There used to be a southwark right to buy leaseholders association, perhaps if they took the question of service charges up en masse some action would be taken? i dont think Barking s/c's are as bad my friend pays £20 a week for a lovely one bed flat..
My service charge has increased year on year with no real improvement in service and no justification of the increase (never related to inflation). What is really annoying is the 10% management charge; as the service charge increases so does the management charge - and yet the amount of administration has not increased! Does your service charge include heating and hot water? And, what size flat. I have a one bedroom flat, background heating and hot water - my service charge for next year is £1,739.
Ours also has increased by £300.00, we are in St Saviours Estate. You are right about the administration costs being a percentage and not a fixed fee, it seems unfair. We are also being asked on top of our SC to pay up for major works later in the year!
I posted yesterday but it disappeared somewhere...
The good news is that residential service charge payers are very heavily protected by good legislation.
Any landlord has to prove what was spent and send you (within six months of year-end) an annual statement of actual spend versus estimated spend. You then have the right to ask to see all of the invoices relating to the spend. If the LL doesn't do that then you must get in touch with the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (a court, part of RPTS), which costs about £50 and scares landlords silly. See www.lease-advice.ORG.uk for lots of (quite dull) information.
Oohhh and there is something called the "18-month rule" whereby all costs for (e.g.) 2007-08 must be invoiced by 30 September 2008. Service charges get a little murky here as there are section 20b notices that can be served, but the main legislation is the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, and the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 - quote these to your landlord in any correspondance and they will take you seriously.
@JohnBoy - if you're getting heating and hot water and lifts then £2100 sounds about right, sadly.
If you want to challenge the costs then first you should go to Southwark's Home Ownership Unit (in Larcom Street), ask for a breakdown of your charges. (they should be able to show receipts for each and every repair you're asked to contribute to) If you were charged for something you didn't get ask them to take the charge off - I've known people this has worked for.
If you don't get satisfaction from HOU you can go to an independent Leaseholder Valuation Tribunal, who will look at the facts of your case and make a binding judgement.