Your rentcharge has increased for the first time for six years. The increase is 4.5 per cent, or about a £1 a month, for most households.
The increase is due to a rise in costs, principally caused by the decision to add an extra day to the maintenance schedule, meaning that MBS will be on site on Tuesdays in addition to the present Monday, Wednesday and Fridays’.
How and why were these decisions arrived?
With apparent large reserves, it is a fair question to ask why the increase in costs was not absorbed. More than half of the increase has been, but it was felt that we needed to keep reserves at a high level.
It is not widely appreciated the expanse of area that is covered by the rentcharge that include some high cost items to maintain. Firstly, there are all six play areas, the majority of which are approaching their 10th birthday. Much of the equipment is coming to the end of its life expectancy and will need replacing for safety reasons.
Play equipment are expensive items, but at the same time are widely used by what is still a very young population on Fairfield. Look across the border to North Herts and there the council have just made the decision to get to try to outsource the five play zones (that make up 13 play areas) in the district because they can no longer afford to maintain them.
Should we take the same path as North Herts and not replace the old equipment? We took the view that “No”, they were still much needed and enjoyed community assets.
Next are the magnificent tree belts that not only align our streets and green open spaces but surround us on the exterior shelter belts and in particular the wooded area along the western belt.
Maintaining the tree belt has been one of highest cost items in the budget each year. They need an annual inspection and the average daily rate for arborists is around £500 because of the height work involved.
In the FPRA’s view we need to keep our reserves (which work out at approximately £500 per member) at a high level so that we can easily absorb future costs and not have to suddenly surcharge you. We are pleased to say that Fairfield Redevelopments, who still control the budget, agreed with our view.
One, really valuable, benefit that a solid reserve balance brings to any member is to enhance the marketability of your property. It ensures a potential purchaser won’t be put off by his professional advisors for fear of being faced with a potentially personally catastrophic increase in rent charge to meet any unforeseen costs. There are properties on Fairfield, but not within the Park, that have recently – very expensively – faced this issue.
So why is an extra day necessary? Many people have commented that our greensward was not looking as well cared for as in previous years. Why? If we look around we see a wonderful, maturing, areas of shrubs, grass and lots of hedging. All this requires far more maintenance than it did five, or even two, years ago. Add to that areas which were being maintained by developers that have now become residents’ responsibility.
So the extra day is to cater for the increase caused by the above. Fairfield’s charm is partly down to the way the greenspaces, shelter belts etc have been maintained. It is our view we need to keep this standard.