An MHK on a £50,000-a-year Tynwald salary is set to move into subsidised sheltered housing – to the surprise of his new neighbours.
Leonard Singer, 70, will be paying just over £90 a week in rent for his two-bedroom Ramsey and Northern Districts Housing Committee flat in the Cooyrt Balleigh complex off Jurby Road.
Ramsey MHK Mr Singer, who already owns a flat on Queen’s Promenade in the town, defended the move – saying the committee offered him the flat based on his medical and financial position.
But residents on Cooyrt Balleigh said the MHK’s new address was the talk of the town.
Joyce and John Kilpatrick, both 84, have lived on Cooyrt Balleigh for 22 years. They pay £94.25 a week including rates for their bungalow. Utility bills are extra.
Mrs Kilpatrick said: ‘How did he get this flat when he owns other property? Why has come in here? Everybody is asking it. It’s the talk going around the town.’
She said the flat had been empty for some time. ‘Apparently three families have turned it down as the stairs are too steep,’ she said.
Contacted by the Manx Independent, Mr Singer insisted: ‘It’s not a commissioners’ house.
‘My name has been on the list for four years. The committee offered me this flat as three other people turned it down. I’m not prepared to discuss my financial situation or medical position – it’s personal. But the committee are well aware. They made their decision.’
He confirmed he owned another property but insisted it was ‘impossible’ now to live there. Mr Singer said he would be paying about £90 a week in rent at his new flat.
Asked if he could understand why people would raise an eyebrow at an MHK living in subsidised sheltered housing, he replied: ‘It’s a perception. If I had been anybody other than an MHK then this wouldn’t be an issue.
‘There are people living there who probably earn considerably more than I have. It’s about disposable income.’
As member of the Department of Infrastructure, Mr Singer earns 30 per cent on top of his basic salary of £37,822. He also receives an annual tax-free lump sum of £6,178 for parliamentary expenses.
The Ramsey and Northern Districts Housing Committee is a local authority in its own right.
It comprises an elected member from each of the seven boards of commissioners in the north – Maughold, Ramsey, Andreas, Bride, Jurby, Lezayre and Ballaugh.
Unlike public sector housing, sheltered housing is not means tested and is not based on whether you can afford to buy or rent in the private sector. Applicants can still be eligible even if they own another property.
The primary eligibility factor is age but the committee may take into account issues like the suitability of your existing accommodation or health issues. Applications are dealt with on a case by case basis.
Need, access and provision of sheltered housing is being considered as part of a Department of Social Care review.
Mr Singer was a member for the DSC until this week’s government reshuffle.