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Councils insist there's no conflict of interest after press revelations

Research by The Guardian newspaper reveals that massive numbers of local authority councillors are also buy to let investors - and in some rental hotspots, a third of elected members are also private landlords.

The newspaper claims its findings have sparked questions as to whether local councils can independently regulate the private rental sector with so many potential conflicts of interest. 

Amongst a number of councils cited by the paper, the Devon unitary authority Torbay is said to have 39 per cent of its councillors owning multiple properties, including one who has received more than £63,000 in housing benefit payments for tenants in the last two years.

Specifically, three Conservative councillors there own a combined 68 properties.

In Bournemouth, 15 of the 37 councillors hold multiple property interests; in Labour-controlled Leeds, 26 of the 99 councillors own more than one property in the city.

The Guardian says Torbay, Bournemouth and Leeds have the largest proportion of landlord-councillors in England - and none has introduced a licensing scheme.

Only 13 of the 40 authorities with the highest proportions of private rented housing operate so-called selective landlord licensing, The Guardian research shows. Across England, 43 councils have introduced the schemes.

Other councils where more than a quarter of councillors are landlords are Conservative-controlled Bournemouth, and Forest Heath in Suffolk, Liberal Democrat-controlled Eastbourne and Labour-controlled Waltham Forest.

None of the authorities or individual councillors approached by The Guardian said there was any conflict between members of the councils being landlords and the councils themselves having powers over the private rented sectors in their areas.

  • Mark Alexander

    Councils who introduce Selective Licensing spend most of the funds they collect processing the payments. What little they have left they use to prosecute unlicensed landlords. All they are achieving is 'jobs for the boys' and misery for landlords and tenants who shoulder the costs of the inefficiencies of the Councils.

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    Agreed. During a presentation by Peterborough City Council Selective Licensing it was revealed that the only prosecutions had been for just that - lack of licence application. There had been nothing achieved in terms of prosecuting bad landlords.

     
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    This seems to be the modern trend, let the real miscreant get away with minor penalties whilst persecuting others for administrative errors.

     
  • Mark Wilson

    Don't you think it just all stinks!

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    The bigger story is councils running separate propcos investing millions to obtain returns of 5- 6%. They (the councils) will justify this by saying that they have to make their money work better and that any asset purchases are always backed up by independent valuations. A property may be with £5m now, but when we have the next commercial property slump (and there will be one), they will be worth less and could cost the tax payer as there will be the inevitable empty offices, voids, empty rates bills etc. 15 years ago the councils used the same argument to obtain better interest rates from Icelandic banks! Irrespective of how these council propcos are set up, ultimately there is no long term accountability.

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    What kind of 'story' is this? A Guardian story, that's what!

    Let's look at the facts that the Guardian seems to find so diffcult to examine. 1. Councillors cannot influence the law, and have very little influence at all over the work of the officers who carry out their respective tasks under the law regardless of which political interests are shown by the elected councillors. 2. I imagine most of these councillors were btl owners before becoming councillors - should they be banned, no matter how excellent a councillor they may be? 3. The leader of our council publicly hates and vilifies landlords but she is one herself. As a Labour councillor, how might the Guardian feel about that? 4. In suggesting that councillors COULD influence council decisions the Guardian proves it knows nothing about how these councils actually work.

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