Beleagured housing minister Alok Sharma has been told by a London council that his decision over an application for a borough-wide licensing scheme will be seen as a test of the government’s attitude towards the private rental sector.
Newham Council has submitted an application to government to continue its current borough-wide scheme for another five years.
Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, has issued a statement warning Sharma that local authorities and residents will be watching this decision closely.
“The decision whether or not to approve Newham’s scheme will be one of the first tests of the new government’s housing policy and will show if they are committed to listening to the ever-increasing numbers of private renters” the statement claims.
Newham was the first authority in the country to introduce borough-wide licensing in 2013, which requires all landlords to licence all property offered for private rent.
Over the last five years Newham Council has instigated 1,135 prosecutions for housing crimes (70 per cent of all prosecutions in London); banned 28 of the worst landlords from operating in the borough – forcing them to sell up or hand their properties over to reputable agents; recovered over £2.6m a year in additional council tax; and served 2,170 notices to improve housing conditions and management.
The council’s original scheme comes to an end in December, and under stricter restrictions imposed by the government in 2015, Newham must now apply to government for permission to continue to protect tenants for another five year period.
“Newham was the first local authority to take decisive action to safeguard vulnerable families and individuals in the private rented sector by introducing borough-wide licensing back in 2013. We have shown that local solutions, informed by the knowledge of local officers, and backed by political will of local politicians, can be highly effective” claims Sir Robin.
Since taking office last month, housing minister Alok Sharma has faced criticism over his and the government’s handling of the Grenfell Tower tragedy; he has pulled out of a speech at a major housing conference; and last weekend he blocked some Twitter followers claiming they were using “abusive language.”