Up to �1 million “wasted” on Islington aerial upgrades

Almost �1million of residents’ money could have been wasted on unnecessary work for next year’s digital TV switchover.

Aerial upgrades which may not have been needed at all have been completed or planned for most of the 29,000 homes managed by Homes for Islington (HfI).

The work has meant a �12-a year rent increase for tenants or a �75 bill per leaseholder.

Now many are furious that the decision to go ahead with the work was made without a full survey of existing equipment to find out if it was adequate for the switchover, or a proper consultation of residents. Both are advised by Digital UK, the body looking after the switchover.

Some people are also angry that Sky has carried out the work, but HfI insists that they will be under no obligation to sign up to any contracts with the company.

Brian Potter, chairman of the Islington Leaseholders Association (ILA), said: “It’s absolutely outrageous because people haven’t been given the full facts and for the most part they don’t need a new aerial.

“It’s terrible – there is no reason for HfI to take it upon themselves to do this, but it’s very easy to spend other people’s money.

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“And I imagine the prices will go up when everything is finished and we are all tied to these systems.”

Martin Rutherford, chairman of the Popham One Estate Tenants’ and Residents’ Associations, said: “The worst thing is the digital charges started in 2009. The changeover isn’t until 2012, so why are we paying now?”

Some residents are also concerned about the nature of the upgrade work being undertaken.

A spokesman for Digital UK said: “We recommend all landlords get reputable aerial installers to examine their properties to find out what work needs to be done. We also advise landlords to consult tenants over any plans to recover costs of upgrading communal systems.”

Letters were sent out to leaseholders telling them they could opt out of the scheme. So far 100 have done so. Tenants do not have this option.

A spokesman for HfI said: “As the landlord we are obliged to maintain an aerial for access to TV, unless the aerial is upgraded it is expected, even with a freeview box, that residents may have difficulty accessing TV broadcasts after April 2012.

“This is in line with recommendations from Digital UK and is something that all local authorities are being required to do in the run up to the digital switchover.”