COUNCIL tenants are being charged £25 for wasting council time.

Castle Point Council charges the fee to those who miss appointments for maintenance and repairs.

Dave Blackwell, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said he would look into the charge as part of a housing review.

Barry and Jean Nicholes, of Willalla House, Poplar Road, Canvey, said they were told to pay £25 for a heating call-out and, unless that was paid, a kitchen repair would not be carried out.

Councillor Blackwell said: “They had heating problems and were in bed by 9.30pm because they were so cold. In the morning, there was a note saying the council contractor called at 10.10pm and would come again, but it would be a £25 call-out fee.

“I think it’s a new thing and something the council is thinking of bringing in properly with a call-out charge for repairs. I will look at it. It’s ridiculous.”

Mr Nicholes, 62, said: “If the contractor had been able to come in, it could have been a big job and he could have been working until 2 or 3am. It’s not right. As it turned out, the heating was OK in the morning.”

Mr Blackwell added: “The couple had a new kitchen fitted last year and a unit fell off the wall.

The cupboard had been screwed into the plasterboard, not the brickwork. It could have fallen on Mr Nicholes and killed him. He reported it to the council.”

Mr Nicholes said: “The council said it could not come until I paid £25 for the heating call-out, unless the kitchen call was an emergency.”

Tenants are responsible for maintaining fixtures, fittings and appliances with the council responsible for keeping the structure, exterior and installations for water, gas and electricity supplies in good order.

Council chief executive David Marchant said: “Our tenants’ handbook clearly sets out instances in which charges will be made, including missed maintenance appointments.

“We aim to deal with emergencies within 24 hours and in the case of the heating breakdown our maintenance contractor responded well within that timeframe, albeit outside the normal working day. It seems the problem was resolved through the tenants’ own resources, but they did not call Housing Services and cancel the call-out.

“This sort of thing puts pressure on the maintenance service.

The engineer could have dealt with another call-out instead of trying to deal with an issue that was already resolved.

“We are looking at the other claim and will be in a better position to respond when the facts have been investigated from both sides.”

Problem on home front

COUNCILLORS also claim Castle Point Council is making it difficult for them to speak to residents in sheltered accommodation.

The council has said councillors are only allowed into sheltered homes, like Willalla House, if invited by a resident.

Barry Campagna, ward councillor for Canvey South, said he believed councillors should be able to visit people when they want, without notifying the council. He said: “The council is not saying we can’t go in, but is making it difficult. The council has told us the residents are vulnerable and says we can only go into their room when invited and have to let the council know.

“The problem is the residents are more vulnerable in their room than they are in the communal room. We are their elected representatives and should be able to see them.”

The council says as with a private house, councillors can only go in if invited by a resident.