'Fed-up' Northampton residents have come together to demand better value for money from private companies charging hundreds of pounds a year to 'manage' their estates.
Homeowners in Duston say they are facing 'ever-increasing' payouts to private management company Chamonix Estates, which some have dubbed a 'second council tax'.
But at a meeting at Duston Library last night (April 9), a resident's group was formed by neighbours in a bid to have their say in how the company spends their money and what services they get out of it.
A representative from Chamonix could not attend the meeting.
One resident told the meeting of more than 20 neighbours: "I honestly don't know what I'm paying for.
"I'm paying for gates that don't work and groundwork I don't see. It feels like money for old rope. I don't understand half of the things they list on the bills they send me.
"Personally, I think it's a scam."
The company manages 'courtyards' shared by households in Duston in lieu of the borough or county council, and charge residents for groundskeeping, maintenance and window-cleaning.
But at the meeting last night, angry residents shared their frustrations about the company and say they 'never see' any workers from Chamonix on their estates and 'do not get replies' when they call or write to the company.
Some said their annual bills to Chamonix reached over £300 a year, and others were upset to get a fresh bill in March asking for an extra £150 on average to manage barriers, which Chamonix discovered they were responsible for.
Chamonix has written to residents offering to take away these barriers and cut the bills for them - but only if residents unanimously agree on it.
On an annual statement for 2018, Chamonix charged the 20 households they cover on the Scholars Grange estate a total of £9,500. Out of this, less than half of the bill was for 'maintenance', while the rest was for miscellaneous costs such as 'management fees' and 'accountancy'.
Now, the new group hope to engage Chamonix together and ask for better value for money.
Sandie Maitland, chair of Duson Labour - who called the meeting - said: "I've seen a lot of residents tonight who are frustrated at ringing up and not getting answers.
"All these residents knew when they bought their houses they would have to pay a management company. They didn't go into it with their eyes closed. But they feel they are not getting what they are paying for.
"We will form this group with a goal of getting answers from Chamonix."
Chamonix was appointed by David Wilson Homes after the new estate was completed.
Another private management company, Meadfleet Ltd, also operate in the area to manage the estate's green spaces.
Meanwhile, MP for Bishop Auckland Helen Goodman launched a members bill in November last year to ban companies like Chamonix charging residents on private estates.