A NEW Thamesmead protest group has demonstrated against "rip off" charges levied by a housing association.

Around 100 residents picketed a Bexley Council public cabinet meeting on behalf of the Thamesmead Homeowners’ Association on Tuesday (November 15).

Many held placards and banners attacking Gallions Housing Association’s "unjust" estate charges.

The company owns and manages much of Thamesmead’s housing stock and charges some tenants in Southmere nearly £600 a year for the upkeep of the area.

THA committee member and Portmeadow Walk resident John Wroe praised the "brilliant" event and said: "We made our views clear and it’s up to Gallions now."

The retired TV news librarian claims many residents have been summoned to court by Gallions for being up to £2,400 in arrears for charges dating back to 2009 and has himself refused to pay a £434 bill for the same period.

The 66-year-old grandfather-of-two added: "People can’t see value for money and are pretty angry. It’s Big Brother tactics.

"You wouldn’t go and have your car serviced without an itemised list of what was done."

All Gallions tenants are required to pay estate charges covering such areas as drain refurbishment and road, footpath and bridge maintenance while leasehold tenants also have to pay service charges for the upkeep of their buildings.

The THA argues bills vary considerably from year to year and Gallions does not provide adequate proof how money is spent.

Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce said: "Clearly this is a great concern for a significant number of Thamesmead residents.

"What needs to happen now is that there is a serious level of engagement between all parties and I will personally be seeking a meeting with the chair of Gallions to discuss the matter"

Statement from Gallions

"We recover estate charges from freeholders who signed a covenant to pay this charge when they purchased their home and do acknowledge that some homeowners are dissatisfied with this and the amounts being requested.

"The charges cover the costs of managing such things as sewers, roads, estate lighting, lakes, canals, green spaces and parks.

"Each homeowner is given a detailed breakdown of how their charge is worked out.

"We encourage individuals to get in touch with us if they have any concerns, queries or difficulties paying so that we may look at their individual cases.

"Although they pay council tax and may assume that this covers the upkeep of all parks and other public areas in Thamesmead, this is not the case.

"We manage these areas as part of our business with no extra funding from government bodies.

"Charges vary from area to area and from homeowner to homeowner.

"The amount a homeowner is liable for is determined partly by the terms in their Transfer Deeds.

"For the 2012–13 financial year, the highest charge for a Southmere homeowner is £576.41 per annum."