RESIDENTS who own their flats in Oxford’s five tower blocks have vowed to “go to jail” rather than stump up £40,000 to £60,000 each for refurbishments.

Fifty-one leaseholder families will this week be told exactly how much they owe the city council ahead of the £20m makeover of Evenlode, Windrush, Plowman, Foresters and Hockmore towers.

Almost 300 council tenants will pay nothing.

Terry Gordon, 70, who has lived with his wife Diane on the 12th floor of the Plowman tower on the Northway estate for 45 years, said: “£60,000 is ridiculous, I will not pay it. Who could afford it? I would go to jail before that – and a lot of people will come with me.”

He said the couple had not been consulted.

Leila Stonehouse, 82, who bought her flat in Evenlode 26 years ago for £15,554, said: “They must be kidding. They would have to cover it in gold for it to be worth that much.

“They’re just putting in some windows and putting the roof on. They’re never getting £40,000. I will go to jail first. They’re doing nothing on this flat and that’s the end of that. It’s my property.”

The council has admitted some owners “won’t be able to afford it” but pledged to pursue them through the courts if they do not pay.

According to councillor Linda Smith, who represents Blackbird Leys, each flat is likely to be charged between £40,000 and £60,000.

She said: “It seems about right given the scale of the project.”

Stephen Clarke, the council’s head of housing and property services, could not confirm the figure but said it would be “not far off” the amount cited. He added: “It’s fair to say it will be a large number.

“What they’re expected to do is honour their contracts. Notices went out last summer and then again this summer.

“A responsible owner would have put money to one side, but human nature is such that most people don’t. A lot of people won’t be able to afford this.”

Leaseholders in Evenlode – the first to undergo work next January – have reacted with dismay.

Pam Hurn, 77, said: “We were expecting some, but not this much. I will never be able to afford it.”

Work on the towers will be staggered over two years, with a 12-week gap between each one. Under the terms of their contracts, leaseholders will pay for new windows, communal electrics, external cladding and lift refurbishments. If they refuse they will be pursued through the courts and could forfeit their property.

Many communally-shared buildings have funds in which residents pay a monthly amount for repairs, but this has not been done at Evenlode.

Bill Graves, head of landlord services, said: “That notion wasn’t around in the 1960s when the towers were built. If we could turn the clock back and do that it would be preferable.”

To mitigate the burden on leaseholders, who would normally only have 14 days to pay under the law, the city council has drawn up a list of repayment options.

Residents can pay over 12, 24 or 36 months interest-free, or over five years with some interest. They can also agree to the authority purchasing a percentage of the flat’s market value.

Anyone who purchased under Right to Buy up to 10 years before work begins is also entitled to a loan, which can be repaid over 10 years.

In addition the council has taken the unusual step of applying to HM Courts & Tribunals Service for a First-tier Tribunal, where a judge will determine if they are being fair. The hearing is likely to take place next March or April.

Mr Graves said: “We don’t want to force anyone out of their home. If there’s financial difficulties we expect them to come and tell us.”

City council spokesman Chofamba Sithole said: “No one will be turfed out of their home.”

Mr Clarke added: “This is a big financial commitment and it has been a long time coming. Some of these residents complain we have forgotten them, but the original bill was £8m and now we are spending £20m. We want to turn residents’ lives around in terms of the quality of their housing.”