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The Westminster Scandal: Tenants 'offered bribes to quit': The Residents

RESIDENTS on an estate at the centre of the allegations last night claimed that pensioners had been hounded out of their homes and 'bribes' paid to tenants.

Holcroft Court, a block of 246 flats, is in Cavendish ward - one of the marginal 'battle zones'. Residents of the estate in Great Titchfield Street said discounts of up to pounds 50,000 were offered on flats and pressure tactics were used to secure rented properties.

Ron Harley, 30, bought his flat for about pounds 40,000 in 1989, having lived there since the block was built in 1971. He said he received the maximum pounds 50,000 discount.

Mr Harley, a Camden council official and Labour supporter, alleged that the council had offered 'bribes' to persuade tenants to quit their homes. 'The council had a scheme whereby they offered tenants substantial amounts of money, something like pounds 15,000, simply to get them to move and free up their flats.'

Anne Thomas, 57, who bought her four-bedroom flat for pounds 32,000 in 1988, said she knew of 'bribes' of about pounds 15,000 offered to tenants.

She claimed pensioners were put under pressure to move out of their flats to sheltered housing units. 'They have tried to get a lot of pensioners out. Letters would arrive from the housing department asking them to discuss moving to sheltered accommodation, even when they had not expressed any wish to do so. We knew of one lady who suffered quite a lot of harassment.'

Mrs Thomas had also lived in the block since 1971, and was given a pounds 35,000 discount on her flat.

Another former tenant, who said she bought her flat for pounds 25,000, said many new owners had run into trouble trying to afford maintenance bills. Residents paid a service charge of pounds 2,000 a year, which included heating, but there had been additional bills of up to pounds 1,000.