A shock in the car parks

It came as a shock to learn that the the City was planning to remove six of our Concierges (car park attendants). This plan would eliminate the Concierge service from one car park and move another to daytime only.

The fact that residents heard about this from anonymous sources, rather than through the diverse consultation methods used by the City is, writing at my most restrained, very disappointing.

The Residents’ Consultation Committee and the Barbican Association, which always work together closely, flew into gear to save our Concierge service. Whilst it would have been ideal to take a slower and more consultative approach, we needed to deliver results fast to meet the City’s timetable.

My thanks go to all involved in this effort, particularly Mike Cribb who led the residents’ response assisted by Sandra Jenner, Richard Tomkins and Roger Tynan. It soon became clear that the City had backed itself into a financial corner, having agreed to cut costs in nearly every area of its operations, and the only way to keep our Concierges in place was to find a financial solution. 

It also became clear that losing six Concierges was not the end of the matter. The Concierges at two more car parks had been identified as being the next in line to go, so the service residents value greatly was at the top of a slippery slope.

I hope you had the opportunity to make your voice heard on this matter through your representative on the Barbican Residents’ Consultation Committee (RCC) that I chair. Your representatives were invited to two meetings (one jointly with the Barbican Association General Council) to discuss the future of the Concierge service and all were encouraged to garner residents’ views by Zoom, email or as appropriate.

At the RCC meeting on 27 September there was a further hour of debate. The terrace block representatives then unanimously agreed the following Guidelines and Resolution to the Barbican Residential Committee, the relevant decision making body. The representatives from the tower blocks abstained as Concierges provide a service to the terrace blocks, so tower residents are not being asked to pay extra.

Guidelines: that the BRC is asked to consider the following points during subsequent negotiations :

  • Work flexibly and imaginatively and in good faith; i.e. the proper disclosure of service charge accounts with service charge payers and the RCC, to find a longer term solution to this issue within the structure of the current lease and freehold transfers;
  • In carrying out this work, identify specifically what services are provided by the Estate Concierges, how much they cost and who receives them;
  • To assist an RCC Working Party in finding ways to significantly reduce service charges, without materially affecting the level or quality of front-line services offered by the Barbican Estate Office.

Resolution:

RESOLVED, that – The Barbican Residential Committee is asked to note that the terrace block representatives on the Barbican Residents’ Consultation Committee have voted in favour of retaining the current number of Estate Concierges.

‘We will support the City of London Corporation in levying a one-off surcharge on terrace block service charge payers, to cover the pro-rata share (for the remainder of the 2021/2022 financial year) of the direct costs of employment of the six Estate Concierge roles scheduled to be removed, pending more detailed negotiations between service charge payers and the City Corporation. These costs were estimated by the Barbican Estate Office to be approximately £232,000 per year.This is being offered as a matter of goodwill and is not an acceptance that the City Corporation would be entitled to reduce services in this way, or of the calculation of the terrace block car park inputs and outputs used to arrive at service charges. If an agreement is reached with the City Corporation, service charge payers will ask for a commitment (from the City Corporation) to that agreement in writing.In consideration of accepting the one-off surcharge, service charge payers would ask City Officers to work flexibly and imaginatively with the RCC to find a longer term solution to this issue, within the structure of the current lease and freehold transfers, and to assist the RCC Service Charge Working Party in finding ways to significantly reduce service charges, without materially affecting the level or quality of front line services offered by the Barbican Estate Office’.

This Resolution was accepted by the Barbican Residential Committee (BRC), subject to advice from the City Solicitor and consultation with residents. Please take a moment to view the BRC meeting at https://youtu.be/6hFfB_65TDo

In closing, I understand that the future of the BRC – the City being keen on a leaner committee structure – will be decided soon. Whatever decision is taken, my goal is to ensure that promises made to Barbican residents in 2003 regarding a formal consultative mechanism for the management of the Estate, are kept. Whist I do not doubt that the current method of resident consultation can be enhanced, I also know that what we have today is better than that enjoyed by leaseholders elsewhere so it is not to be disregarded lightly.

The next RCC meeting is scheduled for Monday 17 January and I hope you will make time to watch the meeting using the details that will be provided the City of London’s website.

Christopher Makin, Chair, Barbican Estate Residents’ Consultation Committee (RCC) that represents residents in their relationship with the City as their managing agent and landlord.

Former Police Office – Shakespeare Tower

This space will be let to a high profile, design-led architecture practice with a specialism in cultural and public projects, primarily in the performing arts sector. The firm proposes to open up the space as a single volume, removing the mezzanine level and sensitively remodelling the double height space. Having undertaken a number of renovation and restoration projects within the Barbican Estate, the firm understands the particularities and constraints of working with listed buildings.

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Categorized as RCC

Service Charges

Since November 2020 the RCC’s Service Charge working party has been working with officers on a more detailed review of the costs paid by leaseholders. The group is seeking to understand the reasons behind the year-on-year service charge increases and collectively look to find palatable ways to achieve reductions, working with residents, and maintaining service levels. To achieve this objective the group has embarked on a detailed line-by-line examination of the Service Charges. This work has started on ‘Supervision and Management’ and will proceed to other areas.

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Categorized as RCC

Car Park Charges / Electric Vehicle Charging

As occupancy of the Barbican’s residential car parks fell by nine percent last year, to 568 parking bays compared with 863 bays in 2006, the cost of parking will remain unchanged at £1,420. Turning to the installation of the second phase of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging points in the remaining Barbican Estate Car Parks, it is proposed that EV users will be charged directly with no intermediation or add-ons by the Barbican Estate Office. The Barbican Residential Committee approved that EV users will be directly billed by BP Chargemaster at 16p/kWh with an additional payment of 35p for each hook-up.

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Categorized as RCC

Podium Waterproofing Schedule

Podium waterproofing will be a multi-year project that will roll-out across the Estate as follows. 1: Ben Jonson/Breton/Cromwell Highwalk; 2: Thomas More/Mountjoy/Seddon/John Wesley Highwalk; 3: Speed Highwalk; 4: St Giles Terrace; 5: Willoughby Highwalk;  6: Andrewes Highwalk; 7: Defoe Place; 8: The Postern/Wallside; 9: Lauderdale Place; 10: Cromwell Place. At this stage only priority zone 1 Ben Jonson/Breton/Cromwell Highwalk is being progressed. 

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Categorized as RCC

Podium Waterproofing

The second phase of the podium waterproofing, tile replacement and landscaping project will cover the area from Bryer Court to the steps down to Speed House. It is a non-service chargeable, multi-million pound project that includes the removal of the ‘yellow link building’ on Ben Jonson Highwalk. The team is currently preparing a planning application, an application for Listed Building Consent, and undertaking extensive surveys and site investigations. Initial meetings with residents’ representatives have taken place.

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Categorized as RCC

External Wall Fire Reviews (EWS1 Forms)

After the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, the government established a programme to ensure the fire safety of residents in high-rise buildings. As part of this programme, the External Wall Fire Review process confirms that the external wall system (typically insulation, filler materials and cladding) of residential buildings has been assessed for safety by a suitable expert. Lenders may refuse a mortgage application where an EWS1 Form cannot be produced. EWS1 forms have been completed for Andrewes, Breton, Defoe and Gilbert Houses, and forms for all City of London buildings including the Barbican are expected to be completed this year.

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Categorized as RCC

Fire Safety Signage

One of the key findings of the Barbican Residential Estate’s (BRE) last fire risk assessment was the need to need to update our fire safety signage. When new signage was introduced, concerns raised by residents led to the programme being suspended. Subsequently, rePurpose Architects were appointed to produce a bespoke Fire Strategy for the BRE. This is nearing completion and, once finalised, will be submitted to the London Fire Brigade for review and approval. It will also be shared and discussed with residents prior to implementation.

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Categorized as RCC

Fire Door Replacement Programme

The next step is a full survey of the Estate to establish the exact number of doors in scope. Replacing the doors will be a complex project and, due to the Estate’s Listed Building status the design of replacement doors will be subject to consultation with residents. This project is a Landlord’s expense and is estimated to take two to three years.

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Categorized as RCC