Pensioners concerns

Only on this website, not on any estate agent or council or community websites, is it mentioned that potential purchasers/leaseholders of residential Sovereign Harbour property must pay a unique annual and increasingly expensive flood defence and harbour charge averaging 265 a year on top of local council taxes, insurance, management fees and ground rents. In no other flood area or harbour or marina area or private estate anywhere else in Britain, the UK, Europe or the world does this apply. A much wider flood zone area than just Sovereign Harbour is involved, affecting  more than 17,000 homes, yet only the 4,300 Sovereign Harbour residents and their successors are liable for this annual cost, paid via a Sovereign Harbour Trust subsidiary to the Environment Agency. Only residents pay it, not businesses including managing agents and property developers. A recent Member of Parliament has stated this is unfair and unjust but the present MP and local authorities will not help to right this wrong. A second unique covenant is also significant. It  requires owners/leaseholders of 369 South Harbour properties in the water feature to pay a further annual charge of 328 in 2018.It is believed to be the only such water feature in the world that makes such a charge to properties overlooking it.

Pensioners Concerns about Sovereign Harbour as a worry-free place to live

Instead of saving money from downsizing they will incur extra annual costs from covenants found nowhere else world-wide

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Beaches Council Tax Wrongs Eastbourne Disability Association

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Pensioners Concerns Property Guidelines Sovereign Ward  

By Keith A. Forbes at keithforbes01@btinternet.com. He and his wife live in Sovereign Harbour North, Eastbourne. A disabled journalist, he is a member of the UK's The Society of Authors and an activist for the elderly and disabled.

Pensioners Concerns about the Sovereign Harbour area and beyond 

Our Pensioners Concerns sub-site shown here is entirely non-political. Sole concerns are the hopes, plights and rights of pensioners locally, regionally and nationally.  On this page we show not only local but also other concerns. Unfortunately, the five local concerns, namely the Beware of Estate Rental Charge; Council Tax Injustices; Cyclists using Walkways as cycle paths; Disability Laws Compared; and Social Care System Unfairness, all shown below are not shown on other local websites supported by the local council focusing on the elderly of Eastbourne. We believe they need to be stated as much as the other issues we also mention. We have applied to join the National Pensioners Convention (NPC), the UK's largest and most influential pensioner's organization in hope our own concerns will be included in NPC campaigns.

 Accessibility on trains 

Getting poorer, and with new timetables a failure

train

Older and disabled people have become more and more disadvantaged when using trains. Ours are the most expensive, slowest and often most-crowded in the world. Changes to remove guards from trains who helped the elderly and disabled led to strikes for over a year. In other parts of the world it is legally required that seniors and disabled are offered prompt assistance in getting on and off all trains at any stage of their journey. But often, when provided in one direction it fails to do so in the other direction. Those using trains to go to and from Eastbourne now find that despite arranging assistance in advance and being assured it will be offered, non-one is often available to help the disabled get off the train with its wide gap between the train and platform and/or assist with luggage. It also infuriates those qualified to sit in seats clearly marked for the elderly or disabled or heavily pregnant when they cannot because passengers who are clearly young, fit and able deliberately ignore the signs and occupy those seats, with no legislation to require them to be used properly. The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has a report on problems older and disabled travelers face when getting on and off trains. These have been compounded with the June 2018 revised train timetables that were supposed to improve the service but have instead meant sudden cancellations that severely affect post-operation elderly and/or disabled passengers who count on the 6:31 pm weekday London Bridge to Eastbourne weekday service to get them home from Guy's Hospital without changing trains. 

Attendance Allowance

It must not pass to local authorities, for reasons shown below

We object strongly to any attempt to divert Attendance Allowance to local authorities. We should not be letting them get more and more powers at the same time as their services cost us 5% or more every year yet we now now get less and less in overall value from the many facilities they are cutting such as libraries, health centres, financial  support of charities that support older people and more, plus fewer and fewer services while at the same time they spend millions of pounds on enhanced tennis or sports arenas or retail shopping centres that not all of us are mobile or able enough to use as elderly people. 

When more and more services are being de-centralized it no longer makes sense for us to have have to pay in our taxes the huge costs involved in having and maintaining a national centralized Parliament in London, especially now when almost the entire House of Parliament needs a major facelift. The central government must stop wanting councils, not MPs collectively, to assume more and more responsibilities traditionally dealt with by MPs. We need more centralization, more more nationwide uniformity of councils' policies and practices in every area, not further dismaying devolution that has already so fractured this country.

Attempts to discontinue Free TV for over 75s

seniors 02

The BBC wants government to end free-to-over 75s TV licence, did not succeed in 2018 but will be attempting this again in 2018/2019

In no other part of the world do people over pension age have to pay a TV tax. People in Canada and USA are aghast that we are taxed to watch TV until we are 75. Over there  and elsewhere in Canada, Australia, etc, the USA's Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and equivalents elsewhere are free, with donations purely voluntary. All attempts to eliminate the free TV licence for the over 75s should be squashed. Unfortunately for all the latter who presently get free TV, the UK government will now be requiring the BBC, not the previous authority, to collect TV licenses. The world should know that even when viewers do not watch any BBC television programs they still have to pay for BBC services. Other TV channels do not receive a penny of the TV Licence fee, only the BBC gets it. 

Beware of Sovereign Harbour's 270 a year Estate Rent Charge

So say numerous estate agents. It applies nowhere else in the UK, Europe or the world

Sovereign Harbour propertiesPensioners who seek to move to Sovereign Harbour and at the same time need or want to downsize not just in terms of size of a house or flat but also in recurring annual or monthly expenses such as council tax and other overheads, should beware of places with an annual Estate Rent Charge like Sovereign Harbour, East Sussex. Ignoring this advice will be expensive. Why? as you will see from the website shown below a number of law offices of repute warn you to beware of investing in a place with so many covenants and other restrictions.  In Sovereign Harbour, a freehold or leased home or flat, whether 180,000 or 800,000 will be at an additional (not reduced) cost to you in the unique (no other place in the UK or Europe or the world has it) and covenanted Estate Rent Charge of 260 in 2018 increased annually by the rate of inflation, also passed on to future purchasers of that property.

 What also makes it so unfair is that only the 2,700 or so Sovereign Harbour residents pay this flood charge, not the 14.000 residents also in the flood area, east of the harbour, And, if you plan on living in part of Sovereign Harbour South, you will have to pay a further covenanted annual Water Feature charge of a type that exists nowhere else. Plus, Council Tax, even for a modest 2-bedroom flat, will also be much higher than equivalently-priced properties elsewhere in Eastbourne or beyond. And although all developments are private including the pathways and walkways, the public are free to roam anywhere, with their dogs and cycles, completely without charge, with only the residents having to pay.  See www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/Estaterentcharge.htm

If and once this is revoked and other changes are also made Sovereign Harbour will be a much less expensive and restrictive place in which to live. Until then, pensioners needing to downsize not only their properties but their council taxes and other overheads too need to be aware that instead of Sovereign Harbour being the best place in which to live it is the most expensive in the entire UK. Even when other the few other places have an Estate Rent Charge, it is only nominal, 10 or so a year, not Sovereign Harbour's outrageous 270 a year. Our present Member of Parliament has not acted to help right this wrong, has not called for repeal of applicable legislation and covenants that exist nowhere else. The local community group which says it represents residents has never tried to take this case to Members of the European Parliament and beyond. We understand some residents are now making a formal complaint to European, North American and other authorities. Some also want the injustice and world uniqueness of the Estate Rent Charge to be brought to the attention of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex and President Trump of the USA before he visits the UK.

Referred to the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) because of the particular concern about this. 

Cyclists use Sovereign Harbour walkways instead of cycle paths

Throughout Sovereign Harbour in Eastbourne, nuisance cyclists, many not living in the harbour area but in nearby caravan parks, interfere daily with the safe passage of walking pedestrians who live here

Many are elderly and with limited mobility or disabled or have hearing problems. Cyclists believe they have an unrestricted right, which they do not, to cycle on both the narrow North Harbour beachfront pedestrian-only path (not a cycle path), which is not wide enough to let four people pass without giving way) and the wider inner harbour walkways. They also believe, which is again incorrect, that they have the right of way so demand walkers make way for them and ring their bells to try to get walkers out of their way. Some cyclists even believe they have a right to ride two abreast. They either do not know about or more likely deliberately avoid the less scenic but purpose-built cycle track shared pavement running the entire length of Atlantic and Pacific Avenues. Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex Council, both with jurisdiction in this matter, seem powerless or reluctant to stop this. Nor will the neighborhood panel, or the police, act. The problem has gone on and on without being resolved. They must take action to stop this before elderly or disabled or deaf walkers get hurt by a cyclist.

Campaign to Save Our Buses is continuing

Many bus routes are being cut or eliminated.

The Campaign for Better Transport has been running a Save Our Buses campaign in an effort to press the national  government and councils to stop reducing or eliminating bus routes. They are one of the victims of ever-increasing council budget cuts despite the constant upward creep of council taxes. See the website at www.bettertransport.org.uk. Our own hourly bus service that once routinely went to Eastbourne General Hospital - so frequently used by pensioners and the disabled but no longer does so is a case in point. 

Cap on Energy Charges coming from 2019

household gas

Welcome news to pensioners paying the standard tariffs. 

Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill; On February 26, 2016 the government's Energy Minister announced these. Pensioners are the biggest single group paying standard tariffs (which have risen appreciably in cost in recent years). The intention is to ensure those who pay these standard tariffs instead of annual less expensive fixed-rate do not get their costs hiked at the whim of energy suppliers without good reason. The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons and given its First Reading on Monday 26 February 2018. The Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday 6 March 2018. This Bill was then committed to a Public Bill Committee which met on 13 March 2018, when it held an oral evidence session before commencing its line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill. Results mean this will finally happen, to benefit all pensioners on standard tariffs who hitherto have been paying more than they should have to help subsidize younger people who can benefit from (cheaper) off-peak night charges. One of the few welcome news items as far as pensioners are concerned.

Council Tax Injustices go on and on

Council Taxes are described by leading newspapers as Britain's most hated taxes for nation-wide unfairness.  Pensioners needing or wishing to downsize are particularly affected.

newspapers

As merely one newspaper's international condemnation see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10431722/Britons-pay-the-highest-property-taxes-in-the-developed-world.html published in June 2016. Massive inequities since 1991 have been consistently ignored by British Members of Parliament of all political parties who have never attempted to change the system and its massively unfair practices in 27 years, contrary to other countries that are required by law to routinely re-assess their property taxes every 3-5 years to ensure fairness  The UK's present system of low council taxes even at the highest Band H  for the most expensive central London properties but much higher council taxes for much lower-priced properties at Band E in Eastbourne and elsewhere in the country is manifestly unjust. It is not disputed that there has to be a council (property) tax on every property in a local authority. But it has to be seen to be balanced, fair, equitable, logical and consistent. It should be a reliable indicator of the fair market value of a property including the house or flat or cottage or bungalow, land on which it sits, what outbuildings or garages there are. It should not matter for evaluation purposes whether the property is a house or flat or cottage or bungalow, exactly the same criteria should apply, instead of it being so discriminatory as it is now.   

What should matter are the actual or accurately assessed market price, a legislative methodology to ensure the entire valuation system is reviewed regularly at least every five years, the assessment is open enough to ensure that every property bought and or sold routinely shows both its market price and its council or property tax on property particulars and by doing so avoid any accusation of discrimination, with the valuation of every property open for public inspection to achieve complete transparency. It should not be just a single isolated local authority tax but one mindful of and comparable with council taxes in other areas. 

It should have enough council tax banding width to easily ensure that unless a property is equal in total value to Buckingham Palace it should be council taxed at merely a fraction of the latter's council tax. And if/when market prices fall instead of going up, the property tax should also fall. Unfortunately, no such fair, decent, consistent, regularly updated methodology applies to Council Taxes in Eastbourne. Instead, the Eastbourne Borough Council at www.eastbourne.gov.uk, and its East Sussex Council partner, with the approval of the British Government and all its 650 legislators, applies such a massively unfair council tax system that even small modest two bedroom flats with a market value of under 270,000 and no property-owned land at all pay appreciably more Council Tax than (a) other local properties with an often far higher market value and (b) 775-room Buckingham Palace in London, 90 miles away, worth about 980 million and other multi-million pound properties and their personal gardens in the most affluent areas of London. As the latest examples of (a) in January 2018 a spacious penthouse 3 bedroom apartment in the affluent area of Silverdale Road, Lower Meads, Eastbourne, was advertised for sale at 385,000 showing Council Tax D but a 2 bedroom upper ground floor apartment on San Diego Way, Sovereign Harbour North, Eastbourne, worth much less, 260,000, has to pay a higher tax, in Council Tax Band E.

We have asked the NPC if it will circulate comments nationwide about this unfairness.

Disability laws compared to Europe, Canada, USA, etc.

Disability seating

UK disability laws need updating and improving to match disability laws elsewhere.

Yet many local disability groups are not demanding legislative changes at both local authority and national parliamentary level. There is no comparison with the USA's powerful and effective Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) - see http://www.ada.gov or similar in Europe, Canada and beyond. (In Canada see http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/fda/1006).  The lack of UK legislative teeth has so infuriated some overseas visitors that they have complained. We got them because we are networked with overseas groups. When we sent the last of those emails to the Eastbourne access group involved, instead of being concerned and willing to refer them to their councils and legislators in hope of action to remedy defects, all we got were complaints. 

All disabled visitors to the Eastbourne area from anywhere abroad who are long-used to disability provisions in their own countries being protected by law both in the public and private sectors, must be told that similar comprehensive disability laws do not apply here. We state this in our www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/ESHDisability.htm. Hopefully, the UK Parliament, when debating how European Law will be incorporated into UK law prior to Brexit, will EU-wide Disability laws to replace and give some legal teeth to very inferior UK disability provisions.

Labour calls for Pets Charter

Included in Labour's plans if elected at next General Election. 

Pets in leasehold homes

It is a pledge to give leasehold tenants in both public and private buildings a default right to keep pets in the leased or rented properties. Labour says it wants to create or strengthen the rights of tenants to keep most smaller types of pets (cats, dogs, birds, etc). Many current leases and rental agreements deny that right completely. Many pensioners in particular have cats or dogs, or fish in tanks or birds in cages as their only full-time companions. But there also must be a proviso that pensioners and others are physically able to clean up after their pets, indoors and outdoors, will put their dogs on leashes, will walk them - and pick up dog messes.

Law Commission proposes Leasehold Reform

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. New government initiatives to modernize living conditions for the elderly in particular.

Many affect pensioners and young people living in Sovereign Harbour and elsewhere. One is Commonhold instead of Leasehold. Those living in leasehold not freehold properties are asked by the Law Commission to consider the advantages of commonhold over leasehold, such as ownership not expiring so the costly procedure of lease extension does not arise; management responsibility rests exclusively with a commonhold association made up of unit holders - and more. Other proposals are also being debated some of which may affect and benefit the thousands of leaseholders in Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne. Comments to propertyandtrust@lawcommission.gov.uk. Phone 020 3334 5333 or write to Rachel Preston, Law Commission, 1st Floor, Tower, 52 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AG.

Resolution Foundation Report grossly unfair to seniors

Chaired by Lord Willetts, Its final report by its Intergenerational Commission states wrongly that today's younger people are worse off than their parents

It refers specifically to pay, housing and pension entitlement. It omits mention of benefits, concessions, entitlements services, government support in home-buying. today's dirt-cheap costs of mortgages and so much more that today's generation get that most pensioners never got. It recommended to government that anyone working over state pension age should pay 12% National Insurance (NI) on their earnings and 6% NI on any income they receive from any occupational pension. In return, there would be a social care cap at 50,000 with a floor of 150,000 to enable individuals to keep this amount of their property wealth. It also recommends (the only recommendation most pensioners find acceptable because they already pay increased council taxes for a social care service for which many never qualify because of means-testing) a new property tax to replace council tax, based on the market value of their homes.

Social Care unfairness of Councils

Two seniorsThe current social care system used by local authorities throughout the UK cheats residents, unlike the methodology long-used in the European Community

There, National Health Service and Local Authority equivalents were long ago integrated and treat all citizens fairly and equally, from general taxation. In contrast, here in the UK those with total assets including their homes not exceeding 23,500 are given NO local authority funding or support  while others can get up to 100% local authority funding.  Scandinavian and other European countries are appalled by this monstrous injustice. A new type of social care system a combined National Health and Social Care Service integrated with the NHS and funded through general taxation, is called for, urgently. A few years ago, the Scottish Government introduced it throughout Scotland and while not perfect, it is working. The rest of the UK should, too. See http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Health/Policy/Health-Social-Care-Integration and http://isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Health-and-Social-Community-Care/Health-and-Social-Care-Integration/ and https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/integrated-care-northern-ireland-scotland-and-wales. See What it Means in Scotland, at http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2013/05/16/what-integration-with-health-means-for-scotlands-social-workers/ and our own summary about this at www.sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk/Integratedservices.htm.

Winter Fuel Allowance (WFA) not increased since 2012

A universal age-related benefit not means-tested. it once enabled UK-resident pensioners or those of pension age to recoup about a third of the cost of their heating and lighting costs. 

Now it is less than one sixth. Yet in comparison, local government council taxes, Members of Parliament salaries, fuel costs and overall costs-of-living, to quote just three examples,  have collectively risen by at least 5% a year for each year since 2012. The injustice of this must be looked into. Fuel poverty affects over 40% of all pensioners. True, there are some who can afford to give the WFA to the NHS as Dame Esther Rantzen has suggested. But most pensioners of moderate means or lower cannot. 

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Keith A. Forbes and Lois A Forbes at editor@sovereignharbourgazette.org.uk  
2018. Revised: August 17, 2018