, Cabinet would be asked to approve a negotiating position for the City & County of Swansea. If approved, they would then be in a position to enter into negotiations with the Action Group on behalf of the residents.
If Cabinet did approve a negotiating position on the 9th August it was hoped that a further meeting could be arranged to take the negotiations forward within 14 days of that date.Thereafter there would need to be a period of time allowed for such negotiations to be explored.
In the event that such negotiations were unsuccessful in settling the dispute, it would then need to be referred for independent arbitration as per the terms of the leases.
However, all present recognised the wisdom of achieving a negotiated resolution if such could reasonably be achieved.
A line of communication was also agreed for the future - Nicholas Llewelyn and Sue Poole for the Action Group and David Turner and Geoff Bacon (both officers in the Strategic Estates Department) for the City of County of Swansea. This should help the flow of information between the two parties in a coherent and consistent way.
Mr Turner did point out at the meeting that a letter would be coming out to residents imminently providing further detail as to how the revised ground rent figures had been calculated. This is merely to assist residents in understanding the approach taken by the City & County of Swansea and is not meant to be seen as argumentative or a sign that they are not committed to exploring the possibility of a negotiated compromise.
Overall, the meeting was a positive first step in the process.
The Action Group will continue to update affected residents as to further progress. There is however unlikely to be significant movement in the negotiations until after the Cabinet meeting on the 9th August.
Update 4th July 2014
- The action group met again on 3rd July 2014.
- Swansea City Council have now responded with a date for our first meeting which will take place on Monday 14th July 2014.
- Discussions with leading firms of Chartered Surveyors is ongoing and meetings are being arranged.
- Byron Davies AM and Williams Powell AM (chair of the Petitions Committee) have agreed to receive a hard copy of our e-petition
The formal handover of the petition will take place on the Senedd steps in Cardiff Bay at 12:45 on Wednesday 9th July 2014.
If you are able to attend, please do so. We will have press coverage and obviously the more support we can show the better.
The petition will be closing Midday Friday 4th July 2014. Please make sure you sign the petition which you can access at www.assemblywales.org/gethome/e-petitions/sign-petition.htm
- The Wave and Swansea Sound are running news bulletins about the petition and you can see it on this link http://www.thewave.co.uk/news/local/elba-plight-to-be-discussed-by-senedd/
Previous Update - 29th June 2014
- The Action Group met again on Friday 27th June 2014. We have already managed to speak to most residents on the Elba and, sharing information and delivering an information hand-out.
- As you already know we have set up a number of ways to provide information to fellow residents and we intend to update these weekly on a Wednesday evening.
If anything of significance happens we will obviously update As Soon as Possible.
- We have already contacted Swansea City Council to arrange the first meeting and once the date is confirmed we will let you know.
- We are already in contact with a leading firm of Chartered Surveyors, one of many who have contacted us following our BBC Radio Wales coverage on the Jason Mohammed show.
- By popular request we have been asked to keep the Facebook open as it is popular with Elba residents and supporters.
- Next meeting of the committee is planned for Thursday 3rd July 2014.
- Sue Jones held a surgery on the 26th June at Gowerton Library, where she was able to help over 20 residents with letters rejecting the proposed Ground Rent Review
Sue will be holding another surgery on 12th July at Gowerton Library between 11am and 12 noon to assist Residents.
- Please remember that you can post Questions and Information useful to both the residents and the committee on both Facebook and the Blog.
Previous update 21st June 2014
Following the first meeting of the resident action group, Nick Llewelyn has been elected chairman.
A range of freedom of information requests have been submitted to form an evidence base for future negotiations. Every resident on the Elba will be visited by a member of the group within the next 7 working days with the view to collate contact details of those affected so we can establish the best means of communication going forward.
An initial meeting with council representatives has been requested.
We ask all residents to formally write to the City and County of Swansea to inform them of your rejection of the rent review.
Below address is where homeowners should write to, quoting their individual reference numbers:
Mr. Rob Morrell,
Strategic Estates Section,
Corporate Building & Property Services,
We have also set up an information line available 24 hours a day. This will have a recorded message with the latest
updates available. If you have any neighbours who do not have access to the internet would you please pass this number onto to them.
We aim to ensure every resident has means of receiving updated information.
The number is 01792 712171
The committee fully understand the need for on going communication to keep for the residents updated. We are currently pursuing the best options.
Residents Action Group.
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