SOME council tenants in a sheltered housing complex are unhappy that housing built for an onsite warden is being used to accommodate homeless families.

Residents of Winton Court pay thousands of pounds to East Lothian Council each year for service charges, which are supposed to cover the cost of a warden at their community.

But they say there has not been a sheltered housing officer living in the Cockenzie accommodation for nearly a decade and, more recently, the flat, which is above a communal lounge and kitchen in the centre of the complex, has been used to house families with young children.

When challenged about using the warden accommodation to house young families, East Lothian Council responded by saying some residents liked children close by, adding that family members “have helped tenants with their shopping”.

Ina O’Brien, who has lived on the site for nearly nine years with husband Victor, said she, and other residents, had tried to get a breakdown of exactly what they pay nearly £2,000 a year in service charges for, if not a warden.

And she revealed ‘sign-in sheets’ obtained through a Freedom of Information request by a relative of one resident showed that the sheltered housing officer for the site attended on just 188 days during 2016 and 161 days between January 1 to September 1 last year.

Many of the visits were also for short periods of time with the warden spending less than 60 hours on site between December 23, 2015 and April 22, 2016, over just 26 days.

The council’s brochure promoting its sheltered housing facilities states that “a Sheltered Housing Officer is based in each complex and will ensure residents have access to any additional support services they need to help them meet their responsibilities as a tenant”.

Mrs O’Brien said: “We have repeatedly asked for a breakdown of our service charge and what it is used for but no-one has been able to provide it.

“We have emergency alarms which go to a call centre at the weekend and in the evenings and the only event organised in the communal facilities is a weekly bingo event which only two residents attend, the rest are local people coming here.

“Now they are using the warden accommodation to house families with young children in the middle of the complex. How can they claim it is sheltered housing when that is happening?”

Residents in Winton Court shared the sheltered housing services with neighbouring Osborne Court, which has East Lothian Housing Association tenants.

Mrs O’Brien said they only discovered last year that part of their service charge was for laundry services provided in the communal building, despite the fact they were coin-operated. It was only when they discovered other sheltered housing complexes in the county had free machines that the ones in Cockenzie were replaced.

Council tenants in Winton Court saw their rent increase to £281.36 last month from £267.96. The service charge also went up from £157.64 to £165.52 a month.

Mrs O’Brien said: “Given that no-one can tell us the breakdown of what we are paying for, how can they justify increasing it every time there is a rent increase? We have been asking for an explanation for years about what our money is actually paying for, we believe the housing should be reclassed as amenity as it is certainly not proper sheltered housing any more.”

A spokesperson for East Lothian Council said: “There is a designated full-time officer for Winton Court and a rota system is in place intended to ensure cover each day.

“The former warden’s accommodation is too large and unsuitable for use as sheltered accommodation but is instead used to help address demand for temporary accommodation and therefore can be occupied by families with young children. Some of the sheltered housing tenants have expressed pleasure at having children close by and we know that family members have helped tenants with shopping etc.

“We are aware that some tenants feel that they don’t require the full range of support that is in place in sheltered accommodation. The council will be carrying out a review to consider the growing demand but also the appropriateness of all sheltered housing provision, including Winton Court.”